Mechanized Artillery of WWII

All major armies also developed tracked or self-propelled guns, while the Wehrmacht and Red Army developed closely related assault guns and attendant doctrine. British and American armies used self-propelled guns in a similar manner, essentially as more highly mobile field artillery that advanced before concentrating in batteries to provide indirect fire support. This differed from German and Soviet practice, wherein self-propelled or assault guns provided close direct fire to support assaulting infantry. The exceptional industrial capacity of the United States permitted the U. S. Army, and most other Western Allied armies, to move toward fully motorized and mechanized artillery. The U. S. Army thus soon caught up in mobility to the British Army, and then surpassed it in terms of overall mobility. The main change in artillery in World War II was this fresh mobility


A subclassification of artillery in which field guns were mounted on tracked carriages, usually the chaises of tanks. For instance, the British Sexton mounted a 25-pounder gun on a Canadian-built “Sherman” chassis. Almost all other Western self-propelled guns were of American design and manufacture but followed the same principle. An exception was that a 75 mm howitzer was mounted on some half-track chassis An early standard, U. S. Army selfpropelled gun was the M8. It mounted a 105 mm howitzer on an M3 “Grant” tank chassis. The British called the M8 the “Priest.” Later models mounted a 155 mm M1918 gun on the M3 chassis to form the M12, and a 155 mm mounted on an M4 “Sherman” chassis to create the M40. The M4 chassis could also mount an 8-inch howitzer and called the M43. A handful of even bigger guns were mounted on a “Pershing” chassis and classed as T92 and T93 self-propelled guns. The main German guns were the “Sturmgeschütz” (or Stug) III and Stug IV. The 105 mm “Wespe” and 150 mm “Hummel” were self-propelled howitzers. Later in the war the Wehrmacht built heavier assault guns by mounting large field guns on Panzer Mk III, Mk IV, and even some “Tiger” chaises. The Soviets and Germans differed in using tracked self-propelled guns mainly for direct fire in a close infantry support role where advancing infantry outran fixed artillery support, or where pieces towed by horse or wheeled vehicle could not go. Western armies tended to treat self-propelled guns simply as more mobile field artillery, combining them in batteries for indirect fire support.


A subclassification of artillery referring to howitzers or other field guns mounted on tracked carriages, usually of surplus or outmoded tanks. They moved and fired in close support of attacking infantry. Although sharing the outer appearance of tanks they usually lacked turrets and sacrificed armor for speed and weight of gun. The main German assault gun was the Stug III (Sturmgeschütz III). It was equipped with a low-velocity 75 mm howitzer. From 1942 that gun was re placed by a high-velocity tube as Stugs took on Soviet or Western Allied tanks more often than they supported German infantry assaults. The Wehrmacht deployed increasing numbers of assault guns (“Sturmartillerie”) as the war continued, often in place of Panzers, which took far more steel, labor, and funds to build. Over time, production considerations meant that units supposed to be equipped with Panzers were instead given assault guns. These served primarily in an anti-tank role as the Wehrmacht moved to permanent defense in 1944-1945. The Stug III was built in large numbers as Panzer Mk III chaises were released with battlefield obsolescence of that model tank. The Stug IV was an upgunned, turretless, wider-tracked vehicle than the Stug III. Very late war German assault guns included squat urban fighting vehicles such as the Brummbär (“Grizzly”) and Sturmtiger (“Storm Tiger”). Their appearance was part of a general trend in design toward gigantism that ill-served actual combat needs, but it also reflected recognition that fighting in the east had shifted into big cities, away from the “happy days” of broken-field running by the fast Panzers of 1941-1943. Not many of the new urban warfare-type assault guns left German factories, fewer than 300 Brummbär and just a few dozen Sturmtiger. Early model Soviet assault guns such as the KV-2, which mounted a howitzer on a KV-1 heavy tank chassis, were easily knocked out during BARBAROSSA in 1941 and again in 1942. By the end of the war, however, the Red Army adapted and deployed a range of powerful and effective assault guns that served in a “tank destroyer” role; that is, as anti-tank guns. The Soviets mass produced the SU-class assault gun calibers of 76 mm and 122 mm and deployed huge SU-152 mm and ISU-152 mm guns. The SU-152 was called “zverboi” (“beast-killer”) by Red Army krasnoarmeets because of its success in destroying Tigers, Panthers, Elephants, and other German fighting vehicles with feral or animal names. British, Common wealth, and U. S. armies did not deploy assault guns as such, relying instead on heavy artillery, air power, and an abundance of tanks. The Western Allies modified some battle tank chaises-including the Sherman, Centaur, and Churchill-in the direction of what the Wehrmacht and Red Army called assault guns, replacing the main high-velocity gun with a howitzer. But Western armies used these primarily in an anti-tank role rather than for close infantry support. Americans termed such armored vehicles “tank destroyers,” not assault guns. On the whole, they did not perform as well as hoped by designers or in early U. S. Army doctrine.


Battlefield Geometry: Guns, Grids and a ‘Revolution in Military Affairs’

A graphic depiction of battlefield geometry for the artillery; a French canevas d’ensemble, showing trigonometrical points and directions repères (bearings marked on terrain features and used by the artillery for picking up an accurate line-of-fire).

Battlefield geometry in numerical form. List of coordinates of trigonometrical points issued for the use of the artillery. This list was produced by the Groupe de canevas de tir of the French Sixth Army, in the Chemin-des-Dames sector, 1917.

German aerial photograph of Fort Moulainville taken on 13 March 1916, during the early stages of the Verdun battle, showing the quality and clarity of photographs used for tactical mapping and intelligence.

Aerial photograph of Bois-en-Hache sector, Vimy Ridge, taken while snow was lying on the ground in early 1917, showing how clearly trenches and other detail show up. Snow also made it easy to identify barbed wire entanglements, distinguish used from unused trenches, and showed blast-marks from active batteries.

