[Lone Sentry: German Artillery Tactics in North Africa]
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"Artillery Tactics" from Intelligence Bulletin, June 1943

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]   An intelligence article on German employment of artillery in North Africa, from the Intelligence Bulletin, June 1943.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department Intelligence Bulletin publication. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]




a. Introduction

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 increased protection.

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.

d. Observation

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 training, too.)


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.


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