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Remembered Today:

Is this an enormous field gun ?


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Thanks 

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3D52CCA2-2C8F-466D-B688-1FEF9EBF36A6.jpeg

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Old Forge

It's the ordnance (barrel) from a heavy gun, dismantled for transportation. One of the photos shows at least a part of the carriage. Hopefully someone can tell you exactly what it is, but my guess is the calibre isn't particularly large in comparison to the barrel length - maybe something around the modern 155mm (~6").

 

Cheers,

 

Richard

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Michelle Young

After you have taken the pictures on your phone, you can edit them so that they’re  rotated. It would make it a lot easier to ID your images. 
Michelle 

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The picture was taken at Gijverinkhove in Belgium on 25 September 1917. There was quite a bit of French heavy artillery there, to support their part in Third Ypres.

Some examples: 778_001.jpg

and

605_001.jpg

 

Jan

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Think it's smaller calibre and a lot longer than AOK's guns. If it's around 6" it'll be at least about 45 calibres long, which would normally give a muzzle velocity of about 2,400 - 2,600 -odd feet per second.

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Gosh that’s all Interesting stuff 

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14 minutes ago, arantxa said:

Gosh that’s all Interesting stuff 

 

Interesting recoil, too, on a field carriage! :o:D Not much of a buffer/recuperator system visible in the pics. But you're hurting my neck with your sideways pics!

Edited by MikB
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Here you go - I hope!

gun a.jpeg

gun b.jpeg

gun c.jpeg

gun d.jpeg

gun e.jpg

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Looks like a 145mm M.1916 St Chamond gun which was based on the barrel of a naval gun.

 

M

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Is that the same as the one outside of Ft Pompelle?

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There are features that don't seem to match the obvious candidates, such as the equilibrator spring in the cradle on right of the top pic (thanks for straightening them, Trajan).

 

But whatever, it isn't really a field gun. The complications of transport and long barrel very forcefully suggest a long-range counterbattery piece, to be set up and accurately aligned a long way behind the front lines, and intended to attack the enemy's barrage artillery outside the range of reply. Emplacement of such weapons needed resources way beyond that available to field artillery, as did the forward observation of results and communication of corrections back to the guns.

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Chasemuseum

Field gun is one of those terms open to a variety of different definitions, depending on period and nationality. Considering WW1 and the British/Commonwealth/Empire armies - "field artillery" are the guns that were readily horse transport mobile, with "field guns" being those with a direct and indirect fire capability, light field guns such as the 15pr, 13pr & 18pr and heavy field guns like the 4.7inch and 60pr, the field howitzers like the 4.5inch, 5-inch, 6-inch and 6inch 26cwt.

 

The big guns, both high velocity guns like this French one and the big howitzers had serious mobility issues, typically had to be dismantled for transport, required railways, steam traction engines and large tractors for movement. Their employment was only for indirect fire. The "gun/howitzer" distinction becomes very foggy. In British service, their management is by "garrison artillery", the gunners who had traditionally managed the coastal forts and siege artillery. Although deployed "in the field" they really are a different class to field artillery and as Mike pointed out above their role on the battlefield in targeting key facilities deep behind the enemy front line, or smashing heavy reinforced fortifications is also different to the field artillery.

 

The Great War is obviously a watershed for artillery development, with field artillery becoming progressively mechanized after the war, allowing it to use much heavier guns, with the role of indirect fire becoming the dominant deployment except for anti-tank work and close fire support bunker busting, and the HE shell becoming the primary munition rather than a shrapnel shell. Effectively definitions change for WW2 and have continued to change since. The 10.5cm class  field gun/howitzer is now effectively obsolete except as a mountain gun, with field artillery starting at the 15cm/6-inch class.

 

So is the French artillery piece in the photo a "field gun" ?  Both yes and no, but in a "Great War - British military" context - No.

 

Cheers

Ross

 

 

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Old Forge

Hi Ross,

 

The distinction between 'field' and 'heavy' was always organisational, as well as by calibre. On deployment in 1914, the regular divisions were equipped with four types of ordnance, the 13-pdr (RHA), 18-pdr and 4.5" and the divisional heavy batteries with 60-pdrs (all RFA). Field Brigades were eventually to consist of 3 gun and 1 how battery. RGA siege batteries had the obsolescent 6", 30-cwt B.L howitzer. All British heavies had been withdrawn from divisions over winter 1914-15 and formed into Army artillery under the MGRA (even if they were promptly sub-allocated back to divisions, they remained under central control).

