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Artillery and Ammunition 3 months 4 weeks ago #92562

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Below is a good photograph of Officers and NCOs of an unidentified battery of the Royal Horse Artillery, taken in England.
They are photographed with what appears to be a 12-pdr BL 6-cwt Mk II gun (based on the foresight and breech ring).






The different types of foresights used with the Mks I, II, III & IV 12-pdr BL guns.




Close-up of the foresight of the gun in the photograph.


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Artillery and Ammunition 3 months 2 weeks ago #92690

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REPORTS, PRECIS, TRANSLATIONS, ETC.
VOL. XXXI, No. 5 (August 1904).


Published with the “Proceedings” of the Royal Artillery Institution, Vol. XXXI., 1904-5.






Lieutenant Friedrich Wilhelm von Wichmann




I. – THE GROWTH OF THE TRANSVAAL ARTILLERY; ITS STRENGTH
AND COMPOSITION AT THE TIME OF THE OUTBREAK OF WAR.


In order to understand and pronounce judgment upon the work of the Transvaal Artillery – with which we will be chiefly concerned – in the South African War, it is essential that we should know something of its origin, and of its condition on the outbreak of hostilities.

It was about the time the first "trekkers" turned their footsteps towards the Transvaal, that the foundations were laid of what subsequently became the "Korps-Staats-Artillerie". The guns, in these early days, were made in the country of wood, strengthened with iron taken from the framework of old carriages; they are still to be seen, as relics of old times, in the museum at Pretoria.

In due course, some muzzle-loaders were made. A few Europeans, who were living in the country, offered their services for organization and training, and as time went on, newer and better guns were imported from Europe. In 1883, the corps was provided, for the first time, with a distinctive uniform, and it is from that date that its history really begins.
Several of the sons of prominent Boer families went to Holland for their military education; when the Jameson raid took place, one of them was a Captain, in command of the mounted battery in the corps.

The Jameson raid marks a new era in the history of the Transvaal Artillery. The Boers saw that they were quite helpless against such an enemy as England, so far as strength in artillery was concerned. They consequently resolved to raise the strength establishment of their artillery immediately from 100 to 400; they made corresponding additions in matériel; and three mounted batteries were formed, and quartered in some very fine new barracks in Pretoria. They then went on to raise some siege artillery; four forts were built around Pretoria, and one near Johannesburg; among these five forts, a garrison of 200 men was distributed.
Finally, there was a trained reserve of 500 men.



Matériel.

1 Battery of Krupp 2·95” Q.F. guns..........................................................
8
.........................
1 Battery Creusôt 2·95” Q.F. guns..........................................................
6
.........................
1 Battery Nordenfeldt 2·95” Q.F. guns..........................................................
3
.........................
4 Batteries of Vickers-Maxim 1·45” automatic guns (pom-pom)..........................................................
24
.........................
1 Battery of Krupp 1·45” Q.F. guns..........................................................
4
.........................
1 Battery Krupp 4·7” field howitzers..........................................................
4
.........................
1 Battery Creusôt 5·8” siege guns..........................................................
4
.........................
Old guns..........................................................
15
.........................
Total= 68
.........................
.
Machine guns..........................................................
30
.........................


The 2·95” Q.F. guns, and a portion of the Vickers-Maxim automatic guns formed the armament of three mounted batteries. The remainder of the guns was kept in reserve.


Ammunition.
.
For the Krupp 2·95”..........................................................3,800 ring shell.
2,050 shrapnel.
250 case.
For the Creusôt 2·95”..........................................................3,000 common shell.
2,000 shrapnel.
200 case.
For the Nordenfeldt 2·95”..........................................................2,000 common, shrapnel, and case.
For the Vickers-Maxim 1·45”..........................................................30,000 to 40,000 common shell.
For the Krupp 1·45”..........................................................3,000 common shell.
For the Krupp 4·7”..........................................................2,000 cast-iron common shell.
1,240 high explosive shell.
1,240 shrapnel.
For the Creusôt 5·8”..........................................................16,000 [sic] common, shrapnel, and case.
For the old guns..........................................................?




A supply of ammunition which had just been ordered from the Krupp firm for their 2·95” guns, was prevented from reaching the Boers by the outbreak of hostilities.

In 1898, the Volksraad, with a want of forethought, refused to accept suggestions for an important increase in matériel.

Two Creusôt 5·8” siege guns, on revolving platforms, had been ordered for the fort at Johannesburg, but they also failed to arrive in time before the outbreak of war.



II. – THE GUNS.


The Krupp 2·95" '95 L/24 Q.F. Gun.





The eight guns of this model were distributed among the batteries which took the field immediately war was declared; one battery, which had four of them, was sent to the seat of operations in the north-west, while the other two batteries, which went to Natal, had two each. Curious as it may seem, there were no ammunition wagons available.

This gun was the best one we had throughout the war. It was drawn by a team of six horses, which moved it about with great ease.

The barrel, which was constructed of Krupp crucible cast steel, was 6 ft. in length, and the axis of the trunnions lay 9·6” above that of the wheels. The axis of this gun was consequently higher than that of the Creusôt 2·95”; its actual height was 35". This, I admit, was a slight disadvantage. On the other hand, the wheels were not so high, only 51", and the width of track 49", was also less; the guns were consequently much better balanced than the French 2·95”. The guncarriage, moreover, was half as light again, as it weighed only slightly more than 6 cwt.; and the whole weight of the gun was only 10½ cwt. as compared with 19¼ cwt. in the other case. This enabled the detachment to manipulate it with greater ease and rapidity.

Partly owing to the fact that the bore was shorter, its maximum range – 7,200 yards – was considerably less than that of the French guns – 10,900 yards. The sights were also different; in the Krupp gun, the acorn of the foresight was very small, and the sights were muzzle-sights; the French gun had trunnion-sights, and the acorn was much larger. Our lever-closing mechanism was admirable. It was far more reliable than the breech screw of the Creusôt guns. The former never went wrong, whereas the latter frequently gave trouble.

These guns of ours never jammed or went wrong in their mechanism. So far as I know, there was not a single case throughout the war of a Krupp field gun having to go away for repairs to its barrel or breech mechanism. Only the trail eyes were seriously damaged by the recoil on stony ground, and by the wear and tear of travelling; in the end, they broke off nearly all our guns. The Krupp guns had elevating mechanism, but no traversing gear; in this respect they fell short of the Creusôt guns.

The brake gear consisted of a brake shaft actuated by a lever on the bracket, underneath the breech. This single lever worked much better than the two on the French model, for it applied both brake-blocks with a uniform pressure, and never jammed.

Owing to the simplicity of the fixed ammunition we used – about which I shall have more to say later on – and also to the lightness of the gun itself, we were able to attain very great rapidity of fire. The English with their Armstrong guns, came nowhere near it. On several occasions I heard prisoners express their astonishment at the deadly fire effect of the Krupp batteries; on further inquiry, I usually found it was not, as they supposed, a whole battery that had been in action, but only one or two guns that had created that impression by their extreme rapidity of fire.

The fixed ammunition had a great deal to do with that. It had important advantages over ordinary shell and cartridges, and mistakes or accidents in loading and transport never occurred.

