WW1 Romanian Navy

The WW1 Romanian Navy

Independent since 1878, Romania already had a flotilla on the Danube, but no real fleet. This one was able to be constituted thanks to the access to the black sea which it gained at the end of the Russo-Turkish war. On the coast of the Dubrusja, the port of Costanza was converted into an arsenal. Her first seagoing vessel was the gunboat Grivita, assisted by the sailing school Mircea. At the end of the 1880s, the addition of the Elisabeta cruiser and other units strengthened its potential, while the Danube flotilla was also greatly improved. In 1899, a naval plan was established pleading for the construction of 6 coastal battleships, 4 dislocations and 12 torpedo boats. The Danube division was to be supported by 8 monitors and 12 river torpedo boats.


Romanian Cruiser Elisabeta 1888

This program does not live on an entire achievement. Following the first Balkan war, when it was neutral, Romania received from Bulgaria a piece of coastal territory on the Black Sea. But the Bugarie changed its attitude and in the Second Balkan War, following its aggression, Romania invaded it in return for the North and occupied it. Romania gained an important strip of coastal land up to Varna. The program of 1899 had succeeded the 1912 program pleading for 6 cruisers and 12 heavy destroyers, then a supplementary plan specified a battleship of 13,000 tons. All these programs were doomed because of the modest finances that could be given to the navy. The First World War put an end to these developments. Here are the Romanian numbers at this date:

1 Cruiser: Elisabeta (1888).
11 torpedo boats: 3 high-sea class Naluca (1888) and 8 fluvial class Capitan Nicolae Lascar Bogdan (1907).
14 Miscellaneous: Grivita gunboat (1880, training ship), 3 Oltul class gunboats (1888), 2 Rahova class (1882), 3 Monteano class fishermen (1893), Alexandru cel Bun (1882), 4 Class Ion river classliners C Bratianu (1907).

Tonnage 1914: Cruisers: 1 Raiders: 11 Various: 14

Gunboat Fulgerul 1873

La marine Roumaine durant la première guerre mondiale:
Entourée par ses puissants voisins, la roumanie ne pouvait guère rester neutre qu’au prix de grandes difficultés. Qui plus est le pouvoir était aux mains de francophiles qui avaient reçu de la France des assurances sur de futures agrandissements territoriaux en cas de participation à la guerre aux côtés des alliés. Ce qu’elle fit en 1915. La situation critique en Russie commença à la faire douter du bien-fondé de cette décision, mais en 1916, elle déclara la guerre à l’Autriche-Hongrie. Cette décision fut lourde de conséquences: L’Allemagne et la Bulgarie entrèrent en guerre contre elle, et les troupes Roumaines mal équipées furent vite acculées à la défensive puis balayées par ue offensive qui ne s’acheva que par la prise et l’occupation de Bucarest.

Costanza harbor
Costanza harbor

The horrendous human losses (50% of the troops engaged) meant that the few remaining forces had no alternative but to retreat to Russia or they participated in the holding of the front in the southern sector. The navy was more or less forced into inaction, in particular deprived of four powerful destroyers ordered from Italy and requisitioned. The Elisabeta Cruiser for example, was disarmed that same year 1916. It was decided to requisition and transform 4 cruise ships into auxiliary cruisers. The latter carried out escort missions and were integrated into the Russian Black Sea Fleet. When compared with the Danube division, which was comparatively well equipped, she was able to stand up to the Austro-Hungarian flotilla.

With the 1917 revolution in Russia, Romania lost its only local ally and its situation became internable. In May 1918, she signed an armistice with very harsh conditions, losing the Dobrudja in favor of Austria. With the armistice of November and the defeat of the central empires, Romania recovered the Dobrudja and its territory gained some 50% of coastline to the North, stopping south of Dniester. In 1920, this time she received her expected ships, including two Italian destroyers, but also four ASM gunboats to France, three Austro-Hungarian river monitors, and seven Austrian torpedo boats.

Romanian minelayer Aurora
Romanian minelayer Aurora