Drill regulations for quick-firing field artillery
Firing instruction. The text listed the different orders that the gun commander gave to the gunners to open fire.
Direct fire from open position to an uncovered target :
– with time shell : 1) at that line of troops (battery…), 2) elevation x, 3) corrector x;
– with percussion shell : 1) at that battery (post, trench…), 2) percussion fire (with H.E. shell), 3) elevation x.
When the commander want consider the derivation, the influence of the wind or the inclination of the axle, after the elevation he added right (left) x. If such deflection was not ordered, the clinometer was set at plate 10, drum x.
Fire from masked or covered position :
– with time shell : 1) aim at that target, 2) plate x, drum x, 3) level up (below) x, 4) elevation x, 5) corrector x;
– with percussion shell : 1) aim at that target, 2) plate x, drum x, 3) level up (below) x, 4) percussion fire (with H.E. shell), 5) elevation x.
If the angle of sight lacked, the commander ordered : level null. To change the level, he ordered level up (down) x. To increase the elevation of ½ mil, the correction could be made on the elevation, but only on the level, the commander ordered elevation x ½, increase!
As soon as the gun was aimed according the commander’s order, the aimer said ready! and the commander for the first shot! At that order, the breech-blocker, the loader and the commander went back outside the wheels, and the aimer. Then, to open fire, the commander ordered first (second) and so on.
To change the target, the commander ordered the new target and the new firing data, then the aimer ordered : move the gun. The gunners moved the gun accordingly : the aimer and the left shell-handler shifting the left wheel, the breech-blocker and the right shell-handler the right wheel, the fuze-cutter and the loader the traversing lever.
To repel an attack at close range (by infantry – 400 m, by cavalry – 700 m), the commander ordered : 1) at the file (cavalry…), 2) elevation x, corrector x, 3) rapid! Fire ceased as soon as the threat ceased.
Only in exceptional case (e.g. if the battery was surprised when it was assuming the route formation), when commander believed that time firing delayed opening fire, he ordered percussion fire : 1) at the cavalry (file…), 2) percussion fire (with H.E.shell), elevation null, 3) aim at the ground, rapid!
Methods of fire. The text listed the orders that followed the firing data to obtain the different kinds of fire (e.g. at that line (battery…), elevation 20, corrector 45, sweeping!) :
– fire by order : the aimer fired only when he heard the number of his gun: first, second…;
– slow fire at a set speed : the commander ordered slow fire one (two…) at a time per minute, the aimer fired when received the order;
– storm of fire : the commander ordered one (two…) at a time, rapid!, the aimer fired the number of rounds established in advance without receiving another order;
– fire to break up :
a) for a front 30-60 m length, the commander ordered by four, sweeping!, the aimer fired three rounds, shifting after each round by 4 turns of the hand-wheel left;
b) for a front 30-60 m length, the commander ordered by eight, sweeping!, the aimer fired three rounds, shifting after each round by 8 turns of the hand-wheel;
c) for a front 70-150 m length, the commander ordered at that line, to break up!, the aimer fired five rounds, shifting after each round by 8 turns of the hand-wheel;
– progressive fire : the commander ordered progressive!, the aimer fired eight rounds, increasing the range of 100m every two rounds, the elevation were ordered by the gun commander before every couple of rounds;
– progressive sweeping fire : the commander ordered by four (eight), progressive, sweeping!, the aimer fired twelve rounds of sweeping fire, increasing the range of 100m every three rounds, (one round at initial position, two rounds left, one round at initial position, two rounds right, and so on);
– progressive fire at an order : the gun commander ordered 50 (100), at an order, progressive!, but the gun, charged and aimed at a range increased by 50 m or 100 m, fired only when the aimer received the order fire!
Suspending and ceasing the fire. Suspending the fire, at the order free the gunners could leave their places, without moving away from the guns. Resuming the fire, at the order stand, they occupied again their places. If the gun was subjected to a severe enemy fire, the gun commander ordered took cover, and he, the aimer, the breech-blocker and the loader took cover behind the gun shield, the fuze-setter and the shell-handlers behind the caisson.
