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"Representing howitzers" Topic


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1,098 hits since 16 Jan 2008
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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Foxwig16 Jan 2008 4:49 p.m. PST

Just a quick one: Do many Napoleonic rules simulate the odd howitzer or two that accompany artillery batteries, or are shells usually brought into the game only from all howitzer batteries?

Thanks

Connard Sage16 Jan 2008 4:51 p.m. PST

No

…and no

Defiant16 Jan 2008 4:59 p.m. PST

I account for them in great detail in my own set of rules

Connard Sage16 Jan 2008 5:19 p.m. PST

Good for you

Trokoshea16 Jan 2008 6:06 p.m. PST

I think Carnage & Glory II (on top of a particular casualty table) gives a chance to howitzers to set cover on fire.
Nigel Marsh would be able to explain it all in detail.

nsolomon9916 Jan 2008 7:33 p.m. PST

Most of the sets at battalion/regiment/battery level I have played have some special rules for howitzers. Typically along the lines of an increased likelihood of starting fires in built up areas but sometimes also rules for indirect fire and shrapnel effects.

Nick

rmaker16 Jan 2008 10:07 p.m. PST

And that's exactly the problem with the way most Napoleonic rules handle howitzers.

Increased chance of fires, yes. That's one of the howitzer's major functions.

Indirect fire? No. All field artillery fire is line of sight in the Napoleonic era. You can't see it, you can't shoot at it. If by "indirect" you mean high angle, still no. Most howitzers of the period couldn't be elevated over 7 or 8 degrees, meaning that, at extreme range, the impact angle was about twice that. Mortars were for firing over walls, etc., and they were siege weapons.

By "shrapnel", I presume you mean shell fragments. A black powder shell didn't produce many, sometimes as few as two, usually five to eight. Shrapnel proper (aka spherical or time case) was a British monopoly during the Napoleoniic wars, and waas fired from both guns and howitzers. Postwar tests showed that howitzers were essentially useless with shrapnel due to their low muzzle velocities.

donlowry16 Jan 2008 11:03 p.m. PST

>"Postwar tests showed that howitzers were essentially useless with shrapnel due to their low muzzle velocities."<

Why is that? I would think a lower velocity would make it easier to properly cut the fuse to make the shell/shrapnel burst just where you want it to.

donlowry16 Jan 2008 11:07 p.m. PST

To elaborate on my point above: Say you cut the fuze so as to burst the shell 2 seconds after the piece is fired. The higher the velocity the farther it will travel in 2 seconds, making it harder to guess where it will be at that time. (That is, if you miscalculate by, say, .10 of a second a higher velocity will take it farther from the target in that .10 of a second.)

bobmcdonald17 Jan 2008 4:19 a.m. PST

Shrapnel burst fuzing (as opposed to 20-th century time fuzing) has less need of exact timing. With a Shrapnel shell, you just want the shell to come apart (relatively gently) in mid-flight, and the balls inside continue to fly pretty much along the same line-of-flight as the shell would have. The explosion of the shell does not give the shrapnel balls their impact velocity, but rather the velocity of the shell does.

With 20-th century time and VT fuzes, the timing must be more exact, since it is the bursting charge that propels the fragments (note, modern shells use *fragmentation*, not "shrapnel", which has however become something of a semi-official slang term for "fragments"). Modern shell fragmentation patterns are pretty much a sphere around the point where the shell bursts; the pattern of a real Shrapnel shell is a narrow cone with its apex at the point where the shell bursts, the balls fanning out along the line of flight.