 

There's a report by GHQ in June 1915 that looks specifically at the relative strengths of field and heavy guns, finding that the Germans had 7,150 field guns and howitzers and 3,350 heavy guns and howitzers of 5.9" calibre and over. The BEF had 1,080 field guns and 407 heavy guns 'of calibres over 4.5"'. In early 1915 the first 8" hows arrived and were formed into Reserve Heavy Artillery Groups (RHA), soon changed to Heavy Artillery Reserve (HAR) to avoid confusion with the horse artillery. 60-pounders and 4.7" hows joined the HARs in spring 1915. Thereafter, the heavy artillery organisation continued to grow and evolve, with their ordnance being the BEF's 60-pdr, 6", 8", 9.2" (guns and hows), 12" and 15".

 

Had it been in the BEF, anything like the French gun in the OP would be classed as heavy (greater than 4.5") and would generally be used in the counter-battery role under a centralised command.

 

HTH,

 

Richard

 

 

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1 hour ago, Old Forge said:

Hi Ross,

 

...

 

There's a report by GHQ in June 1915 that looks specifically at the relative strengths of field and heavy guns, finding that the Germans had 7,150 field guns and howitzers and 3,350 heavy guns and howitzers of 5.9" calibre and over. The BEF had 1,080 field guns and 407 heavy guns 'of calibres over 4.5"'. In early 1915 the first 8" hows arrived and were formed into Reserve Heavy Artillery Groups (RHA), soon changed to Heavy Artillery Reserve (HAR) to avoid confusion with the horse artillery. 60-pounders and 4.7" hows joined the HARs in spring 1915. Thereafter, the heavy artillery organisation continued to grow and evolve, with their ordnance being the BEF's 60-pdr, 6", 8", 9.2" (guns and hows), 12" and 15".

 

...

 

Richard

 

 

 

Thanks for that! I hadn't realised how comparatively weak the BEF had still been in artillery, with the war already so far under way. The next year must have seen pretty substantial changes to provide for the Somme bombardments. Or did the German numbers incude deployments on the Eastern Front?

Edited by MikB
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Chasemuseum
21 hours ago, Old Forge said:

RGA siege batteries had the obsolescent 6", 30-cwt B.L howitzer. All British heavies had been withdrawn from divisions over winter 1914-15 and formed into Army artillery under the MGRA (even if they were promptly sub-allocated back to divisions, they remained under central control).

Thanks Richard, 

I had not realized that the RFA heavies were withdrawn back under central command MGRA, as I had always thought of the Infantry Division having a battery of 60pr attached - but had not considered that they may not fall directly under Divisional command.

 

The point of my post had been to try draw the distinction between field and heavy artillery as a function of mobility and deployment, in a period when the horse was still the primary element of field transport.  

 

Cheers

Ross

 

PS I included the obsolete guns like the15-pr BL in the list as some of these were pressed into service on the Western Front despite their being pretty much useless. Similarly the BL 5-inch howitzer saw some use on the Salonika Front.

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That all makes for very interesting reading 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Does this sound a possibility?

 

From the book Artillery Through The Ages by Colonel HCB Roger's...

 

The first country to produce it's own howitzer was France. The equipment was the Rimailho heavy QF field howitzer of 6.1 inch calibre (155mm). Because of its weight the howitzer travelled on a special two wheeled cart, its cradle remaining on the gun carriage. It had rear trunnions allowing a recoil of 60 inches and was anchored by drag shoes under the wheels.

Standard projectile was 95lb HE although a few shrapnel were also carried.

Full charge range 5400 yes but there was an extra charged carried for half of the shell which increased the range to 6600 yards.

Edited by Alan24
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Rod Burgess

That's not a howitzer: it's a gun.

In simple terms, guns are long in relation to their calibre and fire relatively high-velocity projectiles on relatively flat trajectories; mortars are short in relation to their calibre and 'lob' low-velocity projectiles on high, arcing trajectories; howitzers are somewhere in between. Put crudely, guns are long and thin, howitzers are shorter and fatter and mortars are usually pretty stubby! As someone has already said, this beast looks as if it has a calibre of the order of 6 inches or about 15 cm but a length of about 25 feet or fifty calibres. That very firmly puts it down as a gun, not a howitzer.

Also, as someone has said, many large artillery pieces were broken down into multiple loads for transport both because of the weight of the assembled piece and because of their often unwieldy dimensions. (for example, the British 9.2 in How with its stubby barrel and weighing almost 6 tons was broken down into three loads for movement (see the pic). Even today, some longer artillery pieces move the barrel & breech assembly from the firing position into a different configuration for movement (eg the British L108 Light Gun, which swings the barrel through 180 degrees to lie over the trail, making a much handier item to manoeuvre in confined spaces). Another consideration is that a long, heavy barrel has considerable momentum and would place quite a strain on even a clamped elevating and traversing arrangement as it swung about, going round corners and over bumps, so it's better retracted 'out of battery' or rearranged to be supported at both ends for movement.

