Romanian military equipment of World War I

During the First World War, the Kingdom of Romania was a source of various types of military equipment. Either directly, or indirectly through Romanian-born people designing military equipment abroad.

Between 1914 and 1916, 59 Romanian factories along with numerous private contractors produced a total of 400,000 artillery rounds and 45 million small-arms cartridges. Added to these completed projectiles there were cartridge components (70 million bullets and 110 million primers) and artillery shell components (250,000 fuzes). Three Romanian factories produced 1.5 tons of explosives daily, and grenades were also manufactured.[1] Daily production of ammunition amounted to one cartridge for every rifle and two shells for every gun.[2][3] Romanian industry during World War I could supply almost one third of the country's needed ammunition.[4]

At the beginning of the war, the Romanian factories in Bucharest were producing small quantities of ammunition, mostly for training purposes. Made of cast iron, these old models had low striking power. After the start of the war, following the huge amount of ammunition usage observed on the Western Front, production was focused on 75 mm and 105 mm quick-fire shells, but production remained limited and shells remained of poor quality. Such was the quality of Romanian-manufactured shells that during the Battle of Nagyszeben - a Romanian defeat - percussion fuzes exploded inside gun barrels, killing and wounding gunners, or would not explode on the target.[5]

Artillery elements

As elsewhere, in order to create new artillery units, the Romanians resorted to disarming their fortifications, a decision prompted in part by the quick German destruction of Belgian forts in 1914. By August 1916, part of the 1,400 guns and howitzers from the Romanian forts (37 mm to 210 mm) had been mounted on Romanian-produced carriages and assigned to field service. Some were converted to anti-aircraft guns.[6] For instance, the Romanian officer Ștefan Burileanu invented an effective 57 mm rapid-fire gun.[7] Up until Romania's entry into the war, the focus was on light and medium guns. Between 1914 and 1916, 332 gun carriages were produced for guns up to 75 mm. During the same time period, 1,500 caissons were also produced.[8] After Romania entered the war, however, the heavy pieces were also turned into field guns. The 150 mm Krupp M1891/16 L/25 is one example. According to one photography dated October 1916, at least five such guns were converted for field use. Seven new heavy artillery regiments were formed. By 1918, the heaviest Romanian fortress guns had been converted for field use, as exemplified by the Iași (Krupp) Model 1888/1918 210 mm howitzer.[9]

The Ghenea gun sight

The first artillery panoramic field lenses, later adopted by all the armies of the world, were invented by the Romanian General Toma Ghenea.[10] Ghenea patented his "sighting attachment for ordnance" on 13 December 1902.[11] Beginning with 1902, the panoramic sight began to gain ground very rapidly. But by 1907, Ghenea's was still "one of the most perfect yet devised". It had compensating gear for drift-caused lateral deviations and level of wheels.[12] Ghenea's gun sight enabled sighting adjustments to be made rapidly, even for extreme alterations.[13] The vertical angle which the sight made with the axis of the gun could be read on a quadrant scale.[14] The Ghenea sight was peculiar because the pedestal itself was mounted on a transverse horizontal pivot to which the drum on which the elevation was set was attached. The pedestal itself was always perpendicular with the line of sight. The longitudinal level was just over the eyepiece of the panorama sight. In the Romanian Army, Ghenea's sight was fitted to the 75 mm Krupp L/30 field gun, being used for both direct and indirect laying.[15]

Vehicle assembly

Between 1907 and 1908, Romania assembled and launched four river monitors at the Galați shipyard. The monitors were built in sections by STT in Austria-Hungary, then transported to Galați and assembled there. The four vessels were named Ion C. Brătianu, Lascăr Catargiu, Mihail Kogălniceanu and Alexandru Lahovary. Each vessel displaced 680 tons, had a top speed of 13 knots and a crew of 110. Armament consisted of three 120 mm (4.7 inches) L/35 naval guns, two 120 mm (4.7 inches) L/10 naval howitzers, four 47 mm guns and two 6.5 mm machine-guns. Armor thickness amounted to 75 mm (almost 3 inches) on the sides, deck and turrets and 50 mm (almost two inches) on the conning tower. All but Alexandru Lahovary were launched in 1907, the latter being launched in 1908.[16][17][18] The first monitor to be launched at Galați was Lascăr Catargiu.[19] The four monitors first saw action during the Battle of Turtucaia. On 2 September 1916, after the German formation known as Abteilung Kaufmann penetrated into the western edge of the defences of Turtucaia, the artillery fire of the Romanian monitors brought the Germans to a halt. The Abteilung attempted again on the following day, 3 September. It divided into three columns and attempted to seize high ground which dominated the Romanian defences. All three columns were brought to a halt by defensive fire, however, and then forced to withdraw, leaving behind around 300 dead and wounded. The third and final attack of Abteilung Kaufmann, on 4 September, was successful, the valuable high ground being captured.[20] Subsequently, the monitors proceeded to evacuate Turtucaia. Alexandru Lahovary evacuated General Teodorescu and his staff,[21] while the other three monitors - organised as the 2nd Monitor Division - safely evacuated the 9th Romanian Infantry Division. During the following year, the monitors joined the army artillery in holding the line against the Germans in Moldavia throughout the summer and autumn of 1917. In early 1918, the monitors were primarily engaged in sweeping mines from channels, rivers and ports.[22]