In the Free State, where the Krupp model 73 was used, the shell and cartridge were separate, the latter in a silk cover, without a metal case. From there I frequently heard complaints; not only did the cartridges often go wrong in the process of loading and firing, but also, on several occasions, they were in danger of exploding outside the gun when the grass around was set on fire during an action, and threatened to ignite the cartridge covers. At first, the Free Staters did not use smokeless powder; later on, they wanted to adopt it, but they found it set up erosion in their guns to such an extent that they gave it up almost immediately.

Our Krupp model 95 did not suffer at all from erosion, though of course, towards the end of the war the bore showed serious signs of wear and tear. The guns never required cleaning out during the course of an action, and the slight flaws there might be were not noticeable.

As long as normal supplies could be obtained, we used fine machine oil and vaseline for our guns; later on, we made use of boiled neat's foot oil, which answered its purpose admirably.

The limbers were of a very serviceable pattern. In addition to a box for spare parts, and even they could be left out to make more room, each limber had two boxes for fuzes, and eight more which held four cartridges each. The ammunition was brought up in trays, which saved a great deal of trouble.

From the point of view of ballistics our guns were perhaps not quite equal to the Creusôt model. This drawback, however, was amply made up for by its other advantages. We preferred the better matériel and more reliable ammunition to superiority in the ballistics of the gun itself. Our unanimous opinion was that the Krupp gun was the best we knew, and far better than the Creusôt, and as long as we still believed that the war would end in our favour, we constantly pictured to ourselves the large number of batteries with this armament that would be formed after the war.



The Creusôt 2·95” Model '95 Q.F. Gun.





On the outbreak of war, the six guns of this model were allotted between the two batteries going to Natal, in the proportion of four to one battery and two to the other.

They were drawn by teams of six horses, which often had considerable difficulty in moving the weight. The gun carnage was relatively heavy, its weight being 13¼ cwt. Two men could scarcely lift up the trail, and the total weight of the gun and carnage was only 20lbs. short of two tons.

The length of the barrel was 8 feet; there were no trunnions, and the barrel had a hydraulic buffer cylinder on either side, on a level with its axis, the whole being supported in a frame which worked around the axle-tree arms. The brackets of the carriage, which were of steel-plate, inclined inwards into a sort of broad fork, the ends of which joined on to the axle-tree arms at the same point. The gun revolved freely in a vertical direction between the brackets of the carriage; the supporting frame was of bronze, and the barrel was connected to it by two vertical trunnions so that it also moved freely in a horizontal direction. The gun was thus provided with traversing as well as elevating gear.

Some mechanism for traversing the gun was an absolute necessity, for the carriage was too heavy for traversing with any ease.

The height of the line of fire above the ground was very small, owing to the position of the barrel; it was only 29”. This was a great advantage, for it made the gun less conspicuous. With very little cover in front of it, one could see nothing but the outline of the wheels, which, on the other hand, were very high – 4’ 11”.

Owing to the position of the barrel between the wheels, it was possible to cut down the width of track to 47”, with a view to reducing the strain on the axle-tree frame. This, however, seriously affected the stability of the gun, and also of the ammunition wagons. Both of them were frequently overturned in going over quite unimportant obstacles in the ground.

In spite of the fact that it was provided with a recoiling barrel and a spade, this gun had a very powerful recoil; so much so, that no one dared stand close behind it when firing. As a rule, the spade took the recoil well, but the jump was considerable. I have frequently seen accidents occur, when the layer was still standing behind his gun as it fired. It is of great importance that precautions should be taken against accidents of this kind.

The spade of this Creusôt gun did not last at all well. It consisted of a broad spade with a removeable toothed blade, and was fixed between the axle-tree and the trail eye. The blade very easily got bent, and as soon as that happened, the gear became useless. It was not necessary to raise the spade after each round; but it had to be watched, as it did not work back into the same position. On the line of march, too, it frequently got damaged or got jammed.

The recoil buffers consisted of two cylinders, one on each side of the barrel, and connected with the cradle. After the recoil, the barrel was brought back into position by two arms connected with the cylinders and with powerful springs underneath, and parallel to them. The barrel recoiled through 12”. While the guns were new this mechanism worked admirably; but before we had been very long in the field, defects began to appear. The springs no longer brought the gun back into its place. This did not actually affect the firing, but it stood seriously in the way of accurate shooting. We did everything conceivable to make the buffers work well and accurately, but they invariably went wrong again after a time. In most cases it was the cylinders that lost their power. A great deal of dirt also found its way between the cradle and the barrel; it was very difficult to remove, and it interfered with the free motion of the barrel. It is not for me to say whether a recoiling barrel can be constructed so as to work easily and well on active service; but it is quite certain that in all new models, the points above alluded will have to be taken into serious consideration.

The barrel was of steel, with 24 grooves. The breech was closed by an interrupted screw, the small parts of which left very much to be desired. Almost every time the gun was used, either something got jammed, or else some small part got broken; the breech mechanism as a whole was not strong enough. Another source of trouble was that the inner tube, after constant firing, had a tendency to work back slightly, so that the breech could not be closed at all. In that case the projecting portion had to be filed down before the gun could be used.

Another defect arose from the fact that the barrel was so low down. To facilitate laying, the sights were made unusually high, the foresight being nearly 7½” high. This undoubtedly affected their accuracy.

At ranges up to 8,200 yards, the gun was layed over the sights; from that to 10,800 yards, it was layed by means of an adjustable level which was attached to the sights. This gun had a very long range, and while it was new its ballistic power was also very good.

It may be argued that such a long range is quite unnecessary because it is impossible to make sure of hitting anything. This may be true in Europe, where the atmosphere is comparatively dense; but in South Africa, where it is light and clear, a long range gun has very great advantages. For my own part, I believe that cases will often occur, even in European countries, when natural features of the ground, and tactical situations, will necessitate ranges of more than 5,400 yards.

The brake gear consisted of a cross-bar actuated by two separate levers. It worked badly. If the two levers were not applied carefully together, the mechanism jammed; and the cross-bar was also liable to get bent. The brake was not used as a recoil brake at all.

Erosion and defects in the bore did not occur, nor was it necessary to clean out the bore while the gun was in action. At the close of an action, it was sponged out and then greased over.

The construction of the wheels in the Creusôt gun was decidedly good. The chief point about them was the ease with which the wheels could be taken to pieces. If a spoke got broken, the screws by which it was fixed to the iron nave were removed, and a new spoke was inserted in place of the broken one, and screwed into position. This arrangement was similar to that of the wheels in the Krupp model.
The advantage of these removeable spokes was that any damage to the wheels could be promptly and easily repaired. Moreover, the Creusôt wheels were better adapted to local conditions of ground and weather than others which had wooden naves. As the roads were mostly very bad, and often, in the complete absence of roads, we had to cut across country in a straight line over every kind of ground, a great strain was placed upon the material of the wheels. For the Boer there was no such thing as impossible country; it might be marshy, or it might be rocky, he walked and rode everywhere, and took his guns with him. He thought nothing of riding at full gallop over the most desperate looking broken ground!

