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German advantage over the Entente in terms of artillery


Brusilov
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Hi!

I am currently reading about the Gorlice-Tarnow campaign by Dinardo. 

One feature of the German army was its extensive use of heavy artillery (howitzers). After looking around, the French was able to develop Canon  75 modele 1897, but they don't have that many large guns like the Germans. I looked up on the statistics of guns of both sides during Verdun and the Germans held an advantage.

I am not sure about the British artillery.

Just some questions:

1) Do you know how did the Germans focus on developing and stockpiling artillery?

2) Do you know how did they actually deploy on all fronts? Why didn't the Germans suffer from shell shortage like the British and the Russians (it is obvious to me that Germany was much more developed than Russia, so that is an easy explanation).

3) Is the intense development of German artillery the result of her experience during the Franco-Prussian War? In that war, the French had Chassepots, a better rifle, but they suffered from outdated artillery compared to the Germans. Germany had so many Krupp artillery pieces that the French was simply badly mauled.

I would appreciate if you can provide some names of howitzers used by Germany, as well as some statistics. 

Thank you!

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20 hours ago, Brusilov said:

Why didn't the Germans suffer from shell shortage like the British and the Russians ?

I think pretty much every army suffered from a shell shortage during 1915 as stockpiles got depleted and nations struggled to gear-up to the enormous scale of modern warfare. Even in Germany shortages of vital raw materials - particularly cotton, camphor, pyrites and saltpetre - meant that it was difficult to expand production. There were ‘only’ 8.9 million shells made in Germany during 1915. Although things improved markedly during 1916 (a four-fold increase in production) due to greater use of synthetic substitutes. But by 1917 & 1918, the naval blockade had really started to bite and the military demands for ever greater resources proved difficult to satisfy - leading to severe shortages in many other areas.

MB

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1 hour ago, KizmeRD said:

I think pretty much every army suffered from a shell shortage during 1915 as stockpiles got depleted and nations struggled to gear-up to the enormous scale of modern warfare. Even in Germany shortages of vital raw materials - particularly cotton, camphor, pyrites and saltpetre - meant that it was difficult to expand production. There were ‘only’ 8.9 million shells made in Germany during 1915. Although things improved markedly during 1916 (a four-fold increase in production) due to greater use of synthetic substitutes. But by 1917 & 1918, the naval blockade had really started to bite and the military demands for ever greater resources proved difficult to satisfy - leading to severe shortages in many other areas.

MB

Hi KizmeRD,

Thanks for your input. I find it very useful.

Among major nations that joined the war, I only knew of the Russians who lacked so many shells that they could not mount an effective counter-battery fires at the Germans during the Gorlice-Tarnow campaign. 

The result is massive failure that resulted in a permanent loss of Polish Russia and beyond.

-------------------------------------------------

I would like to quote some assertions that I read from a small book called "L'evolution de l'Artillerie pendant la guerre" by General Gascouin (1921):

Quote

"La guerre va entrer en guerre sans artillerie lourde", te est le crie qui s'est repandu chez nous, en juillet 1914, comme un cri d'alarme, a la suite de seances parlementaires emouvantes et de campagnes de presse rententissantes et pour le moin inopportunes"

"Notre artillerie lourde sera le facteur principal de nos success futurs" ont proclame, d'autre part, certains generaux allemands, a des critiques de fin de manoeuvres, dans les annes qui precederent la guerre. (page 17)

Quote

Voici brievement resumee, la situation de notre artillerie lourde.

Il n'existe pas, effectivement, dans nos unites-Divisions, ni dans nos unites-Coprs d'Armee, une seule batterie d'artillerie lourde.

Artillerie lourde francaise.

Il existe, dans l'unite-Armee, comme artillerie lourde organiques d'armee, un certain nombre de groupes (trois, quatre, cinq groupes par armees, suivant le role devolu a chacune d'elles) qui constituent toute notre artillerie lourde.

Ces groupes sont de formation recente; ils sont armes des materiels suivants:

105       long modele 1913, canone moderne a tir tendu portant a 11,000 metres, en fabrication et encore tres peu nombreux.

120       courte modele 1890, Baque, piece genre obusier leger mais manquant de precision et de portee (5000 m.) (destinee a etre remplacee progressivement par le 105).

120       long modele 1878 de Bange, portant a 9,000 metres.

155       court Rimailho, modele 1904, portant a 6000 metres (page 18-19)

Artillerie lourde allemande.

Dans l'unite-Division: 18 obusiers leger du calibre 105, materiel moderne, d'un rendement fort avantageux, mais ne portant alors qu'a 6000 metres.

