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PhilB

37mm Trench Gun

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PhilB

I believe the French 37mm trench gun shown was also used by the Americans in WW1. I`m not aware that the British used it. What usage was the gun designed for? Was it supposed to be carried into combat? Phil B

post-2329-1112452063.jpg

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DrB

m13pgb...there is a very well known picture of the Yanks firing this thing in an area of woods. Almost all of the "coffee table" potted histories will have this picture.

37mm doesn't seem very large, but I think it was considered to be a very small piece of artillery. I could be wrong, and doubtless more WWI affectionadios will have more info on this thning.

DrB

<_<

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PhilB

This one, Dr B? I`m curious as to how this weapon would have been deployed in trench warfare. It looks like it weighs a lot and the rounds must have been weighty too! What type of shell would it use? Phil B

post-2329-1112459238.jpg

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Robert Dunlop

The 37mm gun used by the Americans was provided by the French. There are more details here:

http://www.landships.freeservers.com/37mm_gun.htm

The Austro-Hungarians and the Germans both had 37mm calibre guns as well. In the latter case, they were developed as anti-tank weapons.

The French 37mm started out as an infantry support weapon but also came to be considered as an anti-tank weapon as well. There are descriptions of them being carried forward in the American attacks towards Soissons for example, thence positioned on the flanks. The solid shell could penetrate the shields used to protect machine guns. I have read anecdotal reports of them being used in this way to suppress MG nests. The high rate of fire was helpful in making up for the relatively small calibre shell. The web site mentions the use of a grenade and the later introduction of the shell filled with black powder. I have not seen any reports of these in action.

The British investigated using the 37mm. After several tests, it was not taken on.

Robert

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Robert Dunlop
It looks like it weighs a lot and the rounds must have been weighty too! What type of shell would it use?

Phil

See previous posting for information about the types of projectiles. As to the weight of the gun, there was a version on wheels, pictures of which are available on the web site. However, the version that features in the photograph broke down into relatively light-weight components that were more easily carried. You can read how they were used in trench warfare but they really came into their own in the more open warfare in late 1918. As you can see from the photograph, the gun suffered from a very flat trajectory which meant it was only useful at short ranges, well short of its potential maximal range.

Robert

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Paul Reed

From my own research I have found that French infantry units regularly used it as a close support weapon in combat and carried it right into battle. It was good for taking out MG bunkers and strongpoints; at Maurepas in September 1916, the Germans had a MG nest inside a water tank. The Colonial troops attacking brought up their 37s and took it out. Amazingly the water tank is still there still showing the scars of 37mm hits from 1916!

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Robert Dunlop

Phil

There were photographs of the solid projectile here:

http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/i...ndpost&p=104592

It would be worth having a look in the archive where the photographs will be still be available - search the forum with the same name as this one for '37mm shell'

Robert

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PhilB

Thanks. I had a look but the picture doesn`t appear! :( Phil B

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Robert Dunlop

The use of the 37mm was revealed in Evan's book "Retreat, Hell! We just got here!: The American Expeditionary Force in France 1917-1918" (Osprey). The cover has the photograph of the 37mm being used in Belleau Wood to support the attack on Bourreches. The second photo inside has the caption: " Consolidating

the line. A 37-mm anti-tank gun battery being set up near St Benoit, 19 September."

Jager describes the following German 37mm infantry guns:

3.7cm Grabenkanone - literally 'trench gun'. Designed by Krupp, utilising 'offspring of the old five-barrelled Gruson revolving guns... when it was replaced by the single shot quick-fire 5cm case mate gun'. Mounted on a U-shaped beam with two different shield options: one (13mm thick) for firing from an enclosed position; larger shield for firing from an open position. The gunner could use a small mirror on the side to observe fall of shot! Smaller version could be manhandled.

3.7cm Sturmbegleitkanone - designed by Krupp, also based on the tubes of 3.7cm revolving gun. The shield was in four parts and the trail held 2 planks for crossing ditches, etc. It fired 3 types of projectile: impact fused shells (anti-infantry, blockhouses), canister (48 13g balls), and bombs launched in high angle mode like

a minenwerfer.