In dry and technical terms, a topographical map may be described as a two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional part of the Earth’s surface, which implies a projection of some sort. However, it is perhaps better considered as a picture or model of the landscape or terrain which enables the user to grasp its features and land-forms, and their relationship to the user and to each other. The spatial relationships between points are formalized through their underlying relative coordinate positions in a three-dimensional matrix, comprising, for example, latitude, longitude and height above datum, or, to put it another way, x, y and z coordinates. For surveying and military purposes before and during the First World War, Descartes’ x and y coordinates, with a specified origin and orientation, together with height data (z), based on a chosen datum, were generally used by all participants.

Geographical coordinates are a way of defining positions on the Earth’s surface. Claudius Ptolemy (AD 90–168), the Graeco-Roman mathematician, philosopher, geographer, astronomer (he used Babylonian astronomical data) and astrologer of Alexandria in Egypt, was the first person known to have used the concepts of latitude and longitude to do this. Map projections are systems of converting the spheroidal surface of the Earth to a flat plan, and projections vary according to the intended use. For example, Mercator’s projection, being orthomorphic, does not distort angles, so is adopted for sea and air navigation. Courses can be ruled as straight lines on the chart and then set on the compass for the helmsman or pilot to follow.

Topographical maps have proved vital in war, particularly, in the twentieth century, for artillery work. The First World War has often been described as an artillery war, and for scientific gunnery maps had to be as accurate as possible. Their underlying and invisible spherical trigonometry and triangulation were made visible in the form of a grid and a dense network of fixed points. For laying out lines of fire, grid north supplanted magnetic north, as the vagaries of compass bearing were replaced by the certainties of bearing pickets (or the French directions repères, lines of measured bearings actually marked on terrain features) and astronomical observations, and orthomorphic projections were introduced which maintained shape or bearing. All these techniques facilitated the widespread adoption of the gunnery technique of ‘predicted fire’, which enabled a barrage to be opened with a crash without previous registration of targets. This is why the surveyors were called by the gunners ‘the astrologers’. A new battlefield geometry was thus created, in which the trigonometrical framework was amplified by new control points, hachures were replaced by surveyed contours, all batteries and targets were fixed to the survey grid, and surprise restored as a principle of war. Maps and survey became part of an integrated modern weapons system, which in turn constituted a revolution in military affairs.

The First World War was, more than any previous conflict, a war of maps. Millions were printed during the war, as is shown at the end of this introduction. Every country was equipped with appropriate maps for a war of movement, but the rapid emergence of trench warfare changed the nature of the conflict and therefore of the nature of the required survey and mapping; position warfare implied precision shooting on pinpoint targets, and artillery survey became paramount, particularly for the predicted fire which reinstated surprise as a key factor in successful operations. Paradoxically, the shock effect of a ‘crash’ concentration required less accuracy. Most survey work was done, directly or indirectly, for the artillery, and as a leading British survey officer (M. N. McLeod) noted, ‘In the battles of 1918 the gun was king and the theodolite and plane-table its unadvertised but indispensable ministers.’

In August 1914 all participants entered the conflict with stocks of small- and medium-scale maps with small staffs for distribution but, as the nature of the impending war had only partially been divined, practically no survey support during operations. While France and Germany had envisaged the need for large-scale maps and survey operations for the capture of enemy frontier fortresses, they were not prepared for the semi-siege operations that became the norm. Britain had not prepared in any serious way for siege warfare, and had to adjust more to the new situation. The crucial need for such operational support – particularly artillery survey and air survey – immediately became apparent, and each country began to build up a field survey organization commensurate with the operational requirements.

A key aspect of the survey revolution was aerial photogrammetry – plotting detail from air photographs. This was realized by both sides as soon as the war changed from movement to static conditions in the late summer and autumn of 1914. From the moment the Germans dug their first trenches on the Aisne heights in mid-September, the Allies had to acquire photographic cover of the concealed zone behind the German front trench, where artillery batteries, trench mortars, rear defences and transport and reserves were located. As defence systems proliferated, this need became more intense, for intelligence, artillery survey and mapping purposes. Both sides rapidly developed aerial photography and struggled to devise or adapt methods and technologies for rapid and accurate plotting from air photographs.

The geographical products of the survey organizations included line maps, photo-maps, plans, sketch maps, trigonometrical lists, air photographs (vertical and oblique), horizontal (terrestrial) stereo photos, panorama photographs, drawn panoramas, hostile battery position and target lists, artillery (battery) boards, etc.

Taking British military maps as an example, the basic large-scale topographical map was used as a background for the overprinting of tactical and administrative information. The most obvious tactical overprint was that of the trenches themselves, both British and German. For the years 1915–17 most British maps, for security reasons, only showed German trenches. British trenches only appeared on ‘secret’ editions, of which tiny editions were printed, mostly for staff use; front line troops rarely saw them. Other significant overprints were ‘hostile battery positions’, ‘barrage’, ‘situation’, ‘target’ and ‘enemy organization’ maps. It was important to show all aspects of the enemy defensive and offensive preparations, so that operations schemes could be worked out, barrages and neutralizing fire planned, and tanks and infantry would know the exact position and nature of the enemy dispositions. On a scale as large as 1:10,000, which was the most common for infantry and field artillery, these tactical features, down to individual machine gun and trench mortar emplacements, could be indicated with precision.

Techniques were developed for plotting topographical and tactical detail onto the map, with great accuracy, from aerial photographs. The map was itself the result of the refinement of survey techniques over four years of war, the most important parts of the process being the harmonization (not seriously undertaken until 1918) of the pre-war trigonometrical systems of France and Belgium by the British survey staff, the compilation of cadastral and other large-scale plans onto this trigonometrical framework, the plotting of additional detail from aerial photographs, and the coordination of existing levelling systems and ways of depicting ground forms.

Many parts of Europe, however, and most of the rest of the world, were not covered by accurate, large-scale mapping. In these areas, including the Ottoman Empire and Africa, the enlargement of small-scale maps, or painstaking compilation of new maps from a multitude of sources, had to be undertaken. These sources included map archives, boundary commission reports, Admiralty charts, explorers’ and travellers’ route surveys and notes, and official but clandestine surveys such as those by the ‘pundits’ of the Survey of India across the frontiers into Afghanistan and other neighbouring territories. There were parts of Arabia (the ‘empty quarter’) and Africa which were barely mapped.

