The Romanian Army
author Moise Gheorghe, August 2016
After the end of the War for Independence, Romania enjoyed a period without armed conflicts. Thus, the Romanian army came to the end of a period of almost 40 years of peace. The Romanian army’s problems came to light during its participation in the second Balkan war.
After the end of the War for Independence, Romania enjoyed a period without armed conflicts. Thus, the Romanian army came to the end of a period of almost 40 years of peace. The Romanian army’s problems came to light during its participation in the second Balkan war. However, a thorough analysis of all component aspects was not carried out, and the measures introduced were far from sufficient. The rapid reorganization of the army during the day before entering the war did not have the desired results. The army was forced to pass through a ‘baptism of fire’ and was reorganized with help from the the French military mission.

For the second time in the history of modern-day Romania, the General Headquarters was set up, after Romania’s entry into the First World War. The Department of War was divided into two bodies. The first was the General Headquarters, the main organ for planning and leading military operations. This was dependent on the rule of the supreme commander - king Ferdinand I. The second body was the Department of War, the static branch. This came under the War Ministry, and had attributes in domestic affairs, taking care of recruitment and mobilization.

Equipping the army with weapons after the War for Independence was mostly done through foreign acquisitions. The Romanian kingdom joined the Central Powers. Due to this reason, purchases were mostly made from German businesses - for artillery weapons - and Austrian - for light infantry weapons. Equipment for aeronautics and the navy were made through French, British and Italian companies.

From a medical perspective, both the country and the army had a series of deficiencies. For the solution of these issues, king Ferdinand I passed a law concerning the Health Service of the army. This law was initiated by Ion I.C. Bratianu, as President of the Council of Ministers, and as War Minister. Shortly afterwards, the Central Sanitary Committee was founded, with the role of studying, organizing and preparing the country, from a medical viewpoint, for the possibility of Romania entering the war.

Volunteer soldiers from Transylvania and Bukovina also fought in the Romanian army during the First World War. These soldiers had escaped from the Austro-Hungarian Empire to avoid the draft, had been taken prisoners or had surrendered to the Russians or to the Romanians of the Old Kingdom. They all participated in the fight for the unification of Romania’s territory.

At the outbreak of war, the Romanian army was unable to intervene in force to reach national goals. Its capacity for battle was much reduced. This situation was due to the permanent neglect of the army by politicians. As the historian Constantin Kiritescu showed, “recent political events had shown that our army had deficiencies which reduced its capacity for battle. Political issues - our links with the powers of the Central Powers - made it seem useless; financial issues made it seem impossible.”

During the period of neutrality, the Department of War prepared many campaign plans, as hypotheses. One of these, ‘Hypothesis Z’, became the Romanian army’s campaign plan. This plan foresaw a general offensive over the Carpathian mountains, in order to crush the enemy in the Transylvania region. This strategic goal was destined for the majority of the forces - three of the four Romanian armies. This meant 80% of the force. The other army would be in defensive positions on the southern front for 10 days. Then, it would go on the offensive in the Dobrogea region, together with a division from the Russian army.

The officers, NCO’s and soldiers from the French military mission played an important role in the reorganization and training of the Romanian army. The French group was led by General Henri Berthelot and was sent by the Triple Entente at the request of the Romanian government. Some of the members of this group fought and fell together with Romanian soldiers in the great battles on the southern Moldova front.

The highest structure of the Romanian army during the First World War was the General Headquarters. Its job was to lead, on a strategic level, the military operations of the Romanian army. The General Headquarters was a temporary command structure, existing only during war time. It was formed at the declaration of mobilization and was dissolved at the end of the war or military campaign for which it was created.

After Romania entered the war, the Department of War split into two. The General Headquarters, the superior organ for planning and leading operations, was dependent on the rule of the supreme commander - king Ferdinand I. The Department of War was the static branch, under the War Ministry. It had responsibilities concerning recruitment and mobilization of troops, and also economic mobilization.

The first leader of the General Headquarters of the Romanian army during the Great War was the division general, Vasile Zotto. Shortly before the war began, he was moved into the reserves, due to his age. On the same day, he was recalled and named leader of the Department of War. After the disaster of the battle of Turtucaia, he was replaced. A few weeks later, Zotto committed suicide in his home in Bucharest.

