Famous WW2 Artillery battles

#1
Good afternoon Gents,

I am thinking of organising a Battlefield Tour and I would like it to be based upon the use of mobile wireless communications, the introduction of the phonetic alphabet, the introduction of voice procedure and recognised fire orders.

I would like it to be in a location where a Battle was won because of the Artillery.

I am a history biff and my knowledge of WW2 battles is nil!

Can anyone assist and suggest a battle and location for me to start my research?

thanks for your help,

Comms
 
#2
Larkhill, plenty of Artillery battles along the Packway after closing time.

I'll get my coat...
 
#3
El Alamein, which I believe was the last time 'Fire Mission Army' was used. Now - or was - it's (IIRC) ' FM all available!
 
#4
Who are you aiming your tour at? Is it for you or are you organising it for a group? If so is the group for the military or civilians?
As an ex gunner and a historian am am, delighted to hear of someone looking to do a gunner tour.

Arguably all WW2 battles were artillery battles so you can look at field artillery in battlefields as far apart as belgioum and Burma France and the Falklands. One WW2 officer described his riole as escorting his FOO across NW Europe.

A lot of the innovations you mention were made in the Great War. Thats when the phoneitic alphabet and mobile wireless made their mark. However the mobile wireless was morse and phonetic alphabet was over the telephone.
 
#5
You could do a tour of the WW1 battlefields, explaining the evolvement of artillery employment - e.g. the creeping barrage and the short 'shock-type' barrages that were laid down prior to an assault. I'm sure there are others here who could explin this better, but I seem to remember a good description of the evolution in a book called "The Great War Generals on the Western Front, 1914-1918" by Robin Neillands.

Might be a bit embarrassing though when you have to describe the success of many operations without any artillery preparation! ;-)
 
#8
As Pteranodon says, all WW2 battles were essentially decided by the artillery...even to the extent of 70% of battlefield casualties being from artillery effects.

Good Gunner sites for battlefield tours include Kemmel, Casino, Anzio and of course Normandy. There are half a dozen Goodwood sites/stands where you can see the reason why artillery was critical for example. Personally i love Kemmel - partly because of its' association to a battery I served in and partly for the incredible view. You can see why 5000 Frenchmen were prepared to die up there, in sadly a vain atttempt to prevent the Boche artillery gaining it as a vantage point.
 
#9
Incidentally this may amuse devotees of the Great War...

The following orders issued by Lieutenant F Bethune on 13 March 1918 to No 1 Section of the Australian 3rd Machine Gun Company have passed into folklore, but are worth quoting all the same.

The position they were to hold was in the area of the Spoil Bank near Hill 60 at Zillebeke.

This position will be held, and the Section will remain here until relieved.
The enemy cannot be allowed to interfere with this programme.
If the Section cannot remain here alive it will remain here dead, but in any case it will remain here.
Should any man through shell shock or other cause attempt to surrender he will remain here dead.
Should all guns be blown out, the Section will use Mills grenades and other novelties.
Finally, the position as stated will be held.
Lt Bethune was obviously a very bloody minded sod! The position was in fact held!
 
#11
You could do a tour of the WW1 battlefields, explaining the evolvement of artillery employment - e.g. the creeping barrage and the short 'shock-type' barrages that were laid down prior to an assault. I'm sure there are others here who could explin this better, but I seem to remember a good description of the evolution in a book called "The Great War Generals on the Western Front, 1914-1918" by Robin Neillands.

Might be a bit embarrassing though when you have to describe the success of many operations without any artillery preparation! ;-)
While Robin neillands does an OK job of presenting a general battlefield history it is a very simplified view of artillery. A better start for an artillery oriented battlefield Tour might be

GUNNERS AT WAR. (ISBN: 0099060108 / 0-09-906010-8 ) Bidwell, Shelford.

and
FIRE-POWER. THE BRITISH ARMY WEAPONS AND THEORIES OF WAR 1904-1945 by Shelford Bidwell and Dominick Graham

This is a gunner oriented history of the C20th

Neither of these should set you back more than £5 plus p&p. If you want someone else to do the history side and recommend battles and locations send a pm.
 
#12
One of the Yankee Military History programs was explaining how the US won the Battle of Kasserein Pass due to the superior handling of Massed Artillery, The 'Time on Target' method.

john
 
#13
I agree about the book FIRE-POWER. THE BRITISH ARMY WEAPONS AND THEORIES OF WAR 1904-1945 by Shelford Bidwell and Dominick Graham

First rate accounting of how the British Army developed its use of artillery (especially the WWI era)

As to battles won, any fought by the British Army on the Western front, from Cambrai onwards.
 
#14
Thank you fellas for all your info,

We are a Comms Troop within an RA egiment so I want the lads to concentrate on what we do on a day to day basis both at home and operations and where our procedures and doctrine originated from so a WW1 tour doesnt really cater to our needs, we also did a tour of Ypres which was amazing from start to finish but we want to do something different this time.

You have given me some brilliant information here and i will now task the lads to start researching!

Thanks again,

Comms
 
#15
One of the Yankee Military History programs was explaining how the US won the Battle of Kasserein Pass due to the superior handling of Massed Artillery, The 'Time on Target' method.

john
Your comment illustrates how much ARRSE and the world needs more artillery battlefield tours.

......the US system is less flexible and responsive than the British.

