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Anatomy of a World War I Artillery Barrage

 
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BerichtGeplaatst: 24 Jul 2016 10:08    Onderwerp: Anatomy of a World War I Artillery Barrage Reageer met quote

A lot has been said about the role of artillery in World War I, in both its intensity and ferocity. On the opening day of the Somme on July 1, 1916, British guns hurled 250,000 high explosive and shrapnel shells towards German positions. During the beginning of the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917, over 3,000 British guns and howitzers fired a “creeping barrage” on German positions, with the infantry advancing fifty yards behind the moving wall of fire and steel. The Germans developed and perfected the “box barrage” that dropped shells on all four sides of the targeted unit, designed to cut it off from supporting units and sever its lines of communication. Preparatory, or “softening up,” barrages would be fired on pre-planned targets in advance of an attack. The American St. Mihiel Offensive on September 12, 1918 was preceded in some areas by a seven-hour preparatory bombardment. By the end of the war, most attacks by French, American, and British forces began with a swift but short artillery bombardment that massed thousands of guns on one small area, followed up almost immediately by a ground attack.

All sides incorporated poison gas into their artillery bombardments. A mix of high explosive and gas rounds was both deadly and psychologically unnerving.
Artillery was also used on the defense, where artillery batteries would initiate defensive fire as soon as the front line infantry outposts reported enemy infantry advancing. By 1918, a signal flare fired by the infantry would be enough to unleash salvos from protecting guns on pre-planned points in front of the friendly infantry, the goal being to “catch the enemy in their own wire” before they could reach friendly lines.

All of this sounds very technical and does not convey the intensity and terror that artillery bombardments could bring to soldiers on each side. Which begs the question, what was it like to actually be on the receiving end of an artillery bombardment?

One U.S. soldier was awoken to his first day on the front lines – March 6, 1918 – by the tremendous report of “big shell bursting directly over our dugout. The Boche bombarded us in good shape, at least seventy big fellows bursting every minute. Believe me, the man who said he was not scared is a liar. They mixed gas shells in with the heavy fellows and before long gas was detected. We immediately put on our masks.”

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https://angrystaffofficer.com/2016/07/01/anatomy-of-a-world-war-i-artillery-barrage/
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