Ref Number: 124
Ref Number: 124
The Attack of the Druzki or the Battle of Kaliakra, during the First Balkan War, on November 21, 1912, the Bulgarian navy gained its most significant triumph over the Ottoman Empire, which occurred around 50 kilometres away from Varna.
Following the loss at Edirne and the substantial material casualties, the Turkish military had a pressing requirement for fresh supplies of equipment, ammunition, and provisions. The assistance dispatched by Austria-Hungary and Germany successfully arrived in the Romanian port of Kyustenja. Subsequently, the precious cargo needed to be sent to Constantinople, and the sole viable option was to carry it via maritime means. In order to accomplish this objective, Egyptian freight steamers were contracted, accompanied by warships for protection.
Simultaneously, the threat of Turkish bombs and invasions on the Bulgarian coast was quite tangible – the blockade operations started right from the onset of the conflict. On October 15, 1912, Commander Husein Rauf Bey of the ship “Hamidie” issued an ultimatum to Varna and Balchik, demanding their surrender under the threat of destruction. Fortunately, this event did not occur. Given the limited firing distance of the coastal artillery and the less than flawless technique, the mobilisation plan specified that the surveillance of the Varna Bay and the coastal area from Shabla to Emine would be carried out by a detachment of six torpedo boats.
On November 7th, the fleet headquarters was informed that two Egyptian vessels were departing from Kyustenja en route to Constantinople. Coastal reports verified the presence of Turkish warships near Kaliakra, prompting quick instructions to deploy torpedo boats with the objective of capturing or sinking the hostile vessels. The directive explicitly said to proceed without delay and make decisions based on the prevailing conditions. At 22:30, the fleet including the leading ships “Flying”, “Brave”, “Strict”, and “Druzki” departed through the northern channel of the mine perimeter and, although fully concealed, proceeded to intercept the convoy. The commander of the detachment held the rank of Captain II, and his name was Dimitar Dobrev.
Thirty minutes past midnight, at a distance of 32 miles from Varna, observers saw the outline of a sizable vessel to the right of the intended route. It was eventually discovered that the cruiser in question was either the “Hamidie” or the “Mejidie”. At 00:40, the main ship issued a signal indicating an imminent attack. Five minutes later, “Flying” launched the initial torpedo volley at a range of 500-600 metres.
At that instant, a barrage of intense cannon fire erupted from the “Hamidie”. At a shorter range, the assault was executed jointly by the vessels “Courageous” and “Strictly”. Specifically, “Courageous” sustained damage to its side when a 155mm round detonated in close proximity. The ship’s steering mechanism sustained damage, causing it to veer to the right and eventually vanish from the sight of the trailing “Strogi”. This position became quite precarious when the Turkish anti-mine destroyers, which arrived to provide assistance, also commenced intense gunfire against our ships. Therefore, amidst hostile gunfire, the sailors diligently restored the inflicted damage, transitioned to manual operation, and proceeded towards the designated rendezvous site following the assault.
The captain of the Bulgarian naval vessel “Druzki” is Midshipman I Rank Georgi Kupov.”Druzki”, under the command of Midshipman I Georgi Kupov, was the final vessel in the detachment to deploy a torpedo. The shot was discharged from an audacious range of 50-60 metres and was the sole triumphant one. Shortly thereafter, a deafening detonation occurred, causing a towering surge of water to emerge above Hamidieh.
The cruiser had a direct impact to its front section, resulting in a breach measuring around 10 square metres. Fortunately, the vessel’s survival was ensured by the tranquil state of the water, preventing it from sinking. In addition, there were 8 fatalities and 30 individuals who sustained injuries. The attack resulted in “Druzki” sustaining only one shrapnel damage to its chimney. Following a short exchange of artillery fire, he too proceeded towards the designated gathering location. The squad arrived back in Varna in the morning. During the engagement, the Bulgarian sailors incurred just one casualty, namely a non-commissioned officer-gunner from the vessel “Brave”.
The Bulgarian navy achieved a significant naval triumph over a consistently stronger adversary, resulting in substantial morale and material losses for the Turkish force. The severely damaged and partially submerged “Hamidie” was transported to Constantinople by towing. The stern of the ship sank first, while the bow portions became flooded, submerging the ship’s bulkhead.
On October 15, 1942, an explosion occurred on board the torpedo boat “Druzki” at Varna owing to the illegal storage of gunpowder, resulting in the sinking of the boat at the pier. The vessel was promptly repaired and subsequently reentered service in the Navy. In 1950, the vessel was decommissioned, disarmed, and then repurposed into a floating target. Several years later, when the 45th anniversary of the torpedo attack on “Hamidie” drew near, the concept emerged to transform the ship into a museum.
However, at that period, “Druzki” was only appropriate for secondary materials, namely the leftover materials that were carried for the purpose of being melted again, located in the vicinity of the Gorna Oryahovitsa station. Only the chimney, one gun, and many minor components that were installed aboard the torpedo boat “Strogi” of the same class were returned. Rear Admiral Branimir Ormanov inaugurated the “Druzki” museum ship on November 21, 1957, at the Naval Museum in Varna. Capt. I rank Georgi Kupov, the commander of “Druzki” on that particular night, was also present at the ceremony.
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