I frequently spoke to the representative of Schneider & Co. about serious defects in the gun and its ammunition to which I will allude on another page. He always tried to make out that it must have been our fault; that the gun had been badly handled, or that we had allowed the ammunition to get wet. This argument, however, could hardly hold, because the Krupp gun, under exactly the same conditions, continued to give excellent results.

Before the war, it was the custom to say all good things of the Creusôt guns, and to rank them above the Krupp. But when they were put to the test, this judgment had to be reversed. After it had been a short time on active service, the Creusôt gun fell very low in the general estimation. In spite of its great weight, it was too weak in some of its parts, and various details of its construction left much to be desired. It was ill-adapted to hard work on active service; and one very soon found that the Krupp gun was by far the better of the two.



The Maxim-Nordenfeldt 2·95” Model '97 Q.F. Gun.





Two of the three guns of this model which the Boers had in their possession had been captured from Dr Jameson's troops in the fight at Doornkop on the 1st of January, 1896. The third had been added since then. [Wichmann is incorrect here - one gun (No.4116) was captured from Jameson, while the other two (Nos. 4381 & 4408) were imported by the Transvaal in 1897].

Just before the outbreak of the war, two of them formed part of the temporary armament of the fort at Johannesburg. When hostilities began, they took the field at once, and were allotted to the German contingent in General de Kock's column. The third one was subsequently used in the attack on Mafeking.

They were splendid guns, and it was most unfortunate for us that they could not all lend us their services a little longer. The first two fell into the hands of the English as early as the battle of Elandslaagte, after the Johannesburg gunners had served them until the English infantry came up between them.

As far as the details of their construction were concerned, they ranked between the Krupp and the Creusôt models. On the other hand, to judge by their general powers, they were certainly equal to the Krupp, and in some respects better, while they were beyond question far superior to the Creusôt.

The weight of the carriage was 12½ cwt., and the total weight of the gun was (approximately) 18½ cwt. In weight, therefore, it came between the Krupp and the Creusôt. The inner tube of the barrel, which was of steel, was 7’ 3” long. It had 30 grooves of uniform twist, and was enclosed in a steel jacket which, with its two buffers, was fixed upon a semi-circular plate which swung in a vertical plane upon a fixed pivot underneath it and between the brackets of the carriage.

The axle-tree passed through both brackets of the carriage resting in bearings rivetted to the brackets.

The height of the axis of the gun was 34·6”, and the height of the wheels was 4·8”. The width of track, (4·9”) however, gave the necessary stability.

The breech was closed by an interrupted screw block.

The carriage was fitted with both traversing and elevating gear. On the left side of the carriage there was a moveable seat for the gun layer, but it was quite impossible for him to remain sitting on it while the gun was firing.

The maximum range of the gun was 7,600 yards.

The recoil mechanism consisted of two cylindrical buffers cast in one piece with the jacket, one on each side of the lower portion of it; and their piston-rods were fixed to the breech. The barrel was driven forward again after the recoil by the action of two springs inside the buffers, which were contracted by the force of the discharge. The barrl1 recoiled through 12”. So far as I know, there were relatively few complaints about the working of the recoiling barrel in this gun. At the same time, it must be borne in mind that we saw far less of them than of the French guns.

The brake gear consisted of two brake-blocks, the arms which carried them were fixed to the axle-trees and suspended to the brackets of the carriage when not in use. When the gun was being fired, they were geared against the wheels, and acted in the usual way as a recoil brake. The gun, as a rule, was steadier on firing than the French model.
The ammunition will be described on another page. There were no ammunition wagons, but 36 rounds were carried in the limber.

A German artillery officer [Majoor Alfred von Dalwig], who had one of these guns with him for a long time in the siege of Mafeking, spoke very highly of it.



The Krupp 1·44” Model '96 L/30 Q.F. Gun.





There is very little to be said about the 1·44" batteries, for this gun was never used in any systematic way, either in a battery, or even as a single gun.

It was always taken about without its limber, and consequently without any fixed means of traction, and only used in defensive positions. When it had to be moved from one place to another, it was either put up on an ox-wagon, or else lashed on behind it.

The barrel was 44” in length. The axis of the gun was somewhat high, being 31”, and thus very little less than the height of the wheels, 34”. The barrel rested on two plates about 15½" high, which were immediately in rear of the axle-tree. The breech mechanism consisted of a falling block and was so arranged that the motion of opening and closing the breech cocked and fired the gun, consequently great rapidity of fire could be kept up. There was elevating and traversing gear. The trail was cylindrical with a fixed reversible spade. At the lower end of the trail there was a seat for the layer.

The total weight of the gun was only 3¼ cwt.; with its limber, ammunition, &c., it was only a little over 10 cwt. One horse was enough for it.

Before the outbreak of the war, two of these guns were in the caponiere of the fort at Johannesburg.

For my own part, I had a great liking for them. They shot with remarkable accuracy. The Boers were not so fond of them, because the projectile, which only weighed 1 lb., was too small to please them. They maintained that in comparison with the automatic guns, which fired the same weight of projectile, these fired too slowly, and consequently had not the same effect. This is true; but on the other hand, no remarkable fire effect should be expected from a projectile weighing only 1 lb., unless its fire can be massed.

The extreme range of the gun was 3,600 yards. The fixed ammunition was the same as that used for the automatic gun, except that the former had a slightly stronger charge. The difference was unimportant, for the ammunition was interchangeable.

The Boers never grasped the idea of Mountain Artillery. There never was a hill on to which, whether it were easy or difficult, they would not take any one of their guns. In this respect, we certainly learnt a great deal from them.



The Krupp 4·7” Model '97 L/10 Field Howitzer.





The Boers had four of these guns, but they did not make a battery of them until the beginning of the war; until then, they had been set apart as reserve guns. The result was, that unfortunately no preparations had been made for mobilizing them. Both guns and wagons were provided with from 10 to 12 mules each for traction, but the detachments were never properly mounted. This involved a serious loss of mobility to these guns.

They were used almost exclusively in Natal, and, for a short time later on in the war, in the south-eastern districts. Almost immediately after the outbreak of hostilities, the battery was sent with a mounted commando to Komatipoort, on the Portuguese frontier, with a view to checking any attempts the English might make to advance from that point. As soon as it was found that nothing was to be feared there, the battery was ordered to Natal.

As a battery, it only went once into action; that was on the 30th of October, 1899, at Modderspruit, near Ladysmith. In course of time, it was found more expedient to use the guns singly. They worked most admirably, and my great regret was that we did not possess larger numbers of them.

The gun closely resembled the German model '98 field howitzer. The chief difference lay in the calibre, which was 4·7” in the former against 4·1” in the latter. The barrel, again, was about 90 lbs. lighter. The other measurements and details of construction were the same as in the model '98 howitzer. The weight of the gun and carriage was slightly (15 lbs.) more than a ton. The barrel was about 4 ft. long; it was connected with the brackets by trunnions, the brackets themselves being similar to, but somewhat heavier than those of the model '95 field gun. The elevating arc was attached underneath the barrel.

