Schneider versus Krupp



The incontestable superiority of the Balkan States in artillery fire gave rise to a bitter dispute which lasted for some time between the French and Germans as to the relative merits of their artillery. This was because the allied armies, with the exception of Montenegro, were all equipped with a Schneider field gun, of a type very similar to that used by the French Army, whereas the Turks were provided with 75mm Krupp guns.

It was not only a technical matter, but also, and especially, a political and a business affair. The French press immediately announced with great emphasis that the disasters which had befallen the Ottoman Army in October 1912 were due to the weakness of the German weapons and to the faults of the German doctrines.

The French firm Schneider-Canet took immediately advantage of the opportunity. The promotional postcard reproduced below was printed just after the first victories of the Balkan Armies, since the copy I have was posted on 9 December 1912.


For instance Henri Barby, war correspondent of the French paper Journal and fervent Serbophile, in his books on the Balkan wars devoted an entire chapter respectively to the Serbian artillery (La guerrre des Balkans, pp. 273-287) and to the artillery during the second Balkan war (Brégalnitsa, pp. 305-314). The conclusion of his detailed analysis was simple: “The success obtained by the Serbian artillery during the campaign is the success of the French artillery, since the Serbian army used only our field and siege materiél. We must ascribe these successes to the indisputable merits of this matériel and of its ammunition, to the first-rate training of officers and men, to a system of fire discipline largely inspired to the French school.” The results got by the Turks, using Krupp guns and following the “old” German rules, were poor and ineffective.

The Bulgarian guns, even if similar to the Serbs ones, were less improved, having recoil system with springs, instead of compressed air running-up gears, and being not fitted for an independent line of sight. Therefore their fire was less effective, so that, according with monsieur Barby, Odrin fell only thanks to the support of the Serbian heavy guns.

The superiority of the French guns was so great, that German military experts were forced to reply to the criticisms. In November 1912 the German review Militär-Wochenblatt published a brief article, entirely devoted to the German guns employed during the first weeks of the war.


But the dispute was limited to Europe. On 9 November 1912 The New York Times published an interview with an alarmed German artillery officer, who had been with a Turkish battery during the battle of Lule Burgas, announcing that “French guns proved better than German”. He affirmed that the battle “was won by the overwhelming superiority of the French guns employed by the Bulgarians” and, even provided that the Turkish artillery was badly served, he was forced to admit that “the Krupp guns can fire neither so fast nor with anything resembling the accuracy of these deadly Creusots.” The conclusion of the newspaper was peremptory : “Germany must remodel artillery.”

The response was not late. On 28 November The New York Times published a letter of a certain Tomo Sargentich, who rebutted “the unfair deduction of superiority of the French Creusot guns over the German Krupp guns”. His reply was very simple: “The writer is not a German, but in the interest of truth and fairness ventures to assert his belief that the Krupp guns, manned and handled by the Kaiser’s artillerymen, are a very different weapon than the same Krupp guns manned and handled by the half-starved, wretched and ragged Turkish soldier.” This time too the conclusion was sharp “it was the men behind the guns – the brave Bulgarians – that won the day.”

Finally on 26 February 1913 The New York Times published “an authentic statement, emanating from high Bulgarian official circles… contradicting a widespread general opinion”. This time the expert was an anonymous Bulgarian officer. In spite of the common opinion, he emphasized that 75% of the guns, 90% of the ammunition – even for French material –, and all the fuses used by the Bulgarian artillery came from Krupp. Moreover he added that, as for methods and regulations, the Bulgaria had adopted the best that she could found in Italian, Russian, German and French Armies. Consequently he stated that “France was too quick in assuming laurels that by no means she is entitled to” and that it was necessary to have the highest consideration for “man behind the gun”. This statement was only partially correct, since the Krupp made guns of the Bulgarian Army were almost all not quick-firing guns that played a negligible role during the war.


But what differences existed between the Schneider and the Krupp field guns? Ballistically there was little appreciable difference. Both guns had the same calibre, 75 mm. Their projectiles had about the same weight: 6.5 kg for the Schneider shell and shrapnel; 6.35 kg for the Krupp ones. The muzzle velocity was about 500 m/s. The explosive shell carried a non-delaying percussion fuse. The weight of the piece in battery varied from 1000 kg (Turkey) to 1027 kg (Bulgaria) and 1040 kg (Serbia and Greece). The breech block was opened and closed by a single movement of the lever, by means of interrupted screw in the Schneider, and a wedge in the Krupp. The piece was discharged by a percussion mechanism. This means that the efficiency of a single shot was sensibly the same, whatever the material considered.

However there were some minor points in favour of the French model. First of all, they had a different recoil mechanism, which took the shock of recoil from the carriage, and the “recuperation,” or counter recoil system, which stored up the necessary energy to return the gun to its position in battery. All the brakes were hydraulic and utilized the resistance resulting from the passage of a liquid through narrow orifices. As for the “recuperation,” the Krupp gun was equipped with spiral recoil springs, the Schneider either with springs (Bulgaria) or a compressed air device (Serbia and Greece).

But it was especially in the method of laying that the Schneider gun possessed incontestable advantages. The gun could be moved in azimuth by a sliding of the top carriage along the axle, as in the French 75 mm Mle  1897. Moreover it had a sighting apparatus consisting of a goniometer with a sighting tube, capable of turning in azimuth. From these arrangements it resulted, first, that the force of recoil was always exerted in the direction of the trail spade, which prevented derangement of the laying; and, second, that the operations of lying were independent of the objective, which permitted flexibility of fire.

These advantages were only to a lesser degree in the Krupp gun. The latter, supported by a cradle, pivoted on a vertical spindle immediately underneath the middle of the axle and its sighting apparatus was not independent. From these arrangements it resulted, first, that the recoil had a component parallel to the axle, which caused derangement of the aim; and, second, that indirect laying, or masked fire was possible only in exceptional cases. Finally, the absence of the corrector scale in the Krupp material, and perhaps the bad quality of the shrapnel fuses, caused significant irregularities in the time fire.


But these defects were not sufficient to account for the superiority of the Allied armies in the artillery arm. Rather they had to be ascribed to superior training, organization, and esprit de corps. The Allies had had their guns for some six years; drill in occupation of positions, in marching, and in actual firing had been a part of their training, advantages of which the Turks had had little or none.



All the dates in this page are according the western – Gregorian – calendar.




Promotional postcard emphasizing the superiority of the French guns against the German ones