The US Observer requested fire. The requests for which were then prioritiesed and authorised by a FDC. The British system authorisred observers to order fire. These are enshired in the different systems used in Fire Discipline. System 1 and system 2. (I have forgotton which is which)
 
#17
I have read a book, "There is a War to be Won", where the author bigged up the US Army's artillery (while taking pops at other foreign "mistakes" like the Mk4 Lee-Enfield!).
The Comment that the RA was more responsive is interesting. You read across the spectrum of Military authors, about the power of the RA from 1942-3 onwards. The whole "commander Royal Artillery" saga, seems to imply that artillery control was consistently being centralised at the highest viable level. This would imply that JUST LIKE the US Army FDC, the RA had some means to bring massed fires to bear at particular points and times.
Did the RA practice TOT shoots during WWII, or did that not figure in the conceptual make up of "stonks", which seem to have been one of the major organisational means where-by fires were brought to bear more rapidly?
 
#18
If its comms your after .....

probably a bit dull .... but English Heritage Monuments of war did a pretty good overview of the anti-aircraft in WW2. It does mention a fair bit of the comms and electronic measures that were used and it gives details of most battery locations - some exist still. A lot of the comms was RSigs AA arty divisional sig regiments.
 
#19
The Comment that the RA was more responsive is interesting. You read across the spectrum of Military authors, about the power of the RA from 1942-3 onwards. The whole "commander Royal Artillery" saga, seems to imply that artillery control was consistently being centralised at the highest viable level. This would imply that JUST LIKE the US Army FDC, the RA had some means to bring massed fires to bear at particular points and times.
Did the RA practice TOT shoots during WWII, or did that not figure in the conceptual make up of "stonks", which seem to have been one of the major organisational means where-by fires were brought to bear more rapidly?
The trick that the RA achieved was to have artillery centralised at the highest level, but control over the centralised firepower decentralised to low levels with the authroity over the guns changing during the battle. This was achieved by two mechanisms.

1. The RA was deployed with it's battery and Troop commanders as FOOs well forward with the infantry and armour. The guns and FDC s were staffed with 2ICs. By Contrast the US system has the COs and BCs at the FDC and the FOO teams from junior officers and NCOs) This means that the Observers give orders and not submit requests. It also means that the FOOs have the training in all arms tactics and seniority to make sense of the bigger picture and their reports accepted by the FDC. (One of the instructors on my YO's course was an Australian WO2 who had served in Vietnam. He told us that the US system worked but there was a lot of delay while the FDC decided whether the OP could have the fire and how many rounds. etc.)

2. Artillery communications networks in parallel to the infantry and armour, one level junior to the supported arm. So the Gunner CO has a communications net across the Brigade front and the BCs have one covering the battalion front. These supports a flow of tactical information that allows for an assessment of who nneeds the artillery most. This menas that the CRA is in a position to talk to people at only one remove from the FOO and decide on the allocation of fire across the Division. One of the best examples was in one of the battles in Tunisia where the armour in Division was being slaughtered by antitank guns only visible to the FOOs of the neighbouring Division. The system was flexible enough to work out who needed to be authorised and the Corps artillery assets flattened the antitank guns.

The disadvantage of the RA approach was the high attrition rate of Majors and Captains serving as FOOs.

According to "The development of Artillery Tactics and Equipment, War Office 1951" Time on Target Procedures were developed by the Royal Artillery in the Western Desert in May 1942. Everyone knew that artillery was most effective if all the rounds arrived at the same time, without giving an enemy time to take cover. The problem in mobile warfare in the desert was that telephone lines could not be laid and wireless transmissions often forbidden. The answer was to use BBC time signals as standard time. This was started by Combined Operations but adopted across 8th Army.

The same report mentions an occasion in Italy where a target was engaged by 19 field, 9 medium and 2 heavy Regiments. The TOT was called for 33 minutes after CRA 1st canadian Division made the request. The total weight of fire was 92 tons made up of 3,509 rounds from 668 guns.
 
#20
El Alamein, which I believe was the last time 'Fire Mission Army' was used. Now - or was - it's (IIRC) ' FM all available!
Recce, i am sure that there was a similar event during the Italian campaign...1st May 1944 at 2300 hrs was the opening day of the fourth battle for Monte Cassino in which the Guns of both 5th Army (600) and 8th Army (1000) opened up in one mass barrage on the defensive positions of the Germans entrenched in the monastery. Not sure if it is right, but did read that it was referred to as a "FM Zulu" ie every Gun available in both Armies which in this case was 1600"? The co-ordination with the Infantry for such a shoot must have been immense, particularly the timings?? Perhaps one of the old bunnies can confirm if such a Fire Mission existed? However, i don't think it can be claimed as an Artillery battle, because the Infantry lads of the day were the ones who brought about the victory, (twas always thus i suppose). But the Gunners can rightly claim to have played a significant part.

Perhaps a decent suggestion for a battlefield study would be Imphal/ Kohima? Here the Gunners came into their own, and literally fought shoulder to shoulder with the Infantry. I believe that all the Guns were spread over a distance of no more than 1.5 KM. Also theirs was the only net up and running, which meant that Div/ brigade had to go through the Gunner net to pass orders to all units in and around the battlefield. 10 Fld Regts ( later40 Fld RA) net was probably the busiest as their FDC or equivelent was located at the tennis courts during the battle. From that standpoint it could be argued that it was a battle won by the Gunners.
 

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