Drill regulations for quick-firing field artillery






Mounted instruction. The text listed the different orders that the gun commander gave to the gunners to enter and leave the park, to harness and unharness the horses, to mount and dismount, to drive the gun and the ammunition wagon, to hook and unhook the gun. It gave also detailed instructions about the replacement of drivers, gunners, and horses, sharing the remaining ones between the guns and the ammunition wagons.

As for the battery illustrated the different route formations, explaining how move to one to another, how to change the direction of travel, how to increase and decrease the interval between the pieces and the columns, how to reconnoitre and occupy a position, how to move from the route to the battle formation, and how to change the front of the battery in battle formation.


Choice of the position. The choice of the area within which field artillery had to take position was determined by the tactical situation assigned to battery and by the nature of the ground and the shape of the place. The only rule in choosing a position was to post the guns so that they were able to develop the most effective amount of fire. At first, all conditions being equal, covered positions should be preferred rather than open ones, but when artillery received the order to open fire immediately, all technical advantages were left behind, and only makeshift shelters should be used.

The commander of the troops designated the area where the field artillery was to find its positions and influenced the distribution of the batteries by indicating the duties which were to be performed. The artillery commander examined that area and chose the places to be occupied in order to deploy the artillery fire under the most favourable conditions.

 When from a covered position it was impossible to fire at the approaches near the battery emplacements, to avoid revealing the whole artillery, some batteries were placed out of the enemy sight to open fire suddenly on the enemy troops, when they were approaching.


Firing line_by degree

The selected area should be quite large, since in deploying a great amount of guns in a single position the best solution was to place the batteries by level, because this formation assured a larger freedom of action, diminished the effect of enemy’s fire and increased his difficulties in adjustment.


A good fighting position was characterized by :

–   a large field of fire with good observation posts, in order to fire at various targets without changing position;

–   a front as perpendicular as possible to the line of fire (the fire against shielded batteries, however, was more effective when it came from the flanks);flanks secured by natural hindrances (artillery should avoid, however, to occupy places covered by bushes, where it might be surprised by the enemy);

–    the rear on a slope and without object in full view in order to have safe and concealed communications;

–   wide position in order to deploy the guns at great intervals, change the firing front, withdraw the guns, be covered against the enemy fire;

–   a ground lay enabling the deployment of the gun out of the enemy sight and the direction of the action from the command post (quite high place should be avoided since they were easily visible, reduced the effect of fire having a great dead space, required a lot of time to occupy or change the position;

–   ground features that made difficult the adjustment of the enemy sight: the position should be masked with the guns placed 300-500 m behind the mask, the emplacements should be in flat ground to easily move the guns by hands, while the ground before them should be soft as not to facilitate the bounce of the bullets;

–   ground features that made difficult the adjustment of the enemy sight: the position should be masked with the guns placed 300-500 m behind the mask, the emplacements should be in flat ground to easily move the guns by hands, while the ground before them should be soft as not to facilitate the bounce of the bullets;

–   easy approaches to go in and out of the position;

–   proximity of good cover for teams: limbers and battery reserve, especially wagons carrying high explosive shells, should be placed out of the enemy sight.


If the guns were placed in a covered position the regulations listed some additional rules :

–   when the position was behind a ridge, the emplacements should be 500 m behind the covering ridge in order to reduce the dead space and the losses caused by the enemy fire;

–   with the flash defilade the emplacements should be at least 4-5 m below the line of defilade;

–   when the ground was undulate, the emplacements should be behind the second fold of the earth;

–   when the guns had to be to bring out of the ridge in an upper position, the new emplacements should be prepared before, building earth-shelters, while the ascent was made running and out of the enemy sight;

–   when the ground was covered with dust the commander should take measures (drenching the ground, spreading grass or hay) to avoid that the emplacements of the guns would revealed by the rising dust.

Of course positions combining all of the above qualifications were seldom or never found. Therefore the artillery commander should always choose a position that did not fulfil all these conditions, instead of delaying the entry into action of the guns in an attempt to find a better one.


Reconnaissance of the position. The reconnaissance of the artillery positions was made by the artillery commander and his immediate subordinates, assisted by their respective reconnaissance officers and scouts. The reconnaissance should be very detailed, especially when the combat was at the start and the position and strength of the enemy were not known. For this purpose the regulation introduced the charge of orienting-officer (офицер-ориентьр). During the combat the accompanying batteries have to debouch near the enemy, coming into action quickly for the support of the attacking troops. So they should occupy their position without full reconnaissance. The text offered also a detailed list of the main reconnaissance duties pertaining to various officers in charge of an artillery force comprising several batteries : the head of artillery, the division and battery commanders.


