Romanian Fortifications in Dobrudja





Tutrakan (Turtucaia in Romanian) was intensively fortified in 1913-1916 with the aid of Belgian military engineers. Although linked to Oltenitza, directly across the Danube, by a submerged telephone cable and an array of small boats, this “bridgehead” had no bridge. These defences, yet unfinished in 1916, consisted of three concentric lines of defence, anchored on the Danube, with a radius of 8 km and a circumference of 35. The most advanced position, some 1000 m deep, consisted primarily of small outposts of pickets designed for surveillance and to force an enemy to reveal his intentions. About 4 km back, on the heights overlooking the city, was the primary line of defence. It incorporated 15 forts about 2 km apart. These were mostly of earthen construction with only limited concrete. The forts were linked by a system of shallow trenches and protected with barbed wire obstacles. A primitive secondary line stood 4 km behind the primary line of resistance. It consisted of a single row of neglected trenches, partly collapsed, with some barbed wire but without artillery or machine guns. Its value was extremely limited.


For command purposes, the entire defensive system was divided into three sectors: I (west), II (south), and III (east), each with its own local commander. Most of the artillery the garrison possessed was in the primary line. Guns of light calibre predominated. Many of those of heavier calibre were not mobile and were incapable of firing toward the flank or rear. Some were not yet operational and/or lacked shells of the correct calibre. Prominently represented at Tutrakan were ancient cannon taken from dismantled forts around Bukarest and the abandoned Focsani line on the ramparts of Moldavia.

The Danube was mined within a 7 km radius from the town. On the islands of Cârneciu, Chisulgeaua and Kalimok there were heavy machine guns and light QF guns in armoured cupolas.


On August 1916 Tutrakan fortified position was manned by the 17th Infantry Division (brig.gen. Constantin Teodorescu), with 19 battalions (15 infantry, 4 militia), 1 frontier guard company, 66 machine guns (12 Maxim and 54 Chatelerault), 1 cavalry platoon and 29 batteries:

-     6 field artillery batteries with 23 - 75mm guns and 120mm howitzers with 17,088 shells;

-     23 fortress artillery batteries with 82 guns, howitzers and mortars (calibre from 75mm to 210mm) with 38,084 shells;

-     28 armoured turrets (some in a mobile armour carriages) armed with 53mm QF guns, and 14 armed with 37mm QF guns, giving 55 - 53mm and 37mm light guns with 110,000 shell.

During the siege, on 4 and 5 September, the fortress received 4 batteries with 28 - 75mm and 105mm guns.


In order to defend the fortress from the attack of Austro-Hungarian Danube flotilla, along the Danube shore the “Turtucaia Position” was built, utilising naval guns from the decommissioned cruiser Elisabeth as well as her torpedo tubes. This strongpoint was armed with:

-      4 -150mm L/35 Krupp guns old pattern;

-      4 - 120mm St. Chamond L/45 guns;

-      4 - 75mm St. Chamond L/50 guns;

-      4 - 356mm torpedo tubes.

After the fall of Tutrakan, the Romanians were forced to abandon the “Turtucaia Position” under pressure from advancing and encircling forces of the Central Powers. The main guns were removed to Galatz, where they briefly shelled German batteries before being lost during the retreat on December 1916.


Silistra, like the other Bulgarian fortress along the Danube - Vidin, Ruse, Shumen - was surrounded by a bastioned line with an old citadel and small forts at the point where these lines abuted on the Danube. It had little military value. In 1913 Romanians begun to reinforce and modernize it, but in August 1916 the defences were not completed. At that time the Silistra bridgehead was organized with:

1) a forward line that included the village of Srebârna, the hills of Movila în Tuferiș, Ciolmecului, Ișkibair and Susur, the villages of Karaomur, Babuc, Brâcima Enikioi, Karaorman, height 114 on the road Silistra-Bazargic, organized as strongpoints (centers of resistence);

2) two main defence lines: the first line with 12 strongpoints on a 24 km front, with an interval of 600/800 m from each other; the second line with 8 strongpoints, placed at 1500/2000 m far from the first line.

