Page:EB1911 - Volume 02.djvu/737

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693
ARTILLERY

under. The actual methods of fire employed are matters of detail; it will be sufficient to say that “section fire,” in which the two guns of a section are fired alternately at a named interval, usually 30 seconds, and “rapid fire,” in which two, three or more rounds as ordered are fired by each gun as quickly as possible, are the normal methods. Each battery usually engages a portion of the objective equal in length to its own front, owing to the spread of the cone of shrapnel bullets (see below). The fire is, of course, almost always frontal, though enfilade and oblique fire, when opportunities occur for their employment, are more deadly than ever, because of the depth of the cone. As for the general conduct of an artillery action, accurate fire for effect, at a medium rate, is used in most armies, but in the French and, since 1906, in the British services a new method has arisen, in consequence of the introduction of the modern quick-firer and the perfection of the time shrapnel. The French battery (1900 Q.F. equipment) consists of four guns and twelve wagons. The gun is shielded, as also are the wagons; the high velocity and flat trajectory give a maximum depth to the cone of shrapnel bullets. In the hope of obtaining a rapid and overwhelming fire, the French artillery ranges only for a long bracket, and once this bracket is found, the ground within its limits is swept from end to end in a burst of rapid fire. This is termed a rafale (squall or gust), and technically signifies “a series of eight rounds per gun, each two rounds being laid with 100 metres more elevation than the last pair, the whole fired off as rapidly as possible.” The cone of time shrapnel being assumed as 300 yds. (or metres), it is clear that four pairs of rounds, bursting, say, at 1000, 1100, 1200 and 1300 yds. (adding, for the last, 300 yds. for its forward effect), sweep the whole ground between 1000 and 1600 yds. from the guns. The maximum depth would, of course, be obtained with four elevations differing by the depth of the cone; in such a case the space from 1000 to 2200 yds. would be covered, though much less effectively, since the same number of bullets are distributed over a larger area. On the other hand, the rafale, at a minimum, covers 300 yds., all the guns in this case being laid at the same elevation throughout. Here the maximum number of bullets is obtained for every square yard attacked. Between these extremes, a skilful artillery officer can vary the rafale to the needs of each several case almost indefinitely. “Sweeping” fire is a series of three rounds per gun, one in the original line, one to the right and one to the left of it; this is significantly called “mowing” (tir fauchant). A further refinement in both services is the combined “search and sweep.” Forty-eight rounds, constituting in the French army a series of this last kind, can, it is said, be fired in 1 minute and 15 seconds, without setting fuzes beforehand, to cover an area of 600 × 200 metres. The result of such a series, worked out mathematically, is that 19% of all men and 75% of all horses, in the area and not under cover, should be hit by separate bullets (Bethell, Modern Guns and Gunnery, 1907). Even allowing a liberal deduction for imperfect distribution of bullets, we may feel certain that nothing but shielded guns could live long in the fire-swept zone. This is, of course, a rate of fire which could not be kept up for any length of time by the same battery. A French battery, firing at the maximum rate, would expend every available round in 13 minutes.

33. Projectiles Employed.—“Time shrapnel,” say the German Field Artillery regulations, “is the projectile par excellence ... against all animate targets which are not under cover.” It achieves its purpose, as has been said, by sending a shower of bullets over an area of ground in such quantity that this is swept from end to end. These bullets are propelled, in a cone, forward from the point of burst of the shell, and the effective depth of this cone at medium ranges with a fairly high velocity gun may be taken at 300 yds. Further, the corrector enables the artillery commander to burst his shells at any desired point; for example, a long fuze may be given, to burst them close up when firing upon a deep target (such as troops in several lines, one behind the other), and thereby to obtain the maximum searching effect, or to obtain direct hits on shielded guns, while a short corrector, bursting the shell well in front of the enemy, allows the maximum lateral spread of the bullets, and therefore sweeps the greatest front. The number of bullets in the shell is such that troops in the open under effective shrapnel fire must suffer very heavily, and may be almost annihilated. If the enemy is close behind good cover, the bullets, indeed, pass harmlessly overhead. This, however, leads to a very important fact, viz. that artillery can keep down the fire of hostile infantry, “blind” the enemy, in Langlois’ phrase, by pinning it down to cover. Under cover the men are safe, but if they raise their heads to take careful aim, they will almost certainly be hit. Their fire under such conditions is therefore unaimed and wild at the best, and may be wholly ineffective. Common shell and high-explosive shell (see Ammunition) belong to another class of projectile. The former is now not often used, but a certain proportion of H.E. shell is carried by the field artillery in many armies (see table in Ordnance: Field Equipments). This has a very violent local effect within a radius of 20 to 25 yds. of the point of burst (see Ammunition, fig. 10). It therefore covers far less ground than shrapnel, and is naturally used either (a) against troops under substantial cover or (b) to wreck cover and buildings. In the former case the shell is supposed to send a rain of splinters vertically downwards. This it will do, provided the fuze is minutely accurate, and a burst is thus obtained exactly over the heads of the enemy, but this is now generally held to be unlikely, and in so far as effect against personnel is concerned the H.E. shell is not thought to be of much value. Indeed, in the British and several other services, no H.E. shells at all are carried by field batteries, reliance being placed upon percussion shrapnel in attacking localities, buildings, &c., and for ranging. Experiments have been made towards producing a “H.E. shrapnel,” which combines the characteristics of both types (see, for a description, Ammunition). For the projectiles used in attacking shielded guns, see section on “field howitzers” below. Case shot is now rarely employed. In the war of 1870-71 Prince Kraft von Hohenlohe-Ingelfingen, who commanded the Prussian Guard artillery, reported the expenditure of only one round of case, and even that was merely “broken in transport.” The close-quarters projectile of to-day is more usually shrapnel with the fuze set at zero. Langlois, however, calls case shot “the true projectile for critical moments, which nothing can replace.”

34. Tactics of Field Artillery.—On the march, the position and movement of the guns are regulated by the necessity of coming quickly into action; the usual place for the arm is at or near the heads of the combatant columns, i.e. as far forward as is consistent with safety. Safety is further provided for by an “escort,” or, if such be not detailed, by the nearest infantry or cavalry. In attack, the rôle of the field artillery is usually (1) to assist if necessary the advanced guard in the preliminary fighting—for this purpose a battery is usually assigned to that corps of troops, other batteries also being sent up to the front as required, (2) to prepare, and (3) to support or cover the infantry attack. “Preparation” consists chiefly in engaging and subduing the hostile artillery. This is often spoken of as the “artillery duel,” and is not a meaningless bombardment, but an essential preliminary to the advance. Massed guns with modern shrapnel would, if allowed to play freely upon the attack, infallibly stop, and probably annihilate, the troops making it. The task of the guns, then, is to destroy the opposing guns and artillerymen, a task which will engage almost all the resources of the assailant’s artillery in the struggle for artillery superiority. Shielded guns, enhanced rate of fire, perfection in indirect laying apparatus, and many other factors, have modified the lessons of 1870, and complicated the work of achieving victory in the artillery duel so far that the simple “hard pounding” of former days has given way to a variety of expedients for inflicting the desired loss and damage, as to which opinions differ in and within every army. One point is, however, clear and meets with universal acceptance. “The whole object of the duel is to enable the artillery subsequently to devote all available resources to its principal task, which is the material and moral support of the infantry during each succeeding stage of the fight” (French regulations). One side must be victorious in the end, and when, and not until, the hostile artillery is beaten out of action, the