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21cm & 15cm howitzer


kildaremark
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  • 11 months later...

A slight shift in topic. Can anyone tell me the organization of a German 21cm battery in 1914? Is it 4 batteries of 4 guns each, for a total of 16 guns in a battalion? I have looked high and low and cannot find the answer. Thanks in advance. Marc

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I am not at all surprised that the German howitzers and Moersers were handed over to TM crews. It was not uncommon for British trench mortar crews to make use of captured German artillery. In many assaults, such as Vimy Ridge, such crews were specifically tasked with going forward, finding and then re-using German artillery during the course of the fighting. This applied to those crews who manned the heavier, relatively non-mobile British trench mortars, not the 3" Stokes mortars. The latter often accompanied the assault troops in small numbers. Once the heavier TMs had completed their part in the preparatory bombardments, it made sense that the crews, who were now redundant essentially, should take up the new task. It also made sense given their Royal Artillery connections.

Robert

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Robert raises an interesting point - as always! I wonder if he could elaborate? Were the units at Vimy Canadian? I have gone through the war diaries of 18 Div's TM batteries but do not recall mentions of this precise role, allthough on 2 July 16 V Bty brought in wounded and four 4.2" Germ,an mortars, two 77 mm field guns, two Belgian field guns and one 17 cm minenwerfer.

Old Tom

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Can anyone tell me the organization of a German 21cm battery in 1914? Is it 4 batteries of 4 guns each, for a total of 16 guns in a battalion?

Prior to the outbreak of World War I, seven Fussartillerie battalions of the German Army were armed with 21 cm siege howitzers ("mortars"). These battalions consisted of four batteries, each of which was equipped with four howitzers. Upon mobilization, each of these seven battalions was split in two, creating fourteen wartime battalions, each of two four-piece batteries.

In addition to these active units, there were also five Reserve battalions armed with 21cm siege howitzers. These battalions consisted of four batteries apiece.

The active units, which were initially assigned as army artillery, were fully mobile units, with a full complement of horses. The Reserve units, which were initially assigned to siege trains, were not nearly as mobile.

Once the campaign began in earnest, however, this neat division of labour fell apart. Batteries were separated from their parent battalions, new battalions were formed, additional batteries were armed with 21cm siege howitzers, and some of the Reserve batteries were converted into fully mobile units by the provision of additional horses, harness, vehicles, and drivers.

At the end of the war, fifty fully-mobile heavy artillery battalions were equipped with 21cm siege howitzers. Rather than being 'thoroughbred' units, however, these battalions were mixed organizations. That is, while some of the batteries were equipped with 21cm siege howitzers, others were armed with 15cm guns.

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Franz Kosar, artillery expert, referring to the difference between a mortar and a howitzer writes, "Amongst the heavist calibers it is hard to find any technical difference between the two types. The differences only being distinguished within individual caliber groups. "

Paul is quite right. There was no technical distinction between the weapons that the Germans of World War I (and the years leading up to it) called Mörser and Haubitzen. Rather, the distinction seems to be an artifact of the siege artillery terminology used by the German Army in middle years of the nineteenth century. At that time, the German siege artillery had three categories of artillery pieces: guns (Kanonen), short guns (kurze Kanonen), and mortars (Mörser). After the Franco-Prussian War, it introduced weapons with barrels that were short than those of 'short guns' but longer than those of 'mortars'. These, which were initially called 'long mortars' (lange Mörser), were the ancestors of the 15cm and 21cm howitzers used in World War I. For some reason, however, the 15cm piece became known as a 'howitzer' (a term which was re-introduced into the official lexicon in the 1890s), while the 21cm piece retained the designation of 'mortar'.

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Hi Old Tom. The units at Vimy were Canadian. I am travelling again, so don't have the primary sources with me. I have also read multiple war diaries of most, but not all TMBs. The re-use of German artillery by TMB crews comes up several times, especially later in the war during the last 100 Days. While some units created special transports for getting the big TMs forward quickly, some recognised that the role of the big TMs was being surpassed. It seems to have been easier to re-use abandoned guns, which were being captured more and more readily, often with significant quantities of ammunition too. The Canadians featured more prominently in this approach, IIRC.

Robert

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Bruce:

Thanks for the lesson on 21cm battalions and batteries. For me, since battalion organizations were so variable, this means that I must use the battery versus the battalion as the basis for determining relative amounts of firepower from one battle to another.

Cheers, Marc

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