The actual leadership of the General Headquarters during the first months of the year was provided by the brigadier general, Dumitru Iliescu. He filled in for Vasile Zotto, who had health problems. After Zotto’s suicide, Iliescu took over his role, also thanks to his personal relationship with the prime-minister, Ionel Bratianu. The corps of Romanian generals contested his moral authority to lead the Department of War, since he lacked the qualities of a strategist and an officer of war. Dumitru Iliescu was dismissed and sent to Paris, as a representative of the General Headquarters to the Entente.

The third leader of the Department of War in the space of three months was the army corps general, Constantin Prezan. He was the favorite of King Ferdinand and prime-minister Bratianu, and was preferred over General Alexandru Averescu. Nicolae Iorga said the truth when he affirmed that “The army found a true leader in the calm security of General Prezan”.

The first objectives and accomplishments of General Prezan in his leadership role were: moving commands, units and large units to the territory between the Prut and Siret rivers and creating partnership frameworks with the French Military Mission. Added to this was negotiating relationships with Russian military leadership. I. G. Duca said of General Prezan: “through his gentle way, through his conciliatory temperament, through his honesty, he managed to win the Russian command’s respect and avoid unnecessary and violent clashes”.

General Constantin Prezan managed to bring order to the General Headquarters. He smoothed conflicts between political and military leaders concerning the failures of the start of Romania’s military campaign. Prezan formed a capable war department team, in which he used young, energetic officers, such as Major Ion Antonescu, but also experienced staff, such as General Alexandru Averescu and General Constantin Christescu. The latter was vice-commander of the General Headquarters.

During the last year of war, under the consideration of Russia’s leaving the war, General Constantin Prezan was retired. His place was taken by the division general, Constantin Christescu. He had to resize the armed forces according to the limits set by the Central Powers. At the same time, Christescu had to prepare documents for the department of war and the army, in view of recommencing operations against the Central Powers at the moment considered fit by the authorities.

After the end of the First World War, the Romanian state began a campaign of building mausoleums and monuments dedicated to the heroes of the three years of fighting. Those who had died for their homeland came from all social and professional classes, from generals to regular soldiers.

Eremia Grigorescu was born in 1863, in a village near Targu Bujor, into the family of a rural teacher. During the First World War he occupied the functions of division commandant and army commandant. He was decorated with the order of Michael the Brave, class III and class II, one of the four Romanian officers to receive this distinction. On his gravestone is inscribed: “The watchmen from the Gate of Moldova, who stopped the enemy peoples, making rock-solid fortifications around me, wrote with blood on the peaks of Slanic, Oituz and Casin: «You cannot pass here!»”.

General Stan Poetas distinguished himself in several crucial moments of battles on Romanian territory. As a colonel, he fought heroically in the battle of Topraisar, in the region of Dobrogea, against the Germans and Bulgarians. After the war, he was killed by Bolshevik partisans in Basarabia.

Ioan Dragalina was born in the former Austro-Hungarian empire, in Caransebes, in 1860. Ioan Dragalina quit the Austro-Hungarian army, crossed the border into Romania and was received into the Romanian army with the rank of sub lieutenant. His division fought courageously at the beginning of the war at Orsova and in the Cerna river valley. He was promoted to lead the Romanian Army 1 which operated on the Jiu river valley. Here, he told his soldiers: “The troop which does not advance must die where it is!” Wounded on the front, he died at the Military Hospital at the Royal Palace in Bucharest.

Ecaterina Teodoroiu was named “the hero from Jiu”. She was killed by two machine-gun bullets in the chest during the battle of Varnita and Muncelu, on the front in southern Moldova. Ecaterina Teodoroiu was the first female officer in the Romanian army. She first fought in the Jiu river valley, then in the Marasesti region. Although wounded several times and captured by the enemy, each time she returned to the soldiers she commanded. Her last words, addressed to her platoon, were: “Keep going boys, don’t give up, you’re with me! Forwards! Avenge me!”

General David Praporgescu came from a family of peasants from Turnu Magurele. He led the Corps 1 army into battle in the Olt river valley. He died on the battlefield, mortally wounded by shrapnel from a stray missile, while he was moving from the Colti position towards the Plesu position on the Caineni river valley: “falling badly wounded by shrapnel, in the 1st trench line, while he was encouraging the soldiers towards a hard fight against the numerically superior enemy, dying as a hero due to the wounds received.”

