Welcome to this blog which is intended to accompany a website on how Suffolk was defended during the Second War. The blog will describe my trips out and about looking for the remains of the Second War defences while the Website will concentrate on putting these into context.

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Sunday, 11 March 2012

75mm Field Gun Battery Position - Part 4

This post is basically a few snippets of information  I have found on the 75mm gun and its service in Home Defence to round off this thread.  There were basically two types used for Home Defence:

French "Canon de modele 1897": a revolutionary design at the time due to its recoil system allowing the gun to be continually fired without relaying after every round fired. The gun was the standard field gun for the French during WW1 and the American army were also widely equipped with it. Although America began to manufacture the gun in 1918, very few were shipped to France as most American batteries were equipped with French manufactured guns. America retained these home manufactured guns, largely for training. After Dunkirk when British forces lost many of their field guns, 600 M1897 guns were purchased from America. They were used in Field batteries and also as anti-tank guns. Although the gun was basically the 1897 model, many guns did have their carriages modified.

Above: M1897 75mm in action during WW1

The gun fired shrapnel or HE shells with a muzzle velocity of 500 mtrs per second and a maximum range of 6,900 mtrs. This meant a flat trajectory although this could be improved by digging a pit for the trail, although  I have found no mention of this being carried out in the War Diaries. As a matter of interest I plotted two  elevation graphs from the UK Grid Reference Finder website for the Forty Acre Covert position, for the battery's  two Defensive Fire  tasks. These show that the shells would need to reach a height of at least 5 mtrs for "crest clearance".

Distance 0.00km in the above graphs is the battery position. I basically plotted a few points in a straight line from the battery position to the Defensive Fire Task.

75 mm Gun Model 1917: Early during WW 1 the Americans adopted the 75mm gun as its standard field gun. At first difficulties were experienced in manufacturing the French model 1897 so in 1917 a 75 mm gun which was basically the British 18 pounder re-chambered to fire French 75mm ammunition  was introduced as an interim measure. After Dunkirk, America shipped its remaining 75mm model 1917 guns to Britain.

Above: American M1917 75mm gun - very similar to the British QF 18 pounder.

In the War Diaries little mention is made of the guns (except their position, roles etc). However two references I have come across are of interest:
  • One anti-tank Regt was experimenting with pneumatised 75mm's fitted with platforms. It was found that the original balance of the gun was destroyed on the pneumatised guns so experiments were being carried out in adding a Traversing lever.
  • If damage was caused to the recoil system on the 75mm (French), it could not be made good in this country. It was essential that troops were instructed in the maintenance of the recuperators and that these instructions were strictly adhered to.
An interesting note on the state of training in anti-tank gunnery can be found in  129 Field Regt's War Diary. Many officers were noted as not knowing the drill for anti-tank shooting with 75mm's (and 25 pdr's) and were therefore incapable of training their detachments. The standard of many officers from Battery commanders downwards was low on observed shooting. This was largely due to lack of experience in seeing live rounds fall on the ground. As the Commander in Chief considered that engaging enemy tanks  would be the most important role that Field artillery would be called upon to perform during invasion, anti-tank training was imperative. At first training would be carried out on a Vaudrey Range (a miniature range with miniature moving tanks with a special rifle or bren attachment fitted on a 2 pounder gun) before moving to firing at practice camps where live rounds were used supplemented by plugged HE rounds (for 75mm and 25 pounders; for 18 pounders plugged HE or shrapnel shells with fuse set at safety were used).

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