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Subject: WW1 and artillery
Question    10/22/2003 11:30:44 PM
I heard that the reason there were so many casualties in WW1 was due to the pratice of infantry charging when the artillery barrage stopped.I also heard that the rolling barage was invented to keep the enemy distracted and not able to pour accurate fire into the advancing infantry.Anyone got more details on how rolling barrages was done? Also would more artillery have solved trench warfare?Shortage of artillery was listed as one of the reasons for trench warfare in WW1.
 
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eightyone    Arty   10/23/2003 12:06:36 AM
Basically they would fire ahead of the advancing infantry. They usally had a set rate of advancement, like so many meters ever minute once the attack began. The reason for all the casualties were that before the Rolling Barage was invented they used a preliminary barage that they thought would destroy the enemy in their trenches and clear the barbed wire. It didn't work for two reasons: 1) The trenches and barbed wire proved to be tougher than they thought. 2) It gave the enemy advanced warning that an attack was coming. As for your last question the only thing that solved trench warfare were better tactics.
 
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Thomas    RE:WW1 and artillery   10/23/2003 2:22:39 AM
As far as I know the change in tactics were a change in infantry tactics: Instead of trying to live up to Clausewitz dictum of concentration on a decisive point, which the enemy could guess and fortify, then you poured the reserve in where there was progress and achieve a breakthrough there instead of butting your head against the enemys forts.
 
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Question    RE:WW1 and artillery   10/23/2003 6:31:47 AM
Post dissapeared.Again. Basically,i wanted to know what the change in tatics were that allowed the armies to break through the trench warfare stalemate. Also would sustained artillery bombardment from a LOT of pieces at once,maybe in excess of 1000 heavy artillery pieces(heavy at that time),perhaps even containing super-seiges like the Big Bertha,destroy or damage trench and barb wire substantially?
 
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Heorot    RE:WW1 and artillery   10/23/2003 7:04:26 AM
In the early hours of July 4th, 1918, the most well prepared battle of the First World War began. The preparation for the Battle of Hamel was so great that all objectives were taken within ninety-three minutes of the battle starting with less than one thousand Australian casualties. The Australian troops were led by Lieutenant-General Sir John Monash, who believed that a battle could only be won after a great deal of preparation. And so, with this preparation came some 'firsts' for the Great War. For the first time, tanks were used to supply the front troops with food, water, ammunition and medical supplies. The tanks were also used as a creeping barrage - an artillery barrage that moves slowly in front of the advancing troops. The usage of the tanks in these ways gave the Australians a definite advantage over the enemy. Another first was the way in which Monash used the Air Force. For weeks leading up to the battle he continually sent planes over the German lines, so that accurate maps could be drawn. During the battle the planes dropped ammunition to the forward troops and after the battle was won, the Australian's in the front line lit flares, so as new maps could be drawn to show the new Allied front. The maps were than dropped to Monash back at Headquarters. In the nights leading up to the battle, dummy raids (fake attacks) were commenced along the German frontline. When the battle began, the German troops were expecting just another dummy raid and were not prepared for a battle. Compared to other battles, the Battle of Hamel was not a large battle. What makes it so special is that for the first time in many months, the Allies began to think and move offensively. It is for this reason that some people believe that the Battle of Hamel was the beginning of the end of the war.
 
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Shaka of Carthage    RE:WW1 and artillery   10/23/2003 8:51:57 PM
I'm under the impression that it was the "special" training that the German infantry received. Something about the infiltration past the strong points. While the Allies used tanks to break thru trenches, its also the reason they used tanks as infantry support weapons in WWII. The Germans used the infiltration techniques (Stormtrooper?) and married it to the armored vehicles which started the whole classis blitzkrieg concept (which itself evolved a few times during WWII). PS... while having alot of artillery would work to achieve a breakthru, artillery couldn't respond fast enough to changing targets. Think it had something to do with the triangulation method they used to determine where the artillery shells were suppossed to be fired. So while the artillery could breakthru the defences, the infantry could build defenses further back and supported by machine guns, hold those positions until the enemy artillery could reposition / recaculate the firing points. Then the cycle began over again.
 
