Direction on sapper works for field and mountain artillery





The Russo-Japanese War had clearly shown the importance of field fortifications, not only for infantry but also for artillery. Therefore already in 1905 the Military Ministry decided to publish a Проекто-наставление по сапьорите работи за полската и планиската артиллерия (Draft direction about sapper works for field and mountain artillery).

It comprised three parts :

I. Generalities. Tools and materials. Artillery shelters.

II. Military communications.

III. Bivouac and household buildings.

The objective of the Direction was to ensure that the lower ranks of the field and mountain artillery were able to carry out simple sapper work, leaving the more complex ones to the pioneers. The instruction of the artillery crews had to be carried out during the school year and the manoeuvres.


Generalities. The purpose of the shelters for guns and personnel is to hide them from the eyes of the enemy, protect from bullets and splinters from artillery shells and provide convenience for shooting and rest.

The tools are : large (portable) shovel, large (portable) pickaxe and small hatchet.

The materials used for the sapper works in field and mountain artillery are :

1)    earth, which is the main material from which shelters for guns and the personnel are made;

2)    clods, usually 30x30 cm in size and 10-15 cm high, used to build embankments – they are stacked with the grass below, except for the top layer, which is stacked with the grass above;

3)    reeds, wood straw and brushwood, used to cover the slopes, being interposed between the mound of earth and the posts driven along it;

4)    wooden ropes, made by twisting the straightest and most tenacious rods – they should be 1-2 cm thick and 1.5-2.00 m long;

5)    mesh, used to overcome artificial obstacles and as flooring in field bridges, to make light shelters and for camouflage, in order to be transported comfortably, they must be no higher than 1.5 m and no longer than 3 m – they are made by driving stakes 3-5 cm thick into the ground of a flat place, in a straight line, at a distance of 30 cm from each other and at a depth of 30 cm and tying their tops a straight shaft;

6)    fascines, usually 2.6 m long and 25-35 cm thick;

7)    clamp, made with a rope 1 finger thick and 1.8 m long, with handles at both ends and two poles – they are used to tighten the fascine bundle to the required thickness.


Artillery shelters. They are trenches for the servants, dug-in artillery trenches, and entrenched batteries. Every artillery shelter consists of an earthen embankment (parapet) and a dug out zone (ditch).


Servants’ ditches (SW1) are built when there is no more than an hour and a half. From the gun directrix, measure 3 paces right and left for the gun platform, from the ends of the platform measure 3 ˝ paces sideways and 1 ˝ pace wide of the ditch with steps to exit the ditch onto the platform. Four servants (two for every ditch) are needed to dig the ditches; the excavated earth is piled up in front of the ditches to form the embankment. Two more servants make a 50 cm high mask in front of the gun with bushes, grass, etc. Finally, even the embankments are masked).


With not quick-firing guns, having more time, to better protect the guns and servant from the looks and shrapnel of the enemy, they can built a dug-out trench for the guns (SW2b). The ground is dug to a depth of 40 cm, and the earth is placed in front to build an embankment, with a height of 50 or 40 cm and a thickness of 1.5 cm. To dig this kind of trench six servants are required : two for each ditch and two for the platform, when the men assigned to the ditches have finished their work, they go to help those who are working on the platform. Building such a trench takes 3 ˝ - 4 hours).

When the ground is rocky or swampy and does not allow digging, only horizontal trench for guns (SW2a) can be built. In this case, the embankment is filled with transfer materials, and the platform remains on the horizon of the ground; the platform is outlined like in the dug-out trench, but without the descent. To cover the servants, instead of ditches, the flanks of the embankment are high up to 1.40 m and the hollow in front of the gun is masked.


With field guns with shield, when there is no time, guns and ammunition wagon are masked. When time allows it, a shelter for the ammunition wagon is built on the left of the gun. With more time, it is possible to build the same trenches – horizontal (SW04, SW05) or dugout (SW06, SW07) used with not shielded guns described above.

With mountain guns with shield mark the directrix with two stakes, and then from one of them describe a circle with a radius of 1.5 m and an arc with a radius of 1.1 m : in this way, both the platform and its descent are marked (SW 08). The trench is dug by the six servants : two for the ditch and four for the platform.


The shelters can be improved with :

      niches for shells (SW 20), built in the servants ditches : in front of them the embankment is thickened to 2.5 m, with earth taken from the external ditch, for its arrangement, at the beginning of the construction of the trench, in the place where it will be made, the servants put trees on the ground, then they dig under them – a niche is 70 cm high, 90 cm  deep and 70 cm wide, its floor is 10-15 cm above the ditch bottom;

      covers for ammunition wagons (SW 10 for not QF guns and SW 11 for QF guns). built either behind nearby shelters or directly on the line of the trenches, with one caisson serving two guns – they connect to neighbouring trenches via communication trenches;

      armoured shelters to protect the personnel and ammunition wagons from the heavy splinters of the shells.


