Allies

Page 9 – Kingdom of Romania

Flag

Kingdom of Romania flag

1916 Map

Map of the Kingdom of Romania

Click on map for more detail

General facts

  • Population: 8 million (1916)
  • Capital: Bucharest (1916 population 310,000)

Government

  • Head of State:
    • King Ferdinand I (10 October 1914 – 20 July 1927)
  • Head of Government:
    • Prime Minister Ionel Brătianu (16 January 1914 – 9 February 1918)
    • Prime Minister Alexandru Averescu (9 February – 15 March 1918)
    • Prime Minister Alexandru Marghiloman (15 March – 24 October 1918)
    • Prime Minister Constantin Coandă (24 October – 14 December 1918)
    • Prime Minister Ionel Brătianu (14 December 1918 – 1 October 1919)
    • Prime Minister Artur Văitoianu (1 October – 9 December 1919)
    • Prime Minister Alexandru Vaida-Voevod (9 December 1919 – 19 March 1920)
    • Prime Minister Alexandru Averescu (19 March 1920 – 18 December 1921)

Participation in the war

  • Entered the war: 27 August 1916 (Romania declared war on Austria-Hungary)
  • Ceased hostilities: 9 December 1917 (armistice with Germany)
  • Ended belligerent status: 7 May 1918 (signed Treaty of Bucharest with the Central Powers)
  • Re-entered the war: 10 November 1918 (Romania abrogated Treaty of Bucharest)
  • Ceased hostilities: 4 August 1919 (Romanian Army occupied Budapest after defeating the Hungarian Red Army, causing the collapse of Béla Kun’s Bolshevik regime)
  • Ended belligerent status: 10 August 1920 (signed Treaty of Sèvres with Ottoman Empire)

Romania’s decision to enter the war in August 1916 on the side of the Allies was motivated primarily by the desire to claim the region of Transylvania and its majority ethnic Romanian population from the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Following the declaration of war the Romanian Army immediately launched a major offensive across the Carpathian Mountains into Transylvania. This attack caught the Austro-Hungarians by surprise and enjoyed some early successes, but the response of the Central Powers was swift and deadly. In October 1916 a combined invasion force of Austro-Hungarian, German, Bulgarian and Ottoman troops invaded Romania, overrunning most of the country within two months. The Romanian Army was forced to retreat to eastern Moldavia where it could shelter behind the natural defensive lines offered by the Sereth River and Danube delta and link up with the Russians. The Romanian government left Bucharest before the Germans captured it and moved to the city of Iaşi on the Russian border.

For the next year the Romanians held on grimly to their small territorial enclave. They rebuilt their army with help from the Allies, especially the French. The Romanians supported the Russian Army as best they could, defeating a number of Austro-Hungarian and German attempts to break through their sector of the front.

The situation changed dramatically with the Russian Revolution in November 1917. The decision of the Bolshevik regime to withdraw Russia from the war left the Romanian government in Moldavia in a dangerously isolated position. No longer able to count on Russian support and surrounded by the armies of the Central Powers, the Romanians had little choice but to accede to German and Austrian demands to surrender. After dragging out negotiations for as long as possible, the Romanians signed the Treaty of Bucharest on 7 May 1918. This breached their agreement as one of the Allies not to sign a separate peace with the enemy. But the terrible situation faced by the Romanian government after November 1917 meant that their decision was viewed sympathetically by their former allies, who could offer no practical aid to Romania if it kept fighting.

Such was their lack of ill-feeling towards Romania that the Allies had no qualms when it wished to rejoin them and re-enter the war after the situation changed again, this time in its favour, in late 1918. On 10 November Romania announced that it had unilaterally abrogated the Treaty of Bucharest and re-entered the war. The Romanian Army quickly broke out of its enclave in Moldavia, liberating the rest of the country and then advancing into the areas of Austria-Hungary to which Romania laid claim. This led to confrontation and fighting with the revolutionary Bolshevik regime of Béla Kun in Hungary throughout 1919.

Military Forces

Army

  • Peacetime strength 1916: 350,000 Active Army (Armata Activa)
  • Reserves 1916: 1 million, including Reserve Army (Reserva Armatei) and Militia (Militii)
  • Total mobilised 1916: 836,000
  • Total mobilised during war: 900,000 (estimate)

The Romanian mobilisation plan of August 1916 called for the activation of Reserve Army units (made up of men aged between 29 and 40) to augment those of the Active Army. Initially there was no intention of using the Militia (made up of men aged between 41 and 46). The massive Central Powers invasion of Romania in late October–November 1916 was a national crisis of the kind the Militia was supposed to be available to respond to as a last resort, but events moved too swiftly for them to be called up in large numbers.

Even if the Militia had been called up, the Romanian Army would not have been able to equip them properly. There were insufficient modern weapons and equipment for the Reserve Army formations called up when Romania joined the war. This situation worsened as losses in armaments and supplies as well as men mounted.

These problems remained unaddressed until the army completed its retreat to eastern Moldavia and regrouped behind the Sereth/Danube River line in 1917. There the army, now with a reduced strength of around 350,000 men, was helped to reorganise and re-equip itself by an Allied military mission under French control.

The Treaty of Bucharest called for the disbandment of most of the Romanian Army. By delaying its ratification the Romanian government managed to ensure that this had still not been done when Romania re-entered the war six months later.

Navy

  • Peacetime strength 1916: 1500

Fleet

  • Light cruisers: 1
  • River monitors: 4
  • Torpedo boats: 8
  • Gunboats: 4

The peacetime Romanian Navy was made up of a comparatively well-equipped ‘Danube Division’ responsible for patrolling the lengthy Romanian section of the Danube River (the second-longest river in Europe) and a ‘Maritime Division’ responsible for operations in the Black Sea. The Maritime Division was equipped with an obsolete light cruiser, a few supporting vessels and little else. Four modern destroyers were on order from Italy, but their delivery was delayed indefinitely by Italy’s entry into the war in 1915. When Romania joined the conflict the Romanian Navy decided to effectively abolish the moribund Maritime Division for the duration and place all its resources and personnel at the disposal of the Danube Division. Given its modest size the Danube Division proved surprisingly effective against Austrian and German river operations in the Danube delta and Moldavia right up until the capitulation in May 1918.

Casualties

Military

  • Dead (all causes): 335,706
  • Wounded: 120,000

Civilian

  • Dead: 265,000

Sources

  • Nigel Thomas and Dusan Babac, Armies in the Balkans 1914-18, Osprey, Oxford, 2001
  • Spencer C. Tucker (ed.), The Encyclopedia of World War I: Volume 3, ABC-CLIO, Santa Barbara CA, 2005

Community contributions

No comments have been posted about Kingdom of Romania

What do you know?