In this context, military surveys during the First World War made a useful contribution to the mapping of certain areas, and some of those maps, particularly those compiled from aerial photographs by the British 7th Field Survey Company in Egypt and Palestine, and by the Tigris Corps mapping organization in Mesopotamia (Iraq), represented a notable advance in the mapping of those territories. For example, Map TC4, issued to troops with Tigris Corps Operation Order No. 26 dated 6 March 1916, was compiled from old pre-war small-scale maps of the river, Royal Engineers reconnaissances, air reports and sketches of the ground inland.

Survey, map compilation and printing organizations were created and expanded on all fronts as the war continued. Again taking Mesopotamia as an example, as air cooperation improved, and in order to provide the army with maps of the completely unsurveyed enemy-occupied areas, a Map Compilation Section was provided by the Survey of India in June 1916 to support the attempt to relieve General Townshend’s force at Kut. As the work of the Section rapidly increased in its technical aspects and operational value, it was more closely linked with GHQ and the RFC, and a Survey Directorate was created in early 1917 to bring all aspects of mapping under one control. Between June 1916 and November 1918 the Map Compilation Section printed 931,441 maps, covering between 103,840 and 143,983 square miles (the sources disagree) at various scales. Of this area, 2,263 square miles, and 120 map sheets, were mapped from air photographs. At the larger artillery and tactical operations scales of three-, six- and twelve-inches to the mile, 180,211 copies were printed in up to three colours.

As with munitions and other forms of war work in a time of manpower shortage, women were brought in to assist with map production, particularly in the Ordnance Survey at Southampton and its out-station, the Overseas Branch (OBOS), in France. They were mainly employed in feeding paper from the high ‘feed-boards’ of the lithographic printing machines into the grippers which took the sheets around the cylinder and onto the inked stone or zinc plate carried on the reciprocating bed of the press.


2S4 Tyulpan [SM-240(2S4)]

The Soviet forces used the 240mm 2S4 self-propelled Tyulpan [tulip] mortar for the first time in combat in Afghanistan. It is a particularly accurate weapon when it fires the laser-guided Smel’chak [daredevil] round.

Introduced in 1970, the 2S4 mounts a 240mm breech-loading mortar on a tracked vehicle based on the GMZ minelayer chassis. The mortar, complete with baseplate, lies along the length of the vehicle when in transit. To deploy, the mortar is rotated around a hinge at the rear of the vehicle, so that it comes to rest facing away from the vehicle to the rear, with the baseplate on the ground. Elevation is from +45° to +80°, with 8° of traverse.

Four men are carried in the vehicle, though a total of nine are required to load and fire the mortar. Twelve mortar bombs are carried in the vehicle, and a small hand-operated crane is fitted to the rear to facilitate loading. The mortar has a rate of fire of around one per minute, and can fire HE, chemical, and nuclear rounds. The 240mm mortar was the first artillery piece to be equipped with nuclear ammunition.

The chassis for this was a modified version of that used in the SA-4 ‘Ganef’ surface-to-air missile system. The vehicle hull has welded steel armour, with the driver at the front left and the engine to his right. The hull of the 2S4 gave the crew protection from small arms fire and shell splinters. To the rear of the driver is the commander, who is provided with a raised cupola, on which is mounted a 7.62mm PKT machine gun. The vehicle provides NBC protection for the crew while they are inside, though they have to exit the vehicle to operate the mortar. The 240mm smoothbore mortar was transported complete with its base plate on top of the hull in a horizontal position. The mortar could be hydraulically lifted by remote control to the rear of the vehicle so that in its firing position it faced rearward. Some forty mortar bombs were carried in two drum magazines which are off-loaded via a hatch in the roof. The mortar could fire conventional high explosive fragmentation bombs or an HE FRAG rocket-assisted projectile, which had a range of 18,000m. Only about 400 2S4s were built and some were supplied to the former Czechoslovakia, Iraq and Lebanon.

Specifications: 2S4 Tyulpan

Crew: 4 + 5 in ammunition carrier

Combat weight: 30 tonnes

Length: 8.5m

Width: 3.2m

Height: 3.2m

Ground clearance: 0.46m

Maximum road speed: 50km/h

Maximum road range: 500km

Gradient: 65%

Vertical obstacle: 1.1m


1x 240mm mortar (12 rounds)

1x 7.62mm PKT MG

Armour: 15-20mm

5 cm FlaK 41 & 5.5 cm Gerät 58

The 5-cm (1.97-in) Flak 41 was one of the least successful ofall the German anti-aircraft guns, for it had excessive recoil and flash and the carriage traversed too slowly. Despite their shortcomings, 60 were used until the war ended.

In World War II air warfare terms there was an altitude band that extended from approximately 1500m (4,921ft) to 3000m (9,843ft) that existing anti-aircraft guns could cover only with difficulty. Aircraft flying in this band were really too high or too low for small- or larger-calibre weapons. What was obviously required was an interim-calibre weapon that could deal with this problem but, as artillery designers in both the Allied and German camps were to discover, it was not an easy problem to solve.

The German solution to the interim-altitude band situation was a gun known as the 5-cm Flak 41, and the best that can be said of it was that it was not a success. It was first produced in 1936, and was yet another Rheinmetall Borsig design that was preferred over a Krupp submission. Development of the prototype was carried out with no sense of urgency, for it was 1940 before the production contract was awarded and in the event only 60 guns were completed, The first of them entered service in 1941 and the type’s shortcomings soon became apparent. The mam problem was the ammunition: despite its 50-mm (1.97-in) calibre, this was rather underpowered and on firing produced a prodigious amount of muzzle blast and flash that distracted the aimer, even in broad daylight. The carriage proved rather bulky and awkward to handle in action, and despite the characteristics of the expected targets the traversing mechanism was also rather underpowered and too slow to track fast targets.