There was no cradle. The breech mechanism was on the wedge and block system. The height of the axis of the gun was 37”. The extreme range which the elevating arc admitted of was 40° on level ground, and the maximum depression 5°. This was 5° less for depression than the model '98 could put on, but it was not a serious matter, as depression never becomes necessary in practice. The wheels were 4ft. high, and their width of track was 5ft. The carriage was fitted with a broad removable spade, which worked much better than those of the French guns.

The brake gear consisted of two brake-arms, one on either side of the carriage, and each fitted to hold a brake block. The handwheels which actuated them worked independently, and were attached to the carriage near the axletree.

Although the spade and the brake took a great part of the recoil, still the jump, with this gun, was very considerable, so much so as to seriously affect both its stability and its rapidity of fire. On several occasions the gun was even overturned; and this almost always happened if it was fired on hard, rocky ground. This defect asserted itself on the very first occasion, at Modderspruit, and in the thick of an action, it was a source of great difficulty if the gun had to be put right again after overturning.

Apart from this, however, the '97 howitzer was really splendid. Its matériel was all so good that repairs were never necessary.

The ammunition wagon was in two parts, very serviceable and well arranged. There were 16 rounds – shell and ammunition – in each part, and the same number again in the limber. The ammunition was also most excellent.

In very broken country, this was the best gun possible for firing with any effect upon the enemy's reserves while they kept under cover behind crest-lines and hills. If only we had had a few more howitzers, we could have inflicted far greater losses upon the English in this way, by striking at their reserves, which were always massed behind high ground. In many cases it was absolutely impossible to do so with ordinary field guns. It is, and will continue to be, of great importance in warfare, to be able to expose the enemy's reserves to artillery fire at long ranges, while they are still under cover.

With the great penetrating power it possessed, the '97 howitzer was also very effective against concealed targets, while light entrenchments offered no resistance to it.

Owing to their large angle of descent, no target, as I have said, was safe against the howitzers. We ourselves found this often enough by experience when the English began to use them; our people feared them more than anything else. Many a position would the English never have captured, had it not been for their howitzers; and it was very fortunate for us that at first they used common shell, and no shrapnel. They spoilt their own results by doing this, for with the deep pits and entrenchments which the Boers dug, common shell were only effective when they actually burst inside. Later on, the English also used shrapnel, which had a destructive effect through the large number of bullets which were scattered about. On many occasions we adopted indirect fire, in order to cope with the superior strength in artillery of the English; here also, this gun gave good results.

Although the mobility of the howitzers was by no means all that one could desire, since they were only drawn by mules, still they never gave us serious trouble in this respect. The field howitzer can go practically anywhere; moreover, it will have to do so – perhaps even the heavier models will have to – in the preparation of the infantry attack. Field Artillery alone will no longer be sufficient. The mere existence of difficulties must never be allowed to stand in the way of carrying howitzers about.

The English very soon discovered this. In the fight at Alman's Nek, on the 11th of June, 1900, during Buller's advance from Natal into the Transvaal, they lost no time in bringing their howitzer battery into action, along with the Field Artillery, up to within 2,600 yards from the Boer positions, and the issue of the fight was mainly decided by them.



The Creusôt 5·8” Siege Gun.





This battery was the only heavy artillery the Transvaal possessed; it was only used in the field.

Before the war, these four guns had been one in each of the four forts at Pretoria, and they were not originally intended for use in the field. Very soon after the outbreak of the war, however, it was decided to take them out.

They could not be used on the bare ground. A platform always had to be laid down, and they were connected by hydraulic buffers with pivots on the platforms. The recoil was checked by these buffers and by iron scotches placed behind the wheels.

These platforms took so long to lay down that it was frequently unprofitable, and sometimes quite impossible to use the guns. It was only later in the course of the war that we used them without platforms.

Apart from the platform itself, there was always a difficulty about shifting the gun for firing or travelling. For travelling, the gun had to be dismounted from the trunnion holes, and lowered between the brackets of the carriage, or else the muzzle was liable to get burred on rough ground. To do this, however, we required heavy plates and scotches, and it may be imagined what labour was involved. Yet in spite of all, the Boers used these guns in the very forefront of their attacks, and never lost one of them.

Unfortunately, I am unable to give exact particulars here. The gun weighed between 89 and 107 cwt. The breech mechanism was closely similar to that of the 2·95” Q.F., but it had one serious defect. After 100 or 150 rounds, the lock got so badly eroded that it was no longer safe to use it; a flame began to shoot out to the rear. The vent was axial, and the charge was ignited by a friction tube. Strange as it may seem, gunpowder was used, and it produced a great deal of erosion in the gun. After every five or six rounds, the bore and breech mechanism had to be thoroughly cleaned, and this took a long time. Moreover, it had to be done with water, which increased the difficulty; for on the high hills where these guns often stood, water was by no means easy to obtain.

The 5·8” had a very long range – 10,800 yards. Up to about 8,600 yards, it could be layed over the sights; after that, the longitudinal level was used. The large English naval guns carried even further than this, although their calibre was only 4·7'', but they use cordite.

Ours were drawn at first by teams of 12 American mules; later on, we used oxen in their place. In spite of the great weight of the 5·8”, it kept up extremely well with the rest of the army. On one occasion very early in the war, it was thought necessary to take one of the four on to a high hill on the Natal frontier. Sixty oxen tried to do it, but failed; eventually, 400 men took the matter in hand with long drag ropes, and ran the gun up the hill without difficulty.

These siege guns were of very great assistance to us. Their comparative failure in actual siege work during the war was due to the lack of ammunition, and still more to defective leadership among the Boers, who never would make up their minds to carry out a systematic and sustained artillery attack.



The 1·45” Vickers-Maxim Automatic Gun (Pom-pom).





This gun played a very important part throughout the war – I might almost say a more important part than any other. As I have already said, the Boers had, on the outbreak of the war, 24 of them. This gun has been a long time in use in the German Navy.

The Boers never formed batteries of 1·45”. Each of the three field batteries which at first took the field was accompanied by two of them; all the remainder were held in reserve for a time, and then sent off separately wherever they happened to be wanted. The Boers thoroughly understood the use of them.

The first that went out were drawn by teams of six horses each, and those that were kept in reserve, by mules. This proved sufficient, even on the worst ground they ever had occasion to cross.

The mechanism of the 1·45” was almost exactly the same as that of the Maxim machine gun, only it was slightly larger, and it stood on a pivot high above the axle-trees.

In the limber were 12 trays, each of which contained a belt of 25 rounds, which was drawn through the gun by exactly the same mechanism as in the Maxim machine gun. The projectile weighed about 1 lb. Unfortunately, there were no ammunition wagons, naturally a serious matter for the supply of ammunition, for 300 rounds in the limber do not go very far with an automatic gun. The ammunition was, it is true, carried on wagons, but it was not made up; the belts had to be filled before they could be used, and that took a great deal of time. The No. 1 and the other three numbers of the detachment had enough to do without that, so two of the drivers loaded the belts and brought them up when ready.

As soon as the English found how wonderfully effective this gun was, they began to use it extensively; and they used a wagon with it, which was divided into two parts in the same way as the limber.

