A recently returned American officer reports that in North Africa the Germans
frequently made a practice of firing a few salvoes from a battery; then,
moving out, about the time the American forward observers had the position
taped. Our own guns would plaster the observed position only to find that
the enemy guns, apparently on self-propelled mounts, opened fire from
some other point.
An extremely clever trick was reported to have been turned by a German
tank unit upon which a British 25-pounder (88 mm) battery was attempting
to adjust. After the first salvo hit at some distance from the tanks, a
second was fired which apparently fell wide, and the third salvo went
wider; the forward observer was frantic.
This is what had happened: the German tanks had timed the first salvo from
the report to the instant of burst, which can be done with a low-velocity
piece such as the 25-pounder, and fired a salvo from their own guns so
that their own shells burst on the ground some distance away from the
tanks at the same moment when the battery's shells struck. The forward
observer was attempting to correct his own fire from German shell bursts.
The most dangerous German artillery fire was not from HE bursting on
impact, but HE time fuze air bursts, and ricochet fire. In this latter
type of shelling, the projectiles would strike the ground and ricochet
upward, bursting over the heads of the troops.
A rather surprising percentage of the German shells were duds. Whether this
was caused by defective fuzes, or for the reason that the projectiles
were AP, used when the supply of HE had been exhausted, was not known.