Military Review

Lights at Skrobova

Already at the beginning of 1915, the first flamethrower unit appeared in the German army - a pioneer volunteer battalion (later - the 3-th guards pioneer battalion and a guards reserve pioneer regiment).

Initially, the battalion included the 6 mouth, and from 1917, the 12. Each company was equipped with 20 heavy and 18 with knapsack flamethrowers. If the knapsack flamethrower was serviced by 2-mea fighters (one wore a balloon with fire mixture, the other carried flamethrowing), then a heavy one - with a whole calculation (flamethrower weapons and flamethrower units of the armies of the First World War - in subsequent articles).

Being an elite, shock part, flamethrowers differed in the corresponding symbolism: on the shoulder straps of the sapper sample (black with red edging) there was an encryption “MW” (Minenwerfer). But the most important thing is that the Kaiser assigned a special emblem to the flamethrower parts - the so-called. "Dead head". A silver "dead head" was applied on a round black patch worn on the cuff of the left sleeve.

1. Flamethrowers 3 Guards Pioneer Battalion with the Kleif flamethrower arr. 1915 1916 year. Photos from the book. Thomas Wictor Flamethrower Troops of World War I., 2010.

Flamethrowers performed well on the French front in 1915-16, but the very first attack on the Russian front did not meet the expectations of the German command.

Russian army for the first time in its stories repulsed the attack of the latest weapons of the enemy - the Germans used flamethrowers during the attack at Skrobovsky stream 27. 10. 1916

By the morning of this day, the position advanced to the west bank of the brook was occupied by the 218 Infantry Gorbatovsky, the KNIROX 217 Regiment and the 2 322 Battalion of the Soligach Infantry Regiment of the 35 Army Corps. Reserves and artillery were located east of the creek. The Russian position included several lines of trenches connected by the corresponding message lines. The distance of the advanced trenches from the enemy positions is from several dozen to 300 steps. And in some parts of the wire fence was common.

A great help for the Russian units was the fact that the intelligence worked well - she warned about the use of flamethrowers by the Germans on October 27. In some companies, officers explained to the soldiers the structure and principles of using flamethrower weapons, in some places even reserves of water were created to extinguish fires.

From 6-ti to 10-ti hours, the hurricane fire of German artillery equaled the positions of Russian artillery and infantry (on the eastern bank of the Skrobovsky stream) to the ground, subsequently moving to the positions located on the western bank of the stream. Opponent fire, turning into a hurricane, systematically destroyed the Russian trenches. By 15 hours, many soldiers and officers on the front lines had already been killed, and the survivors were kept in shelters.

Taking advantage of the fact that observation from the Russians had weakened, the Germans between the 14 and the 15 watches made a flamethrower attack. The release of flamethrowers in the attack was no different from the usual offensive infantry: to distinguish between flamethrowers and grenadiers was impossible. But in some of the most closely spaced positions of positions, flamethrowers began to operate from their own trenches. So, in the combat area of ​​the 6 Company of the 217 Infantry Regiment (remote from the enemy's trenches 30 meters), the German flamethrower climbed onto the parapet of their trench and launched a fire attack. But the range was not enough, and only a single loophole of the Russian trench hit a few drops of flammable liquid - they burned one fighter. After 2-3 minutes, defiant flamethrowers were driven off by fire. The same happened on the combat section of the 6 th company of the 218 Infantry Regiment (remote from the enemy's trenches 25 meters) - but the flames reached the Russian trench and set it on fire.

During the offensive, flamethrowers gathered in groups of 5-10 people. The composition of this group, in addition to directly flame throwers, included soldiers with grenades and light machine guns. Regular infantry came from behind.

Approaching the steps on 150 to the Russian trenches, flamethrowers staged a smoke screen - she had to cover them from the aimed fire of the Russian infantry. The jet of flamethrower was sent to the ground, as a result of which thick black and gray smoke was formed, effectively hiding flamethrowers. Using the dimmer, flamethrowers moved forward a few steps, and then repeated the same thing - until they reached the Russian trenches.