Ceasing the fire, at the order halt, the gun was arranged for the route :
a) the aimer put the level at null, covering its bulb, put the carriage in the middle of the axle, made the butler bear on its bed, locked the elevating wheel, and covered the left seat;
b) the breech-blocker closed the breech, put the safety-piece in route position, covered the right seat and hung the lower part of the shield;
c) the loader put the traversing lever in route position;
d) the fuze-cutter set the fuze-setter for percussion fire and the corrector at 50, and put them in the caisson;
e) the shell-handlers put the cartridges in the caisson.
Firing with reduced personnel. If the number of the gunners was reduced by casualties in action, it was advisable to share the remaining ones between the guns, in order to have at least four gunners for every piece. If necessary, the battery could keep firing with only three guns. The missing men were replaced as follows :
a) with five gunners remaining, if the aimer or the fuze-cutter were missing, the gun commander named the most suitable of the remaining gunners to replace them, and the right shell-handler took his post;
b) with four gunners, the aimer opened and closed the breech-block;
c) with three gunners, the fuze-cutter loaded the gun;
d) with only two gunners, all the duties were performed by the aimer and the fuze-cutter;
e) as a rule the gun commander took the place of one of missing men when there were only three gunners.
The defilade. As for the emplacement the position was regarded as :
– open, when the guns were visible from the target and they could aim at it with direct laying;
– masked, when the guns were concealed from the enemy sight by folds of the ground or by some ground features, like bushes, hedges, fields;
– covered, when even the flash of the firing gun could not be seen from the enemy.
Even if at that time the prevailing opinion was that artillery had to fire from masked or covered positions and only exceptionally from open positions, the Regulations emphasized that the guns should be placed where they could perform the task assigned and achieve their goals. Therefore the defilade was the result of the tactical tasks and of the shape of the place, and the artillery should not hesitate to occupy even open positions, if necessary. However, since firing from masked and covered positions was not easy and required experience and knowledge (e.g. measure of the angle of site), artillery should be appropriately trained in peace in order to make the most of indirect laying.
To fire behind a cover or a mask it is necessary :
1. to verify whether the trajectory could clear the cover;
2. to determine what was the smallest elevation at which it was possible to fire;
3. to ascertain the angle of site (i.e. the difference in level between guns and target).
Therefore the text presented some different methods to fulfil these requirements, both practically and theoretically. If possible, the battery commander directed the fire by person from his observation post, but, if the distance was too great, he transmitted his orders by signal and telephone.
The degree of concealment (defilade) varied as follows :
– dismounted defilade (дефилиране на човешки ръст – défilement de l’homme à pied) : the guns were placed where a dismounted man could just see the enemy position over the mask : the battery was prepared for firing easily and quickly; there was no danger that the trajectory hit the mask, except when it fired at a very short range; the dead space was small. But the battery could be destroyed by enemy shrapnel fire and the guns could not be brought into or out of the position out of the enemy sight, except when they were run up by hand;
– mounted defilade (дефилиране на конник – défilement de l’homme à cheval) : the guns were placed where a mounted man could just see the hostile position over the mask : it allowed to occupy a position covertly and to leave it unlimbered and limbered, preserving complete freedom of manoeuvre; it allowed to aim quickly when the battery commander was mounted, but had the disadvantage that the dead space was much greater;
– flash defilade
на блясъци – défilement
des lueurs) : the guns were placed about
If the mask was high
The major objection against firing from a covered position was that it caused a dead space in front of the covering crest, the extent of which depended on the degree of defilade assumed. The higher was the cover, the greater was the extent of the dead space. However it could be reduced by occupying the front slope of a second crest, instead of placing the guns directly behind the cover. At any rate the battery commander, making his preliminary reconnaissance, should accurately determinate the minimum range at which he would probably be called to fire and estimate the extent of the corresponding dead space, in order to take the most convenient firing position, selecting the degree of defilade to correspond to the this condition.