Dans l'unite-Corps d'Armee, 16 obusiers lourds de 150, materiel moderne, puissant et mobile portant alors a 8,000 metres.

Dans l'unite-Arme, u nombre variable de groupes armes, les uns de mortiers de 210, les autres de canons longs (1), de 10, de 13, de 15, toutes pieces modernes, en general, portant respectivement a 9,000, 10,000, 13,000, 14,000 metres.

Tout ceci pouvait se chiffrer tres approximativement par:

1,500   obusiers legers de 105.

1000    obusiers lourds de 150.

1000 mortiers et canons lourds susceptibles d'etre amenes sur le champ de bataille. En outre, un nombre considerable de canons, d'obusiers et de mortiers de siege generalement anciens.

On voit quel facteur de superiorite pouvaient constituer ces materiels modernes, puissants et relativement mobiles.

En particulier, l'obusier leger de 105, tres mobile, a tir rapide et a tir courbe, fut un engin d'une utilite constante dans la geurre de tranchee comme dans la guerre de mouvement, sur lequel nous reviendrons souvent. (page 19-21)

There are few terms that I am not familiar with:

What are "unites-Divisions", "unites-Coprs d'Armee", "l'unite-Armee".

Does this mean that at a divisional level, at a corp-army level, and at a army level?

I hope this information is helpful.

I am surprise that there have not been a thread focusing on this issue. 

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Looking at the story of Verdun - surely the ultimate artillery battle - I read that between February 21st and July 15th 1916, the Germans fired twenty two million artillery rounds at the French in that fighting , who responded with fifteen million .  That’s three German shells fired for every two French, approximately .  That was the turning point : thereafter, the artillery war turned against Germany, except for the huge Kaiserslacht onslaught of March to June 1918.  It was in the earlier part of the war that the Germans held the advantage.  Here I refer to the Western Front only.

Editing : If memory serves me, when the Verdun battle was at the peak of intensity in the first half of 1916, the Germans deployed about 2,200 pieces there, against about 1,750 French.  Hardly a huge advantage for the attacking side.  I don’t know how many of the guns on either side were heavy or medium calibre.

 

Editing again : come to think of it, when the French attacked the Germans at Vimy in May and June 1915, and again in Champagne and Artois in September of that year, didn’t they display a significant advantage  over the Germans in the array of ordnance in those sectors ?

Phil

Edited by phil andrade
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20 hours ago, charlie2 said:

There is a German comparison chart for Verdun and the Somme listing the numbers of artillery pieces by caliber.

https://digi.landesbibliothek.at/viewer/image/AC01859962/732/#topDocAnchor

Charlie

Thanks so much, Charlie.

 

It was a bit of a struggle for me to read it on this little iPhone .

 

I must look at it again in easier circumstances and make comments, and ask questions .

 

A comment here and now : this superiority in German artillery might reflect more skilful deployment and better practice rather than greater material resources.

 

German failure in 1914 availed the retiring invaders of the chance  to select the more enviable positions for the siting of artillery, and the Germans exploited that advantage with lethal effect.

 

Phil

 

 

Edited by phil andrade
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The Germans at the start of WW I had the advantage over the Allies in heavy artillery. This was because in their pre-war plans they realized they were going to have to attack a number of Allied fortresses so they stocked up on it. At G-T offensive the Germans had good Austrian maps of the area, aerial photos and were able to do silent registration with a lot of their artillery. The Russians did have a good supply of ammo but, they mismanged their shell supply.  I would also say the Russians at G-T were poorly deployed with too many men it the front trenches. They also lacked reserves. It also appears that the Russian high command lost control of the situation after the breakthrough.

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A remarkable feature of the early part of the war in France and Flanders, as regards artillery performance, is the astonishing intensity and weight of fire that several hundred British guns brought to bear at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle in March 1915.

The weight of shell that was unleashed on a tiny sector of the German front line exceeded anything that the British deployed against the Germans in the preliminary bombardment at the Battle of the Somme, if we gauge by number of guns per yard.

 

There was also aerial artillery spotting and liaison with the gunners on the ground by British aircraft .

 

Would I be right if I cited this as an episode in which the British were ahead of the Germans in terms of the artillery war ?

 

If so, it was something of an anomaly, and certainly portentous .

 

Phil

 

 

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On 13/09/2021 at 12:03, James A Pratt III said:

The Germans at the start of WW I had the advantage over the Allies in heavy artillery. This was because in their pre-war plans they realized they were going to have to attack a number of Allied fortresses so they stocked up on it. At G-T offensive the Germans had good Austrian maps of the area, aerial photos and were able to do silent registration with a lot of their artillery. The Russians did have a good supply of ammo but, they mismanged their shell supply.  I would also say the Russians at G-T were poorly deployed with too many men it the front trenches. They also lacked reserves. It also appears that the Russian high command lost control of the situation after the breakthrough.