So, short answer: yes, rmaker is right, that the lower-velocity shells make for less effective Shrapnel, since the shell's velocity is more important than accurate timing of the fuze.

donlowry17 Jan 2008 2:48 p.m. PST

I would think that, once the shell has burst, the shrapnel (small shot inside) would spread more the farther they travel, thus bursting it too soon could diminish their affect; and certainly bursting too late (such as after it has buried itself in the mud) would not be much help.

donlowry17 Jan 2008 2:56 p.m. PST

Arms and Equipment of the Civil War by Jack Coggins says, "Spherical case (shrapnel) was used against bodies of troops, usually at ranges from 500 to 1500 yards. The fuzes of the period were so crude that spherical case was seldom used when targets were rapidly closing and opening the range." I doubt that the fuzes had somehow gotten worse in the half-century between the Napoleonic Wars and the ACW.

Also, would not a higher-velocity gun run the risk of bursting the (rather thin) shell within the gun tube?

bobmcdonald17 Jan 2008 3:53 p.m. PST

More accurate fuze timing is always a Good Thing, and yes, the timing will make for a tighter or sloppier pattern. Fuze function close to the target is good, early fuze function is bad since it spreads the balls too far, and late fuze function is real bad since the shell will hit the ground before it opens.

No, fuzes did not get worse between 1815 and 1865. Artillery fire at moving targets should never use time fuze (even today). It was not until the invention of VT fuze in the 1940's that artillery could get reliable air bursts over moving targets.

As far as shattering the shell in the barrel, the wall of the shell is thicker and stronger in a gun shell than in a howizter shell of the same caliber. They are not going to manufacture a shell that is going to risk bursting in the tube. The gun shrapnel shell will have thicker walls and proportionately smaller bursting charge; but the bursting charge does not need to be big, since all it does is open the shell to let the balls keep flying in a cone. Remembering that the balls are propelled by the shell, not by the bursting charge, once again the gun's higher velocity makes the gun shrapnel more effective than howitzer shrapnel.

rmaker17 Jan 2008 9:10 p.m. PST

And the problem with low velocity is that, after the burst the balls need to be travelling fast enough to reach te target with enough energy to cause casualties – usually not the case with howitzer shrapnel.

bobmcdonald18 Jan 2008 3:45 a.m. PST

rmaker --

Do you have a reference for the "postwar experiments"? I'd be interested in seeing what they did to figure all this out: what calibers of gun and howitzer did they test, how were the tests conducted, etc.

rdjktjrfdj18 Jan 2008 7:11 a.m. PST

I see that the conversation has irretrievably shifted from representation of howitzers. To it I can add nothing but that the Newburry rules, the first I used, calculated their impact separately from the rest of the battery.

On shrapnel

The basic fault of the early shrapnel was timing. The work on perfecting the shrapnel was long lasting, even though very intense, since it was considered a supreme weapon. And also secretive. For example, shrapnel was introduced into the Prussian army in 1831, but its specifications were only known to commanders of artillery brigades. Even after ten years artillery officers were not permitted to know results of test firings. Also, the fuse of the Prussian shrapnel was not properly protected from moisture, and were unreliable.

Another problem appeared with the introduction of the breech loading rifled pieces. In them the fuse could not be ignited by the explosion of the charge of the gun. Therefore a new fuse was invented, which ignited by the movement of the round. Until its introduction (in Prussia in 1870, Austria-Hungary 1875, Russia and France 1877) some rifled breechloaders used almost useless shrapnel with impact (propper word?) fuse.
That is why the Prussians did not carry shrapnel rounds on the campaign against Austria. In that war the Austrians used rifled muzzleloaders, and had considerable success with shrapnel.
In the Franco Prussian war only several Prussian batteries were armed with shrapnel with new fuses, while the French used even worse fuses than the Austrians for their muzzleloders, and were not as successful.

Also, I seem to recall that I have read somewhere that the problem with early explosion of shrapnel in older models was not so much a fault of the fuse, but that the friction of the balls within the case, which were not separated from the powder, caused it to be unreliable.