During the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913, Romania was the only country in the region to have developed its own aircraft. Bulgaria, Serbia and even the Ottoman Empire lacked native aircraft at the time, but Romania had two machines designed by Aurel Vlaicu - A Vlaicu I and A Vlaicu II - in service with its army. Vlaicu's design had a chain-driven propeller at either end of the wing, the rudder at the front of the aircraft, a triangular tail and a 50 hp Gnome et Rhône engine. At an Austro-Hungarian aircraft contest in the summer of 1912, Vlaicu's "strange-looking monoplane", a "refreshing oddity", took the first prizes for landing in the smallest circle and for accurate "bomb dropping". Vlaicu's aircraft was nicknamed "La Folle Mouche" ("The Crazy Fly"). Although the model was subsequently purchased by the Romanian Army, Vlaicu was killed in a crash during September 1913, which also destroyed his second aircraft. This left A Vlaicu I as the sole Romanian-made aircraft in the inventory of the Romanian Air Force during World War I.[23] During late 1917, limited assembly of Nieuport 17 fighters took place at the Romanian port town of Sulina. The aircraft assembled there arrived in crates at Kiliya. On 7 October, two assembled fighters were already in service at Sulina, and by the end of the year, four more operational and two non-operational aircraft were added. It is not known for certain if the Sulina air unit was involved in any combat.[24]

Foreign-produced military equipment of Romanian design

The Romanian-born inventor Henri Coandă designed several models of aircraft for the British Bristol Aeroplane Company. In January 1912, he was formally appointed Bristol's leading technician. Hist first design was the Bristol-Coandă monoplane. This aircraft was tested for the first time at Larkhill in March 1912. It was manufactured in both tandem and two-seater modes. Powered by an 80 hp Gnome et Rhône engine, the aircraft had a four-wheeled undercarriage and incorporated wing-warping for lateral control. This Romanian design gained Bristol the third prize during a flying competition. Italy ordered up to 14, while Romania itself ordered 10. In October 1914, Coandă left Bristol and returned to Romania.[25] Despite a subsequent ban on monoplanes, Coandă's design was still much talked about, being rated as one of the leading machines of the day. Still, it was the influence of Coandă's father - General Constantin Coandă - that was decisive in the adoption of the model by Romania.[26] The Bristol T.B.8 biplane was developed from the Coandă monoplane. A total of 53 were produced, including conversions from Coandă monoplanes.[27] Coandă invented a new bomb-dropping device for these biplanes, containing twelve bombs which could be released by a hand lever in the observer's seat. The Coandă biplanes, made using the same fuselage as the Coandă monoplanes, were much better than the latter, but still had a glaring flaw: they were tail-heavy. Coandă obstinately refused to address this issue, being adamant that his calculations were correct. The planes were, in fact, "a bit tail heavy".[28] The "Bristol-Coandă Bomb Rack One", as it was called, was put to use solely on the Bristol-Coandă T.B.8 biplane.[29] Throughout the summer of 1913, the structurally suspect Coandă monoplane was modified and converted to this tractor-biplane configuration, know thereafter as T.B.8. The design proved moderately successful, a manufacturing licence for it being subsequently acquired by the French firm Bréguet.[30] The T.B.8 was used as a bomber only once, on 25 November 1914, when one made a bombing attack on German artillery batteries at Middelkerke, Belgium.[31] Romania itself acquired 7 Bristol-Coandă monoplanes and 10 Bristol-Coandă T.B.8 biplanes.[32] Given that, on the eve of its entry into the war in 1916, the Romanian Air Force had 28 aircraft,[33] this means that a majority of Romania's air power was Romanian-designed: the 17 aforementioned Coandă aircraft plus the remaining plane designed and built by Aurel Vlaicu.

The Romanian engineer George Constantinescu, working with Vickers in the United Kingdom during the war, invented what would become the main synchronizing device for the Royal Air Force. Constantinescu's men constructed the synchronizing gear within 9 days. It was such a simple but so completely effective device, that hundreds of thousands were made with no modifications needed.[34] Although initially designed to fire only one machine gun, the Constantinescu gear was soon adapted to operate two, mounted parallel to each other. The Romanian design made the Vickers machine gun a superb aircraft weapon, given that it was a reliable synchronizing gear. A brilliant achievement of the Romanian engineer.[35] The Constantinescu gear began being used starting with early 1917, when production aircraft started being delivered armed with a forward-firing Vickers gun synchronized with the Constantinescu gear.[36] Among the aircraft fitted with the Constantinescu synchronized forward-firing equipment was the Sopwith Pup.[37] In August 1917, American representatives sent to Europe by the War Department acquired two Vickers aircraft machine guns equipped with the Constantinescu synchronizing gears.[38]