Many Russian soldiers perceived the curtain as the beginning of a gas attack and hurried to put on gas masks. Only after some time, realizing that the wind was blowing towards the enemy, they broke off their gas masks.

Having reached the Russian positions, flamethrowers moved along the trenches, pouring fire from their defenders.

The actions of flamethrowers were recorded in the entire combat area of ​​the position - but they did not create a solid chain. Thus, the use of flamethrowers is described by eyewitnesses from the 9 th, 11 th, 12 th and 14 th mouth of the 218 th regiment, 1 th, 2 th, 6 th, 14 th and 16 th 217 mouth th regiment and 7 th and 8 th mouth of the 322 th regiment. Eyewitnesses noticed groups in 1-2 flamethrowers and larger groups of 4 flamethrowers operating against their section. The total number of flamethrowers in effect was estimated at 50 - 60 units.

The main thing that helped the Russian soldiers was a warning of intelligence. “Forewarned is forearmed” - probably, this principle has never found a more vivid embodiment, as in this battle. With a strong machine-gun and rifle fire, the Russians thwarted the attack of the German infantry, reinforced by flamethrowers, with large casualties for the enemy. They stopped the creation of a unified front for flamethrowers - instead, the latter were scattered into separate groups, attacked from the flanks with small arms fire.

According to eyewitnesses, the Germans used two types of flamethrowers in this battle.

The first released a stream of flame (solid or not solid, at a distance of 20 meters). A solid jet had the appearance of a wavy fiery line, “gradually expanded towards the end and almost not smoky”, and not a solid one represented a series of fiery sprays spouting from a flamethrower. The jet, falling to the ground, gave a thick black cloud.

The second produced a jet of caustic liquid - it did not burn, but when falling to the ground it gave abundant gray smoke. Getting on the overcoat and other parts of the equipment, this liquid burned them. After this fluid treated a part of the terrain, it was ignited with flamethrowers of the first type.

Flamethrowers of the first type were significantly more than the second.

Russian losses: in the Gorbatovsk regiment - to 25, and in the Kovrov regiment - 4 of easily burned fighters. Moreover, only 5 burnt people passed through the corps medical institutions. The source noted that the burns had a yellow color, the skin sometimes cracked, and blood appeared from the cracks.

A special commission to study the use of new weapons by the enemy came to the following conclusions.

The Germans used 3 types of flamethrowers: a) small, carried by a fighter on his back, and the same fighter was holding a hose (hose) in one hand (mostly left); b) medium - served by two or three people (a single person carried a hose) and large) operated directly from the trench, in this case a hose, heavy and long, endured the 2-3 of the person.

The small flamethrower had the following design: two cylinders were fastened on the back of the flamethrower, one under the other (height and diameter, respectively, 60 / 30 and 20 / 10 centimeters). The first cylinder was attached behind his shoulders, and the second was on the waist. The hose was coming out from under the left hand of the flamethrower - and the latter, leading the fire, led them from side to side.

The average flamethrower had a larger reservoir - the person carrying it “bent under the weight of a cylinder”. The hose was coming out from the right side of the fighter carrying him - as if in the “on the hand” position. For the calculation of the flamethrower, several more people were moving, carrying cylinders on their backs.

It was pointed out that there are no special ways of dealing with flamethrowers.

The soldiers of the 218 and 217 regiments shot at them with rifles and machine guns, threw grenades - but they did not succeed in turning enemy flame-throwers into flight. The reason is the small number of surviving fighters of the advanced trenches (the hurricane artillery and mortar fire of the Germans not only put most people out of action, but also weapons - which were covered with earth and sand; some soldiers replaced several rifles - taking whole from their dead and wounded comrades; but in the 217 regiment there were cases when, after the rifles failed, the defenders of the trenches turned into counterattacks against flamethrowers - and, without reaching 30 steps to the goal, they were met with fiery jets and returned to their trenches).

Sometimes the flamethrowers were amazed by the Russian artillery - but this defeat was accidental, because no one conducted a targeted artillery fire because of the close distance from the Russian trenches, on which the flamethrower operated.

