Military Review

"Gunners - gave Poincare an order!" The evolution of French artillery tactics

An article on the development of tactics of French artillery in the First World War. It was in the tactics of the French artillery that the main tendencies inherent in artillery confrontation on the Western Front in 1914 - 1918 were embodied.

The prewar statutes of the French army recommended the following scheme of combat use of artillery: during battle, the batteries maintain a waiting position, and only the minimum number of them opens fire, the strength of which is determined by the size of the firing area and the importance of targets. They believed that the one who at the end of the battle will have fresh batteries will win.

The work of artillery was based solely on the use of 75-mm cannon, which was supposed to support the attack of the infantry and work wonders of accuracy, while the importance of heavy artillery was underestimated.

But during the very first clashes with the Germans, the entire infidelity of such an assessment of artillery tasks became clear: the French light artillery only supported the attack of the infantry, but did not prepare it. Therefore, the French suffered heavy losses, while the German attacks were preceded by whole “vanguards” of large caliber shells, which, of course, was often the decisive factor for the outcome of the battle. In addition, German batteries were often beaten from considerable distances, and the French 75-mm guns were unable to reach them.

The result was an awareness of the importance of both the strength of artillery fire and the importance of heavy artillery. This led to the decision to give the corps a heavy artillery division (155 or 105-mm caliber).

Since the end of 1914, the Western Front has “frozen” - a positional war has begun.

Since the beginning of spring 1915, the French began to practice artillery preparation before the infantry attack, but still weak. Their September 1915 attack in Champagne coincided with the end of the reorganization of the artillery and the assimilation of new methods of fire fighting. Schemes of destruction by artillery of wire obstacles and neutralization of targets during the attack arose - the idea of ​​artillery preparation took deep roots, and the infantry gradually lost the habit of doing without it. In the same period, the methods of applying heavy artillery were developed - the artillery of the army corps received group organization.

Artillery preparation of the period 1915 was based on the following principles:
1. Conducting operations on a broad front was determined by the use of a series of consecutive attacks, the depth of each of them was limited by the size of artillery preparation.
2. The reduction in attack time was achieved by the use of large and actively maneuvering masses of artillery.
3. A close connection between artillery and infantry was achieved by organizing observation posts near the attack site.

Planned increase in the number of artillery: the spring 1916 was expected to have 4500 75-mm guns, heavy artillery guns 2360 (caliber 105-mm and above), 190 guns of larger caliber (high-power artillery), 2400 1200 positional and trench guns ( of these, 508 units are 150-mm).

But it was not possible to increase the number of artillery to such size - all resources were spent in the Verdun battles, which once again demonstrated the importance of powerful artillery fire and firing from long distances.

At the beginning of the Verdun operation, the use of barrage fire reached its apogee, but then the idea of ​​artillery counter-preparation appeared, inflicting much more casualties on the enemy than the barrage fire could have done.

This was followed by the recognition of the need to achieve a significant increase in the density of artillery masses.

The experience of the Verdun battles strongly demanded an increase in heavy artillery guns, the number of which they tried to bring to the 4000 guns.

The program includes the development of artillery 1916 has been provided the release 960 105-mm guns, 2160 155-mm howitzers (including 720 for divisional artillery), 1440 155-mm guns (including 480 for corps artillery), 80 220-320-mm howitzers .

The program outlined the organization of artillery based on the following principles.
1. Creating a strong artillery reserve in the hands of the commander in chief and in the hands of the commanders of army groups.
2. Appropriate organizational distribution of guns between army corps and infantry divisions.

The French offensive during the 1916 campaign was already based on the preparation of an infantry attack by methodically destroying enemy barriers within a few days.

The French gunners tried to achieve complete destruction of enemy batteries and trenches; the intensity of the fire accompanying the infantry increased significantly - a barrage of fire appeared; in the intervals between attacks, barrage and counterpreparation were practiced; chemical munitions began to be used for counter battery combat.

During this period, in the conduct of offensive operations, the French command had 700 - 800 heavy weapons. One light battery accounted for 132 - 135, one heavy gun on 28 - 29, a short gun on 65 - 81, a long heavy gun on 50 - 68, and one heavy long-range artillery gun - on 129 - 185

In the 1917 campaign, the artillery densities increased even more — to 16-18 light and 10-13 heavy guns per meter of front.

The evolution of artillery tactics in the 1918 campaign of the year was facilitated by the following circumstances:

1. The appearance tankswho abolished the importance of barbed wire and reduced the duration of artillery training.

2. The presence of a large number of mobile heavy artillery (782 guns to January 1 and 1320 to 11 November 1918 g.), Capable of fast redeployment.