The bridgehead had three sectors:

-      Sector I (western) : 3 strongpoints for a battalion and 1 battery each and 2 strongpoints for 2 companies and a battery each in the forward line; 4 strongpoints for 1 battalion each, 1 – 75mm battery, 2 – 87mm batteries and 2 – 105mm batteries in the first main line of resistance and 1 strongpoint in the second line;

-      Sector II (Southern) : 2 strongpoints for 1 battalion and 1 battery in the forward line; 5 strongpoints for 1 battalion each, 5 – 53mm turret guns battery, 6 – 75mm batteries and 2 – 105mm batteries in the first main line of resistance and 4 strongpoints in the second line;

-      Sector II (Eastern) : 2 strongpoints for a battalion and 1 battery each in the forward line; 3 strongpoints for 1 battalion each, 1 – 87mm battery and 1 – 105mm battery in the first main line of resistance and 3 strongpoints in the second line.

On 19 August 1916 Silistria fortified position was manned by the 9th Infantry Division (brig.gen. Ioan Basarabescu), with 16 battalions, 1 squadron, 16 machine guns, 13 field and 3 fortress artillery batteries, 17 armoured turrets (some in a mobile armour carriages) armed with 53mm QF guns, with 79 guns.


The Cernavoda bridgehead was constructed on the right bank of the Danube to the south and east of Cernavoda. It was built in the year 1900, and was organized in position fortification, with three groups of works: a center on the Tetrabair and Sariburun hills and two wings on the Movila and Demergiului hills. There were an infantry line armed with 53mm and 37mm QF guns, and an artillery line with 105mm and 120mm guns.

Between 1905 and 1911 the fortification of the bridgehead was transformed into a semi-permanent fortification, organized into three battle groups, as follows :

a)    a central redoubt with 1 howitzer, 4 – 53mm turret guns and 4 machine guns in concrete shelters surrounded by barbed wire fences;

b)    three artillery groups with shelters under the turrets, at a depth of 2.6 m, and concrete niche for the turrets: group Movila with 7 batteries, group Bogdaproste with 1 battery and group Dermengiu with 6 batteries;

c)    for the defence of the Danube a group of gunboats, a group of minesweepers and a battery.


However, these fortifications were too close to the Cernavoda bridge, in some points less than 6 km, so the enemy artillery could easily fire at them. Therefore, between November 1915 and August 1916 the bridgehead were modified and strengthened. When Romania entered into the war it was organized as follows :

1) a forward line between Rașova and Mulciova with 5 strongpoints for 1 battalion each and 7 batteries for 75mm and 2 – 57mm turret guns;

2) the bridgehead proper, divided in three sectors :

-      Sector Podolui-valea Carasu : 6 strongpoints for 1 battalion and 1 support point for 1 company, 13 – 75mm batteries, 1 – 105mm battery, 1 armoured cupola with 2 – 150mm guns, 3 armoured cupola with 2 – 120mm howitzers, 4 emplacements for 53mm turret guns;

-      Sector valea Carasu-lacul Tibrinul : 5 strongpoints for a battalion, 5 – 75mm batteries, 2 – 105mm batteries, 2 armoured cupola with 2 – 120mm howitzers, 2 emplacements for 53mm turret guns and 2 A/A guns at the railway station;

-      Sector lacul Tibrinul-Dunăre : 4 strongpoints for a battalion and 1 battery each, 7 – 75mm batteries and 4 emplacements for 53mm turret guns.

On 19 August 1916 the garrison of the Cernavoda bridgehead (div.gen. Aureliu Saegiu) was composed by 2 battalions od 39th infantry regiment and 2 squadrons of the 9th Călărași regiment.




Kiselov and Boris Tarnovski at Tutrakan

gen. Kiselov and Boris Tarnovski at Tutrakan