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Idaho    RE:WW1 and artillery   10/23/2003 9:56:14 PM
If my memories are correct, the rolling barrage was the attempt to keep the other side out of the trenches & in their bunkers longer. The problem with the rolling barrage was that they had to be done by clock timing only & the accuracy was somewhat questionable. So the infantry had the choice of following close enough to the back of the rolling barrage & being killed by their own shells or holding back which gave the infantry on the other side enough time to get back up in their trenches and to their machine guns. Also, one problem was too much artillery, not too little. They used so much that it was virtually impossible in many cases to get through the mud and craters of the beaten zone. The infantry would get caught in the shelled zone, would be unable to advance cohesively, and were then prey to the emerging defensive infantry.
 
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CosbyB    RE:WW1 and artillery   11/7/2005 8:58:27 AM
The primary issues surrounding the WWI artillery were a.)poor infantry-artillery communication and b.)zero mobility. a.)From as early as 1915 well planned, limited offensives were generally effective in their opening 'set peice'; the guns would crush the enemy forward area and attacking infanry would capture the ground, as per the plan. Only in what was potentially the "exploitation" phase did things go wrong. Infantry lacking the mobile wireless or WW2 era troops. The ability to improvise artillery support ('call down' fire) as the advance coninued was missing. Infantry were destined to meet the enemy reserves in an indecisive infantry vs. infantry engagement in which their guns played an haphazard part at best(I'm ignoring interdiction fire plans etc.) b.)This effect was amplified when an advance outranged the guns (most heavy peices took days to move forward)and was handed the artillery advantage to the enemy, who could organise small, set piece counter strokes (see the pattern evolving?) It is wrong to assume that WWI era-offensives, though largely indecisive, were not one-way blood baths, the defending troops often suffered at least equal casualties. Good rt planning could make an advance highly successful provided the advance was not allowed to have over ambitious objectives. Think Vimy Ridge; heavily fortified ground but limited objectives, all taken in just over five hours, 25,000 Germans killed or captured for 17,000 Br. & Emp. of all casualty types.
 
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Carl S    RE:WW1 and artillery   11/7/2005 5:25:34 PM
Artillery handicaps 1914-1918 1. 98% of artillery was horse drawn & even the light artillery (75mm French, 77mm German, 13 & 18 pounder British could not advance through the broken ground of the capture trench zone without some sort of road. 2. As the artillery advanced the observers had to restablish the range & direction to a known point in their target area. The techniques for doing this were not well understood in 1914. In simple terms the artillerymen had to learn and adapt land survey techniques for their use. Even in 1918 it could take several hours of daylight to establish accurate known refrence or registration points after the cannon batterys and observers had advanced. 3. Communication between the artillery observer, the infantry commander, and the cannon at best was by telephone. When the cannon advanced the telephone wires had to be relaid. Imagiane you & your comrade trying to unwind a spool of wire several thousand meters across a landscape of trenches, barbed wire, mines while under shell fire or at risk from stray enemy. Alternatly signal lamps would work if there was some sort of line of sight between the observer and the battery officer. Radios were large, heavy, delecate, and unreliable. 4. Moving the cannon forwaard was difficult enough. Moving the ammo across broken ground was worse. A typical light battery of the era carried between 300 & 400 rounds in its cassions. This could be fired off in ten minutes at a high but sustainable rate. At a lower but normal rate for intense combat the batterys basic load might last 1-2 hours. In other words it could require a dozen wagon loads of ammo a day to keep a four gun battery firing regularly.
 
