The employment of quick-firing field artillery in combat

 

 

 

 

Action of the artillery during the different stages of the battle

Offensive combat. The combat was conduct only by infantry, the duty of the other branches of the army, the artillery included, was to support and assist the action of the infantry, removing the obstacles the hindered its advance or to hinder a rapid advance of the enemy.

 

When the advance guard begun the combat, the artillery should be deployed, occupying positions as covered as possible; however it should be avoided to engage immediately all the batteries from the beginning. First, the batteries of the advance guard should support the advance of the infantry and co-operate in the conquest of the points, which might be important for the following development of the battle, and especially a good position, that preserved complete freedom of manoeuvre to the commander, allowing him to accept or refuse the combat. Their action should be brief, strong, enterprising and agile.

 

During the preparation of the attack, artillery observed the enemy artillery, moved to the battle position (3-4 km far from the enemy line) and begun the artillery combat, engaging the enemy batteries with a slow fire, while the infantry approached the enemy and deployed itself in battle formation. The task of the artillery was to destroy the enemy batteries, or at least to weaken their fire so far that the infantry could continue its action.

During the artillery combat the artillery should :

1)  prevail over the enemy artillery as quickly as possible using only the strictly necessary means;

2)  select the moment when the enemy artillery was shelling at other targets, in order to reduce the number of its units;

3)  consider the enemy batteries out of action only when they cease fire, never interrupting the observation;

4)  take advantage when the enemy was forced to cease it fire, in order to operate without suffering losses;

5)  begin or resume the combat, even with equal force, if infantry need support;

6)  not interrupt the combat before having received an order.

 

The decisive attack should be prepared with a converging, incessant and powerful fire of all the artillery and infantry units, that were able to shell the point chosen for the attack

During the preparation of the decisive attack the rules were :

1)  all the batteries chosen to concentrate their fire at the point of attack should be under a single command;

2)  the fire should be in connection with the field heavy artillery;

3)  in order to operate quickly and powerfully at first it was unnecessary to occupy covered position;

4)  the fire should be mainly directed against the enemy infantry;

5)  enemy batteries, that appeared later in the fighting front should be overwhelmed with a sudden, powerful fire.

 

During the execution of the decisive attack, some batteries should accompany the attack of the infantry, while the greatest part of the batteries should support infantry with its fire, moving its position up to 2 km from the enemy.

The accompanying batteries (придружаващи батареи) should :

1)  follow the infantry, advancing by echelon and occupying successive positions, if possible near the enemy;

2)  not take care of the enemy artillery that should be beat by the support batteries;

3)  destroy as quickly as possible everything hindered the advance of the infantry;

4)  occupy mainly flank positions;

5)  occupy immediately the positions seized to the enemy in order to totally disrupt him, repelling all his attempt to reoccupy them.

The support batteries (опорни батареи) should :

1)  prolong its fire against the enemy positions as long as there was no risk for its own troops, and then direct the fire at the enemy reserves;

2)  crush vigorously the whole enemy artillery;

3)  observe the approaches to the positions of the attacking troops, in order to immediately repel every enemy counterattack.

 

If the attack succeeded, the batteries set for the pursuit should accompany the troops by echelon and try to prevent the retreat of the enemy with their fire, crushing the batteries that were attempting to leave the battlefield, without forgetting the infantry. In order to pursuit a repelled enemy, artillery should take advantage of its mobility and of the power of its fire at great ranges.

 

If the attack failed, all batteries should fire at the enemy infantry; only those, which were not able to perform this task, could direct its fire against the enemy artillery. The duty of the artillery was to hold its position as long as possible, even at the cost of losing its materiel. Artillery should retreat by echelon: the retreat of last echelon was covered by the fire of some infantry units, which in turn retreated, screened by the ground and by the fire coming from some supporting points. In case of a strong enemy attack, the batteries following immediately the front infantry units should unlimber where they were to deploy in fighting position.

 

Fire at different targets. The Instructions listed the different targets that might meet with on the battlefield, explaining how to attack them :

    Field fortifications. The most effective fire was enfilade. Earthworks could not be demolished by field artillery, therefore the fire directed against them was intended only for the defenders who were sheltered by them, using sweeping fire to cut down the crest of the parapet. The fire should be directed not only on the fortification itself, but also on the ground behind and on its flank, to hit the support troops. Troops behind a parapet could be easily reached by the splinters of H.E. shells. If they were protected by armoured shelters, the shelters should be shelled by the torpedo shells of the field howitzers and, as soon as they were destroyed, the garrison should be attacked with time shrapnel.

    Gorges. Against open gorges, artillery should be deployed on the two sides of the battlefield, to support the troops with a powerful fire from the beginning to the end of the attack. If the gorges were under cover, artillery should be able to fire lengthwise to destroy the enemy placed in front of the entrance, and some batteries might follow the attacking troops to open a rapid fire on the enemy as soon as they had traversed the gorge.

    Woods. The edges and the areas near the roads crossing the wood should be attacked with time-fire to the way to the attacking infantry. The interior of the wood should be shelled in deep with percussion fire to disperse and possibly drive out the troops hidden there.

    Houses, farms and villages. At first artillery should set them on fire, and then direct the fire at their outer edges to dislodge the troops assembled therein. To seize them, the whole surface should be shelled, destroying also their walls, if necessary.

 

Defensive combat. In defence, the best position should be assigned to the artillery. The greatest care should be used in covering and masking its position and in preparing the firing data before the beginning of the combat. The main task of the artillery was the destruction of the enemy artillery, if possible already during its deployment. During the enemy attack, artillery should concentrate its fire against the most important sectors of the front to crush the attack. As soon as the enemy was beaten off, the defender should immediately counter attack, since the Instructions stressed that only an offensive action could assure a decisive victory. To not allow the enemy to halt, the artillery should shell the enemy reserves and the units not yet disrupted, seeking to obtain his complete defeat.

 

 

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