Ranging was carried out in much the same way as with field guns; only instead of one round as in the latter case, three or four were fired together, to facilitate observation.

Against moving targets, the 1·45” was decidedly superior to field guns, which were hampered by their spades. It had not the ordinary mechanism for traversing, which also takes time, and even then does not cover any too wide a field; but instead, the whole gun stood on a pivot, by means of which it could quite easily be moved through 22½° to right or left. Elevation was put on by means of a double screw. Both these arrangements were similar to those of the machine gun.

We used these guns for choice, and always with great success, against the enemy's cavalry. The latter were always thrown into much confusion, not only by their actual losses, but also by the great moral effect of the small projectiles bursting in masses with a sharp cracking noise among them, that they always fled in a panic.

On the 24th July, 1900, in a fight by Strijdkraal in the Wakkerstroom district, a force of some 500 English cavalry tried to attack our right flank, in extended order. There was a Vickers-Maxim gun at this spot, it opened fire at 1,400 yards, and in a short time the cavalry were in headlong flight, leaving large numbers of men and horses behind. This is only one of several instances that I could cite.

The sights were graduated up to 3,800 yards; but by means of devices which we introduced, we shot up to 5,400 yards with it. Of course it was no use at these ranges against small targets; only columns could be hit; but the dispersion which took place increased the effect.

In the battles by the Tugela River, the 1·45” was used with great success against Infantry in close order, at long ranges.

Against targets under cover, it was not so successful; its penetrating power was not sufficient, although we tried the projectile with a pointed head and a percussion fuze. On the other hand, it never failed against exposed targets of any kind. I had occasion to observe this in the very first battle of the war, at Talana Hill, (Dundee) on the 20th of October, 1899. I myself fired at 2,200 yards, at Infantry, and they very soon abandoned their attempt to advance further. At a later stage in the same battle, two 1·45”s were used in co-operation with some mounted troops against the enemy's Cavalry in our rear. The latter, although they made several attempts to recover the position from which they had been driven (they also had a Maxim gun with them), were completely driven off.

The moral effect of the 1·45” was at least equal to its tactical value, this was always confirmed by what English captives told me, and our own experiences later on in the war bore it out. The deadly work it did on Spion Kop was really appalling; on this occasion, its effect was increased by the fact that the ground was covered over with rocks. One gun was to the west of the hill, at a range of 3,800 yards, and kept on firing all day until it was dark. It commanded the spot by which the English reserves came up; no sooner did some of them show themselves there, than "hell-fire" as they called it, broke out, and many an English soldier paid for his attempt to pass that spot with his life. I visited it the following day, and the ground was literally strewn with corpses.

It was not only, however, against infantry and cavalry that we used the Pom Pom to great advantage, but also against Field Artillery. On several occasions during the second portion of the war, I myself completely silenced English field guns with Vickers-Maxims. In this connection, I would like to quote from the diary of Captain von Loessberg, who served with me in the Boer Artillery during a portion of the war. This diary is shortly to be published; his account may be exaggerated in parts, but it shows, for our present purpose, in what high estimation the 1·45” was held.

Our Pom Poms had an enormous effect upon the English Artillery. Two English batteries stood without any cover whatsoever upon the long crestline which ran towards the farm of Abrahamskraal. The Pom Poms fired steadily upon these positions, and silenced one gun after the other, it was like knocking down skittles in a skittle alley.

It was on this day that I received my first and final instruction in the use of the 1·45” Maxim N ordenfeldt gun. At medium ranges, and it is with medium ranges that we shall have almost exclusively in warfare – the 1·45” is undoubtedly superior to field guns, and does more than the most effective shrapnel, not only because one can steadily regulate the fire against moving targets, but also on account of its great rapidity of fire. Give me two good Maxim-Nordenfeldts, and at any time I will undertake to put a whole battery out of action before it has time to get off a single shrapnel shell at me. Furthermore, the shields with which the gun is provided, give the detachment great protection, and without any disparagement to the courage of the two confederate branches of artillery, I may say that the courage of our men received a great impetus from the protection thus received. I remember in particular one occasion near Brakspruit, on the 5th of August, 1900, when I was shooting with one Maxim-Nordenfeldt at Infantry, at a range of only 1,100 yards. In spite of the short range, we only had one man wounded; and the cause of this was, that a belt got jammed in the mechanism of the gun, and he stood up beside the left wheel to pull it through. He was shot through the thigh.

In the second part of the war, again, we used the pom-poms more than any others in conjunction with our mounted troops, on account of their mobility.

They were the only guns used in this war that were provided with shields. The shields were nearly 3½ ft. square, and about ·4” thick. They were fixed on above the axle-trees, and were partly above, partly below the level of the barrel. On the line of march they were taken off and laid on the limber; if that was not done, they not only made a great deal of noise, but also had a tendency to make the gun unwieldy, and knock it about. They weighed about 100 lbs. each and were quite impervious to rifle and shrapnel bullets.

I myself on several occasions, for instance, at Talana Hill and at Willow Grange, near Estcourt – saw the immense advantage of these shields. Rifle bullets, which would otherwise have been hitting us, were continually pattering against them without doing any harm, although I must confess that in this respect they did not do much to soothe our nerves.
At Spion Kop, the shield on one of these guns was completely covered over with marks of shrapnel bullets which had hit it, and an empty shrapnel case had gone through it. Of course the shield is no protection against an entire shell; that would be quite impossible. Plates which were thick enough to accomplish this would completely do away with the mobility of the gun.

The shields were admirably adapted to the peculiarities of this gun. As it had no recoil, the detachment could remain quietly in their places, and keep under cover. It is true that they made the gun a more conspicuous target; but if they could by some arrangement be made to look the same colour as the ground, this was not a very serious matter. Ours were of a greyish blue colour; but we spread sacks over them, and from a short distance they became quite invisible.

The best way to distribute pom-poms will not be by batteries, but singly, or still better, in pairs. They should go with the advanced guard, and especially with cavalry, with whom they will be most useful, often more so than Horse Artillery.

It is of peculiar importance with this gun, however, that a great deal should be left to the initiative of the layer; for if time is wasted in giving out various words of command, the essential advantage of the gun – its effect against targets moving rapidly or disappearing – is thrown away.

In order, however, to make the pom-pom as completely serviceable as I have suggested that it might be, some improvements must be made in its mechanism and in the carriage, for we had an unnecessary amount of trouble with it. Although the mechanism is more durable than in the ordinary Maxim, since it is larger and stronger, still there are certain alterations which ought to be made, by which it will be much improved.

If these improvements are introduced (and I am quite sure they can be) I look upon this gun as a formidable weapon, of immense importance, and I earnestly look forward to its introduction into the German Army.

The English, on the strength of their experiences, have now armed every one of their cavalry regiments with a 1·45” pom-pom, or machine gun. The establishment for one (all mounted) consists of 1 subaltern officer, I sergeant, a detachment of 6, and 2 drivers.



Machine guns.





Although machine guns do not, strictly speaking, form part of the artillery, I would like to make a few remarks here about them and their use in the South African War.