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Carl S    RE:WW1 and artillery improvements   11/7/2005 6:58:05 PM
I mentioned adapting survey techniques for artillery use. in addition to training all the officers, and the NCOs assigned to the observation teams, each battalion or regiment had a section of two or more survey teams added to aid the battery cadre. Communications were enhaced by a similar expansion of the wire laying teams. Initially the battery commander did the observation of all attacks, both direct & indirect, assisted by one ot two soldiers. As the techniques for accurately locating the range and direction of the targets were refined a couple more properly trained NCOs were added to the observation post. To get around the difficulty of reestablishing the comand post (if the battery was not to move) a second observation team was added. This team would follow the infantry foward, unspooling their telephone wire behind them or flashing a lamp in morse cod. They would also take compass azimuths to previously identified land marks to track their position, and as the first step in establishing target refrence or registration points. If this forward observation team survived and kept in communication the leading infantry then might have a prayer of effective artillery support. The addition of surveyors to the artillery allowed the hoplessly inaccurate maps of the era to be improved. After a artillery regiment had been in place for a week or so usefull handmade maps would appear. After a few weeks printed maps might even be distributed (but dont bet the farm on it). When a large offensive was planned, where the artillery would expect to advance beyond the area it had previously covered air photograpy could be used (but of course not always was) to prepare accurate maps. Thus the battery commander who found himself & his guns on the far side of the enemy defense zone had at least a few landmarks accurately located in relation to each other. This did a lot to speed up the establihment of the initial battery commaders survey of his target area. The techniques for finding the range & direction from the gun to target were greatly refined, primarily in accuracy. Getting the proper direction is a geometry problem, complicated by the addition of a third dimension, and the drift of the projectile right or left. Range was determined partially by estimation and partialy from the direction determination. A variety of modified surveyors transits, protractors, charts, sliderules, data tables, and data conversion tableswere developed specificly for the artillerymen.
 
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neutralizer    RE:WW1 and artillery improvements   11/8/2005 5:54:29 AM
The Germans were very backward in their arty tactics on the W Front until Bruckmuller arrived late 1917. Their spring offensives of 1918 penetrated to great depth (some 80 km) but in the end the Brits managed to hold without total collapse and the Germans ran out of steam and had no better luck against the French. Hamel in Apr 1918 (which ended GE Plan Michael) was the strategic turning point of the war (and the final stop was Brit fd arty at direct fire!), after that GE had lost it was just a matter of time. Hamel in Jul 1918 was tactical most interesting, but built on the innovations of the previous year at Cambrai - tanks and the 'hurricane' barrage. The latter was enabled by the various developments that led to effective predicted fire (survey, meteor, calibration (Brits had no surveyors at unit level they had corps svy units)), so the barrage started without any warning and that opened the attack. The GE successes in 1918 were basically due to the same thing - very well crafted and executed fireplans, its noable that where Bruckmuller's methods weren't use the GE inf were far less successful. To step back a few years, the first years of the war the bombardments got heavier and heavier and lasted longer and bigger and bigger guns became available. The arty tactics were starting to come together at the Somme in 1916 (some of the Brit air observed CB was effective) but none of the attacking corps and divs got arty sufficiently right to seize and then hold their objectives, and the arty technology probably wasn't up to it even if they had got the right plan. However, by the end of 1916 the realisation started to dawn more widely (some senior arty offrs started thinking this way in 1915) that shelling fixed defences into submission didn't work, what was needed was neutralisation until the infantry closed with them. This was the role of the moving barrage (rolling and creeping are different things but the effect is much the same). Basically in a barrage the guns fired so that the shells fell in lines, after a few minuted they 'lifted' to the next line as the inf advanced. The aim of neutralisation was to keep the enemy in their shelters so the inf got on top of them before they came out. Of course there was also extensive fire on key points, en btys, HQs etc to damage/disrupt/destroy them. The neutralising fire was usually field arty (18 pr and 4.5 in How in UK, there were hardly any 13 prs on the W Front) because it had the smallest danger area and so less risk to own troops, they could get close to the barrage which meant less time for the GE to get from bunkers to battle positions. The neutralising effect was achieved by the 'bangs' signalling the threat of fragments. Of course shrapnel was also used, gas was used either in their preliminary bombardment (if any) and against depth defences, en btys, etc.
 
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