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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Area and Optimum No. of Guns

Nathan Greenfield

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After the collapse of the French following the gas attack at 5 p.m. on 22 April, on the left side of the Ypres Salient only the Canadian guns remained. There were some 32 18 pounders and 8 4.5-inch howitzers for about 12,000 yards of front.

This works out to about 342 yards a gun.

Does anyone know what was the optimium yards/gun ratio? and what was the normal?



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  • 2 weeks later...

While many accounts of WWI battles mention such things as 'guns per yard (or metre) of front', it is impossible to come up with an ideal ratio. One reason for this is that defensive positions, while often referred to as 'lines', were not lines in the geometric sense of the word. That is to say, they were areas that, in the course of the war, tend to grow larger. Another reason for the lack of an ideal ratio is the influence of such things as topography, soil conditions, and the design of defensive positions. Finally, one must take into account nature of the weapons employed (range, calibre and rate-of-fire), the kinds of projectiles available, facilities for observation and communication, and, last but certainly not least, the effect of enemy action.

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Many factors are involved and most have been listed above. Others are the skill of the gunners and the quality of the ammunition. It is argued that on the Somme, 1st day, that there were many duds and that Haig's insistence on going for a breakthrough rather than a 'bite and hold' gave the available guns too large a target. In later actions in 1918 gunner staff work allowed the rapid making of fire plans and many more guns and more ammunition was available.

Old Tom

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