During the counterattacks carried out after the battle by the Russian reserves, the use of flamethrowers by the Germans was discovered only twice: 1) when the 2 company arrived, the 219 th regiment in the morning of October 28 on high. "Bovo" - the Russians were met with strong rifle and machine-gun fire and a fiery jet emitted at meter distance by 15-20; the jet was ejected directly from the trench, with certain intervals; fire duration ranged from a few seconds to a minute; how many flamethrowers worked - could not be established; 2) against the battalion of the 321 regiment that moved to the 6 hours of October 28 in a counterattack against the so-called. “Lori and Austrian trenches” - managed to establish the effect of 2 - 3 flamethrowers.

The speaker came to the following conclusions:

1) Flamethrowers are melee weapons with a range of no more than 30-40 steps - that is, they can be of immediate danger only to defenders of trenches located at an appropriate distance from the enemy. Otherwise, flamethrowers should be delivered to the specified distance - and only after that they can be used for combat purposes.

2) Due to the short range, flamethrowers in no way can replace artillery preparation, machine-gun and rifle fire, and even hand-held. That is, they are exclusively an aid to other types of fire.

3) The moral effect produced by the flamethrowers on the defenders of the trenches is inferior to impressions of other types of fire and asphyxiating gases.

4) The use of flamethrowers will be successful only to complete the defeat of the enemy already upset by the previous battle - the resistance of which is largely broken.

5) Flamethrowers can attack only under the cover of a smoke screen.

6) Only flamethrowers, without the support of the grenadiers, machine gunners and infantrymen can neither occupy nor hold the territory.

7) The most reliable means of dealing with flamethrowers is a combined fire.

8) A counterattack against flamethrowers is dangerous - after all, the counter-attackers, moving forward, approach the flamethrowers themselves at a distance of firestrikes.

9) Special monitoring of flamethrower operations is required.

10) Fighters should be familiar with the device of flamethrowers and tactics of their use.

11) In case of an enemy flamethrower breakthrough, the nearest reserves should be in the second line of the trenches - without huddling in shelters, because the flamethrower 1-2 can cut off their exit.

12) In the trenches should have reserves of water, sand and (or) loose earth.

Eyewitnesses noted that the impression made by flamethrowers (as opposed to the effect of traditional weapons) was insignificant - especially after the Russian fighters were convinced that the flamethrower jet is dangerous only at a distance of 20-25 steps, and the flamethrower can only move in steps. True, some Russian fighters shouting that "the trenches are burning" and "the Germans are firing" greatly irritated the rest of the fighters - both on the front line and in the nearest reserves.

As a result, unlike the French front, the first pancake from the Germans on the Russian front really turned out to be lumpy - the use of masses from 50-60 flamethrowers in a battle with Skrobov did not bring the enemy even a minimal tactical effect.

Moreover, it should be noted that the actions of the German flame throwers in this battle were greatly facilitated by two important circumstances. First, because of the many hours of artillery preparation, most of the defenders of Russian advanced positions were already out of action at the time of the flamethrower attack. Secondly, because of the close proximity of the Russian and German positions, fearing to hit their own, the Russian artillery did not fire at the enemy’s flame-throwers.

Lights at Skrobova

German flamethrower. Figure eyewitness. Fig. from the work of S. Zabel. 1918
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  1. XII Legion
    XII Legion 27 December 2017 06: 17
    The Russian soldier seems to be immune to the technical surprise of the Germans.
    That with chemical weapons - under Iprom the Anglo-French fled, and the Russians under Volya Shydlovskaya - no.
    What about flamethrowers - the Anglo-French also left their positions (the French in January, the British in July 1915), and the Russians near Skrobovo - not.
    Although the Germans this time already “fired”
    It’s significant ...
    1. antivirus
      antivirus 27 December 2017 09: 04
      The moral effect produced by flamethrowers on trench defenders is inferior to impressions of other types of fire and asphyxiating gases.
  2. igordok
    igordok 27 December 2017 07: 01
    I wonder what was the fire mixture from the time of WWI? Was there a thickener in it?

