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Remembered Today:

A Field Artillery Group in Battle


Robert Dunlop
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(ISBN 1843426706)

This is a fascinating book. It comprises three articles that were published in the Royal Artillery Journal. Each article dealt with an action of the 2nd Brigade, RFA. The temporal sequence of the actions is lost in the book. The author starts with the retreat in March 1918, followed by experiences in the 100 Days' Battle. The final third of the book deals with the Battle of Cambrai in November and December 1917. However, this does not distract from the quality of the information.

From comments made by the author, it seems he was in the Royal Regiment of Artillery before the war. He describes experiences in the Boer War and refers to training in open warfare prior to 1914. During the Great War, he kept detailed accounts of the actions he was involved in. This information is supplemented with copies of defence schemes for example. Combined with the author's excellent style and the liberal use of well labelled maps, this makes for very interesting reading. It gave me a deeper insight into the functioning of an RFA brigade at various times in the late war period. Aspects such as communications, co-operation with infantry, the transition to open warfare, the problems of artillery operating in a salient (Cambrai and Ypres), and the difficulties of countering the potential German tank threat (10-20% of field guns were placed well forward on March 21st, and therefore quickly overrun, or were tasked with detaching from sections and operating against tanks) feature throughout.

The other interesting aspect of this book is the lessons that the author draws from his experiences. Some of his conclusions are very insightful. He predicts the replacement of field artillery with tanks in an infantry support role, along with mobile heavy artillery, for example.

Highly recommended for anyone who has an interest in the Royal Field Artillery.

Robert

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Thanks for posting this RObert, and including the ISBN.

There is another recent post where I asked if there were other books... short stories or compliations which dealt with specific arms of the army. This is what I had in mind, so I will certianly check it out.

I was wondering if you have reag Sulzbach's "With the German Guns" which might compliment this book as the view from the opposite side of the trench.

Andy

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Andy

I wrote a review of Sulzbach's book, which you can find at http://1914-1918.org/forum/index.php?showt...735&hl=sulzbach

This book has a lot more detail. It is especially interesting because of the brigade focus. Sulzbach's book has snippets of information about the actual workings of German field artillery, mostly in the latter half of the book. But it is one of the few books from the German perspective. One day I will get a copy of Bruchmuller's book. Meanwhile, the other book that you might consider for descriptions of French and German artillery is Bruce Gudmundsson's 'On Artillery' (ISBN 0 275 94673 8). He traces the development of the artillery arms of both nations from the Franco-Prussian War, with the major emphasis being the First World War.

For German artillery, there is some useful information in Herbert Jaeger's book 'German Artillery of World War One' (ISBN 1 86126 403 8).

Cheers

Robert

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Another, similar book is The Royal Regiment of Artillery at Le Cateau, 26 August 1914 by Major A. F. Becke, RFA published in 1919 by the RA Institution Printing House. A very detailed description of this famous artillery action. Regards. Dick Flory

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Yes, it gives a very detailed history of what happened in that battle. On another group that I belong to, someone was arguing that First World War artillery was not very effective. Notably, the artillery had difficulty acquiring targets and did little damage. Le Cateau is a good example of how quickly the RA could target the advancing Germans, even to the extent of stopping infantry attacks before they came in effective range of the infantry. There were some examples of effective counter-battery fire as well.

Unfortunately, I only got hold of the book after I visited Le Cateau. So I am going back again at the end of this summer. I'll rephrase that - at the end of the months normally associated with summer in the Northern Hemisphere.

Robert

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Robert Dunlop wrote:

On another group that I belong to, someone was arguing that First World War artillery was not very effective. Notably, the artillery had difficulty acquiring targets and did little damage.