Preparation of the position. The preparation of the positions could be active and passive. As a rule they were carried at the same time, but when there was not enough time, the active preparation should precede. The care for the fire preparations was of the utmost importance, since it insured to adjust the fire without the enemy being able to forestall it. Battery commanders should realize that it was a mistake, going into action, to seek only the prompt opening of fire as a means of shortening the critical period inseparable from all taking up of battery positions. With masked position only the adjustment might be dangerous, since the enemy by then knew the position of the battery, the preparatory phase could be carried without risk.

Active preparation was directed to take all the measures to increase fire power of the battery. It included :

–   the choice and the arrangement of good observation stations, from which an observer could easily see all the territory assigned to him to cover, properly observe the fire of his guns, and promptly communicate with them by telephone, signals and orderlies;

–   the determination of the firing data, choosing good aiming points, surely visible from the emplacement of each gun of the battery; selecting some landmarks, that should be marked on perspective sketches with the indication of the distance from the battery; setting the fuze; measuring the auxiliary angle and fixing the  kind of projectile to be used.

Passive preparation was directed to reduce the effect of the enemy artillery fire. It could be obtained :

–   by means of trenches, shelters or at least only with gun shields;

–   removing all the points that might be used by the enemy as landmarks or aiming posts, to make easier its adjustment and accelerate the passage to fire for effect;

–   building dummy trenches and dummy batteries, that could deceive the enemy, attracting its fire.


Marking of the position. When the position had been chosen, it should be marked, placing men or objects, so that the guns could easily occupy their emplacements, keeping the correct alignment with respect to the line of fire. A position could me marked in three different ways : marking their flanks, i.e. where the right and left guns had to rest, marking the line of alignment of the guns or even the single emplacements of every gun. If the position was occupied by night, it should be marked the day before and every obstacle should be accurately marked to be avoided during the approaching march.


Occupation of the position. The approach to the position should take place out of the sight of the enemy. When the way was not protected by the infantry, the senior officer attached to the battery took measures to defend the exposed flank, sending a non commissioned officer in that direction. When the battery moved out of the roads or across unknown places, it should be preceded by 2-3 scouts.

Before occupying a fighting position, if the reconnaissance was not yet finished, the battery stood under cover near the combat area in preparatory position (подготвителен позиция), where it got ready to take up its emplacements without hindrance and open fire without delay: the equipments were checked, the ammunition wagons opened, the duties fixed, signal troops sent to the fighting position. The preparatory position should not be occupied, when the place was open and the battery was moving under the enemy fire, or when it had to take up an observation or an awaiting position.

When the commander ordered to take up the fighting position, the whole battery went on simultaneously and, where possible, under cover. In open ground the going out took place at a smart pace in extended formation or in line of columns; in open and rough ground in line of columns at variable distance. At any rate it should avoided uniform pace, constant course and moving in the rear of the batteries already in position. In taking up a position in height, the best was to unlimber the guns behind the ridge and run up them to the emplacements by hands.


Changes of positions. If possible, artillery should be placed at the outset in positions from which it could act effectively throughout the various phases of the engagement, since the interruption of the fire should be avoided as much as possible. A growth of the range was not in itself ordinarily sufficient to warrant a change of the position, in fact artillery fire could be powerful and effective also at great ranges, such as 2500–3500 m for field artillery. As a rule the artillery emplacements should not be more than 1500–2000 m near the enemy infantry: a closer position exposed the gunners to greater losses, without increasing their fire power. However the batteries advancing with their infantry (accompanying batteries) could close on to defeat the enemy in disarray.

As a rule a change of the position had to be ordered by the head of the unit, but if a quick action was required, especially when the infantry needed support fire, every artillery commander on his own account could order the change of the position, reporting immediately his decision to his senior. Artillery commanders should anticipate and prepare the movement, sending scouts to reconnoitre and select the route and the approaches to the new position, while battery commanders should take care also of the ammunition supply. The position should be changed with jumps of not less than 700 – 800 m, by echelon and quickly (at trot).

Changes of position should always be made under cover if practicable, and the new position should be occupied without the enemy’s knowledge in order to opening fire at him by surprise. Therefore the guns were limbered out of the enemy sight to leave the position unnoticed. Changes of position of larger bodies of artillery were usually made by echelon, by division or by battery, a portion of the force being always left in position to cover the movement of the remainder. When there was no target to fire at from the old position, the whole artillery could change its position at the same time. A single battery was not ordinarily echeloned for a change of position, but sometimes a quick-firing battery could more opportunely change its position by sections.



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