Constantin Musat was a Romanian soldier who fell as a hero in the battles at Oituz. He fought in the Predeal defile near Brasov and in the Caineni area. Corporal Musat was badly wounded in battles in the area of the Vrancea Mountains, at the Red Ravine, and his left arm was amputated at the Iasi Military Hospital. Although he became a war veteran, he refused to be classed as such and asked to be sent back to the front, to throw grenades with his right arm. In the battles of Oituz, he lost his life while throwing a grenade and shouting: “Grenades, boys, grenades!”

A few years before the beginning of the First World War, the Romanian army could be compared to a militia, not to an organism prepared for war. The reduced number of soldiers, lack of modern endowments, complacency of politicians, and the long period of peace, all contributed towards making the Romanian army an anachronistic force for the conflict which was coming.

Romania participated in the war with 4 army commands and 6 commands of army corps. Those called to arms and those at the disposition of the army numbered 1,830,000 men aged between 18 and 45. These represented around 15% of Romania’s population. For the war, the Romanian army mobilised 833,758 members of troops, commanded by approximately 18,000 officers. The operations army was made up of 378 battalions of infantry, 299 batteries of artillery and 104 squadrons of cavalry. The mobilised army was served by 281,240 horses.

The land forces were made up of 23 infantry divisions, 2 cavalry divisions, 5 brigades of horseback soldiers and a brigade of border guards. Divisions 1-10 were experienced, with active officers. Divisions 11-15 were new, formed by transforming the old territorial commands, and were made up of reserve soldiers. Around the time of mobilization there were 8 more divisions created, from 16 to 23, with a very weak staff of reserve officers.

The number of officers was raised from 8,500 during the Balkanic war, to over 19,000 in the year of entry into the Great War. To this end, the number of pupils in military schools increased, and 5 extra schools were created for reserve officers. The teachers were considered by the authorities to be the most suited for the corps of reserve officers. The principle was for almost all community leaders in civilian life to be transformed into leaders on the battlefield. The result was two reserve officers for each active officer.

The artillery was made up of two brigades of heavy artillery, a regiment and a division of mountain artillery. To this were added units of anti-aircraft artillery, with 113 pieces of artillery. The engineering units were made up of a regiment of railway specialists, a regiment of bridge-builders and a battalion of specialists, with a company working with aerostats.

The Romanian cavalry was composed, at the moment of mobilization, of 22 regiments. These were split into two independent divisions, each with six elite regiments, also having horseback artillery, 75mm batteries and cyclists. The regiments of horseback soldiers, with decreased combat value, were grouped in twos, making up five brigades. These brigades were individually attached to each army corps.

Romanian aviation was made up of four squadrons. The first fighter plane of the Romanian Air Force was the Nieuport 11, made in France. Up until the end of the war, Romanian pilots executed approximately 11,000 hours of flight and fought in 750 air battles. A Romanian military airplane Farman F40 brought down an airplane belonging to the German Imperial Air Force close to the town of Slobozia. This was the first victory in the history of the Romanian Air Force.

The navy organized missions to defend the bridgehead at Turtucaia and to support the right-hand flank of the land troops. It withdrew Romanian ships to the frontline and neutralized the enemy artillery from the region of the town of Tulcea. The marine forces organized missions transporting materials and liquidating the Russian navy resistance in the Danube Delta. Vice-admiral Constantin Balescu, commander of the navy, distinguished himself during military operations, when the batteries of the navy and the artillery of the warships bombarded enemy positions in Tulcea and Galati. Notable successes were gained at that time.

As a predominantly agricultural country, Romania lacked technically-trained staff and industrial machinery. Thus, the manufacturing of weapons, ammunition and war materials, in sufficient quantities and to modern standards, was sadly lacking. An importer of military expertise from Germany and the Austro-Hungarian empire, Romania was kept by her allies in a form of dependence on the German and Austrian war machine. The two allies blocked the development of a military industry in Romania. All the Romanian state could do was to carry out repairs and produce military materials necessary for shooting practise.