Two versions of the Flak 41 were produced: a mobile one using two axles to carry the gun and carriage, and a static version for emplacing close to areas of high importance such as the Ruhr dams. Despite their overall lack of success the guns were kept in service until the war ended, but by then only 24 were left. During the war years some development work was carried out using the Flak 41s, not so much to improve the guns themselves but to determine the exact nature of the weapon that was to replace them. In time this turned out to be a design known as the Gerät 56 (Gerät was a cover name, meaning equipment) but it was not finalized before the war ended, One Flak 41 development was the formation of one battery operating under a single remote control.

In action the Flak 41 had a crew of seven men. Loading the ammunition was no easy task for it was fed into the gun in five-round clips that were somewhat difficult to handle. Though designed for use against aircraft targets, the Flak 41 was also provided with special armour-piercing projectiles for use against tanks, but this AP round appears to have been little used as the Flak 41 was one of the few German weapons that was not selected for mounting on a self-propelled carriage.

If the Germans were unsuccessful in their attempt to defend the interim-altitude band, it has to be stated that he Allies were no more successful. Typical of their efforts was the British twin 6-pdr, a 57-mm (2.244-in) weapon that never got past the trials stage because of its indifferent performance.
Altogether 60 examples of the 5 cm Flak 41 were produced, starting from 1941. Some of them were still in use in 1945.


German designation: Flak 41

Calibre: 50 mm (1.97 in)

Length of piece: 4.686 m (184.5 in)

Weight: in action 3100 kg (6,834 lb)

Elevation: -10° to+90°

Traverse: 360°

Muzzle velocity: 840 m (2,756 ft) per second

Maximum effective ceiling: 3050 m (10,007ft)

Rate of fire: (cyclic) 180 rpm

Projectile weight: 2.2kg(4.85lb)
Later German attempts to create a medium anti-aircraft gun focused on 5.5 cm weapons (Gerät 58) and the 5 cm Pak 38-derived Gerät 241.

5.5 cm Gerät 58

Was designed as part of an integrated weapons system which included radar and fire control equipment. The development started in 1943 but not concluded before the end of the war. The carriage has an unusual feature: the differential recoil or soft recoil, based on the Flak 41 carriage and named Sonderanhänger 206, but the gun itself is no more than an enlarged version of the 5 cm Flak 41. A number of completed carriages are converted to take 5 cm Flak 214 guns in 1945. Only three guns were built.

One of the many things to note about this gun was its sophisticated servo drive systems intended for computerized aiming. Instead of the defective (in terms of accuracy) limited angular rate deflection system generally used for for aiming it was to calculate the complete and total firing solution in Cartesian co-ordinates. It was a one hit to kill weapon. It was not only for tanks but for naval systems as well as for ground based FLAK.

Post war the Soviet 57 mm AZP S-60 evolved from this weapon.

German designation: Gerät 58
Caliber: 55 mm
Length of piece: 6.150 mm
Length of barrel: 4.211 mm
Breech mechanism: Gas-operated vertical sliding block
Traverse: 360º
Weight travelling: 5.490 Kg
Weight in action: 2.990 Kg
Weight of gun: 650 Kg
Elevation: -5º to 90º
Type of feed: 5 rounds clips
Muzzle velocity: 1.050 mps
Shell weight: 2,03 Kg (with Zerl 18V fuze)
Rate of fire: 140 rpm

Here is the entire list of Flak weapons (German Designations):

2 CM Flak 30
2 CM Flak 38
2 CM GebFlak 38
2 CM Flak Sondergeschütz
2 CM Flakvierling 38
2 CM Flakvierling 38/43
MG 151/20
3 CM Flak 103/38
3.7 CM SKC/30
3.7 CM Flak 18
3.7 CM Flak 36 oder 37
3.7 CM Flak M 42
3.7 CM Flak 43
3.7 CM Flakzwilling 43
Gerät 339 B.Kp. (3.7 CM)
Gerät 341 3.7 CM
3 CM Flak M 44
3 CM Flak M 44 (300 M)
3 CM MK 303 (Br)
Fledermaus 3.7 CM
2 CM Flak 28 und 29
2 CM Flak Madsen
2 CM Flak Breda or 2 CM Breda(i) or 2 CM MG 282(i)
2 CM Flak Scotti oder 2 CM Scotti(i)
2.5 CM Flak Hotchkiss or 2.5 CM Flak Hotchkiss 38 und 39
3.7 CM Flak Breda or 3.7 CM Breda(i)
3.7 CM Flak M 39a(r)
4 CM Flak 28
5 CM Flak 41
Gerät 56 V 1a 5 CM
Gerät 56 G 5 CM
Gerät 56 M 5 CM
Gerät 56 K 5 CM
Gerät 58 5.5 CM
Gerät 58 K 5.5 CM
5 CM Flak 214
5 CM Automatic Flak (A Skoda Prototype manufactured close to end of war. The actual German designation was unknown)
4.7 Flak 37(t)
8.8 CM Flak 18, 36 oder 37
8.8 CM Flak 41
8.8 CM Flak 37/41
8.8 CM Flak 39/41
8.8 CM Flak 41/2 (these 7 cannons were based on the classic 88’s)
10.5 CM Flak 38 und 39
10.5 CM Flak 39/2
12.8 Flak 40
12.8 Flak 40/1
12.8 Flak 40/2
12.8 Flakzwilling 40
12.8 CM Flak 45
7.5 Flak L/60
7.5 CM Flak L/59 or 7.5 CM Flak P L/65
Gerät 42 8.8 CM
Gerät 50 14.91 CM
Gerät 55 14.91 CM
Gerät 60 14.91 CM
Gerät 65 14.91 CM
Gerät 60F 14.91 CM
Gerät 65F 14.91 CM
Gerät 80 23.8 CM
Gerät 85 23.8 CM
7.5 CM Flak (b)
7.5 CM FK 97(f)
7.5 CM Flak M 17/34(f)
7.5 CM Flak M 30(f)
7. CM Flak M 33(f)
7.5 CM Flak M 36(f)

German Artillery 1914

Field Artillery

The mission of the field artillery was to support the infantry. The objective was also to bring a superior number of guns into action at the decisive place and time. In German doctrine the priority of fire was directed against the targets that were most dangerous to the infantry. At the beginning of an engagement, priority of fire was normally given to counter-battery fire, to cover the infantry approach march. The intent was to gain fire superiority over the enemy artillery. During the infantry firefight, priority of fire was generally given to fire on the enemy infantry, but counter-battery fire would continue to be conducted. Given the increased use of the terrain for cover and concealment by all arms, targets for the artillery would often be fleeting and there would not be enough time to eliminate the target entirely.