The Transvaal troops had about 30 of them, some Lee-Metford ·303”, some Martini-Henri ·45”. Some of them had leather covers into which they were packed away, gun and tripod together, while others had no covers at all, and were carried loose. They were all constructed on the Maxim system, and most of them stood on a tripod carriage which could be taken to pieces.

The machine guns were never formed into special units, and unfortunately no sufficient preparations were made for their transport, either in the way of men or of animals. Travelling carriages they never had. For these reasons, the machine guns were never used in the proper way by the Boers, and in many cases, they were never used at all. Most of the artillerymen were instructed in the use of them.

Captain Braun, in his pamphlet on "Maxim machine guns and their use", says: –
"The sound work they did under difficult circumstances in the Boer War proved that these guns will be very useful in the field". After all I saw with my own eyes in the course of the war, I cannot accept this verdict without certain reservations. I would be more inclined to warn people against an overestimation of the value of machine guns.

Captain Braun goes on to say: –
"It is to be noticed that in the South African War, complaints were not raised against the mechanism (and general powers of endurance) of these guns, although, especially on the side of the Boers, the way they were served left everything to be desired".

When he says that no complaints were raised, he can only mean that they never reached his ears; and when he says that the way the machine guns were served by the Transvaal and Free State Artillery left everything to be desired, it shows that he has drawn his information from absolutely ignorant critics.

There were only too many complaints.

As for fire discipline, under service conditions there always will be room for improvement, even among the best trained gunners, for lack of the necessary time and opportunity to attain perfection. Mechanism like that of machine guns requires this time and opportunity all the more; and if the men cannot be trained as carefully as they should be in the use of it, the results are soon seen when the gun does not do all that is expected of it.

Unless the mechanism is kept well oiled and scrupulously clean, it begins to jam after a very short time. It cannot, however, be permanently protected against outer influences; little particles of sand always find their way in, either on the line of march or in action.

Innumerable difficulties of various kinds arose with our machine guns in the course of the war, and only too often at just the most critical moments.

They were not used on any fixed system by the Boers. They were only brought out in defensive positions, or when the Boers were themselves undertaking sieges. They were always placed where they could command the most salient points of the enemy's position, and were kept well under cover, but as no adequate arrangements were made for their transport, if the enemy happened to take us by surprise, they had to be left were they stood. For the same reason, the means of using them with the advanced guard, or in offensive operations, were very limited.

Captain Braun says that the Boers obtained very good results with them at Glencoe (Talana Hill) and in the fight outside Ladysmith, at Modderspruit. This is not correct. The Boers used no machine guns at all on either of these occasions, while later on, in the siege of Ladysmith, the results obtained with them on both sides were insignificant.

After the main body of the Boer forces had been dispersed, machine guns were still very seldom used by the different bodies of mounted men who carried on the war, for the simple reason once again, that there was no transport for them. Now and then, perhaps, a Maxim gun was captured and taken on with an improvised travelling carriage, but as a rule they were not to be found in use.

The failure of machine guns on the English side as well as on the side of the Boers during the war was due partly to the fact that they were too often used in the wrong place, and even then that they were used too much one at a time. Partly, however, it was also due to defects in the guns themselves. The mechanism did not work well, and the dispersion of the projectiles was not sufficient. Of course, there are occasions when machine guns can be used singly, as, for instance, in attacking a defile. But to repel an attack, they must be massed. It is also wrong to make them formally take up positions, in the same way as artillery. They should be placed in position independently, but on a fixed plan for all those that are working together; and their fire should be controlled so as to make their co-operation more complete.

Captain Braun goes on to say that a machine gun does not make a more conspicuous target than a man with a rifle. This may be true so long as the gun is standing by itself. But a gun has to be served, and brought into action by more than one man; then it surely becomes a more conspicuous target.

In the battle at Itala, in Zululand, on the 26th of September, 1901, there was an English Maxim gun in an entrenched position, at a range of about 350 yards from us, and there were some infantry in the same trench. It fired at us for about one minute, and we then silenced it for the remainder of the day, whereas the infantry went on firing. The Maxim formed a much more conspicuous target, and drew continuous fire upon itself.

I consider that it is far harder for a machine gun section to advance under hostile fire without cover, than it is for infantry to do so. Each individual man, in the latter case, will be able to do more to protect himself than those who have to carry or drag machine guns along. Moreover, the weight of machine guns will necessitate their going slower, and that will give the enemy's marksmen a better chance. Cover which is quite sufficient for men by themselves, will not always afford protection to machine guns with their detachments.

Captain Braun, again, is of opinion that they can always be dragged out of, or lowered into, their positions. Whether they would stand this kind of handling is, I think, very much open to question; we must not forget that we are dealing with automatic and complicated mechanism.

I think it will be found very difficult to throw machine gun sections forward into the front line during an action in open country. Yet it will often become necessary to try, because it is not advisable to use them in one fixed place from the outset; they should be held in reserve to be turned against salient points of the enemy's position. Of course exceptional cases will arise. As a rule, however, I think it is not advisable to send them into action at once. Unless there are special reasons for acting otherwise, the section leader should keep them in hand until they are likely to have a decisive effect. It will be extremely difficult to change their positions when once they are in action.

The great mistake which was made in the use of machine guns by both sides during the South African War was, as I have already pointed out, that they never massed their fire. Only on one occasion did I see the English do it; that was on the 27th of February, 1900, in the decisive attack on the Pietersberg hills, which led to the relief of Ladysmith. The English had a crowd of machine guns commanding our positions from a hill at a range of about 3,500 yards, and they kept up a continuous fire for several hours in support of their infantry attack. As the range was so great, our losses were not very serious, but the moral effect they had undoubtedly was. Our people were very much disturbed by the enormous number of bullets which came whistling by, and neither shot so steadily nor dared show themselves above their cover.

I frequently had occasion to notice the poor fire effect of isolated machine guns. In the very first battle, at Talana Hill (Dundee) some English cavalry which attacked us in rear, brought a machine gun into action. A squadron of mounted Boers advanced about 150 yards, and attacked them. The Maxim continued firing until it had to take to flight with the remainder of the cavalry. The horse which drew the gun, however, was wounded, so the English had to leave it behind. Not a single man or horse of ours had been wounded by its fire.

As in this case, the English often shot without unhooking the horse, and even without stopping it. In the former case, the accuracy of fire was much impaired by even the least movement of the horse; needless to say that in the latter it was a negative quantity.

Several times, later on in the course of the war, I again noticed that a Maxim gun was not much use against cavalry attacking in extended order. The target advanced much too quickly for it. The man who fired it had neither the time nor the ease of mind to take accurate aim, and do all that he was supposed to do. The theories which are laid down in peace time sound very fine, in action, however, they are not so easy to carry out. Moreover, the dispersion of a single gun is not enough to inflict material loss upon an enemy in extended order. The massed fire of several machine guns would naturally be a very different matter.

In spite of my somewhat disparaging remarks about them, I think it would be a very useful step to attach machine guns to cavalry. In reconnaissance they might be of great assistance; while in a cavalry attack in close order, they could do very useful work in supporting their own attack and breaking up the enemy’s. They would then have large and solid targets to fire at, and those are the very kind against which machine guns, especially in large numbers, are most destructive.