Cant find it now.

nvrsaynvr18 Jan 2008 7:39 a.m. PST

At longer ranges, and broken terrain, you cannot "bounce" a round shot into the enemy, you have to "drop" it on or just in front of them. At that point, you might as well have the shot explode for the potentially extra effect. Howitzers probably spread cannister better, and may have been faster to load. So they represented an enhancement at short and long range, and a deficit at medium ranges. It seems this was optimal in some mix between 1/6 and 1/3…

NSN

vtsaogames18 Jan 2008 9:41 a.m. PST

I read – somewhere – of a French opfficer in the Peninsula who was hit by spent shrapnel. He had a lot of minor facial wounds, ugly but not disabling. I guess it curtailed his amorous adventures.

As an aside, the Napoleon gun of ACW fame was a gun/howitzer. It was a gun that could fire explosive howizter-type shells too, so batteries could be all one type of gun. No high-angle fire was involved. I read this in Nosworthy's 'Bloody Crucible of Courage', but can't recall the technical data.

1968billsfan Supporting Member of TMP31 Jan 2019 11:00 a.m. PST

Uh, if the only purpose of howitzers was to set buildings on fire, why would about 1/3 of the tubes be howitzers in most armies?….. notice that in defense they were set up at the flanks of the typical mixed batteries. (please look up the bore diameter of the mated howitzers and cannon and the number of canister balls in the standard round. hint: about 1/3 more shot)……….. Don't you think it is more than a little dumb to say that howitzer used "plunging fire" (mortars and very long range naval fire), but could only elevate to 3-5 degrees? I guess they were just real stupid…………(do you high school physicals on the "sink rate per second of flight" and think about the benefits of a large, slow and slowing shell and a low muzzle velocity. Maybe they could sink behind rises in the ground or barriers and still hit things. Maybe you might use a bursting charge rather than the kinetic energy of a single ball to do damage. A little educated thinking is needed.

By John 5402 Feb 2019 11:06 p.m. PST

As with most of these ‘which set of rules include x, y, or z' the answer is Peter Gilders old classic, ‘In the Grand Manner' which has rules for Howitzers as part of a battery, or all-howitzer batteries, even rules for British guns firing Shrapnel.

John

Lord Hill03 Feb 2019 2:22 a.m. PST

Connard Sage – "Good for you"

He's back! And what a lovely new positive and adult contribution.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP03 Feb 2019 3:14 a.m. PST

last night watched (once more) Peter Jackson's WWI film "They shall not grow old". The film showed (and repeated the sequence a couple of times) how Shrapnel really works.


It was fascinating. An airburst maybe 100 feet in the air, an instant later a patch of ground a good one to two hundred yards ahead of it suddenly turned to dust and mud flying everywhere. I, no matter how many times I read this is how it works, needed to see that to get away from the idea of an airbursting shell sending bits in every direction from its centre…ok I admit still retaining the original velocity of the shell and its contents. The point I am trying to make is just how localised the final impact was.


Shrapnel and shell fragments are so easily confused.

14Bore03 Feb 2019 5:16 a.m. PST

That scene in the movie was a eye opener for me too. Do remember Napoleonic era explosives are much different than WWI but its still a deadly effect. As far as I ever read only the Prussians would take howitzers and bombard over the other side of hills.

Stoppage03 Feb 2019 5:25 a.m. PST

@Lord Hill

Eleven years ago!

Stoppage03 Feb 2019 5:29 a.m. PST

@deadhead

Once witnessed 105mm howitzer air-bursts over snow-covered ground:

1. Weird turning noise as shells whistled over-head.
2. Expanding circles as the shrapnel hit the snow – revealing dark soil.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP03 Feb 2019 6:48 a.m. PST

I can well imagine 105mm airburst quite spectacular, plus of course, modern explosives a further leap on from WWI and black powder of Napoleonic Era almost no comparison.


Somewhere in my head, however much I read to the contrary, I had this image of a Shrapnel shell exploding in the air, the balls flying in every direction but continuing to also travel in the original direction of flight and then showering down over a wide area.