The training and equipping of the army was one of the areas which suffered the greatest budget cuts during the period leading up to the World War. Dimitrie Sturdza, war minister at the beginning of the century, justified these cuts, saying that “rather than having a great, untrained army, it is better to have an army of 100,000 people, but well-trained.” After approximately 15 years of this policy, the result was an army smaller than 100,000 people, untrained and unequipped for modern warfare.

At the outbreak of war, Romania’s weaponry orders placed with countries involved in the war were no longer honored. A Romanian commission, created to find weaponry suppliers, signed contracts with manufacturers in the USA, England, Italy and Switzerland. A separate problem was bringing the purchases into the country. The transport of goods via the route through Greece and Serbia stopped with the defeat of Serbia. New routes from the West passed through Russia. The deliveries were not efficient, since they had huge distances to cover, and were sometimes hijacked by the Russians.

Most of the Romanian infantry and cavalry were supplied with Mannlicher gatling guns - the Romanian model 1893/1889/1895, 6.5mm caliber, manufactured in Germany. The few machine guns in use had the same caliber: the Maxim Model, 1909, made in Germany, and the Schwarzlose model, 1907/1912, produced in the Austro-Hungarian empire. The quantities delivered before the outbreak of war were small. A company was supplied with four guns for each infantry regiment, ie a total of 160 guns.

At the beginning of the war, the field artillery had German slow-firing steel cannons: the Krupp 1880 model, 75mm and 87mm caliber. There were also fast-firing cannons; the Krupp 1904 model, 75mm caliber, with ammunition using smokeless powder. Besides the cannons, the field artillery also had high-caliber howitzers, the Krupp 1901 model, 120 caliber, and the 1912 model, with 105 caliber and the Schneider-Creusot 1912, with a 150 caliber.

In the absence of imported weapons, the Romanian army’s artillery was forced to fall back on the heavy cannons from the forts around Bucharest. These were dismounted from their fixed positions. Thus, four regiments of heavy artillery were obtained, with a total of 129 heavy weapons. Long cannons and howitzers were also removed and adapted for land use from the cruiser Elisabeta, from warships and from a coastal battery in Galati.

The Romanian naval forces were made up of warships, coastal defense ships, a cruiser and other vessels with various military purposes. The squadron on the Danube was made up of four armored warships, eight coastal defense ships and several cannon-bearing ships of secondary importance.

The aviation had two units. The first had 5 Bristol-Coanda planes, from the military pilot school in Cotroceni. The second unit had nine planes of different types: Bristol-Coanda, Bleriot, Farman and Vlaicu. Up to the outbreak of war, the number of planes had reached 29. During the war, Romania purchased 322 airships from France and Great Britain, including Nieuport and Farman planes, for reconnaissance and bombing, light planes, and Breguet-Michelin, heavy bombers.

Romania’s participation in the Second Balkan War proved that the army’s health service was almost inexistent. A cholera epidemic ravaged the soldiers, most of whom brought it back to the country.

The government led by Ion C. Bratianu entrusted the ministers Alexandru Constantinescu and Dr. Constantin Angelescu with the task of reforming the military health service. The reorganized service had two parts: the operation zone and the domestic zone.

For supplying the operation zone of the health service, bandage and pill workshops were created. Romanian factories produced ambulance and pharmacy carriages, veterinary carts, wagons for carrying stretchers, sterilising ovens, etc. Sanitary trains outfitted with the required materials, including company baths, were put at the disposition of the large units of the army.

The health provisions came to the fore during the retreat of the army towards Moldova. Thus, 600 wagons of sanitary materials arrived in Iasi, of which 150 were transported to Odessa in Russia. From the stock in Iasi, the army’s needs were met, and also the needs of civilians, especially during the epidemics sparked by the privations of the war years.

In the domestic health zone, the Central Health Committee organized 404 hospitals, equipped with everything necessary for tending to the wounded. The capacity of these hospitals was almost 58,000 beds. In case of need, these could be supplemented with another 17,000 spaces.

At the beginning of the First World War, Romania had an unusual geographical shape. This meant that each of the two belligerent parties would benefit from Romania giving up its neutrality. After the defeat at Lemberg, the Austro-Hungarian empire gained land to the east, on the southern flank of the front against Russia. For the Entente, Romania’s entry into its camp would have meant a lengthening of the eastern front closer to the Balkans. Greece became a bridgehead for the English and French. Further, Romania would have attracted an easing of German pressure on the western front.