    Trophy flamethrower, possibly the "first type".

    Perhaps a flamethrower of the "second type".
    1. OAV09081974
      27 December 2017 07: 15
      A mixture consisting of 50% oil, 25% kerosene and 25% gasoline was used as fire mixture. Depending on the temperature conditions, this ratio changed: in winter, the percentage of oil decreased, the amount of gasoline and kerosene increased. In the next article this moment will be mentioned. hi
      1. igordok
        igordok 27 December 2017 07: 21
        Ie there were no special thickeners? Was oil resin used as a thickener?
        1. OAV09081974
          27 December 2017 07: 37
          Mention of special thickeners not met.
          In H. Theine, in his work “Shock Forces and Flamethrowers”, 3 of the “combustible oil” type is mentioned - i.e. fire mixture: blue (thicker and can even freeze in the cold), yellow (liquid, gives little smoke and quickly burns and green (a mixture of blue and yellow).
      2. igordok
        igordok 27 December 2017 07: 36
        Thank you very much for the SERIES of articles on chemistry in the WWI. The topic is not very popular, I'm interested.
  3. parusnik
    parusnik 27 December 2017 07: 28
    During the war years, over 10,5 thousand flamethrowers were produced in Russia, of which 10 thousand were light knapsack flamethrowers with which the teams of infantry, guards and grenadier regiments were armed. By order of September 11, 1916, it was prescribed to form such teams in 208 priority infantry, as well as in 12 guards and 16 grenadier regiments. In total, this led to the creation of 236 flamethrower units.
  4. Olgovich
    Olgovich 27 December 2017 07: 29
    Bastards and chemical weapons were the first to use flamethrowers and massacres of civilians (the Russian city of Kalish in the very first days of the war).
    The Nazi army was not born from scratch .....
  5. igordok
    igordok 27 December 2017 07: 33
    Persistent rumors have it that flamethrowers were invented before the WWII, to disperse demonstrations in cities. But PMV, already so, has come across about.
    The same rumors are circulating about machine guns.
    1. Horseman without a head
      Horseman without a head 27 December 2017 08: 48
      To disperse demonstrations
      Given the equipment of the Russian Guard with "Bumblebees", rumors of 100 years ago may have a healthy grain
      1. igordok
        igordok 27 December 2017 11: 42
        The psychological effect of reactive flamethrowers is weaker than that of jet. Rather, in the Russian Guard, the thermobaric and smoke varieties of the Bumblebee are more relevant than incendiary.
      2. Crimean 21
        Crimean 21 27 December 2017 12: 00
        Do you think that the Russian Guard should participate in anti-terrorist operations with rubber batons?
        1. rumatam
          rumatam 28 December 2017 18: 19
          these are civilians, yes demonstrators, but CIVIL.
      3. Alexey RA
        Alexey RA 27 December 2017 13: 05
        Quote: The Headless Horseman
        Given the equipment of the Russian Guard with "Bumblebees", rumors of 100 years ago may have a healthy grain

        The Bumblebees of the WG are needed for something else - for picking out the next bearded “children” from the caches and houses of the private sector in the North Caucasus. Because the GM-94 does not give a 100% guarantee of defeat, and the tank / BMP-3 can not be adjusted everywhere.
        1. Horseman without a head
          Horseman without a head 27 December 2017 14: 21
          God grant if so.
          Of course, I understand perfectly that they are needed for
          picking out in the North Caucasus the next bearded "one child" from the caches and houses of the private sector.

          Meant - after all costs nothing with such authority as ours after 1993 - to burn pioneers, and demonstrators.
          With the oligarchy will
          1. Horseman without a head
            Horseman without a head 27 December 2017 14: 24
            Although it is certainly more for other purposes (Bumblebee) in terms of performance characteristics - yes who knows
            Tanks were shot at the White House - and the army team
            And then the clerks, whom they should use in internal affairs.
    2. hohol95
      hohol95 27 December 2017 20: 56
      In 1711, Korchmin proposed to equip new warships with incandescent furnaces for cannonballs. They, in his opinion, should have better set fire to wooden enemy ships. Then came the project ... of rocket launchers for firing frigates and battleships with incendiary missiles.
      Finally, Vasily Dmitrievich for the first time in world practice armed the Russian ships “Saint Jacob” and “Landsoe” with flamethrower tubes designed by him and, together with Peter I, developed a manual for their use, which has survived to this day.
      And when the Northern War ended victoriously, Korchmin became the author of a grandiose firework. The “fiery performance” in the sky of St. Petersburg lasted two hours ... “And the Neva was far shocked with a heavy fire ...”

