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Remembered Today:

heavy artillery


David B
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Hi,

This may have been discussed before but I am interested in knowing where heavy artillery i.e. siege weapons would

have been placed in relation to the front lines. As the 9.2 only had a range of less that 10,000 yards one could possibly

assume that to be effective it would have been placed somewhat nearer than that distance leaving it open to capture

in case of a breakthru. As the weapon had to be dismantled into pieces to be shifted it obviously would have taken some

time to get mobile and out of the way. No doubt also higher authorities would have frowned on their subordinates if

guns of that size were taken as booty

David

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133 and 265 Siege Batteries, both with 9.2” How, were about 5000 yards behind the line in support of the I ANZAC attack on Broodseinde 4 Oct 1917. Near China Wall/Halfway House. This seems about average.

Given that 9.2s could probably pack up and be out of action in 5 hours - in those conditions, not much chance of capture.

Chris Henschke

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Hello,

I have just been looking at Haig's artillery maps published on DVD by the Imperial War Museum and the WFA. In August 1918 the 9.2 How batteries in support of the Australian Corps were between 3,500 and 5,000 yds of the front.

I have often wondered at the time needed for 9.2 to go into and come out of action in a new site. Can Chris elaborate of his 5 hr time to come out of action. Does this time include moving the complete equipment off site? Of course avoiding capture was not a consideration at Amiens.

Old Tom

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I have often wondered at the time needed for 9.2 to go into and come out of action in a new site. Can Chris elaborate of his 5 hr time to come out of action. Does this time include moving the complete equipment off site? Of course avoiding capture was not a consideration at Amiens.

Old Tom

Yes, Chris can elaborate.

The information is from OB/1817. Table of Factors Affecting the Move of Heavy and Siege Artillery

9.2” How (4 )

Average time in hours under favourable conditions to get :-

Into action 8 – 10

Out of action 5

With - 4 tractors, 33 Lorry loads. 20 rounds per Lorry.

Widest track needed - 8’9”

Greatest weight in tons - 14

According to the table, 12” How (2) took 12 hours to get out of action, and 15” How (1) 12 – 18.

Attached is some other locations of I ANZAC Heavies for early October 1917.

Chris Henschke

post-671-1220035267.jpg

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Thanks for those replies. bet the gunners were working like beavers though to remove those weapons in the times given.

No hydraulic lifts etc in those days

david

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According to Statistics of the Military Effort..., four British 9.2-inch howitzers were lost to the Germans during the counter-attack at Cambrai in Dec 1917, and a further 31 during the 1918 Spring offensives (March to July).

There were around 200 of these weapons on the Western Front at the time so these losses represent a.significant proportion.

Ron

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  • 3 weeks later...
According to Statistics of the Military Effort..., four

British 9.2-inch howitzers were lost to the Germans during the counter-attack at Cambrai in Dec 1917, and a further 31 during the 1918 Spring offensives (March to July).There were around 200 of these weapons on the Western Front at the time so these losses represent a.significant proportion.Ron

Sorry. Saw this thread rather late but wanted to relay a point made to me about the loss of heavy artillery at Cambrai in late Nov/early Dec 1917 and which appears in Cambrai 1917: The Myth of the First Great Tank Battle.

On 30 November, 24 6-inch howitzers, 26 18-pounders, four 60-pounders and four 6-inch howitzers were lost when Villers Guislain fell in the German counter-attack. That's 58 artillery pieces.

A now-retired colleague, Chris McCarthy - a man whose opinion I greatly value and respect on all matters to do with the British Army in the First World War was of the opinion that this would have been nothing less than a disaster on the Somme in 1916, but for the BEF in late 1917, supported by a war economy at home geared towards the production of huge numbers of guns, it was possible to overcome such losses.

After reflection, and looking at the numbers of heavy guns in France month on month in 1918, I have come to agree with him and said so.

Bryn

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Hello Bryn

You are quite right. By the end of 1917 guns lost could be replaced fairly quickly, which was not the case in 1914, 1915 or 1916. Consequently, the loss of four 9.2's was not a catastrophe.

The underlying point in this thread is how close up the heavy guns and howitzers were, and therefore how susceptible to capture or destruction. In that context it was significant in terms of the proportion of that type of gun lost in a short period.

Ron

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Hello Bryn

You are quite right. By the end of 1917 guns lost could be replaced fairly quickly, which was not the case in 1914, 1915 or 1916. Consequently, the loss of four 9.2's was not a catastrophe.

The underlying point in this thread is how close up the heavy guns and howitzers were, and therefore how susceptible to capture or destruction. In that context it was significant in terms of the proportion of that type of gun lost in a short period.

Ron

Ron

And on that point you are quite right too!

Best

Bryn

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The underlying point in this thread is how close up the heavy guns and howitzers were, and therefore how susceptible to capture or destruction. In that context it was significant in terms of the proportion of that type of gun lost in a short period.

A question from a novice on such matters: presumeably there would have been sufficient time & warning available in the liklihood of heavy artillery being overrun, to render the weapons U/S to the enemy? if so, were there standard procedures in place for doing so, and, in the case of the captured weapons mentioned in earlier posts, were these carried out and effective? I can imagine a scenario where it might have been left until too late because of a reluctance to destroy a valuable artillery piece needlessly all the time that possibility existed of the attack failing before it got that far.

NigelS

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A question from a novice on such matters: presumeably there would have been sufficient time & warning available in the liklihood of heavy artillery being overrun, to render the weapons U/S to the enemy? if so, were there standard procedures in place for doing so, and, in the case of the captured weapons mentioned in earlier posts, were these carried out and effective? I can imagine a scenario where it might have been left until too late because of a reluctance to destroy a valuable artillery piece needlessly all the time that possibility existed of the attack failing before it got that far.

NigelS

Read my book (preferably buy it!) and see how little time there was for the British gun crews in some situations at Cambrai to disable their guns. Removing the breech block seems to have been the 'most common/straightforward/basic measure' gun crews took.

Bryn

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Thanks Bryn - nice plug, hope sales are going well :P - I suspected removal of the breech block would be basic move but wondered, if time permitted, whether more drastic measures might have been employed.

NigelS

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Nigel

138 Heavy Battery (60-pounders) removed their breech blocks in the March 1918 Retreat, throwing them into a deep flooded shell hole - but attaching a string or cord to each, with a spike buried in a concealed position on the bank. After the retreat I believe that at least some of the blocks were retrieved.

Another common tactic was to remove or smash the sights, which were harder for the Germans to replace.

For the smaller siege guns, smashing the wheels or carriage might be a temporary expedient, at leasy delaying the ability of the Germans to use them.

On 9 April 1917, 12th Eastern Division captured 31 German field guns in Battery Valley, east of Arras, and were able to turn at least two of these guns on the retreating enemy.

Ron

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NigelS,

March 1918, the personnel of 118 Siege Battery (9.2 Hows) retired to a pre arranged rear position leaving a detachment of gunners to spike the guns. They took the sights and Breeze Blocks to bury at a similar pre arranged site, destroyed the rifling of the breeches, then very carefully with the aid of ropes lowered a fuzed shell nose first down the barrel, all the time while an enemy bombardment was going on above their heads. The slightest vibration to the instantaneous fuze might have caused the shell to explode. Any strategic nuts and bolts that could be loosened, were….!

Rgds Paul

Edit: Breech block for Breeze block :lol:

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Thanks all for the informative replies.

Edit: Breech block for Breeze block :lol:

Paul: Are you by any chance involved in the construction industry or doing some building work at moment :D !

NigelS

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