The employment of quick-firing field artillery in combat
Fire direction. The head of Detachment indicated in general terms the tactics of the combat, directed the fire and choose the targets to be shelled, according with the directives received by the head of the artillery. He choose the targets, controlled the fire, and gave to the battery commanders information about the main features and the distance of the targets. He also ordered to shift the fire at a different target. However, since the chance of target required a new adjustment, it should be carried out only after the fire had achieved all its purposes, unless a new important target appeared or rose a menace for the artillery or the tactical situation as a whole. The battery commander could change the target only if an unexpected attack or a combat nearby threatened his troops, if the communications with the head of the Detachment were cut or a particular area was assigned to his action.
The head of the artillery should control the fire, verifying whether 1) the order were understood, 2) the way of the fire was correct, 3) the results fit the requests of the head of the Detachment. At that purpose, he could employ, besides his orderlies, also other officers, and send some scouts to places from which the target can be observed.
The head of the artillery division should be informed about the effect of the fire of his batteries, sending lateral observers with the necessary orderlies.
As a rule, the fire ceased as soon as the objective was reached, and was resumed only if new results should be obtained. When the guns were not firing, the servants took cover. The division artillery commander could intervene in the adjustment only if the way of the fire was manifestly incorrect or there were mistakes in the conduct of the adjustment. The fire should concentrated and unexpected by the enemy. The batteries required to destroy a specific target should be chosen accordingly with the width of the front, in order to keep a sufficient number of batteries to fire at the enemy batteries that might appear subsequently.
Converging fire at the point of the main attack should impede the enemy to hold the position and the reserve to approach. At that purpose, the fire should be directed in depth to shell all the troops deployed in the position, in the flanks and in the rear, but avoiding to scatter the fire along the whole frontline. In order to open fire simultaneously all the batteries chosen to converge their fire should be put under only one commander.
The head of the artillery division gave orders to the battery commanders, indicating their targets and the firing data according with directions received from the head of the artillery. The battery commander modify the firing data according with its target and the position of its battery and switch the fire accordingly.
The direction of fire should match every kind of situations, in particular :
1) if the enemy artillery suspend its fire, the batteries received a wider front to shell employing slow fire, and moving suddenly to a rapid fire only where the enemy showed some activity;
2) if an important target should be destroy, it was advisable to beat it with sweeping fire, without interrupting to shell the rest of the front;
3) if the target was small, every batteries narrowed its fire to not disturb the fire of the remaining batteries;
4) even if only one or two guns were able to reach the objective, the battery unity should never be broken and all the guns should ever remain under the command of the battery commander: the artillery platoons could have different heads only exceptionally and temporarily.
As a rule, artillery fired above the heads of the troops, at an height sufficient to not trouble them: when troops were closest than 500 m, the batteries should not fire above their heads, when they were less than 300 m from the enemy line, the batteries should fire over their heads only to cover them or to switch the fire to the rear.
Reconnaissance of the targets. The head of the artillery was informed about the strength and the deployment of the enemy by an officer, designed scout of the targets (разузнавач на цельта), supported by 1-2 ground-scouts (разузнавачи на местностьта) and 1-2 orderlies.
The duties of the scout of the targets was :
1) to reconnoitre the strength and the deployment of the enemy artillery;
2) to reconnoitre the main features of the ground of enemy positions, the area behind and in front of them;
3) to follow the movements of the enemy artillery during the battle;
4) to observe the effect of his artillery on the enemy,
5) to observe in general the battlefield near the position of his troops and around the target.
The scout of the target was dispatched when the troops entered in the sphere of influence the enemy and a combat was regarded as probable. He moved with the vanguard of the cavalry column, and when it got in contact with enemy artillery, he tried to recognize its strength even during the march. Then he advanced as much as possible and occupied a good observation post, sending quickly detailed reports to the head of the artillery.
After the beginning of the combat, he played the role of observer of the battlefield (наблюдател на бойното поле), choosing an observatory from which he could watch both the enemy and the batteries. He informed the head of the artillery about the effect of the fire, the changes of the targets, the units not yet shocked, the position of the concealed enemy batteries, the hidden approach of enemy units, and so on.
Observation of the battlefield. The heads of every artillery unit established an observation post to be constantly informed about the progress of the combat and the changes of the tactical situation.
The observation of the battlefield was directed :
1) to assure the close defence of the batteries;
2) to facilitate the rapid support of the artillery to the other units of the Army;
3) to fulfil a rapid and effective fire at every targets that appeared in a specific area.
Besides the cover assured by the other troops, the artillery should provide for its security with its own means, employing its scouts mainly to watch its flanks: every flank battery, without any specific order, was responsible for the reconnaissance of the flank.
Cooperation with the cavalry. Even if at that time the Bulgarian Army had no horse artillery, the Instructions, following the French Règlement de manoeuvre, explained how the artillery should act during the cavalry combat.
During the reconnaissance, the artillery was attached mainly to the cavalry advance guard, in order to open her the way. In gorges, the artillery covered the exit and dominated the ground at great distance. The head of the artillery division left the head of the cavalry only when he should enter in action, after having received the necessary orders and directives. The firing position should neither disturb the movements of the cavalry nor be masked by the cavalry herself: if possible it should be away from the roads.
During the combat, the primary target of the artillery was the enemy cavalry, and only secondary the artillery. As a rule, the artillery shelled at first the head of the columns, then the front of the mass of the cavalry to prevent her deployment, and the enemy lines in open formation, as soon as they entered in the firing area of the batteries.
When the melee began, the artillery shifted its fire at the rear of the enemy to prevent the arrival of the reserves:
– if the cavalry began to retreat, the artillery employed its power to stop the pursuit of the enemy;
– if the enemy began to retreat, it ceased its fire and advanced at full speed, to support the pursuit with its fire.
In general, the head of the artillery should show great spirit of initiative and independence. Changing targets or positions, he should constantly operate without having received specific orders, according with the situation.
Since the artillery was constantly exposed to the surprise attack of the enemy cavalry, it should never be without cover. If attacked, the batteries continued their fire until the very last moment.
The horse artillery could play a basic role even out of the combat, since it operated rapidly and without engaging the different enemy columns. Therefore, it should occupy positions easy to quit in order to move rapidly to another place, as soon as it had reached its objective. The artillery division attached the cavalry units during the battle, remained always with them, operating usually at the flank or in the rear of the enemy.