Page:EB1911 - Volume 02.djvu/739

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ARTILLERY

of the battle of Sedan, for a couple of guns, was able to reply, “You shall have ninety” (see, for details of the march of the Guard artillery, his Letters on Artillery, 6th letter). The German regulations for field service say, very plainly, “the horses have not done their work until they have got the guns into action, even at the cost of utter exhaustion.” A notable march was made by the 62nd battery, R.F.A., in the South African War. On the day of the battle of Modder River, the battery marched 32 m. (mostly through deep sand) arriving in time to take part in the action. Such forced marches, if rare, are nowadays expected to be within the power of field artillery to accomplish. Horse artillery is capable of more than this, and as to pace, manoeuvring at the cavalry rate. Heavy guns are the least mobile, and would rarely be able to keep pace with infantry in a forced march. Field artillery walks 4, trots 9, and gallops at the rate of 15 m. an hour. A fair marching pace (trot and walk) is 4 m. an hour for field, 5 for horse batteries. A march of 14 m. would, according to the German regulations, be performed by

a field battery in 5 hours,

a horse battery in 4 hours,

under favourable circumstances (Bronsart von Schellendorf).

37. Power and Mobility.—It will have been made clear that every gun represents a compromise between these two requirements, and that each type of artillery has been evolved in accordance with the relative requirements of these conditions in respect of the work to be performed. The classification which has been followed in this article represents the practically unanimous decision of every important military state. Still, there has always been controversy between the individual adherents of each side, and the Boer War experiences raised the question as to whether field artillery, as the term is usually understood, should not be abolished, with a view to having only heavy guns and horse artillery with a field army.

38. Concentration and Dispersion.—The use of their artillery made by the Boers in the South African War led to the revival of the idea of “dispersing” guns instead of “concentrating” them. It would be more accurate to say that military thinkers had, after the introduction of the quick-firing gun, challenged every received principle, and amongst others the employment of artillery in masses, which, as a result of the war of 1870, “had become almost an article of faith.” The idea was to make use of the increased power of the guns to gain equally great results with the employment of less material than formerly. Thus the dispersion of guns is bound up with the passive defensive. The first editions of the British Field Artillery Training and Combined Training, strongly influenced as they were by South African experience, did not legislate, even in dealing with defence, for “dispersion” in the Boer manner, but only for adaptability (see Field Artillery Training, 1902, p. 15). In the Boer War, whilst the Boers nearly always scattered their guns, almost the only occasion upon which their artillery played a decisive part was at Spion Kop, where its fire was concentrated upon the point of assault. At Pieter’s Hill, the fire of seventy guns covered the British infantry assault in the Napoleonic manner. On the whole it may be accepted as a general truth that guns are safe, and may be locally effective, when dispersed, but that they cannot produce decisive effect except when used in masses. It must, however, be clearly understood that a “mass” in this sense means a large number of guns, under one command, and susceptible of being handled as a unit, so far as the direction and effectiveness of their fire is concerned. This being secured, and on that condition only, it does not matter whether the actual gun positions are scattered over a few square miles, or are closed in one long line and using direct fire—they are still a mass, and capable of acting effectively as such. While there are undoubtedly grave dangers in using the indirect method too freely, technical improvements in laying, telephones, &c., have had much to do with the possibility, at any rate under favourable circumstances, of a concentration which may be described as one of shells rather than of guns, and the reader is reminded in this connexion that the work formerly done by the gun is now performed by the shell.

39. Horse Artillery is to be regarded as field artillery of great mobility and manoeuvring power. Its value may be said, in general terms, to lie in augmenting the weak fire-power of the mounted troops, and in facilitating their work as much as possible. Thus, when cavalry meets serious opposition in reconnoitring, the guns may be able to break down the enemy’s resistance without calling for assistance from the main body of the cavalry, and, in the action of cavalry versus cavalry, the “paramount duty of the horse artillery is to shatter the enemy’s cavalry” (Field Artillery Training, 1906), i.e. to “prepare” the success of the cavalry charge by breaking up as far as possible the enemy’s power of meeting it. In the cavalry battle, covering fire is practically impossible, owing both to the short distances separating the combatants and to the rapidity of their movements, but steps are taken “to enable all the guns to bear on the enemy’s cavalry at the points of collision.” The ideal position for the horse artillery is out to a flank, the cavalry manoeuvring so as to draw the enemy’s cavalry under enfilade fire, and at the same time to force them to mask the fire of their own horse artillery. Another and a most important function of the horse batteries is to reinforce, with the greatest possible speed, any point in the general line of battle which is in need of artillery support. For this reason the corps artillery generally includes horse batteries.

40. Field Howitzers are somewhat less mobile than field guns; they have, however, far greater shell power. The special features of the weapon are, of course, the product of the special requirements which have called it into existence. These are, briefly (a) the necessity of being able to “search” the interior of earthworks, a task which, as has been said, is beyond the power of high-velocity field guns, and (b) demolition work, which is equally beyond the power of even a H.E. shell of field-gun calibre. The first of these conditions implies a steep “angle of descent,” which again implies a high angle of elevation. The second requires great shell power but does not call for high velocity. The howitzer, therefore, is a short gun, firing a heavy shell at high angles of elevation. Howitzers almost always are laid by the indirect method of fire from under cover, since it is clear that, with high angles of elevation, the gun may be brought close up to the covering mass, and still fire over it. Ranging must be done very accurately and yet economically, as but few of their heavy shells can be carried in the wagons and limbers, and the shells descending upon an enemy almost vertically lose the long sweeping effect of the field shrapnel which neutralizes minor errors of ranging. The projectiles employed are high explosive and shrapnel, the latter for use against personnel under cover, the former for demolition of field works, casemates or buildings. It is very generally held that howitzer time shrapnel is the best form of projectile for the attack of shielded guns. Here it may be said that no completely satisfactory method of dealing with these has yet been discovered. The best procedure with field guns is said to be lengthening the fuze to obtain a high percentage of bursts on graze. A shell striking the face of the shield will penetrate it, and should kill some at least of the gun detachment behind. The high-explosive shrapnel alluded to above is designed primarily for the attack of shielded guns.

41. Heavy Field Artillery, alternatively called Artillery of Position, as has been said, includes all guns of 4-in. calibre and upwards, mounted on travelling carriages. In South Africa, where firm soil was usually to be found, 6-in. guns were employed as heavy field guns, but in Europe even the 5-in. (British Service) is liable to sink into the ground. In Great Britain, guns only are used by this branch; abroad, the “heavy artillery of the field army,” the “light siege train,” &c., as it is variously called, is as a rule composed of howitzers of a heavier calibre than the field howitzer, the 15-cm. (6-in.) howitzer being most commonly met with. This artillery has, however, a different tactical rôle from the heavy field artillery of the British service; and it is always with a view to the attack of permanent or semi-permanent fortifications that the matériel is organized. In Great Britain, heavy batteries armed with the 5-in. gun are considered as “an auxiliary to the horse and field artillery” (Heavy Artillery Training). Ranging is conducted with greater