Romania’s entry into the war caused an extension of the eastern front towards the south, by approx. 1,200 km. Due to the line of the Carpathian mountains and the Danube, the Romanian front initially began at Dorna, in northern Moldova, and reached Varciorova, in the Mehedinti county. From here, the front continued along the Danube to Turtucaia, then along the Dobrogean frontier, up to the Black Sea. Due to the reduced numbers of soldiers, the Romanian army could not fight a battle based on fixed positions. Victory would have to be through a rapid campaign, in continual movement.

The most important part of the Romanian front was the sector along the line of the Carpathian mountains. Behind the front was Romania’s goal: Transylvania. Further, the Carpathian section of the Romanian front joined the eastern front, where the Russian army was fighting. The Romanian movements had to be coordinated with the Russian movements. The southern wing of the eastern front was occupied by the army of the Russian general, Platon Lechitsky, from the group coordinated by general Aleksei Brusilov. These armies were posted in the town of Cernauti and almost the whole of the Bukovina region.

The front on the Carpathian heights formed the two sides of a 70 degree triangle. In the interior of this angle, the Austro-Hungarians were able to maneuver on short lines, served by a well-equipped railway network. The Romanian armies had to defend a long exterior line, with few and rudimentary access points and difficult communications. The English colonel Charles a Court Repington joked that “The Romanians stretched out their forces, so that in each passage they had one and a half soldiers.”

In the conditions of a difficult defensive position on the Carpathian line, the command of the Romanian army preferred an attack to push the front into Transylvania. The line was easier to defend later. This favorable defensive position was defined by the middle course of the Mures river. The defense organized on the Mures river allowed a serious Romanian-Russian offensive to the south against Bulgaria.

The Danube sector of the Romanian front did not show signs of a principal conflict zone. This was due to the difficulties raised by the Danube river, but also because of uncertainty about which camp Bulgaria would join. Russia, the ancient ‘protector’ of Bulgaria, was convinced that Sofia would not turn against it - as was Austro-Hungary.

In the first stage of the war, action on the southern front seemed to exclude the Danube section of the front. Operations were more probable on the frontier in southern Dobrogea, in the Quadrilateral. Thus, when Romania entered the war, there were two fronts worthy of consideration: the Carpathian front and the southern Dobrogea front.

‘Hypothesis Z’ was the political-military document planning the military actions of the Romanian army, after the entry into the war on the side of the Entente. The plan laid out the general objective of the war, the plan for action and the allocation of military forces to fulfil the plan. It was drawn up by the Operations Unit of the Department of War, led by colonel Ion Rascanu, and approved by the head of the Department of War, General Vasile Zottu.

The option of the bulk of the Romanian army beginning military action on the Dobrogea front was discounted from the beginning of hostilities. The Romanian decision was approved by the allies from the Entente. This did not exclude a future offensive against Bulgaria. For this, it was necessary that the Russians in Dobrogea be coordinated with Sarrail’s expeditionary French-English corps. Sarrail should have been pushing from Salonic, Greece.

The Romanian armies 1, 2, and 4 were positioned along the Carpathian arc. Army 1 was under the command of General Ioan Culcer, from Calafat to the springs of Arges. Army 2, commanded by General Alexandru Averescu, occupied positions from the springs of Arges to Vrancea. Army 4, or North Army, under the command of General Constantin Prezan, had units from the Oituz valley to the Dorna region. At that point, their territory joined that of the Russian army in Bukovina.

Russia adopted a duplicitous position concerning the Bulgarian problem on the front in southern Romania. When Romania asked for more Russian troops in Dobrogea, Russia refused. The pretext was that it did not have units available. Up until Romania’s entry into the war, Russia hoped that Bulgaria would avoid confrontation with its protector, or at least that it would come out of the Central Powers camp.

Army 3 was on the line of the Danube and in southern Dobrogea, and had defensive missions. It was under the command of General Mihail Aslan and was composed of six infantry divisions, a division and two brigades of cavalry. Another group of forces, the strength of two divisions of infantry, constituted the General Reserve. They were at the disposition of General Headquarters. The group was concentrated in the Bucharest area, with the mission to intervene to support the forces in Transylvania.

