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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

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1914 Indirect v Direct Fire



An extremely interesting video on you tube contrasting the British 18 pounder versus the German Field Howitzer, though I believe the main comparisons are between indirect / direct fire and the use of Shrapnel versus HE - hence the blog title.

It contrasts the British doctrine an the beginning of the war which was based upon direct fire with shrapnel to support the infantry, and the Germans who were more inclined to adopt indirect fire with HE as the modus operendi.

The primary function of 18 pounder shrapnel shell was anti- personnel, and at the beginning of the war it seems artillery was pushed forward essentially to augment the fire of the infantry, as opposed to adding any depth to the battlefield. The video outlines that at the optimum height of burst (90 feet [27 metres - same as modern artillery I fired]), it was typically effective to 200 yards (180 metres) as a cone of dispersion.

German Howitzer's fired shell twice as heavy, and its primary function was engagement of enemy guns and fortifications. Though not as effective as the 18 pounder against infantry, it was more suited to an artillery duel to neutralise enemy guns. As would be seen at Le Cateau, the Germans were able to neutralise the British Guns, and consequently the British infantry had to fight superior numbers with diminished gunner support.

The conclusion from the video was the Battle of Le Cateau proved that indirect fire was the way forward and indeed following that, the whole geometry of the battle field changed.

Not convinced with the ending….the impression I got was 18 pounders were converted to the anti-aircraft role as they were no longer needed as a direct fire weapon !!!. Although 56 were, it seems to neglect the fact that at the Armistice there were 3,162 18-pounders in service on the Western Front and it had fired approximately 99,397,670 rounds


<iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://youtu.be/Di5svup9BkY" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>


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