Here is some information about the German experiments with 37mm infantry guns, from a secondary source (German PhD thesis) quoted in "Command or Control?" by M Samuels

'On 2 March 1915, OHL ordered the formation of a Sturmabteilung (assault detachment) to test a new lightweight 3.7 cm assault cannon. When the barrage lifted, small parties of engineers would advance, protected by armoured shields, and clear paths for the assault cannon, which would then be manhandled forward ...the cannon would engage machine gun and artillery posts with high-explosive shells and use grape shot against enemy infantry. Casualties were heavy, 184 men and six guns being lost in the first fortnight alone. The one discovery of value was that the 3.7cm guns were too light, being no more effective than machine guns or mortars, while their pronounced muzzle flash made them easy for the enemy to locate and direct artillery fire against.' pp 88-89

'The first infantry guns were unsatisfactory. The 3.7cm assault cannon fired too light a shell and was too easily located.' p90

NB: the German 3.7 cm assault cannon appears to have been significantly heavier than the French/US version. This would have adversely affected mobility.

Quote from a caption under the photograph of a French 37mm gun on wheels in "The 1917 Spring Offensives: Arras, Vimy, le Chemin des Dames" by Yves Buffetaut (ISBN 2 908 182 67):

'Training on a 37-mm gun. This gun appeared to be of little use in trench warfare, but two notes from general Nivelle dated from early 1917 insisted on its role in anti-tank defense. While there was no indication that the Germans did have tanks, the French commander-in-chief preferred to make the first move'

Robert

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Robert Dunlop

Phil

I have retrieved the picture of the 37mm shells.

The French 37mm gun teams had 6 crew: gunner, loader and 4 ammunition carriers.

Robert

post-1473-1112462929.jpg

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PhilB

Thanks, Robert. Rather short cartridge would indicate low velocity? Phil B

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Paul Reed
Quote from a caption under the photograph of a French 37mm gun on wheels in "The 1917 Spring Offensives: Arras, Vimy, le Chemin des Dames" by Yves Buffetaut (ISBN 2 908 182 67):

'Training on a 37-mm gun. This gun appeared to be of little use in trench warfare, but two notes from general Nivelle dated from early 1917 insisted on its role in anti-tank defense. While there was no indication that the Germans did have tanks, the French commander-in-chief preferred to make the first move'

Very surprised to read that, as it does not tally with my own research using French regimental histories. However, Buffetaut's books aren't always reliable I have found.

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Robert Dunlop

Phil

I can't add anything to your observation. I will keep a watch for any relevant information about this.

Paul

I agree with your interpretation. Immediately after the war, a US Army review rated the 37mm gun as more valuable to the infantry than Stokes mortars. This might be going too far the other way but suggests that the 37mm was regarded by some as being more effective than Buffetaut makes out. I am not familiar with the French literature but a French colleague has always claimed that the 37mm was well regarded in the French army. It is interesting to note though how little information there is about the 37mm in action when reading American accounts of the war.

Robert

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Paul Reed

Thanks for those comments Robert: I have always felt this an under-rated weapon.

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Old Tom

The 37mm round in the centre of the picture looks like a round for a 'Pom-Pom' (so called by the noise of its slow? rate of fire. This was a 'machine gun' based on the Maxim design. Some were made by Vickers (UK) and were purchased and used by the Boers in South Africa. I have read that it had some use as an anti-aircraft gun in WW1, and that is was deployed with infantry by the French. I don't think it was in service with the BEF. The US forces in France used much French artillery equipment.

Old Tom

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Robert Dunlop

Tom

The history of the British 2nd Division records that Pom-Poms were bought over from England and deployed behind the trench lines that had formed just after the Battle of the Aisne. It was said that this significantly restricted the previously unhindered flights of the German Taubes.

Robert

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Old Tom

Hello,

I have just been reading about WW1 artillery and have come across the 1.59" (about 40mm)Crayford. An interesting piece with a recoil system and what we would now call a muzzle brake (or nearly so). The book called it a gas deflector. It was developed by Vickers, Son and Maxim at Crayford, Kent. It seems that a few reached ground troops for trials but it was not satisfactory. It was used from aircraft as an anti Zeppelin weapon.

I had thought it odd that the Brits did not introduce a trench gun as being more accurate than a mortar and also capable of deployment as an infantry weapon. Possibly as means of attacking entrenched machine guns and pill boxes.