Last night's viewing showed me that Shrapnel is more like case shot fired at one from 100 feet up in the air! It was a remarkably concentrated cone of impact….in WWI anyway. I guess I can now see how Bull's troop pulled off that Hougoumont thing

Lion in the Stars03 Feb 2019 4:17 p.m. PST

True Shrapnel shells (as opposed to ordinary explosive shells) don't really have a 'bursting charge', more an 'ejecting charge', just enough to push the balls out of the case (and that's half slowing the case down, half speeding the balls up). The mental image you should have is a canister round that 'pops' at a distance, instead of at the muzzle.

If you live in a place that allows citizens to own shotguns, you can kinda see the effect of a Shrapnel shell on a dry, dusty day, it's quite fascinating to watch the birdshot land about 30-50 yards away in a cone. (I usually see that while shooting ground squirrels, the farmers are quite happy to let people get rid of 'pasture rats' as long as the shooters mind where their bullets are flying.)

Black powder is a lousy explosive for bursting cast iron, not enough peak pressure to break the case into small pieces.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP04 Feb 2019 5:04 a.m. PST

…if the only purpose of howitzers was to set buildings on fire, why would about 1/3 of the tubes be howitzers in most armies?….. notice that in defense they were set up at the flanks of the typical mixed batteries. (please look up the bore diameter of the mated howitzers and cannon and the number of canister balls in the standard round. hint: about 1/3 more shot)……….. Don't you think it is more than a little dumb to say that howitzer used "plunging fire" (mortars and very long range naval fire), but could only elevate to 3-5 degrees? I guess they were just real stupid…………(do you high school physicals on the "sink rate per second of flight" and think about the benefits of a large, slow and slowing shell and a low muzzle velocity. Maybe they could sink behind rises in the ground or barriers and still hit things. Maybe you might use a bursting charge rather than the kinetic energy of a single ball to do damage. A little educated thinking is needed.

A couple of points.

-Howitzers were not only employed against built-up areas, but also against troops in the open.

-Common shell bursts scattered the fragments in a 20-yard radius and there were usually between 25 and 50 fragments upon bursting. The shells could either roll into an infantry formation or an artillery battery, of, if the gunners were particularly skilled, achieve an air burst.

-According to Adye's Bombardier and Pocket Gunner, French howitzers could fire between one and thirty degrees of elevation. Further, an elevation of 45 degrees could be achieved if necessary by removing the elevation apparatus.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP04 Feb 2019 5:06 a.m. PST

True Shrapnel shells (as opposed to ordinary explosive shells) don't really have a 'bursting charge', more an 'ejecting charge', just enough to push the balls out of the case (and that's half slowing the case down, half speeding the balls up). The mental image you should have is a canister round that 'pops' at a distance, instead of at the muzzle.

With the first evolution of spherical case shot, the fuse was used to 'burst' the round. The round was of the same make-up as common shell, but was filled with smaller projectiles so the shell has to burst in order to 'release' the shrapnel.

1968billsfan Supporting Member of TMP04 Feb 2019 7:20 a.m. PST

Shrapnel IS different than an explosive shell. A shell goes down range at a high or low velocity and explodes at some point. The energy of the fragments comes more from that explosion than the velocity of the shell. Thing its is like a hand grenade. They were often CALLED grenades. (These are not like a modern high explosive shell which kills more by the pressure wave)……… A shrapnel shell pops open the casing and spreads the enclosed balls out into a 10-30 yard pattern and most of the energy of these small balls is from the velocity of the shell. It is a way of getting canister way down range successfully. (small musket sized balls would suffer very high loss of energy due to windage and never get that far down range. You can skeet shoot with #7 shot 250 yards from people and never hurt them. A rifled slug or 00 shot would be killing people). ……………..The nice thing about low velocity howitzers is that they could be fired faster and the sinking shells could get into places, even visible places, that a high velocity cannon could not reach……….