Oh, that is very interesting. Before reading this, I just thought that the Germans possessed more technology and industrial capacity to produce heavy artillery, like even above 300mm caliber guns. Yet, this could not explain why the British outgunned them during Somme.

I guess my knowledge is still very shallow.

But then why the Austrian-Hungarian army also possessed a large number of big guns during Tarnow-Gorlice?

On 13/09/2021 at 16:52, phil andrade said:

A remarkable feature of the early part of the war in France and Flanders, as regards artillery performance, is the astonishing intensity and weight of fire that several hundred British guns brought to bear at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle in March 1915.

The weight of shell that was unleashed on a tiny sector of the German front line exceeded anything that the British deployed against the Germans in the preliminary bombardment at the Battle of the Somme, if we gauge by number of guns per yard.

There was also aerial artillery spotting and liaison with the gunners on the ground by British aircraft .

Would I be right if I cited this as an episode in which the British were ahead of the Germans in terms of the artillery war ?

If so, it was something of an anomaly, and certainly portentous .

Phil

Do you happen to know the book that mentions this? It is extremely interesting to me. I've just googled it and it confirms what you said.

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On 15/09/2021 at 20:01, Brusilov said:

Oh, that is very interesting. Before reading this, I just thought that the Germans possessed more technology and industrial capacity to produce heavy artillery, like even above 300mm caliber guns. Yet, this could not explain why the British outgunned them during Somme.

I guess my knowledge is still very shallow.

But then why the Austrian-Hungarian army also possessed a large number of big guns during Tarnow-Gorlice?

Do you happen to know the book that mentions this? It is extremely interesting to me. I've just googled it and it confirms what you said.

Forgive my failure to cite a particular book.  I have certainly read about this, and have browsed through several books on my shelves, but cannot find the original source for my comment.  What I can state with certainty, however, is that in the attack on Neuve Chapelle on 10th March 1915, the British deployed 352 guns on a very narrow front :  this equated to one gun for every ten meters of frontage attacked. In the preparatory bombardment on June 1916, the British used about 1,500 guns on a frontage of about fifteen miles : if my arithmetic is correct, this implies a concentration of about one piece for every sixteen meters.....hoping that I've got my Imperial and Metric measures right !

 

Phil

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Brusilov: The Austrians also realized per-WW I they were going to need heavy artillery to for use against fortresses so they designed the 30.5cm Mortar/howitzer see landships.info,Austro-Hungarian artillery of WW I on wiki. and Austria-Hungary's last War 1914-1918 on line.

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It is interesting that you said so. Obviously I have not held fortresses in high regard. I should study more about fortresses. I thought they were outdated and were not the focus.

Yes, the Austrians also possessed large guns manufactured by Skoda.

It seems that the only army that were not well prepared for guns was the Russians.

I have bought one book of  Барсуков (Barsukovo) Подготовка России к Мировой войне в Артилерийском Отношении (Readiness of the Russian artillery in the World War)

I have just bought yesterday another book by Кирей В. (Kirey) Артиллерия атаки и обороны (Attack and Defence of Atillery).

For some reasons, online sources say Kirey is considered a German Bruchmuller. I have not read anything about his performance as Russian artillery commanders in the World War.

Considering Russian artillery performance during the World War 2, I have to say they had made a long stride towards modernising their army. Barsukov also wrote a series of books on the Russian/Soviet artillery. Its title is Артиллерия русской армии (1900-1917 гг.) by Barsukov. I think it was the most detailed exposition of Russian artillery before and during the World War, up to the Revolution.

Edited by Brusilov
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The book "The Eastern Front 1914-1917" by Norman Stone deals about the shell, artillery, fortress ect problems. I think it was on audio books I may have more info

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on archive.org the books:

The World Crises Vol 6 The Eastern front by Winston S Churchill

With the Russian Army 1914-1917 Alfred Knox 

Both have a little on fortresses in the East.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Some things that i believe should be taken into consideration when looking at the artillery of the opposing armies.

Size of the shell.  Once troops are dug in, you needed a big shell to hurt them. The British and French could throw literally millions of 75mm or 18 pounder shells at dug in Germans and really not do a lot of damage.  So for instance, a British 18 pounder High Explosive shell contained approx .368 kg of HE,  a French 75mm shell contained .688 kg,  but a German 150mm contained 6 kg, and a German 170mm Minenwerfer shell contained 37 kg.  