References

  1. Michael B. Barrett, Indiana University Press, Oct 23, 2013, Prelude to Blitzkrieg: The 1916 Austro-German Campaign in Romania, p. 19
  2. Keith Hitchins, Clarendon Press, 1994, Rumania 1866-1947, p. 262
  3. Kendall D. Gott, Combat Studies Institute Press, 2006, Security Assistance: U.S. and International Historical Perspectives, p. 527
  4. Béla K. Király, Gunther Erich Rothenberg, Brooklyn College Press: distributed by Columbia University Press, 1987, Essays on war and society in east central Europe 1740-1920, p. 273
  5. Sanders Marble, Brill, 2016, King of Battle: Artillery in World War I, pp. 327 and 335
  6. Sanders Marble, Brill, 2016, King of Battle: Artillery in World War I, p. 327
  7. Béla K. Király, Gunther Erich Rothenberg, Brooklyn College Press: distributed by Columbia University Press, 1987, Essays on war and society in east central Europe 1740-1920, p. 272
  8. Michael B. Barrett, Indiana University Press, Oct 23, 2013, Prelude to Blitzkrieg: The 1916 Austro-German Campaign in Romania, p. 19
  9. Sanders Marble, Brill, 2016, King of Battle: Artillery in World War I, p. 328
  10. Béla K. Király, Social Science Monographs, Brooklyn College Press, 1984, The Crucial Decade: East Central European Society and National Defense, 1859-1870, p. 406
  11. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1904, Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office, Volume 107, pp. 1028-1029
  12. Royal Artillery Institution, 1907, The Journal of the Royal Artillery, Volume 34, p. 255
  13. W. H. Maw, J. Dredge, Office for Advertisements and Publication, London, 1903, Engineering, Volume 76, p. 441
  14. Artillery School Press, 1907, Journal of the United States Artillery, Volume 27, p. 171
  15. Henry Arthur Bethell, Cattermole, 1910, Modern Guns and Gunnery, 1910: A Practical Manual for Officers of the Horse, Field and Mountain Artillery, pp. 300-301
  16. Robert Gardiner, Naval Institute Press, 1985, Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1906–1921, p. 422
  17. Roger Kafka, Roy L. Pepperburg, Cornell Maritime Press, Warships of the World, p. 881
  18. International Naval Research Organization, 1967, Warship International, Volume 4, p. 145
  19. International Naval Research Organization, 1984, Warship International, Volume 21, p. 160
  20. Prit Buttar, Bloomsbury Publishing, Sep 22, 2016, Russia's Last Gasp: The Eastern Front 1916–17, pp. 327-328 and 330
  21. Michael B. Barrett, Indiana University Press, 2013, Prelude to Blitzkrieg: The 1916 Austro-German Campaign in Romania, p. 77
  22. Spencer C. Tucker, ABC-CLIO, May 10, 2019, World War I: A Country-by-Country Guide, p. 448
  23. Henry Serrano Villard, Courier Corporation, Jan 1, 2002, Contact!: The Story of the Early Aviators, pp. 155 and 230
  24. Ray Sanger, Crowood, Jun 2, 2002, Nieuport Aircraft of World War One, p. 119
  25. Hugh Driver, Boydell & Brewer Ltd, 1997, The Birth of Military Aviation: Britain, 1903-1914, pp. 114, 116 and 120
  26. Stella Pixton, Pen and Sword, Jul 2, 2014, Howard Pixton: Test Pilot and Pioneer Aviator, p. 134
  27. Ron Smith, Tempus, 2003, British Built Aircraft: South west & central southern England, p. 71
  28. Stella Pixton, Pen and Sword, Jul 2, 2014, Howard Pixton: Test Pilot and Pioneer Aviator, p. 153
  29. Peter G. Cooksley, Hale, 1980, Skystrike: a history of the evolution of the military aeroplane, p. 65
  30. Hugh Driver, Boydell & Brewer Ltd, 1997, The Birth of Military Aviation: Britain, 1903-1914, p. 119
  31. Francis K. Mason, Naval Institute Press, 1994, The British bomber since 1914, p. 16
  32. Ronald L. Tarnstrom, Trogen Books, 1998, Balkan Battles, p. 326
  33. Keith Hitchins, Clarendon Press, 1994, Rumania 1866-1947, p. 262
  34. Barnaby Blacker, Pen and Sword, Aug 17, 2006, The Adventures and Inventions of Stewart Blacker: Soldier, Aviator, Weapons Inventor : an Autobiography, pp. 69-70
  35. George Morgan Chinn, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1951, The Machine Gun: History, Evolution and Development of Manual, Automatic and Airborne Repeating Weapons, Volume 1, pp. 301-303
  36. Ian Philpott, Pen and Sword, Dec 9, 2013, The Birth of the Royal Air Force, p. 341
  37. Michael Senior, Pen and Sword, Oct 30, 2016, Victory on the Western Front: The Development of the British Army 1914-1918, p. 76
  38. United States. Court of Claims, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1937, Cases Decided in the United States Court of Claims, Volume 83, p. 21
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