Old Tom

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Robert Dunlop

Trench guns were tried early on in the war. Four 13 pounders (from T and U Batteries RHA) and 2 18 pounders (12th Battery) were put into the front lines in support of the attack at Festubert for example. I recall that mountain guns were used on one occasion. The wheels were covered with rubber to avoid any sound when the guns were manovered into position. The guns were very effective, being able to cut wire, demolish parapets and attack enemy MG nests (when these could be identified). But the practice was not continued. I am not sure if this was due to the vulnerability of artillery firing in directly from within the front line. Certainly this was the German experience.

Haig described seeing a demonstration of 18 pounders firing the new HE shells. The targets were thick parapets that were easily demolished in direct fire mode. However, the guns had to be anchored down. Haig was impressed with the effect.

Robert

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Old Tom

Hello,

I gather that the origin of the 37mm calibre was a clause in a Geneva Convention which decreed that 37 mm was the smallest allowable explosive projectile.

There seem to be two applications in WW1, as a machine gun mainly in the anti-aircraft role and as a trench gun.

I think the object of trench guns was to give the infantry a weapon small enough to be man portable (I think the 37 mm could be carried in pieces of the same order of weight as the Vickers MG) and would allow targets to be engaged directly without having to request support from another arm i.e artillery. Of course the Vickers was removed from the infantry and replaced by the lighter Lewis. I expect that is one of the reasons why the BEF did not take up the Crayford or the 37mm in the trench role.

Old Tom

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Old Tom

Hello,

Another snippet on the Pom Pom. I have just read (General Farndales History of the RA 14-18) that the Pom Pom, properly the QF 1 pdr Mk 1 was deployed in 1914. A section (2 guns?) was added to the divisional artillery in the anti-aircraft role in September. It was not very effective.

Old Tom

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Guest Chip Minx

Old Tom,

Got any info on the 1 1/2 pound Mark III anti-aircraft gun? I've been searching for a picture or any other details.

Regards,

Chip

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Robert Dunlop

Chip

I have searched all the sources I have access to. There is no mention of a 1 1/2 pounder Mk III. The closest (other than the one pounder) was the two pounder Mk II, mentioned in Hogg's book on anti-aircraft artillery. Sorry I couldnt be of more help.

Old Tom

There is a picture of the QF Pom-Pom in Hogg's book. It was mounted on a standard gun carriage that appears to have been specially adapted. There is a vertical mount that projects ?about 2' about the axle of the carriage, with the gun mounted on top of that. The picture is taken from behind and the gun is in maximum elevation so the details are not clear. The sight is off-set to one side. Sorry that I unable to reproduce the picture but it is worth chasing down if you are interested.

Robert

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Guest Chip Minx

Robert,

Thanks for looking. I have a 1918 dated shell case with this marking. I have been told that it was used with an anti-aircraft gun. I've had no success finding a picture of the gun that fired it.

Best regards,

Chip

Chip

I have searched all the sources I have access to.  There is no mention of a 1 1/2 pounder Mk III.  The closest (other than the one pounder) was the two pounder Mk II, mentioned in Hogg's book on anti-aircraft artillery.  Sorry I couldnt be of more help.

Old Tom

There is a picture of the QF Pom-Pom in Hogg's book.  It was mounted on a standard gun carriage that appears to have been specially adapted.  There is a vertical mount that projects ?about 2' about the axle of the carriage, with the gun mounted on top of that.  The picture is taken from behind and the gun is in maximum elevation so the details are not clear.  The sight is off-set to one side.  Sorry that I unable to reproduce the picture but it is worth chasing down if you are interested.

Robert

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Plan

Louis Barthas, who's war recollection are published (in french at least*), actually served in a 37mm gun unit starting in 1916.

According to him, the gun could be taken apart in two pieces, weighting about 40kg** each. It was usually animal drawn, but failing that, could be carried by men. Barthas mentions men taking turns at carrying it every few minutes. There are no mention of anti-tank or anti-aircraft role at that time (1916). But he does mention the trauma of having their gun wheels stolen. To avoid persecution for the loss, they proceeded to steal someone else's gun wheels.

Interestingly, he, at one point describe the canon as a "bronze cylinder" ("cylindre de bronze", end of booklet 15). Bronze?

*Barthas, Louis. "Les carnets de guerre de Louis Barthas, tonneliers".

** from memory

Pascal

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