The French Model 97 75mm gun was the first to incorporate a recoil brake. Since the gun was now stable, the gun aimer and loader could remain seated on the gun, which allowed an armoured shield to be added protect the gun crew. The new French gun could fire up to twenty rounds a minute, against eight or nine for the German Feldkanone 96, which had just been introduced. Given this increased firepower, the size of the battery could be reduced from six guns to four. The French also introduced the armoured caisson. The 75mm caused a sensation and the French imagined it to be practically a war-winning weapon. French tactics prescribed that the 75mm would provide the firepower necessary to support the infantry attack with rafales, intense bursts of fire, to shake the enemy infantry. This was area fire, which made up in volume what it lacked in accuracy.

German divisional field artillery consisted of two weapons: a 7.7cm flat-trajectory gun (Feldkanone 96 n/A) and a 10.5cm high-trajectory light howitzer (leichte Feldhaubitze 98/09). The maximum effective range of the 7.7cm gun is a subject of some controversy; there were frequent complaints that the French 75mm considerably outranged the German gun. In fact, the theoretical maximum range was rarely relevant. In practice, the maximum effective range was variable, depending on the ability of the battery commander to acquire targets, see the fall of shot and adjust his shells onto the target. The author of the FAR 25 regimental history said that 4,400m was long range, and targets at 5,000ms were out of range, even though the maximum range of the shrapnel fuse for 7.7cm gun was 5,300m, and for the contact fuse 8,100m.

The light howitzer was provided with a recoil brake and the tube could be elevated to a high angle, which allowed it to fire easily from covered positions. The parabolic arc taken by the shell made it very effective against targets behind cover and in field fortifications. The howitzer was a German specialty: the French army did not possess any. Instead, the French developed a shell for the 75mm had fins that gave it a curved line of flight supposed to mimic that of the howitzer shell. This expedient was unsuccessful in combat and the French were to regret the lack of a howitzer.

A wartime-strength German battery included six guns or howitzers, 5 OFF, 188 EM and 139 horses, the battery commander’s observation wagon, two supply wagons, a ration wagon and a wagon for fodder. Each regiment had six batteries divided into two three-battery sections, which were commanded by majors. A field artillery regiment included 36 guns, 58 OFF, 1,334 EM and 1,304 horses, including two light ammunition columns, each with 24 caissons. There were 4 OFF, 188 EM and 196 horses to each ammunition column. Ammunition columns were formed only at wartime and for a few training exercises. The field artillery did not have mobile field kitchens, which was found to be a severe problem in mobile operations. In each active army corps there were three gun and one howitzer regiments: one division had two gun regiments, the second a gun and a howitzer regiment. Reserve divisions had only one gun regiment.

A German field artillery piece was drawn by six horses and consisted of the gun, its limber and a six-man gun crew, and an ammunition caisson, with its own five-man crew. The gun and caisson were provided with armoured shields that protected the crews against small arms fire and shrapnel. The gun could be operated even if 50 per cent of the crew were casualties. Artillery batteries could immediately replace losses in personnel and horses by drawing on the regimental ammunition columns, which took replacements from the divisional ammunition columns and so on.

The gun commander rode on a horse, ‘drivers’ rode on the gun team horses, the gunners rode on the limber or the gun itself. The German field artillery battery of six guns would generally deploy in firing position with 20 paces (about 13m) between guns. The caisson and two of the caisson crew would deploy to the right side of the gun. The gun and caisson limbers with the horses, ‘drivers’ and the two remaining caisson crew would pull back 300m to the rear so that they would not be engaged by counter-battery fire directed at the guns. In practice, this proved to be too close and the horses and limbers were often hit by fire aimed at the guns. When the battery needed to move, the horses and limbers would be brought forward. The light ammunition columns would deploy 600m behind the gun line and move forward based on flag signals.

The horses were the vulnerable point in an artillery battery. The guns could not unlimber and go into position, or limber up to withdraw, without significant horse casualties if they were in infantry fire at medium range (800m to 1,200m). Under close-range infantry fire (under 800m) the vulnerability of the horses immobilised the battery.

There were two types of battery positions. In the open firing position the guns were not covered or concealed. The gunners could see to their front and directly aim the guns over open sights. The guns were also visible to the enemy. A battery could occupy an open position easily and could fire quickly and effectively, especially against moving targets. It could rely on the gun shields for protection against small arms fire, but in an open position it was visible to enemy artillery and vulnerable to counter-battery fire. Open positions would be used in a mobile battle.

In a covered (or defilade) firing position, the guns went into battery position behind cover or concealment (frequently on the reverse slope of a hill). The guns were aimed by the battery commander, who set up his command wagon in a position where he could observe the enemy; the guns were then laid in for direction from the battery command wagon using an aiming circle (similar to a theodolite) and firing commands (deflection and elevation, type and number of rounds, fuse setting) were usually transmitted by field telephone from command wagon to the guns. Covered battery positions were nearly invulnerable to counter-battery fire, unless the dust thrown up by the muzzle blast betrayed the gun’s position. Frequently the enemy would be reduced to attempting to suppress guns in a covered position by using area fire based on a map reconnaissance of likely covered positions, a procedure that demanded large quantities of time and ammunition. The disadvantage of covered positions was that occupying them was time-consuming, because of the extensive reconnaissance needed to find a suitable position in the first place, followed by the time necessary to lay the battery using the aiming circle. Adjusting fire would take more time than in an open position. Covered positions would be used at the beginning of an engagement, in artillery duels, and against stationary targets and dug-in positions.

