1. IN NORTH AFRICA
The following notes deal with German employment of artillery in North Africa. It is believed that they
give general indications of the enemy's current artillery tactics.
b. Gun Positions
Ground conditions were apparently the deciding factor as to whether or not guns should be dug in. In
principle, it would seem that guns always were dug in, except under the following circumstances:
(1) When the ground was so rocky and hard that it was considered more expedient to construct a
breastwork of rocks and earth around a natural hollow than to dig in. Sometimes those
positions were sandbagged.
(2) When it was foreseen that a position could be held only for a short time. In such instances, neither
pits, breastworks, nor alternate positions were constructed.
When guns were staggered, the arrangement was like the letter "W," minus one stroke, and the guns
were from 30 to 50 yards apart.
c. Alternate Positions
Although, under all normal circumstances, it seems to have been a rule to dig alternate positions, it has
been reported that at least one battalion did not dig alternate positions because its guns were subjected
principally to high-level bombing attacks—against which a change of position would not have offered
Alternate positions were not used for night firing.
In certain instances, positions were camouflaged with garnished nets, tarpaulin, and even tentage. Evidence
reveals that when camouflage was not attended to, it was always a case of laziness on someone's part. The
implication is that instructions to camouflage guns had invariably been given.
At times observation was carried out in the following manner. There were two observation posts. One
was 5,000 yards in front of the battery position, and was manned by an officer, a telephone
operator, a radio operator with a walkie-talkie, and an antiaircraft gunner. The second observation
post was from 2,000 to 3,000 yards forward of the first one. There was no direct intercommunication
between the observation posts of three batteries, but all targets had to be approved by
each of the observation posts reporting. Communication by telephone and radio was always maintained
between the observation posts and the command post. It is believed that there may also have been
an additional radio link between the command post and division headquarters.
e. Counterbattery Fire
As a result of a shortage of ammunition, there was a decrease in the use of medium howitzers for
counterbattery fire. However, 105-mm guns were reported as having stayed in action
constantly to undertake counterbattery tasks, even when ammunition was short.
The practice of firing on British 6-pounder (57-mm) antitank
guns was abandoned after it had been observed that British artillerymen were in the habit of
occupying a position, firing, and then promptly moving to a different position.
It is reported that the Germans consider it necessary to expend from 100 to 200 rounds
in order to destroy a battery of guns by artillery fire.
f. Training as Infantry
A certain German regiment apparently received intensive infantry training so that its personnel would be
able to act as escorts for guns when necessary. (Our artillerymen of course receive this type of
2. DEFENSIVE BARRAGES
The following extract from a German Army document on defensive barrages is also of interest. It is
undoubtedly based on considerable battle-front experience.
As a rule, a battery should not be assigned more than one or two emergency barrage areas in
addition to its normal barrage area.
The width allotted to each battery is 100 yards (150, if necessary) for 105-mm guns, and
150 yards for 150-mm howitzers. The barrage is fired in short bursts with the highest
possible charge, and with the delayed-action fuze. The first concentration is fired automatically, or
after a visual signal has been given. Such a concentration consists of 12 rounds fired in 2 minutes
by the 105-mm pieces, and 8 rounds in 2 minutes by the 150-mm pieces. In
case observation should prove impossible, or communications be destroyed, orders should always
specify whether a new concentration is to follow a repetition of the signal. Apart from this
precaution, the repetition of fire can vary according to circumstances.
The firing data for a barrage will be calculated and, whenever possible, verified with one gun. The
corrections observed are then passed on to the other guns. The latest corrections can also be
passed on to other batteries having the same equipment, provided that the difference between
the line of fire and the direction of the wind is the same for the other batteries.
The area within which 50 percent of the rounds will fall must have been ascertained
previously (and allowance made for an increase when the firing takes place on a downward
slope). It is of course important to place the barrage in front of the forward line and in
front of friendly wire, mine, or antitank defenses—generally by as much as 200 to 300 yards.
The shorter rounds must not be dropped nearer than 100 yards to the infantry in the case of
the 105-mm's, and 200 yards in the case of the 150-mm's. Closer firing
is to be undertaken only after agreement with the infantry. For this type of firing, calibers
under 100 millimeters are the most suitable.
The results of the preparations made in the light of the latest corrections must be recorded
separately. Each detachment commander will be handed a data sheet giving the orders for each
different barrage. These are to be written up on a special board on each gun, or on the shield.
As soon as a metro message is received, the necessary calculations will be made and the
barrage tables corrected accordingly.
During inactive periods the guns will be loaded (with projectiles only) and laid on
the normal barrage. The number of rounds for the barrage will be held in readiness.