The conduct of fire : fire for effect






Fire for effect (стрелба на поражение – tir d’efficacité). Fire for effect was the fire delivered after the fire had been adjusted in order to produce effect upon the target. Great importance was attached to open effective fire at the enemy in the shortest possible time after coming into action, in order to make his return fire ineffective. When the range was found, the accurate fire proceeded with until the target was completely destroyed.

Depending upon the nature of the target and upon the accuracy with which the adjustment had been secured, the fire for effect could be of two general kinds :

    Fire at single range (стрелба съ един мерник, tir sur hausse unique) : it was employed when  an accurate adjustment had been occurred. It was adapted to the attack of all stationary targets upon which an exact adjustment had been secured, or for the attack of moving targets as they reached a position upon which the fire had been previously registered. It was regarded as accurate and economic since, if the fire was properly adjusted, it could produce the necessary effect with the minimum expenditure of ammunition;

    Fire on an area, or searching fire, i.e. at successive ranges (стрелба по площад or стрелба съ разни мерници, tir par salves ou rafales échelonnées) : it was appropriate when it was impossible to secure exact adjustment upon the target. In that case it was preferable to enclose the target within the smallest limits that could be determined with surety and reasonable promptness and then to search the area thus enclosed by fire at successive ranges


The methods of fire usually employed to produce effect upon a target were :

    Single-shot fire by order (огън по команда) : at an order or at a sign of the battery commander, the guns fired at the same elevation, beginning from the right (with smoking powder from leeward) in succession by section or by battery. It was used as percussion fire against inanimate targets, in order to harass the enemy, when it did not offer a god target.

    Slow fire at a set speed (редък огън, с определена скорост – salvo) : at an order of the senior section commander, each gun fired 1 to 3 rounds per minute, according with the indication of the commander of the battery, in succession beginning from the right. If the firing speed was not set, the guns fired a round every 15 seconds. It was used in order to harass the enemy.

    Storm of fire (ураганен огън – rafales) : it consisted of a fixed number of rounds (usually 4) of rapid fire from each gun at the same elevation. Every gun fired as soon as it was ready, without waiting its turn. When it was necessary to fire more than 4 rounds, they were divided into two or more series, separated by a short pause. It was used to overwhelm a target rapidly or abruptly and to fire against a train.

    Progressive fire (прогресивен огън – tir progressif), which could be :

1)    at will (прогресивен произволен) : it begun after a 200 m bracket was obtained. Starting at an elevation 100 m less than the short limit of the bracket, each gun fired two rounds of time shrapnel, fuzed to burst at a height of 3/1000 of the range, followed by two more at an elevation and a fuze increased by 100 m, and so on till each gun had fired eight rounds in quick succession. It was used up to 3000 m for field guns and up to 2000 m for mountain guns in order to knock out instantly targets like cavalry, not shielded artillery and moving, limbering or unlimbering shielded artillery.

2)    at an order (прогресивен по команда) : it was carried out in the same way, but waiting the order of the battery commander. It could be used at any range, but at great ranges the difference between the elevations was of 50 m instead of 100 m. It was used in any other case and by night, especially to shell quickly a deep area.

    Sweeping fire (огън съ косене – tir fauchant) : it was used to shell a target of considerable breadth, i.e. more than 25-30 m and less than 50-60 m per gun, both with storm of fire and sweeping fire. The fire of each gun was shifted after each shot by 4 turns of the hand-wheel. Each gun, after the first  round, gave successively 3 turns of the traversing wheel left, 3 more turns left, back again to centre, 3 turns right, 3 more left, back again to centre, and so on. Usually the turnings of traverse were 4 or 8. The sweeping moved the successive points of burst by intervals of about 5 millièmes. With progressive fire the range was changed every 3 rounds.

    Fire to break up (огън съ обсейване – double fauchage) : it was used up to 2000 m, when the battery front was more than 200 m. Each gun fired quickly 5 rounds, with eight turnings of the traverse. This procedure enabled a single gun to cover a target 50 m wide at 2500 m long. The fire to break up moved the successive points of burst by intervals of about 10 millièmes. It was used against infantry lines deployed on wide fronts.


Artillery should absolutely avoid to fire at a range which might be dangerous to it own troops. Usually with time shrapnel it should not fire when its troops were less than 500 m in front of the battery and about 300 m far from the enemy, except when the shape of the place allowed it. With percussion shell it could fire even when its troops were 100 m far from the enemy. When the enemy was deployed in an oblique position, artillery could fire until its infantry arrived at 200-100 m far from the enemy.