There was also a half-covered position, in which the guns were defilade, but could be aimed by the gunners standing on the gun. Such positions were preferable to open positions while at the same time allowing a more rapid support of the infantry that completely covered positions.

Guns could also occupy an overwatch position. The battery was then deployed in a covered position, laid on an azimuth in the general direction of the expected target. When the target was observed, the battery was manhandled into firing position.

If the time and suitable positions were available, the artillery would initially occupy covered positions, but in the course of the battle, the artillery would almost always be forced to displace and fire from half-covered or open battery positions. If necessary the artillery, like the infantry, was to advance by bounds. Some batteries might be moved forward to provide close-range direct-fire support. When the infantry began the assault, the artillery would fire on the enemy defensive position for as long as possible, until the danger of friendly fire became too great (usually 300m) and then shift its fire to the rear of the enemy position. When the enemy withdrew, he would be pursued by fire, with the artillery moving forward at a gallop and on their own initiative, if necessary, to keep the enemy in range.

Prior to the introduction of long-range quick-firing artillery around the turn of the century it was common to employ artillery in long continuous lines. In order to use the terrain effectively and avoid counter-battery fire, artillery was now to be employed in groups. Enemy counter-battery fire was rarely able to destroy a gun or caisson; its usual effect was to suppress the guns by forcing the crews to take cover. For that reason, the crews were to dig revetments around the gun positions as soon as possible, even in the attack.

If the guns came under effective fire, the artillery commanders had to decide, on the basis of the overall situation, whether the gunners could cease fire and take cover, which involved the crews’ retreating several hundred metres, leaving the guns and caissons in place, or if the artillery had to continue to fire, even if it meant that the crews were destroyed or the guns were overrun. Under overwhelming fire the artillery commanders down to battery level were authorised to order the crews to take cover.

It was the responsibility of the artillery to maintain liaison with the infantry through the use of forward observers (FO). The FO would communicate with his battery through field telephones or signal flags. His most important mission was to keep the guns informed as to the relative locations of the friendly and enemy troops, so that as this distance was steadily reduced, the guns could place fire on the enemy for the longest possible time. The artillery also regularly sent forward officer patrols, frequently in conjunction with cavalry patrols, in order to develop targets for their batteries.

The standard shell for gun artillery was shrapnel with a time fuse. The shrapnel shell exploded above and in front of the target, covering the target area with metal balls. In practice, setting the time fuse was difficult and shrapnel often burst too high. There was also a high-explosive round with contact fuse, which was used by howitzers and also by guns.

Beginning in the 1890s the German artillery underwent a profound transformation. In 1890 the cannons were not provided with recoil brakes and gunnery practice took place from open positions at ranges of less than 3,000m. Firing from covered positions was inaccurate and slow. Then the improvements came fast and furious. FAR 69 recorded receiving the light howitzer in 1899, with aiming circle and field telephones to facilitate firing from covered positions. In the spring of 1906 FAR 69 received the cannon with recoil mechanism and gun shield. In 1907 a new artillery regulation introduced a doctrine commensurate with the new equipment and made combat effectiveness the sole standard for training. Firing with time fuses became normal, the field guns received stereoscopic battery telescopes, field telephones (1908) and aiming circles, and armoured observation wagons. Reservists were recalled to active duty to receive training in the new equipment. The German field artillery in 1914 had good equipment and had plenty of time to train with it.

Heavy Artillery

For over twenty years prior to the First World War, the German army worked to perfect its heavy artillery, which involved constructing a mobile 15cm schwere Feldhaubitze 02 (sFH 02 – heavy field howitzer 1902) for the corps artillery and a 21cm mortar for the army-level artillery, and then creating the techniques and doctrine to use them. Originally, the impulse for this development was the need to be able to quickly break the French fortress line, and in particular the Sperrforts located between the major French fortresses. This mission shifted to one which emphasised destroying French field fortifications and finally to counter-battery fire. Particular emphasis was also laid on integrating the sFH into combined arms training, including live-fire exercises. By the beginning of the war, the German heavy artillery was fully proficient in all three missions. No other country in Europe possessed such combat-effective heavy field artillery. French heavy artillery was not so numerous, nor so mobile, nor as technically and tactically effective as the German.

Every German active-army corps included a battalion of four batteries of schwere Feldhaubitze, each battery having four guns, sixteen guns and thirty-two caissons in total. The battalion also had an organic light ammunition column. The reserve corps did not have this battalion, which significantly reduced its combat power.

The 15 cm gun was characterised by the destructiveness of its high-explosive shell (bursting radius 40m to the sides, 20m front and rear), combined with its long range (most effective range 5500m, max effective range 7,450m) and high rate of fire. It was particularly effective against enemy artillery, which was otherwise protected by its gun shield, and against infantry in field fortifications (the shell came down nearly vertically and was capable of penetrating 2m of overhead cover) or in defilade behind masking terrain. It was less effective against moving targets than the field artillery. The heavy field howitzer was less mobile than the field gun, but nevertheless was able to move long distances at a trot. The sFH battalion normally fought as a unit, firing from covered positions.

The 7.7cm gun fired a 6.85kg shell at a rate of up to 20 per minute. The 10.5cm howitzer fired a 15.8kg shell at a rate of four per minute; the heavy howitzer fired a 39.5kg shell at a rate of three to six per minute.

The German army also possessed a mobile 21cm mortar, which was principally intended for assignment at the army level, to be used against permanent fortifications. A mortar battery had four mortars; each battalion consisted of two batteries. The mortar could move only at a walk, the gun being separated for movement into three sections: gun carriage, barrel and firing platform.

The German field army began the war with 808 15cm sFH, 112 21cm mortars, 196 10cm canons and 32 13cm canons; 1,148 mobile heavy guns in total. It had a store of 1,194,252 shells, that is, about 1040 shells per gun.