3. Major technical improvements in the artillery case - in particular, the achievement of rapidity of fire. As a result, the batteries were able to get into the battle very quickly and to conduct accurate marksmanship without premature detection of themselves.

4. The number of rapid-fire guns has increased to such an extent that in a few hours it was possible to release as many rounds as before and in a few days - this also contributed to the reduction of the time needed for artillery preparation and, consequently, greater surprise.

5. The abundance of ammunition led to the possibility of unlimited shooting, and the use of chemical shells made it possible to quickly neutralize the enemy batteries.

When attacking, they ceased to strive for methodical destruction of the enemy defenses - sometimes they managed to get short and strong artillery preparation and without preparation at all. During the execution of the attack, they sought to completely neutralize the enemy infantry and artillery, the observers, suppress the enemy’s counterattacks and isolate the assembly area and the approach of its reserves.

To exploit the success of the movement of artillery was carried out - in order to provide the infantry reliable and, if possible, strong support. At the same time the placement of artillery capacities in groups was allowed, but, so that, as soon as necessary, they could be reassembled into a fist.

During the defense, artillery depth separation, battery masking, flexibility in maneuvering and firing, and reserve operations were used.

During the war, such issues as the close connection of artillery with infantry, the density of artillery fire, the interaction of field and heavy artillery, both divisional and corps, acquired particular importance.

The results of the French desire to increase the power of artillery are as follows: in the field of light artillery in 1914, they had 4098 guns, in 1918 - 6618; in heavy artillery in 1914 - 380 guns, and in 1918 - 7100.

If the division's light artillery was content with the 75-mm guns of the 1897 and 1914 model, as well as the 65-mm mountain guns, the progress in the field of heavy artillery was more impressive. These are: 155-mm Schneider and Saint-Chamonovsky guns, 190, 194, 240, 285, 288, 305, 320, 340-mm guns, 220, 280, 370, 400-mm howitzers.

A series of trench artillery guns appeared - the three-inch Stokes mortar, the 37-mm gun of the 1916 model, as well as the 58-mm gun, 150 and 240-mm mortars.

The main thing on which the French artillery based its action was the principle of sudden artillery fire, provided that the existing artillery was massaged in the area that decided the fate of the battle.

"Gunners - gave Poincare an order!" The evolution of French artillery tactics
The density of artillery power. Err F. - J. Artillery in the past, present and future. M., 1941.