Robert: I find it quite amazing that someone could make such a remark! I think even a quick reading of diaries and memoirs will show that artillery and machine guns were the two most devastating and pervasive weapons of the Great War, at least in the mind of the individual soldier. Regards. Dick

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I find it quite amazing that someone could make such a remark! I think even a quick reading of diaries and memoirs will show that artillery and machine guns were the two most devastating and pervasive weapons of the Great War, at least in the mind of the individual soldier. Regards. Dick

Dick: I couldn't agree more. In situations like that, I find it helpful to quote material from sources. No amount of 'well I think it was this, you are wrong' advances understanding. Most of my earlier reading was about the infantry. The effects of artillery comes through very strongly in personal, regimental, brigade and divisional histories. There is more and more material coming out from the perspective of the artillery as well. I have found this very interesting. The evolution of artillery, and the tactics for the use thereof, is relatively under-emphasized in most books. It was the chapter on artillery in Paddy Griffith's book 'Battle Tactics on the Western Front' that really flagged this whole area for me.

Robert

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Robert: If you are interested in RA officers' memoirs from the Great War, some other good ones in my judgment:

1. As From Kemmel Hill: An adjutant in France and Flanders, 1917 and 1918, by Arthur Behrend (Adjutant of 90th Brigade, RGA).

2. Memoirs of the Great War by Lt. Col. H M Davson, CMG, DSO, 1964 (printed in a limite edition of 100 copies so hard to find. My copy is number 35.)

3. A Subaltern's Odessey: A memoir of the Great War 1915-1917 by R B Talbot Kelly

4. The War Diary of the Master of Belhaven by Lt Col the Hon. Ralph Hamilton. The author was killed in action. One of the real classics. Has been reprinted a number of times.

5. Young Contemptible by John Wedderburn-Maxwell, a small, privately published booklet of some 40 pages.

6. War as a Temporary Occupation by Frank Walter Paish, MC, another small booklet of 80 pages privately published in 1998.

7. Echo of the Guns: Recollections of an Artillery Officer 1914-18 by Harry Siepmann, 1987.

8. A Time to Leave the Ploughshares: A Gunner Remembers 191-18 by William Carr, 1985. Both #7 and #8 have been available as publisher's over-runs.

9. In the Cannon's Mouth and The Ebb and Flow of Battle, both by P J Campbell.

10. Gun, Kites and Horsers: Three Diaries from the Western Front Edited by Sydney Giffard. Published in 2003. Reprints the annotated diaries of Lt. Jack Giffard, who served with L Battery, RHA at Nery and of his brothers, Maj Edward Giffard, who was a BC in the RFA and KIA near the end of the war and Walter Giffard who was a balloon observer in the last year of the war.

There are probably others but these are just some that I rather quickly gathered in my library.

Regards. Dick Flory

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Thanks Dick

A few others include:

1. With the Guns by Capt Street

2. Field Guns in France by Lt-Col Neil Fraser-Tytler, which contains a lot of detailed information.

Farndale's reviews of the Royal Regiment of Artillery give a good overview of the major engagements and the significant developments in artillery during the war. He covers all of the theatres of operations for the RA.

There have been some war diaries published as well, though generally I find these less informative. They do however give an excellent feel for the day-by-day experiences of artillery batteries throughout the duration of service. The two that I have are:

3. With a Seige Battery in France: 303 Siege Battery, RGA

4. War Diary and Roll of Honour: 14th Heavy Battery RGA in France, Belgium, Germany 1915-16-17-18-19

Robert

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I've had to request probably 30+ books through inter-library loan for my thesis, one of which was A Field Artillery Group in Battle. Being unable to find an original copy, my hard-working local library (bless 'em) purchased a copy of the N&M reprint, and I now have it on semi-permanent loan, with the April 1918 chapter particularly relevant for me! Bruchmuller is very important to this late period of the war, and I have managed to acquire a translated copy of "Breakthrough", which, together with Steel Wind, by David Zabecki explain the origin and operation of the Feuerwaltz very clearly. Perhaps the "not very effective" correspondent should have experienced the barrages during the Kaiserschlacht, and on the Lys :)

Other titles that recount the artillery experience are:-

The Unreturning Army by Huntly Gordon (112th Bde RFA).

The War of the Guns: Western Front, 1917 & 1918 by Aubrey Wade

With the Heavies in Flanders by H. F. Berdinner (24th Heavy Battery, RGA)

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Excellent. We are building up a tidy little list here. I think it would be worth collating it together once we have exhausted the various sources.

Robert

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