 

Ross & Richard: I suspect the original question was not intended to ask "Is this a field gun?" (as opposed to a 'heavy' or 'siege' piece) but simply "Is this an artillery piece? (as opposed to a water pipe or something). Yes, it's an artillery piece, more specifically a 'gun', and more specifically still would probably be classed as 'heavy artillery' in most armies. And, sadly, no - I can't identify this French heavy gun.

9.2inchHowitzerTransportWagons.jpg

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Old Forge
10 hours ago, Rod Burgess said:Put crudely, guns are long and thin, howitzers are shorter and fatter and mortars are usually pretty stubby! As someone has already said, this beast looks as if it has a calibre of the order of 6 inches or about 15 cm but a length of about 25 feet or fifty calibres. That very firmly puts it down as a gun, not a howitzer.


The definition of a howitzer is that it can fire in the high register (range decreases with elevation), which has nothing to do with barrel length. FH70, M109A2 and AS90 are all howitzers, but also have long barrels (from memory, FH70 was 39 calibres). 

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2 hours ago, Old Forge said:


The definition of a howitzer is that it can fire in the high register (range decreases with elevation), which has nothing to do with barrel length. FH70, M109A2 and AS90 are all howitzers, but also have long barrels (from memory, FH70 was 39 calibres). 

 

There are nearly always exceptions and borderline cases in any set of definitions.

 

Your examples are modern (-ish), using very different targeting and observation capabilities from those of WW1. For the period, I'd say Rod was pretty much right.

 

 

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Rod Burgess

[Sorry for the edit: somehow I manged to post before I’d finished typing. I also apologise for the long history lesson, to set the context.]

 

You're right, Old Forge: I was grossly over-simplifying. What defines a howitzer, as opposed to a gun, (at least in modern British usage) is the nature of its projectile's ballistics. Up to 45 degrees elevation (so-called 'low angle'), the range of a given weapon, for a given projectile and charge, will increase and above 45 degrees ('high-angle') it will decrease.

In times long-gone, the three classes of artillery were defined rigidly by the length of their bore in calibres.

In Napoleonic days:

  • In British usage, guns had a bore which was 12 calibres or more in length.1 Guns fired solid shot or various types of canister/case/grape/chain/bar shot with a  constant propellant charge for each type of projectile. Somewhat less than 10% of British gun ammunition was ‘spherical case’ (invented by Col Shrapnel), although the percentage increased later.2 Their normal firing elevation (strictly, their 'quadrant elevation', ie the angle the bore made with the horizontal) was what would later be described as 'low-angle', their muzzle velocity relatively high, their trajectory a relatively long, low parabola and their range adjusted by altering the barrel's elevation. Shot was expected to bounce or 'graze' (a bit like skimming a stone on a pond), being lethal even after several grazes. Guns were classified by the weight of a solid cast-iron round-shot which fitted the bore (6 pounder, 9 pdr etc, their so-called 'nature').

  • Howitzers were, to modern eyes, pretty stubby (bore less than 12 calibres long, but more than 4½).1 They had a distinct propellant chamber at the back end of the bore, unlike guns, which had a constant-diameter bore. They never fired round-shot but only hollow, exploding 'shells' (‘common shell’ or ‘spherical case’) at lower velocity but often at higher elevations, lobbing them in an arc over friendly troops or obstacles. They used fixed charges2 for each given projectile type (of different powder from the guns) and varied the range by changing the elevation. Since they did not fire solid shot, their nature was described in terms of their calibre in inches (eg the British 5½ inch Howitzers).

  • Mortars were very short and stubby (4 calibres or less), had their trunnions at the rear end of the barrel and were generally mounted on a fixed wooden or iron bed. They also had chambered bores. They fired only exploding, hollow shells or bombs or various other kinds of hollow projectiles (carcass, sometimes shrapnel etc). They fired at a fixed elevation (generally 45 degrees) and varied their range by altering the size of the propellant charge. Their muzzle velocity was low and their trajectory a high, arcing parabola. They were classified by their calibre in inches. Mortars were generally used in siege work for bombarding fortifications or lobbing bombs over the walls into the innards of a fortress or fortified town.