‘Z Hypothesis’ - attacking the enemy in the interior of the Carpathian arc and defensive action on the Dobrogea front - was the action plan chosen by the Romanian army command. The reasoning was that, through a rapid offensive, the Romanian army would rebuff the Austro-Hungarian forces from Transylvania. This should have happened before the Central Powers could bring in new forces. The plan continued in the hope that the Germans and Bulgarians south of the Danube could not begin a significant military operation to threaten Romanian action in Transylvania.

In conformity with this plan, at the moment of mobilization, four armies were created: Army 1, Army 2, Army 3 and North Army. The existing army corps were transformed. On the Transylvania front, offensive military actions would happen in three stages. The operations were planned to last 30 days from the beginning of mobilization. In that moment, Romanian forces must reach the Transylvanian line drawn between Ciucea and Caransebes.

The Central Powers predicted that, in the first stage, the Austrian-Hungarian Army 1 would slow down the advance of Romanian troops in Transylvania. Later, they would stop the Romanians on the middle course of the Mures river and at Tarnava Mica. At the same time, the Bulgarian Army 3 would attack in Dobrogea, taking the Cernavoda-Constanta railway line. In the second stage, the German-Austrian-Hungarian forces would go on the offensive, forcing a way through the Carpathians. At the same time, the Bulgarians were crossing the Danube at Sistov, falling behind the Romanian troops.

The operational plan of the Romanian army was partially conceived before Romania entered the war. Later, the evolution of events forced the Romanian command to complete, revise and completely remake this plan. It started as an offensive plan in Transylvania and ended up as a defensive plan in southern Moldova.

Armies 1,2 and 4, on the line of the Carpathian peaks, were to advance into Transylvania and the Banat region. These troops would then concentrate on a large battle in one of two possible locations: Ciucea, in the north, or Caransebes in the south. The Somes river was the dividing line in the theatre of Russian operations. The Russians were forced to work together with the Romanians.

The Romanian command planned for simultaneous surprise crossings of the Carpathian passages. After crossing the Carpathians, the Romanian armies would calculate the angles of the mountains. Thus, the entry into Transylvania would ease a confluence of the Romanian armies in the middle area of the Mures river. Each step forward would shorten the front line through the concentric advance of the Romanian armies. This was to the enemy’s disadvantage.

Army 1, under General Culcer, had as its objective the occupation of the northern reaches of the passages through the Meridional Carpathian Mountains. The strengthening of the positions of Army 1 in the Hateg-Sibiu area was aimed at creating a pivot for the other two Romanian armies. Army 2, under General Averescu, had orders to advance north-west, straight towards the Austro-Hungarian line of defense on the Mures River. After this attack by Averescu’s army, the other two were to strike by surrounding the flanks of the enemy army.

Positions on the Romanian borders were occupied by special army support units. These were moved to their positions a year beforehand, and knew the terrain well. The Romanian troops gathered behind them, in the very valleys where their objectives were. The support groups had the role of creating cover and opening the way for the bulk of the Romanian army to pass through the mountain passes. At the same time, they ensured the rapid passage of troops into Transylvania.

The Volunteer Corps from Transylvania was formed of Romanian fighters, originally from Transylvania. These men fought together with the Romanian army during the First World War. The goal was to unite Transylvania with Romania.

Some Romanians from Transylvania tried to join the Romanian army long before the breakout of the First World War. At the start of the war, these fighters manifested their rebellion towards the Austro-Hungarian authorities. Other Transylvanian soldiers deserted from Austro-Hungarian military units. There were also cases in which officers of Romanian origin, from the Fagaras region, planned to aid and facilitate the Romanian army’s entry into Transylvania.

The volunteers from Transylvania accepted that “from the moment we take this oath we consider ourselves part of the Romanian army, so those of us who do not answer the call will be considered deserters, punished according to Romanian law”. The volunteers released a manifesto, stating: “We, officers, NCOs and soldiers of Romanian descent, swear on our honor and conscience that we wish to fight in the Romanian army for the freeing of our Romanian lands from Austro-Hungarian domination, and that the land may be joined to Romania.”