The French field army, in contrast, had only 308 heavy guns, which were older and technically inferior to the German guns, mostly 155cm ‘Rimailho’ canons that had to be broken down in two sections for movement, with a maximum range of 6,300m. The Germans therefore had 4–1 superiority in heavy artillery. The French also had 380 ‘de Bange’ heavy guns in siege artillery units.

Each French division had nine four-gun batteries; the corps artillery consisted of twelve more batteries. Heavy howitzers were an army weapon; a French corps could not expect to receive more than four guns. The Germans thought that the French would augment each corps with another six reserve batteries, which was not the case. A French corps therefore at best had 120 guns versus 158 (including 16 heavy howitzers) for the German corps. The French began the war with about 1,300 shells for each 75mm.

General Heer, one of the leading authorities on French artillery, wrote a perceptive comparison of French and German doctrines. Heer began by saying that both armies expected the war to consist of manoeuvre battles, and both armies emphasised the offensive. However, the French laid particular emphasis on movement, especially the decisive advantages that accrued to forward movement. The Germans, on the other hand, recognised the importance of firepower and understood how to use it better than the French. The German leadership was convinced that infantry could not advance in the face of modern firepower, and especially not against artillery fire. They considered it essential that the battle begin with systematic counter-battery fire. Live-fire exercises taught the Germans the value of heavy artillery in mobile battles in general, but especially in counter-battery fire. Finally, the Germans decentralised the control of artillery down to division level. There were no corps and army artillery commanders. Thomasson said that the German optical fire control was outstanding, and unknown to the French. It permitted the Germans to be able to adjust artillery fire ‘magnificently’.

The V-3

Actual V-3 Projectile

Few commentators seem to be in any doubt but that the V-3 was the “High Pressure Pump” or “England Gun”. Paul Brickhill recorded in The Dam Busters:

the greatest nightmare of all was the great underworld being burrowed under a 20-foot-thick slab of ferro-concrete near Mimoyecques (between Calais and Boulogne). Here Hitler was preparing his V-3. Little has been told about the V-3, probably because we never found out much about it. The V-3 was the most secret and sinister of all – long-range guns with barrels 500 feet long!”

The V-3 was probably based on the 1885 unsuccessful ballistic principle of the Americans Lymann and Haskell and Baron von Pirquet’s concept of sequential, electrically activated, angled side chambers to provide additional velocity to a shell during its passage of an immensely long tube.

In mid-1942 August Cönders, chief engineer of the Röchling Iron and Steel Works, Leipzig, rediscovered the principle while reading through technical dossiers captured by the Germans in France in 1940. He worked out an improved design and approached Armaments Minister Speer with the idea. Hitler was enthusiastic and demanded that the development should proceed immediately.

The design was for a gun consisting of numerous lengths of smoothbore metal tubing bolted together to form a barrel up to 124 metres long. Every 3.65 metres along its length was a lateral combustion chamber set at from 45° to a right angle. The shell and main propellant were loaded into an sFH18 heavy field howitzer breech. When the gun was fired, the projectile would be impelled forward by pressure from a gas cartridge, and on passing each chamber it triggered electrically another cartridge positioned there which gave the shell further velocity. This was repeated throughout its transit of the barrel. The electrical activation solved a detonation problem which had been caused by expanding gases detonating the auxiliary chambers before the arrival of the shell. The muzzle velocity was around 1500 metres/sec which was significantly greater than that of standard artillery and provided a range of about 160 kilometres. The original 10-inch calibre projectile was over nine feet in length and weighed 140 kilos with a 25-kilo warhead. Six wings opened in flight for stability. Twenty-five guns were projected which at full output would have enabled London, 150 kilometres distant, to be subjected to a persistent rain of up to 200 ten-inch calibre shells per hour. For this reason the project was nicknamed fleissiges Lieschen, Busy Lizzie. The Heereswaffenamt, or German Army Weapons Office, contracted with firms such as Skoda, Krupp, Röchling, Witkowitz Iron and Steel, Faserstoff, Fürstenberg and Bochumer Verein for various calibres of ammunition. Towards mid-1944 20,000 shells were completed or under production.

Even before the gun trials had begun, work was started in the late summer of 1943 on a vast, well camouflaged underground gun battery to house twenty-five barrels of the HPP on the Channel coast at Mimoyecques. The barrels were to be sunk in shafts at a 50° angle 150 feet down into the ground. A slave labour force of 10,000 persons was involved in the construction and information was soon passed to London about a new mammoth “underground V-1 site”.

The initial tests were carried out using barrel lengths between 50 and 130 metres, first at Hillersleben and then from a range at Misdroy near Peenemünde at the beginning of 1944. Various permutations of barrels and chambers were tried without much success. Shells were supplied by numerous manufacturers. In tests between 21 and 23 March 1944 it was found that at muzzle velocities above 1100 metres/sec the tubes lost stability and developed metal stresses. General Leeb recommended that the project be stopped for investigations. By May 1944 the gun had an acceptable range of 95 kilometres and experiments were stepped up to find ways of increasing muzzle velocity. Before any guns were delivered, the Mimoyecques emplacement was destroyed on 6 July 1944 by RAF aircraft using a 12,000-pound Tallboy bomb. This signalled the end of the project for the long-range bombardment of London and put the entire V-3 project in question.

Nevertheless further trials with the HPP with shorter barrels were undertaken at Misdroy and eventually the whole project was placed in the hands of SS-Obergruppenführer Hans Kammler, head of the V-weapons project. Under his supervision the V-3 project was accelerated for an operation in the late autumn of 1944 and, with the help of General Dr (Ing) Erich Dornberger, military commander at Peenemünde, a battery of two 50-metre long 15-cm (5.9-inch) calibre barrels with twelve right-angled side chambers was completed. An emplacement had been excavated at Bürderheidermühle on a wooded slope of the Ruwer at Lampaden, about 13 kilometres south-east of Trier, where the battery was installed under the supervision of Hauptmann Patzig and his 550-strong Army Artillery Detachment 705.

The two HPP barrels rested on thirteen steel girders anchored to buried wooden foundations and were laid to the west with a 34° elevation. 43 kilometres along the firing line was target number 305, Luxemburg City. Calculations showed that the two guns had a maximum range of 65 kilometres with a shell dispersion radius of from 2.5 to 5 kilometres.