By 1914, things had changed considerably, not least because of the introduction of rifling, breech-loading and modern propellants. Indirect fire, where there was no direct line of sight from gun to target, was developing. The old-style mortar had disappeared completely and the line between gun and howitzer had blurred somewhat. Solid shot was never used, except in naval armour-piercing rounds). Famously, the British 13 & 18 pdr field guns did not even have an HE shell, but only shrapnel, until later. Guns, generally, were still longer than howitzers and fired relatively high-velocity projectiles at low angle with constant charges. Howitzers were, generally, shorter and tended to fire lower-velocity projectiles at higher angles, using variable charges to permit different trajectories to the same target range. For example, the British BL 60 Pdr Mk I gun was 31.8 calibres long with an m/v of 2,080 fps and a range of 12,280 yds (using the 8 crh shell)3, while the BL 6-inch 26 cwt howitzer was 13.3 calibres long with an maximum m/v of 1400 fps and a range of 9500 yds (using the WW 1 100 lb shell).4

A different kind of mortar was in its infancy. These were almost exclusively smooth bore and muzzle loaded, light-weight weapons which fired only at high angle and short range, useful for dropping bombs into trenches, behind cover and over friendly troops and obstacles. The lighter mortars were classed as infantry weapons but the larger, heavier pieces were regarded as true artillery. Interestingly, in the early days they were often referred to as ‘trench howitzers’.

 

Later still, solid shot, in a different form, made a re-appearance as an anti-armour projectile. Some nations developed larger mortars (eg the German WW 2 “Karl” self-prop of 600 mm calibre and weighing in at 124 tonnes), some with breech-loading. Most field pieces became dual-role ‘gun-howitzers’ (eg the famous 25 pdr), capable of high and low-angle fire, with variable charges and assorted projectiles (the 25 pdr even had a solid shot AP round). In the 1970s and -80s, our party trick with the M109A1 155 mm self-prop used to be hitting the same target at the same instant with two shells fired from the same gun! We’d fire a high-angle shot at nearly minimum range, using the maximum charge, Charge 8, reload and fire a second round at low-angle at the same target with a much shorter time of flight while the first round arced up to around 60,000 feet altitude and came plunging down onto the target from above. Now that’s a gun-howitzer!

 

Now you see why I simplified my post #19. The piece in the pictures is long and slender, so it’s pretty clear it’s a gun, not a howitzer, in WW 1 parlance. The M109 A1 & -A2, the FH70 and the AS90 are regarded as howitzers because they can fire in high angle with variable charges. No howitzer of the WW 1 era was nearly as long (in calibres) as these.

1           Haythornthwaite

2           Adye, quoted in Frarnklin

3           US Army Ordnance Dept

4           Farndale

References

Adye, RW. The Bombardier and Pocket Gunner, 7th Edition, London, 1813.

Farndale, General Sir Martin. History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery. Western Front 1914-18. Royal Artillery Institution, London, 1986. ISBN 978-1-870114-00-4

Franklin, CE. British Napoleonic Field Artillery, The History Press, Stroud, 2012. ISBN 978 0 7524 7652 0

Haythornthwaite, Philip J. Weapons & Equipment of the Napoleonic Wars, Arms & Armour Press, London,1996. ISBN 1 85409 393 2

US Army Ordnance Dept. Handbook of Artillery, [US] Government printing Office, Washington, DC, 1920 avl at

     https://archive.org/details/handbookof

Edited by Rod Burgess
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Chasemuseum

Thanks Rod much appreciated. Love the story of the gun/howitzer shoot, would have been fantastic to observe.

 

Regards the gun in question, I think that we all can agree that from a Great War perspective, it is:

    French

    A gun not a howitzer

    A heavy

    Was used for indirect fire, 

 

For the actual identification of the model, my references on French artillery are very lean.  Based on "French Military Weapons 1717-1938" Maj J E Hicks 1964, the most likely candidate is "Canon de 145 modele 1916", a 145mm gun manufactured at St Chamond, with a weight of 12.5 tonne. However please understand this identification is very rough and may well be wrong.

 

Cheers

Ross

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Rod Burgess

Or is it a prototype for Saddam's supergun with crew in period French uniforms and the photo artificially aged to fool western intelligence agencies? Probably not.

 

Completely off-topic aside: If you're into artillery and you ever go to IWM Duxford to look at the Land Warfare Hall, nip along to the American Air Museum hangar. They have a small section of the Iraqi 'supergun' barrel tube.

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16 minutes ago, Rod Burgess said:

They have a small section of the Iraqi 'supergun' barrel tube.

 

There's also a section at the Royal Armouries, Fort Nelson near Portsmouth. Made in Sheffield. 

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