Captain Braun, again, maintains that a machine gun is worth 50 or 60 rifles. As far as the actual number of rounds is concerned, it is, of course, worth that number and more. But whether it obtains equally good results is, I think, very doubtful.

Its accuracy is not to be compared with that of 50 or 60 rifles; it may be so in one spot, but not over the whole area which the rifles can cover. The machine gun can sweep the ground on which two, or perhaps four, of the enemy are lying, but meanwhile all the remainder of them will turn their fire at it, and silence it almost immediately. In quite exceptional cases – for instance, in attacking a defile – a machine gun will, perhaps, be able to take the place of several rifles.

As a target, it naturally covers less ground than 50 or 60 men, but on the other hand, it must not be forgotten that whereas in the latter case, the enemy's fire is scattered over a long line, in the former it is concentrated upon a single point. I am also very much inclined to doubt whether the detachment of a machine gun will fire so steadily as isolated men with rifles; I certainly never found it to be the case in the South African War.

The supply of ammunition in action will also be a difficult matter, for the expenditure is very considerable. The gun is fired so easily and rapidly that there is a natural tendency to waste ammunition. Where the infantryman fires a single round, and perhaps hits his adversary with it, the man at the Maxim throws away scores of rounds.

I should summarize the lessons we learn in this connection from the South African War as follows: –
1. We must be careful not to attach too much importance to machine guns.
2. Machine gun sections must always be kept together, but otherwise be adapted to local conditions of ground, &c. Machine guns should only in very exceptional circumstances be used singly.
3. Machine guns should be economised in action. The section leader should keep them back until they can have a decisive effect. Cavalry should always be accompanied by machine gun sections.
4. If used in the right way, by a competent and well-trained personnel, they will certainly be a great success.



III. – AMMUNITION.


It was a serious drawback to us throughout the war, that there were so many different kinds of ammunition. Each of the three mounted batteries which took the field on the outbreak of hostilities had to take three kinds. This naturally meant a much larger ammunition park than would otherwise have been necessary, while another result was, that one gun had very often expended all its ammunition when there was still a plentiful supply left for others.

The Creusôt, Krupp, and Nordenfeldt Q.F. guns had fixed ammunition, i.e. the charge and the projectile were encased together in a brass case, like a rifle bullet. The Krupp field howitzer also had its charge in a brass case, but the shell was separate. The pom-poms of course had fixed ammunition; the Creusot siege guns had their charge in a silk cover.

I have already said something about the great supplies of ammunition that we carried about. Some of it had been sent to Africa in leaden or wooden cases, some of it had come loose. All the field and siege guns had common shell, shrapnel, and case. There were no high explosive shell. The French projectile weighed 14·3 lbs. and 19·2 lbs. with its cartridge. The number of bullets in the shrapnel shell was 234.

A large portion of the ammunition was very bad. It must have suffered in transport to South Africa, for it is not conceivable that it can have come out of the factories as bad as it was. The fuzes were particularly worthless; in some cases, they had already become unscrewed before they were unpacked. The time fuzes were hardly ever reliable, while the percussion fuzes were in a great many cases quite as bad.

The time fuzes for the siege guns were absolutely useless. After a great deal of puzzling, we finally discovered the reason; every time one of them was fired, a certain small part of the internal mechanism broke, with the result that the fuze only burnt itself out. As soon as we found this out and put it right, we obtained striking results with our shrapnel; and if only we had known of it earlier, we would have inflicted fearful losses upon the English Army. This defect in the mechanism of the fuze proved very clearly that the fuzes were badly constructed, and that the fault did not lie in our handling of the guns, as the representative of Schneider and Co. was always trying to make out.

All the French fuzes could be used up to very nearly 11,000 yards, by a special arrangement of the combustion ring. It is a great advantage to be able to use shrapnel at these extreme ranges, so as to bring the enemy's columns even at that distance under effective fire.

Another defect about the French fixed ammunition was that the small bag of fine powder which was supposed to rest against the tube inside, and to ignite the charge, was constantly getting shifted out of place in transport; missfires were the result, for the jet of flame from the tube was not strong enough of itself to ignite the charge.

The fixed ammunition, again, was not put together firmly enough; the charge consequently suffered from the effect of the weather, and it very often happened that on drawing the projectile out of the tray, which had grooves to fit it exactly, the shell remained behind. Lastly, they were always getting jammed.

The field guns had smokeless powder, but the siege guns had not. The smoke raised by the latter was extraordinary, and it made observation very easy for the enemy; the besieged inhabitants of Ladysmith, for instance, could always see it, and get under cover in time. The erosion set up by this powder was also considerable, and it had a bad effect upon the breech-block. The projectile of the 5·8” siege gun weighed 92 lbs. The cartridge was enclosed in a silk cover.

I think I have said enough to show that the French matériel was of distinctly inferior quality. The Krupp matériel, on the other hand, was almost always faultless.

The average weight of projectiles for field guns was 9½ lbs., or slightly more than 11½ lbs., including the cartridge. In addition to the shrapnel, we had ring shell. The number of bullets in the shrapnel shell was 250. T. and P. fuzes, or percussion fuzes alone, were used.

The ammunition arrived in Africa in leaden cases, soldered up. The fuzes had not got unscrewed, but were themselves enclosed in little leaden boxes, also soldered up and air-tight, which had to be opened when the fuze was to be used. They worked splendidly, and with wonderful precision; I never saw one of them fail to act. Unfortunately, they were only graduated up to 3,500 yards, which was a serious disadvantage. When the English artillery shot at us with their Armstrong guns, we could only reply with common shell. I would take this opportunity to urge once more the importance of having fuzes graduated for long ranges.

The fuzes for the 4·7” field howitzers were also admirable. They consisted of time fuzes and percussion fuzes. The weight of the projectile for these guns was 36 lbs.; they used ring shell, fuzed common shell, made of steel, and shrapnel shell, also of steel, which contained 615 bullets. There were no case shot for them.

One great advantage about these shrapnel was that they could be used up to 6,000 yards; that was decidedly a point in our favour against the English artillery. Our shrapnel was decidedly superior to that of both the English and the French. With ours, the whole metal case broke up on burst, and the bullets were scattered about in a broad cone, whereas with the other two, the bullets were only blown forward out of the case, and the cone of dispersion was consequently much narrower. I once saw a shrapnel shell from a Krupp howitzer cover the whole front of an English battery in adion, and that at a range of only 6,000 yards; if it had been an English or French shell, only one or perhaps two of the guns would have been hit.

Not only the dispersion in breadth, however, but also the dispersion in depth was greater in the case of the German shell. Both should always be kept in the right proportion to one another, according to the purposes for which a shell is intended.

The shell was separate from the cartridge, which was also in a brass case. This often gave us occasion to notice the superiority of fixed ammunition, it increases the rapidity of fire, is handier in transport, and is not so much affected by weather conditions. I frequently made comparisons between Armstrong guns and ours on this point. I always found the fixed ammunition more satisfactory, especially in action, when the men began to be rather restless.

I never saw any jamming occur, due to dints or unevenness on the surface of the cases. Empty cases were collected and sent back to the factories, for they could always be used again.