Up until the beginning of the war, the volunteers from Transylvania were individually enrolled into various military units in the Old Kingdom. There were no separate formations for these volunteers within the army, since Romania was still neutral in the conflict. In the two years of neutrality, approx. 30,000 soldiers were integrated into the Romanian army. These were NCOs and voluntary officers from Transylvania. After Romania’s entry into the war, these were joined by approx. 100,000 volunteers from Transylvania, the majority of whom were ex-prisoners of the Russians.

The first train carrying volunteers, decorated with green branches and many Romanian flags, arrived in Iasi. Here they were received by the minister of war, Vintila Bratianu, and the generals: Constantin Prezan, Constantin Christescu, Nicolae Petala, Vladescu, Vasilescu and Herescu. Octavian Goga from Transylvania was also there with a group of refugees and a large crowd of people. Homage was paid to the volunteers by a guard of honor formed of a regiment of soldiers from the Romanian army, present with a military brass band.

A few days after the National Assembly at Alba-Iulia, the volunteers were transported in trains to Transylvania. They were regrouped into the Volunteers Corps, but there were also many other volunteers incorporated in Romanian military units. All of these received permission to take a short leave to visit their families.

The first military unit of volunteers from Transylvania which joined the Romanian army was formed in the prisoners-of-war camp in Darnita, near Kiev. The volunteers asked the Romanian authorities to accept them in the Romanian army to fight against the common enemy. The attitude of the Romanian authorities, together with the none-too-helpful Russians, meant that these requests were only granted several months after Romania entered the war.

The volunteers from Transylvania were distributed among various units. From the first day of the offensive at Marasesti, the volunteers entered battle, especially in the area close to the towns Zabrauti and Fitionesti. After the peace of Buftea-Bucharest, the volunteers, together with the whole Romanian army, were demobilised. A new mobilization took place several months later, in the autumn of the last year of war.

Two months after Romania entered the war, the French state sent a military mission into the country. This was made up of 277 infantry, cavalry and artillery officers, 88 doctors, chemists and vets, 37 pilots and look-outs, 4 navy officers and 8 special intervention officers. To these were added 1,150 soldiers of inferior grade, specialized in various jobs. Their purpose was to provide counsel, support and training to the units and leadership of the Romanian military. The mission was led by the division general, Henri Mathias Berthelot.

General Henri Berthelot, with a part of his mission colleagues, set up headquarters in Iasi. General Berthelot’s presence was beneficial, since he became actively involved in solving tasks concerning cooperation with the representatives of the allied states. Together with this corps of elite officers and technicians, he managed to inspire the Romanian army with the French methodical, clear spirit. After inspecting the Romanian army’s service of supplying ammunition, Henri Berthelot exclaimed: “You are admirably disorganized!”

Henri Berthelot, in a report to his superiors, commented on the progress of the Romanian army and the attitude of the Romanian soldier: “the soldier is good, very strong, very resistant, marches well, never complains. The Romanian is not scared of bullets. He attacks full of courage, in spite of machine guns and fire from the enemy. As for the officers, with a few exceptions, they have great courage and commitment, especially the military officers.”

General Berthelot mentioned many French officers in his report to France. In the text of this report, Berthelot underlined the courageous acts of the aviator Captain Maurice Gand, on his French air mission. He downed a German plane in an air battle near the Romanian town of Barlad. The report continued by presenting the deeds of Lieutenant Berge, who was at the head of Regiment 46 Infantry. The lieutenant was wounded and declared missing after the German attack in the Slanic area.

Under the leadership of General Henri Berthelot, entire divisions were rapidly brought back to order. In the following months, an enormous store of weapons arrived in Romania via railway lines from Russia. 199 fighting and reconnaissance planes arrived, together with 1,700 machine guns, 1.37 million grenades, 220,000 guns, 100 million bullets, two million shells and other war supplies.

The reorganization of the Romanian army was carried out with French support, and the action plan for the Moldova front was finalized. The main goal of the plan was to free the Muntenia region from the Central Powers. Before beginning the attack, Berthelot made a final inspection of the front. The conclusions of these inspections were noted in a report sent to king Ferdinand I. The troops had a high morale and were very well trained. The French General remarked in his report the fact that “the soldiers are ready and willing to do their job”.

For their acts of heroism on the battlefield, King Ferdinand gave the French Officers medals of the highest orders, along with Romanian medals. The leader of the French military mission, Henri Berthelot, was personally decorated by the king of Romania with the order of ‘Michael the Brave’.