Distribution of fire. As a rule the fire of the battery was distributed over the entire front of the target from the very beginning of the shooting, but if the target was not clearly visible, or it was placed obliquely to the battery, the distribution should be decided only after the target had been bracketed.

A battery could beat effectively a front of 25 m with percussion fire for the destruction of material objects (стрелба за разрушение, fire for demolition), or a front of 100 m at every range with time fire. A front 200-220 m long should be shelled with sweeping fire, while fronts long more than 200 m with fire to break up. Time fire was not distributed over the front, if the width of the target was 30 m or less, while it was distributed by sections if its width was 30-60 m or by guns if it was 60-120 m.

Fire in depth was distributed only when the target was deeper than 100 m within a range of 3000 m for the field artillery and 2000 m for the mountain artillery or deeper than 50 m at greater ranges.

If the target to be attacked had a continuous front, the guns at the end were directed 10 m inside of the flanks, in order to converge the fire upon its centre. If the target looked like mounds (guns in firing position, infantry company in column of platoons) with an interval lesser than 25 m the fire was like with a continuous front, but if the interval was greater every gun fired at some mounds in succession.


Fire at different targets. The Directive listed the different targets that the artillery might meet with on the battlefield (field fortifications, gorges, woods, houses, farms and villages), explaining how fire at them.


Fire at moving targets. If the target was moving quickly, like cavalry or field artillery, progressive fire was adopted, starting at the low limit of the 200 m bracket, when the enemy was retreating, or 100 m less than this limit, when it was advancing. If the target was moving slowly, like infantry, machine guns or mountain artillery, two different methods could be adopted: 1) the guns shoot at the 200 m bracket, firing in succession or by progressive fire at an order; or 2) they shoot with slow fire in the direction of the movement until a good fall was observed, then they fired a storm of fire of two rounds at the same elevation or 100 m more (less). It was also possible to register the fire upon one or two points of the battlefield and as soon as the enemy reached it, the artillery fired a storm of fire of two rounds. If the target was mowing laterally the guns aimed as against a static target, moving the fire towards the side of the movement according with its gait : at walk 5 millièmes, at trot 10 millièmes, at gallop 15 millièmes.

Against a train the adjustment was made with percussion fire, aiming at an object quite in front of the train and firing a group of shots (two battery salvos) at the middle of the 50 m bracket. Fire for effect was made with a storm of fire, using H.E. shells.

Against a captive balloon, if its size and the height where it was placed were known, the distance was measured with the battery telescope; otherwise it was obtained by means of the adjustment with time fire, with the help of lateral observatories. Fire for effect was made with slow fire (1 round per minute), shooting in the middle or at the low limit of the 100 m bracket.


Night fire. At night artillery could fire only at wide targets, when their position was exactly fixed and the range roughly known. Since it was impossible adjust the fire, in daylight auxiliary aiming points should be placed on the battlefield and firing data fixed, and by night the guns were aimed with the goniometer and the level. It was also advisably to mark the points that the enemy might occupy. To observe the movements of hostile troops, the batteries sent ahead some scouts, provided of maps and accurate sketches of the country and linked by telephone or by signals. As soon as the enemy was located, the whole area was shelled in deep with progressive fire. Against illuminated targets the adjustment was possible with the help of lateral observatories. Ammunition were placed near the guns, which were equipped with two lanterns, one for the fuze-setter, the other for the goniometer and the level. When a battery was overtaken by the night in position, it should keep their guns ready to fire at a given place, mainly at close range. The gunners passed the night near their guns, and one of them stood on duty.

Moving artillery by night required special preparations. If a battery had to approach the enemy lines under the cover of the darkness, the day before the ground should be accurately reconnoitred, the emplacements and their approaches chosen and marked, the firing data fixed. To make easier the night movement, every gun of the battery sent a scout, who acquainted themselves with the selected place. To shorten the way, by day the batteries approached their firing positions out of the sight of the enemy, remaining in awaiting position until the nightfall. The emplacements should be occupied keeping the order and maintaining complete silence.

If the position had to be not only occupied, but also chosen by night, the place should be first examined on the map, then sought on the ground, reconnoitred as far as the darkness allowed it, marked and finally the guns were guided to occupy their places.


Cease fire. In order to spare ammunition and keep them for the crucial moment of the battle, the fire should be interrupted when the goal was achieved, the effect was insignificant, aiming and sighting were made impossible by mist and darkness, or ammunition was lacking. In any case the artillery should not leave its emplacements without an order. If it was heavily shelled by the enemy, it could suspend its fire to hide the cannoneers, especially if the guns had no shields, but, as soon as the shelling ended, it should open again its fire.



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