Obice da 210/22 modello 35

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Italy made extensive use of heavy artillery in World War I, but by the 1930s her big guns were looking decidedly obsolete and new weapons were ordered. The 210-mm howitzer pictured here was an excellent design, but Italian industry could not produce the guns with sufficient speed.

Most of Italy’s 210-mm howitzers found their way in to Hungarian hands for service on the Eastern Front. Those still in Italy at the time of the Italian surrender were promptly manned by Germans, and made their contribution to the tenacious defence of the peninsula until 1945.

During the late 1930s the Italian army decided to attempt to replace the bulk of its heavy artillery park, which by that time resembled an oversize artillery museum. It selected two good and thoroughly modern designs, one a gun with a calibre of 149 mm (5.87 in) and the other a howitzer with a calibre of 210 mm (8.26 in). The howitzer was designed by an army organization known as the Servizio Tecnici Armi e Munizioni (STAM), but production was carried out by Ansaldo at Pozzuoli.

The howitzer was known as the Obice da 210/22 modello 35. Although shown in prototype form in 1935, it was not accepted for service until 1938 when a production order for no less than 346 was placed. The modello 35 was a very sound and modern design. It used a split-trail carriage with two road wheels on each side. When the howitzer went into action these wheels were raised off the ground and the weight was assumed by a firing platform under the main axle. The entire weapon could then be traversed easily through 360° once the stakes that anchored the trail spades to the ground had been raised.

The main problem for the Italians was that having designed a first-rate howitzer they could not produce it quickly enough. Despite the good intentions of the Italian army, it had to enter the war with its antique gun park still largely undisturbed by modern equipment, and by the autumn of 1942 the grand total of modello 35s was still only 20, five of them in Italy and the rest in action in the Soviet Union. Part of this state of affairs was due to the fact that despite the requirements of the Italian army, modello 35s were sold to Hungary as they came off the production line, no doubt in exchange for raw materials and food products. The Hungarians found it necessary to make their own carriage modifications to suit this 21-cm 39.M to the rigours of their service and eventually set up their own 21-cm 40.M and finally 21-cm 40a.M production line in 1943.

In service the modello 35 was successful enough. It could be transported in two loads, but for prolonged moves it could be further broken down into four loads with an extra load for assembly equipment and accessories. The modello 35 attracted the attentions of the Germans, and when the Italians surrendered in September 1943 the Ansaldo concern was forced to continue production for German units based in Italy. Thus the modello 35 became the 21-cm Haubitze 520(i) and was still in action with the Germans when the war ended.

After 1945 attempts were made by Ansaldo to sell the modello 35 on the home and export markets. There were no takers as the home market was sated with American equipment that was freely supplied to the Italian army and war-surplus equipment was widely available elsewhere.

Forschungsmitarbeiter Mitch Williamson is a technical writer with an interest in military and naval affairs. He has published articles in Cross & Cockade International and Wartime magazines. He was research associate for the Bio-history Cross in the Sky, a book about Charles ‘Moth’ Eaton’s career, in collaboration with the flier’s son, Dr Charles S. Eaton. He also assisted in picture research for John Burton’s Fortnight of Infamy. Mitch is now publishing on the WWW various specialist websites combined with custom website design work. He enjoys working and supporting his local C3 Church. “Curate and Compile“
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