Two or more side-by-side gun trenches with communication trenches joining the gun emplacements together form a trench battery (SW 09). The distance between the directrices of two adjacent trenches is 12 paces. When around the flanks of the battery there are no natural covers for the hidden placement of battering charges and shells, armouries are built there. Officer shelters, observation posts (SW 12), etc. are also built on the flank of the battery. The trench batteries are built in the same way as the gun trenches.


Military communications. Crossing a ford with field guns, the depth of the ford should not cover the gun barrel (80 cm), with mountain guns, it should reach the shoulder blade of the horse (1 m). The speed of the current should not be greater than 1 m per second, and the bottom of the ford should be solid. To mark the point of the ford along its length, stakes are driven in by day and lanterns are placed on the stakes at night. The battering charges must be prevented from getting wet and the guns must run at the prescribed distances.

Crossing on ice, for men, the thickness of the ice should be no less than 4 cm, for single horsemen, or for the mountain artillery loaded on the saddles or placed on sledge, no less than 8 cm, and with a thickness of 15 cm, the field guns can only pass when drawn by native horses. The descent to the ice, and the exits to the shore, are piled with earth, straw or mats. On ice the servants lay planks on which the wheels of the gun pass.

Crossing military bridges, the drivers dismount from their horses and lead them by the bridle; only the people who ride native horses stay on horseback. The foot and mounted servants dismount and must walk a few paces behind their guns. The distance between the guns should be 25 paces. Guns should not be stopped on the bridge. The guns should go closer to the underside of the bridge, and with strong winds, closer to the leeward side.


Field bridges for artillery. The width of bridges for mountain artillery should be not less than 1 m, and for field artillery not less than 2.5 m. If the width of the obstacle is not large, on the two sides of the bank, the servants build a frame, on which they arrange poles, boards or trees, and on top of them, crosswise, trees covered with earth (SW 13). On wider obstacle are built bridges with intermediate supports. If the obstacle is larger, stakes are driven in every 2 m, and are connected transversely with boards or trees; on them, the servant make the pavement of the bridge, or build basket bridges.


Roads for artillery. The width of roads should be not less than 1 m for mountain artillery and not less than 2.5 m for field artillery. Turning radius for field artillery should be no less than 8 m, on level ground, and no less than 20 m when descending and ascending. The slope should be no more than 1/4 for field artillery and 1/3 for mountain artillery. If there are long descents or ascents on the road, horizontal platforms should be made from place to place. In the case of dirt roads, pits and ditches are filled with stones, rods or fascines placed in a cross, and covered with a layer of wood 20-30 cm thick. The marshy places are filled with a row of fascines, covered by straw or sticks, reeds or bushes and earth. In the case of mountain roads, the servants widen narrow passages, build rest platforms (SW 14) and fill the pits (SW 15), putting parapets where the passage is most dangerous.


Bivouac. Ordinary tents consist of 6 canvases, 4 for the roof and 2 for the covers. A channel is dug around the tent to drain the water. A tent can be improved by digging the chosen place is dug ˝ span deep (0.30 cm), or even more if the height of the stakes allows, and building the rear open side of the tent with mass of earth, stones, sticks, etc. The roof of the tent is made by tying 6 planks, stretched over poles 2 ˝ paces (1.75 m) long (SW 16). This tent is 7 paces long (4.5 m) and 3 paces wide (2 m) and can accommodate 6 people. However if the place is wet, digging is impossible, and the walls are built with earth, stones and greensward o make them higher. In this case, the tent is a little narrower and weaker.


Wooden dugout. To build wooden dugout, mark out a platform 5 paces (3.5 m) wide and as long as the number of people, counting one pace (60 cm) per person. Between the furrows, dig a pit 3 feet (60 cm) deep. At the front of the pit, dig another 1 ˝ feet (30 cm) to form a passage 4 ˝ feet (90 cm) wide, then cover the dugout. For this purpose, inwardly bent poles are pushed along the edge of the front flap of the passage, 2-3 feet (40-60 cm) apart, which they connect from above to a wooden crown with ropes (SW17, SW18, SW19).

When the stakes are insufficient, make in the front part of the dugout a wall of clods. At the rear end of the dugout, dig into the ground, along its entire length, wood for support. Make the roof with round planks (cusps) arranged with the thin end forward and spaced 15-40 cm, one end of the planks rests on the support, and the other on the crown to which they are connected. Over the cusps put bushes, straw, reeds, boards, sticks, etc., and cover them with a coat of earth one span thick, or with sticks. The earthen floor, for people to lie on, is covered with straw.

In winter, the front and side walls are built with stones, bricks, shingles, straw, reeds, clods of earth, etc. A door is placed in the front wall, and fireplaces or stoves are made in the side walls. The pit should be burned before the construction of the dugout. To drain the rainwater, a ditch is dug around the dugout.


The direction also gave indications for building latrines, fireplaces for cauldron or boiler, and for lighting up people, field ovens, and devices for filtering the river water.