The Krupp ammunition was so well sealed up that it could be left lying in water a long time without coming to any harm.

The projectile for the 1·45” quick firer was almost identically the same as that of the Vickers-Maxim automatic gun. I' weighed 1·54 lbs. or 1·94 lbs. with the charge. The first-named were only provided with percussion fuzes, but the latter had delay-action fuzes as well, for use against targets of hard material.

The ammunition of the Maxim-Nordenfeldt guns was also excellent, like that of the Krupp guns. The weight of the projectile was 13·2 lbs. or 16 lbs. including the charge. The shrapnel shell contained 232 bullets. Time and percussion fuzes were used, and both worked admirably.



The supply of ammunition.


The supply of ammunition was defective to such an extent as to seriously spoil the success of our artillery.

When the war broke out, almost all the ammunition was stored in a large magazine at Pretoria; only a small quantity was in the fort at Johannesburg and in the forts around Pretoria. There were no organized ammunition columns. Ammunition trains, were sent out from Pretoria, one to the neighbourhood of Ladysmith, and another to the frontier of Cape Colony. To the northern and western districts it was sent direct from Pretoria in ox-wagons; the distance to Tuli was about 280 miles, and to Mafeking about 150, so it can be imagined what an undertaking it was!

From the ammunition trains, it was taken to its immediate destination in ox or mule-wagons; each commander of a unit applied for what he wanted. Whether he got it was quite another matter. Very often there were absolutely no means of transport, and then he might have to wait days and days before he received a supply. The higher commanders of the Boer Artillery, and especially their chief, managed this part of their work very badly.

On the 24th of January, in the action at Spion Kop, I had been firing slowly for three hours with my two Creusôt guns, when my ammunition ran out. It was found impossible to raise a single round more, although there was a plentiful supply of it in the ammunition train near Ladysmith, and we were in telegraphic communication with them. I had enough to do to look after my guns; it was the business of the artillery leader to have made previous arrangements, or else to have taken steps then, for the necessary supply of ammunition. If I had had more ammunition, I could have inflicted far more serious losses upon the enemy, for my guns commanded their left flank.

The same thing happened again on the 27th of February, 1900, the day of the decisive attack on the Pietersberg hills. I was in command of the left wing of our artillery position, and the field guns very soon ran short of their ammunition. For many days beforehand, I had been making earnest appeals for more ammunition, but I never got any. The English themselves subsequently admitted that their losses would have been much more severe if we had not been so sparing in the expenditure of ammunition; for even as it was, they had suffered a great deal from our artillery fire.

Another evil custom which prevailed was that of unloading the whole of a load of ammunition whenever one arrived. Its removal at the close of an action was left to one's own responsibility; in this way, large quantities fell into the hands of the English army.

We had very few proper ammunition wagons; only the Creusôt field guns and the Krupp howitzers were provided with them. All the other guns had to be content with what they could carry in their limbers or in ox-wagons; the latter moved so slowly that they could never keep up with the rest of a column. The saving feature in our supply of ammunition was that only fixed ammunition was carried.

Moreover, even the Creusôt wagons which were there were unserviceable. Their wheels were very high, and the track was unduly broad, so that wherever the ground was uneven, they overturned. That damaged the ammunition boxes, and then there was trouble about getting the ammunition into and out of them.

On the ox-wagons the ammunition was carried in boxes, just as it came from the factories; often, however, shell were carried loose on them, rolled up in sacks. Men were told off for the special purpose of unloading the ammunition and distributing it from the wagons in action; but they had a habit of simply stopping work, when the firing grew too hot for them.

Very soon after the war began, it became apparent that the ammunition would run short before long unless some means could be found of obtaining more, for none could be imported into the country. Small parts, however, like tubes, were smuggled in. To get over the difficulty, an ammunition factory was opened in Johannesburg, and the representatives of Schneider and Co. undertook the management of it. The buildings of some large machine works were utilized for the purpose, and powder, as well as shell, fuzes, &c., were manufactured here. All praise is due to the men who guided this undertaking – for the energy they showed, and still more for the work they turned out. It must not be forgotten that all the necessary implements and machinery had first to be put together. The factory was partly destroyed by explosion in May, 1900; whether it was intentional or accidental has never been ascertained. By marvellous good fortune, the most important machinery was hardly injured at all; work could be resumed very few days after, and continued until the arrival of the British army in Johannesburg.

The Boers also increased their supply of ammunition by captures from the enemy, and a large number of their Armstrong guns also fell into our hands.



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Artillery and Ammunition 3 months 2 weeks ago #92713

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These snapshots were taken by Lieut. F.W. von Wichmann, while serving at Fort Johannesburg shortly before the outbreak of hostilities. He was commissioned into the ZAR Staatsartillerie on 9 Dec 1898 (see Commission document signed by Kruger below).

The piece being worked is one of the Staatsartillerie's three Maxim-Nordenfelt 75 mm (2·95-in) Model '97 Q.F. Guns. One of these had been captured from Jameson during his ill-fated Raid, and the other two were destined to be taken by the British at Elandslaagte.

As you will see from von Wichmann's report in my last post, along with the Krupps, he thought highly of these guns. The Creusots, on the other hand, he struggled to find a single good word for.










Friedrich Wilhelm von Wichmann, photographed wearing the distinctive full dress uniform of a Kaptein in the Transvaal Staatsartillerie.




von Wichmann's Commission, signed by President Kruger on 9th December 1898.



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Artillery and Ammunition 3 months 1 week ago #92820

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An excellent set of pictures. Many thanks, Neville.
Dr David Biggins

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Artillery and Ammunition 3 months 1 week ago #92821

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'To the tune of the four point sev'n
Naval 4.7 in gun on Captain Percy Scott's carriage'

Source: www.angloboerwar.com/forum/19-ephemera/3...-jack?start=48#92516
Dr David Biggins
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Artillery and Ammunition 3 months 2 days ago #92872

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A display of shell fragments, cartridges and bullets, brought home as souvenirs from South Africa. Prominent, in the centre of the shield, is a large piece of 75 mm Krupp BL segment shell.

Of interest are the pom-pom fragments, which have early Maxim-Nordenfelt (MN) factory marks, giving a manufacture date of pre-Oct 1897. These appear to be from one of the earlier shipments to the Transvaal. The majority of attributed Boer pom-pom shells are unmarked, perhaps a reflection of the British manufacturers' desire to distance themselves from the fact that they were helping arm a potential adversary.

Rounds used by the British forces have the later Vickers Sons & Maxim (VSM/VS&M) headstamps.












1-pdr pom-pom shell fragments, all with MN monogram factory marks. Top: Maxim-Nordenfelt percussion fuze (Common Shell). Bottom left: Maxim-Nordenfelt base percussion fuze (Armour-Piercing / Steel Shell). Bottom right: base of Maxim-Nordenfelt 1-pdr Common Shell.




1902 drawing of a VSM 1-pdr Steel (Armour-Piercing) Shell, showing the assembly of the base percussion fuze (MN example pictured above). Also a reconstructed VSM cartridge, made from spent components and engraved "Colenso 5th April 1911".


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