Between the two barrels were three bunkers for the gun crews plus either side of the barrels ten smaller bunkers which served as shell and powder magazines.

The Lampaden emplacement was part of the plan for the Ardennes offensive. Ammunition supply was poor because of disruption to the railways and in view of the critical time factor it was decided to use a 95-kilo shell of 15-cm calibre with a warhead of 7 to 9 kilos. The propellant was a 5-kilo main cartridge and twenty-four additional chamber charges, a total of 73 kilos of Ammon powder per shell.

Neither gun was operational when the Ardennes offensive began on 16 December 1944. Hurried preparations were being made to support the German offensive from Lampaden. Luxemburg City, liberated by the Americans in September 1944, was finally chosen as the target for diversionary fire. Although the battery was only operational to a limited extent on 20 December, Kammler was told by High Command West to have it ready before New Year.

On Saturday 30 December 1944 No 1 Gun opened fire. The flight of shell from Lampaden to Luxemburg was 42.5 kilometres. Because of muzzle velocity variables and the variety of propellants being used it was estimated that the target zone was from 40.6 to 43.6 kilometres, giving a dispersal of salvoes of about 3 kilometres. The exact barrel elevation was set at 36° and the muzzle velocity 935 metres/second.

Two ‘warmers’ were fired at 2145 hrs and 2205 hrs before Oberleutnant Bortscheller ordered the gun to open fire in earnest at 2216 hrs in the presence of SS-Obergruppenführer Kammler, the battery commander and officers from a neighbouring artillery detachment. Fire ceased at 2343 hrs. Five shells exploded more or less in the city centre but what effect they had is unknown.

According to German sources, these were 95-kilo shells, probably the six-winged Röchling type numbered 32, 29, 47, 15, 28 (firing sequence). On 31 December twenty-three more were fired between 0007 hrs and 2333 hrs from No 1 Gun, while No 2 Gun was still being adjusted, this not being completed until 3 January.

Following round 17 fired at 0944 hrs the pressure tube was found to have shifted by 4 millimetres and had to be realigned. After two ‘warmers’ the remaining shells were fired without incident between 1943 and 1958 hrs.

4 January 1601–2007 hrs. No 1 Gun, 16 rounds. No 2 Gun ready but did not fire.

11 January 2016–2351 hrs. Both guns fired, total 20 rounds.

12 January 1847–2224 hrs. Both guns fired, total 20 rounds.

13 January 0757–1238 hrs. Both guns fired, total 22 rounds, after which both barrels were checked and adjusted. Because of ammunition shortage, fire was not resumed until 15 January.

15 January Early afternoon, six shells exploded in Luxemburg City.

16 January Late afternoon, six rounds fired. The tower of the cathedral was hit and four persons attending mass were killed.

18 January 1421–1638 hrs. Both guns fired 19 rounds. Most of these exploded north-east of the city in the suburbs of Clausen, Neudorf and Hamm injuring 13 persons.

20 January 0808–1353 hrs. Both guns fired a total of 24 rounds.

Preparations had been taken in hand to transport and mount two more barrels with selected lines of fire into Belgium and France and existing HPP ammunition was rationed out between the four guns. By now the Americans were counter-attacking successfully in the Ardennes region and as it was obvious that Lampaden would soon be under threat, Kammler ordered the detachment to be prepared to dismantle the two pressure tubes for a withdrawal east of the Rhine in due course. The lack of ammunition remained severe.

15 February 0908–1735 hrs. No 1 Gun fired 20 rounds at Luxemburg. These all fell in unpopulated areas near Hamm and Sandweiler east of the city.

16 February 1020–1405 hrs. No 1 Gun fired four shells which fell near Fetschenhaff causing little damage. According to German sources the battery had now only six rounds left.

22 February 1745–1858 hrs. Six shells were fired, all off-target and landed in open country near Merl. This terminated the V-3 programme and the guns were dismantled for transport across the Rhine.

On 26 February US armoured units advanced to within 3 kilometres of Lampaden where they captured guns and replacement parts. A quantity of ammunition was also confiscated and tested later at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. The V-3 HPP was considered to have limited value and needed further development. Operationally 183 rounds had been fired from Lampaden towards Luxemburg of which 143 (78%) exploded within the territory or very close to it.

The V-3 suffered from lack of development due to the pressure of time. Had the Mimoyecques battery been operational against London in 1943, delivering 200 6-inch shells per hour, Paul Brickhill’s fears might easily have been justified.

130-mm (5.12-in) KS-30





One of the standard antiaircraft guns of the Soviet army during World War II was the 85-mm (3,35-in) M1939, replaced in production by the M1944 which had a longer barrel and fired ammunition with higher muzzle velocity for increased range. In 1985 the M1939 and M1944 were still used by almost 20 countries, although in the Warsaw Pact they have been replaced by surface-to-air missiles. After the end of the war the Soviet Union introduced two new towed anti-aircraft guns, the 100-mm (3.94-in) KS-I9 and the 130-mm (5.12-in) KS-30; by 1985 neither of these remained in front-line service with the Soviet Union, although some 20 countries did still use the KS-19 and two or three the much heavier KS- 30.

The Soviet 130mm anti-aircraft gun KS-30 appeared in the early 1950s, closely resembling the German wartime 12.8 cm FlaK 40 antiaircraft gun. The KS-30 was used for the home defense forces of the USSR and some other Warsaw Pact countries. Recognition features are the heavy dual-tire carriage, a firing platform which folds up to a 45 degree angle when the piece is in travel, and the long clean tube without a muzzle brake. The breechblock is of the semi-automatic horizontal sliding wedge type, and the piece is fitted with a power rammer and an automatic fuze setter. Fire control is provided by the PUAZO-30 director and the SON-30 radar. The ammunition is of the fixed-charge, separated type. It is not interchangeable with that of the 130mm field or coastal guns. The KS-30 is now held in war reserve since it was replaced by surface-to-air guided missiles.