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The Serbian Army of 1912 (The Howitzer Regiment)
The Armies of the Balkan Wars (1912-1913)
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At some point during the Balkan Wars (1912-1913), Captain Milan Jovičić, a reserve officer serving with the Howitzer Regiment of the Royal Serbian Army, provided a German journalist with the following description of the column formed by his unit on the day of its departure from Belgrade.1
On the fifth day of mobilization the Regiment assembled for departure. On the so-called Fortress Field near the Howitzer Barracks stood the Regiment, completely equipped, waiting for the arrival of the commanding officer, who would give the command to depart. The six batteries of the regiment took their places in the front [of the column]: five four-piece batteries of 120mm howitzers (Model 1897) and one six-piece battery of 150mm howitzers (Model 1897). After a short interval, there stood sixty wagons. (These carried baggage, gear for the regimental headquarters, a forge, a bakery, and a field kitchen.) Next came the ammunition column and finally the wagon train for food and fodder. In total, there were sixty horse-drawn wagons and a thousand wagons pulled by oxen. The regiment made a splendid impression, for the men chosen to serve the heavy howitzers had been chosen with care and the horses were among the best and most powerful.2
The ordnance employed by the Howitzer Regiment had been forged in France, by the premier private arms maker of that country, the firm of Schneider and Company. When new, these howitzers had been among the most modern weapons of their kind. In particular, they enjoyed the advantage, unusual for the time, of a mechanism, built into the carriage, that absorbed much (though not all) of the rearward energy generated by the act of firing. (This device shared some features with the recoil-absorbing gear fitted to the 75mm guns that Schneider had built for the Boer republics of South Africa.)
By 1910, the Model 1897 howitzers had been rendered obsolete by the introduction of a new generation of recoil-absorbing mechanisms, devices that were so good that they permitted the carriage of an artillery piece to remain perfectly still during the cycle of loading, aiming, and firing. Thus, in that year, the Serbian authorities placed an order with Schneider for forty howitzers of a new type.3 (Thirty-two of these were 120mm medium field howitzers. Eight were 150mm heavy field howitzers. Both received the designation of Model 1911.)
When delivered, these would have allowed the expansion of the Howitzer Regiment into a unit of eight four-piece batteries of 120mm howitzers and two four-piece batteries of 150mm howitzers. Thanks, however, to the refusal of the Austrian and Turkish governments to allow the shipment of these weapons through their territory, they did not reach Serbia before the start of the war.
The Greek capture of the port of Salonika (8 November 1912) and the arrival of Serbian forces at Adrianople (12 November 1912) opened a route by which the new weapons could be delivered to territory under Serbian control. Exactly when such deliveries took place is hard to say. It seems, however, that while some of the new howitzers took part in the siege of Adrianople soon after landing at Salonika, others traveled by sea to Scutari.
Figures for shells fired by the two types of 120mm howitzers make it clear that Model 1897 howitzers of that caliber remained in service after the arrival of the new 120mm pieces.4
If the first day of mobilization was the day that King Peter announced the mobilization of the Serbian Army (30 September 1912) then this would have been 4 October 1912. If, however, the first day of mobilization was 1 October 1912, then the fifth day of mobilization would have been 5 October 1912.
K.u.K. Militärattaché in Belgrad, Res. Nr. 360, (8. Dezember 1913) Der Munitionsverbrauch Serbiens in den Kriegen 1912/13, Kriegsarchiv Wien, Allerhöchster Oberbefehl (1808-1918), Chef des Generalstabs (1809-1918), Militärattachés, Militärbevollmächtige, und Militäradjoints (1860-1914), Belgrad (1860-1914), Akten (1882-1914), Karton 8, Akten aus den Jahren 1907-1914