    3. hohol95
      hohol95 27 December 2017 21: 02
      The creator of the knapsack fire device is the famous Russian inventor Sieger-Korn (1893). In 1898, the inventor proposed a new original weapon to the Minister of War. The flamethrower was created according to the same principles by which modern flamethrowers operate. The device was very complex and dangerous to use and was not adopted for service under the pretext of "unreality". An exact description of its design has not been preserved. Nevertheless, the countdown for the creation of a "flamethrower" can begin with 1893.
      Three years later, the German inventor Fiedler created a flamethrower of a similar design, which was adopted without hesitation. As a result, Germany was able to significantly get ahead of other countries in the development and creation of new models of these weapons. For the first time in a large number of flamethrowers (or flamethrowers, as they said then), Fiedler designs were used on the battlefield by German troops in 1915 during the First World War. The German army was then armed with three types of flamethrowers: a small knapsack Veke, a medium knapsack Kleif, and a large carrying Grof and successfully used them in battle. In the early morning of July 30 (according to other sources - July 29), 1915 the British troops were stunned by an unprecedented spectacle: huge flames suddenly burst from the German trenches and whispered towards the English with a hiss and whistle. Here is what one of the eyewitnesses of the first large flamethrower attack of the Germans against the British troops said on July 29, 1915:

      “Quite unexpectedly, the first lines of troops at the front were engulfed in flames. It was not visible where the fire came from. The soldiers only saw that they seemed to be surrounded by frantically spinning flames, which was accompanied by a loud roar and thick clouds of black smoke; here and there, drops of boiling oil fell into the trenches or trenches. Screams and howls shook the air when individual soldiers rose in the trenches, trying to advance to an open place, felt the power of fire on themselves. The only salvation, it seemed, was to run back, and the surviving defenders resorted to this. Over a vast expanse of flame, they pursued them, and the retreat turned into ... defeat. "
    4. Alf
      Alf 27 December 2017 22: 22
      Quote: igordok
      Persistent rumors have it that flamethrowers were invented before the WWII, to disperse demonstrations in cities.

      Especially when you consider that some of the city buildings were wooden ... Not serious.
  6. Some kind of compote
    Some kind of compote 27 December 2017 14: 06
    Ironically, the first flamethrower hit the same regiments as the first gas - Kovrovsky and Gorbatovsky.
    Persistent guys
    The war gave birth to excellent combat units - even from secondary troops
    Fine good
    1. Gopnik
      Gopnik 27 December 2017 16: 33
      Yeah. By the way, there is a book about these shelves, in Vladimir it was published: Kollerov A.L., Samoilov A.V. "An unforgettable war - unforgettable destinies. Kovrovsky, Gorbatovsky, Klyazmensky infantry regiments: the military way, people and exploits." These regiments, when mobilized, were completed by Vladimirites
  7. Curious
    Curious 27 December 2017 17: 53
    "There are persistent rumors that flamethrowers were invented before WWII, to disperse demonstrations in cities."
    For the first time in the world practice of the New Time, he designed a flamethrower and armed them with the ships “Saint Jacob” and “Landsoe”, and also developed a manual for its use, which has survived to this day - Vasily Dmitrievich Kormchin, an associate of Peter the Great.
    1. hohol95
      hohol95 27 December 2017 20: 59

      Thank you for the interesting act from the history of our country!
  8. soldier
    soldier 27 December 2017 22: 09
    Yes, intelligence saves soldiers blood
    This battle is a vivid embodiment of this postulate.