That's assuming you are even firing HE.  The British 18 pounders all the way up to the Somme were firing mostly shrapnel shells.

Did they have hydraulic recoil?  This dramatically improved weight, accuracy and rate of fire.  Basically a gun with hydraulic recoil was several times effective as a gun of similar size without it.  The French, in particular, pressed into service thousands of  obsolete Heavy Artillery pieces starting in 1914, but they lacked hydraulic recoil and so were not nearly as effective.

Ability for indirect fire.  Does the weapon have a high firing arc?  This allowed the piece to lob a shell up into the air and straight down onto a fortification or trench.  It also allowed gunners to hit positions behind obstacles, such as trees, or located on the reverse slopes of ridges and hills.

Taking these factors into consideration it appears to me that the Germans had a huge advantage in artillery at the beginning of the war. The German 77mm gun was probably  inferior its  British and French counterparts, but German Divisions had integral 105mm Howitzers and 170mm mortars in pioniere units. At the corps level the Germans deployed 150mm and 210mm Howitzers.

Above Corps level they had several hundred other modern heavy pieces ranging from high velocity 100mm guns up to the famous 305mm (Austrian) and 420mm Krupp Mortars.

Keep in mind, the Germans had all this in 1914.

Neither the French nor the British had anything like this number of large calibre modern heavy artillery.  The British were forced to slowly expand along with their army, while the French pressed into service thousands of obsolete weapons while they also manufacture modern guns. 

Now I don't mean to say Allied artillery was bad.  Field guns were great in 1914 in open combat.  After that they could create rolling barrages, cut wire, smother the enemy in gas shells.  If a shell lands on my head it's academic weather the gun that fired it was made in 1910 or 1880, and the few modern heavy guns the British and French did possess in 1914 were great, they just didn't have anywhere near as many

When exactly the Allies "caught up" with the Germans in modern heavy artillery is a great question :-}

You also asked about Russia, but my knowledge is very limited.  They seem to have had some really well designed artillery pieces but my impression is that a lot of them were stationed in fortresses rather than in the field armies, and that the army lacked the doctrine, training and logistics to make good use of the ones that were, with exceptions of course like the Brusilov offensive.

Great discussion, hope you don't mind the long reply.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thinking differently here : how far does importance of heavy artillery depend on warfare being positional, or static ?  Break the stalemate, open up the battlefield, and the superiority in heavy ordnance diminishes in its importance.  By breaking open the static battlefield in March 1918, the Germans exposed themselves to conditions which favoured quantity and rapidity of shellfire, rather than the deployment of heavies.  In this regard, were the Germans the architects  of their own downfall ?

 

Phil

Edited by phil andrade
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On 09/09/2021 at 18:06, Brusilov said:

Why didn't the Germans suffer from shell shortage like the British and the Russians

To quote from Hermann Cron‘s „Geschichte des Deutschen Heeres im Weltkrieg 1914-1918“

„…….. the first battles had already required a much higher consumption of ammunition than had been foreseen. The necessary restraint in ammunition consumption, however, was counteracted by the fact that the enemy also had to impose restrictions on themselves, for the ammunition crisis was also affecting them. Thanks to the energetic production of ammunition at home, however, the OHL was "relieved of any serious concern in this respect as early as the spring of 1915. This gratifying state of affairs remained until midsummer 1916. It was not until the demand exceeded all expectations during the simultaneous large-scale battles in the Meuse region, on the Somme, in Galicia and in Poland in August 1916 that the ammunition situation temporarily became volatile again".“

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7 minutes ago, charlie2 said:

To quote from Hermann Cron‘s „Geschichte des Deutschen Heeres im Weltkrieg 1914-1918“

„…….. the first battles had already required a much higher consumption of ammunition than had been foreseen. The necessary restraint in ammunition consumption, however, was counteracted by the fact that the enemy also had to impose restrictions on themselves, for the ammunition crisis was also affecting them. Thanks to the energetic production of ammunition at home, however, the OHL was "relieved of any serious concern in this respect as early as the spring of 1915. This gratifying state of affairs remained until midsummer 1916. It was not until the demand exceeded all expectations during the simultaneous large-scale battles in the Meuse region, on the Somme, in Galicia and in Poland in August 1916 that the ammunition situation temporarily became volatile again".“

I have the English version of this book. Can't find the original German online.

Are you using German or English version?

Do you know what page number is it?

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24 minutes ago, Brusilov said:

I have the English version of this book. Can't find the original German online.

Are you using German or English version?

Do you know what page number is it?

its on page 146 of the 1937 German edition.

 

876573F9-35AB-46BF-A6AD-68EA6DCDBEE4.jpeg

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