French truck with towed gun

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  1. evil partisan
    evil partisan 24 July 2017 17: 19
    Eloquent schedule. good
  2. Curious
    Curious 24 July 2017 18: 32
    As soon as it comes to the French army and its artillery before the First World War, everyone immediately remembers the 75 mm cannon and forget that the tactics of using artillery are determined by infantry tactics.
    And in this matter, the French suffered the same problem that the Russian Imperial Army - the prevalence of "spirit" over "matter" and the offensive over defense.
    “According to the Field Charter of 1904,“ an effective means to defeat the enemy is an attack on him; therefore, the desire for offensive, actions should be the basis at every meeting with the enemy. ”The charter on defense, which is given less attention, states that it, like the offensive, aims to “defeat the enemy”; therefore, it is recommended that “not only fight back, but also strike” and complete any defense with a counterattack. Dragomirov’s favorite thesis is that the main thing in the war is man and his spirit, and matter and technology - only something secondary, was widely carried out in the charter; therefore, it very little took into account the power of modern artillery fire, machine guns and modern handguns. "
    (Barsukov E.Z. Artillery of the Russian Army (1900–1917): In 4 volumes. - M.: Military Publishing House of the USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs, 1948–1949.)
    "When training the troops of the Kiev district, whose commander at that time was Dragomirov, the advancing infantry was forbidden to go under fire; it was recommended that artillery be located no more than 2-3 versts from the enemy, widely use fast moves to advanced attacking forces at positions closest to the enemy, and avoid shooting over long distances, avoid firing over the heads of their troops, etc. " (Ibid.).
    And now a few quotes from another book.
    "The conduct of war must be imbued with the need to give operations a strongly pronounced offensive character. Combat - the exclusive goal of operations - is the only way to break the will of the enemy: the chief’s first duty is to fight. The battle, when it is tied up, must be waged to the end, without hesitation, to the extreme "a decisive attack forces the enemy to go on the defensive and serves as the most reliable means of protecting both command and troops from surprise."
    This is the French Charter of October 28, 1913 on the driving of large formations.
    "Only an offensive can break the will of the enemy. The battle started must be brought to an end; success depends more on firmness and decisiveness in execution than on skillful combinations. Infantry is the main branch of the army. It captures and holds ground. It finally forces the enemy out of its support points; it acts by maneuver and fire; only forward movement brought to a bayonet strike is decisive and irresistible. "
    And this is the French Field Service Charter of December 2, 1912. Do not find that the Russian and French charters practically coincide.
    Thus, the tactics of using French artillery by 1914 looked like this in a compressed form.
    "The war will be a short war, with rapid movements, where maneuver will play a major role: it will be a maneuver war.
    The battle will be mainly the struggle of two infantry, and victory will be on the side of a larger number of battalions: the army should be an army of numbers, not an army of materiel.
    Artillery will be only an auxiliary branch of the army, having one purpose - to support infantry attacks. For this, she needs only limited range; its main property should be the rate of fire for action on numerous and short-term goals that will be raised by an infantry attack.
    Obstacles that can be encountered in a maneuver war will be insignificant: light artillery has sufficient power to defeat them.
    In order to directly follow the infantry that needs to be supported, the material part must be light, flexible and mobile. The need for heavy artillery will rarely be felt; nevertheless, just in case, it is prudent to have several heavy batteries, but these batteries, in order to maintain sufficient mobility, must remain relatively light, which excludes the use of large calibers for powerful guns. "
    (Herr Frederick) -Georges. Artillery in the past, present and future. - M .: Military Publishing House of the NPO of the USSR, 1941)
    In addition to the books mentioned above, for exploring the issue, I recommend the following.
    Russian. Kirillov-Gubetskiy I.M. Modern artillery. - M .: Military Publishing House, 1937.
    1. Karen
      Karen 24 July 2017 22: 49
      Probably Dragomirov wrote so in order to mislead the future enemy :)
      After all, Yudenich, having learned that 14 machine guns would be delivered to Sarikamysh in 3 days, ordered him to hold on ... And he grinded 60 thousand Turks. This is at the very beginning of the war.
      1. Curious
        Curious 24 July 2017 22: 51
        Dragomirov's books are available online. You can read.
  3. Barcid
    Barcid 25 July 2017 10: 46
    And the article is interesting and the name is original. Plus
  4. kvs207
    kvs207 30 July 2017 08: 14
    Let me quote myself N. Yakovlev
    "By the beginning, Russia was fully provided with guns according to the existing mobilization schedule - 959 batteries with 7088 guns. The enormous force, allied France, had 4300 guns. But the opponents outnumbered the Russians and the French as in the total number of guns (Germany - 9388, Austria-Hungary - 4088), so even more importantly, in heavy artillery: Germany had 3260 heavy guns, Austria-Hungary about 1000. The Russian army was armed with 40 heavy guns, in France heavy artillery was in its infancy.
    The German division, inferior to the Russian in numbers (12 battalions versus 16), far surpassed it in artillery (80 guns versus 54, of which 8 were heavy). The Austrian division had the same number of barrels as the Russian, but among them were 4 heavy guns. As a result, the German division was one and a half times superior to the Russian one in terms of firepower. When in the course of hostilities the German command pulled together a powerful group of heavy artillery on a particular sector of the front, the position of the Russian troops became extremely difficult.
    If Germany was not able to realize its quantitative and qualitative superiority in artillery and achieve decisive victories on the Eastern Front, this was due to the fact that, according to their training, the Russian gunners were significantly superior to both opponents and allies. Without any exaggeration, we can say that the Russian artillery undoubtedly occupied first place in the world in terms of rifle technical training. Throughout the war, Russian batteries fired better than German batteries, not to mention Austrian ones.
    The main and decisive striking force of the army - artillery - was perfectly prepared for the first, maneuverable period of the war. According to the calculations of the General Staff, no more than six months were allotted for the entire war. For this period, ammunition was prepared - an average of 1000 shells per gun. It was believed that during this time the batteries would not be shot and half of the available stock. The French, who gathered 1300 shells per gun, looked about the duration of the war in a similar way. The Germans did not go far ahead - 1500 shells.
    All governments and general staffs were deeply mistaken in this, but the participants in the war had various opportunities to correct the same mistake. When the catastrophically unforeseen consumption of shells came to light, the quantity and rate of supply of them depended on the organization and power of the industry. And this determined the entire system of the state. "N. Yakovlev" August 1, 1914 "