1968billsfan Supporting Member of TMP04 Feb 2019 7:24 a.m. PST

Here is something for people to try. Set up a quart (liter) sized empty metal can about 6 feet away and at the same height as your shoulders. …. Nail it down with a weight so it can't get knocked over. ……. Now take a golf ball and try to throw it into the can….. You can't unless you throw it way up in the air and get lucky. ……Now take a ping pong ball and throw it……

1968billsfan Supporting Member of TMP04 Feb 2019 7:31 a.m. PST

I do have an agenda. Most war games have [1] all artillery as flat trajectory cannon, [2] sitting on a completely flat plain with the entire field of fire, out to the horizon being a killing ground. [3] Oblique fire at a longer range against lines of troops is of no advantage- an enflade from 1 to 5 degrees parallel to that line is the only improvement. [4] 90% of the front of almost ANY artillery position is perfect killing ground for the cannon and there is no opportunity for infantry/cavalry to NOT be completely, absolutely be exposed.

Stoppage04 Feb 2019 6:43 p.m. PST

@1968 – what's the answer then?

Do you want howitzers to neatly 'plant' grenades into an area at range (similar to modern mortars)?

Do you want guns to not be able to do this so well (eg only 'graze' shots)?

Target areas classified as Good/Bad effect? (Kriegspiel terminology)

1968billsfan Supporting Member of TMP05 Feb 2019 9:57 a.m. PST

I'm thinking along the following lines. Put some indicator (chalk lines?) around/between areas that are hidden by undulating terrain from effective roundball shot, but are still susceptible to howitzer fire. This will lead to a decrease in the deadiliness of artillery fire and give units (such as columns of attack) covered approaches to the enemy. In most games, you just have to plop you cannon near the enemy and away from big forests, towns and hills, and they play with 100% effectiveness with no thought. (Go thu you favorite rules and see if a brigade can advance against 9 or 16 artillery tubes). …. I have to work out the trajectories of cannon and howiters- the info is there- times of flight, first graze, muzzle velocities- enough data to get pretty close to the distance out and up at different initial muzzle elevations.

1968billsfan Supporting Member of TMP05 Feb 2019 9:59 a.m. PST

Note that cannon AND howitzers both were used in an "area fire" method. Rapid fire thu smoke did not allow very good aiming.

Stoppage05 Feb 2019 11:06 a.m. PST

How about this (then)…

Early in the period artillery companies operated with a mix of ordnance – long 12lbs, medium 12lbs, long 6lbs, howitzers,etc.

The pieces weren't all deployed at once – they were utilised according the object (target) at hand.

For a given target area (say 200 metres wide by 1200 metres long) IF the artillery battery has the appropriate mix of ordnance then it fires at a particular effect; IF it is missing a component – say grenade throwers – then it is handi-capped.

This will punish artillerists with single types of weapons; but on the other hand, encourage correct employment.

1968billsfan Supporting Member of TMP06 Feb 2019 9:33 a.m. PST

I don't like that idea for several reasons. For one, I don't think that they mixed 6 pounders and 12 pounders in the same battery. The Russians often had a mix of long barrel and medium barrel guns and one size of howitzer in a battery, but other than that, I'm aware of only one weight cannon and one size bore howitzer(licorne) in a battery. ……….Another is that the split is between howitzers and cannon, where cannon could hit targets within a flat, unobstructed killing zone but not hit (or not effectively hit) some other targets. It is sort of a most-or-very little result and both the terrain AND the type of ordinance controls the effect…………….I'll be back on this topic- working on a game scenerio right now.

Nine pound round06 Feb 2019 10:32 a.m. PST

The French certainly mixed guns of various calibers into firing units throughout the period (although "battery" at that time meant a field firing position, not an MTOE unit; those were called "companies," at least for foot artillery). The French 1805-1807 corps organizations frequently allocated mixed groups of 4 and 8 pound guns and howitzers to line divisions, and sometimes even 12 pounders. Later, when the French modernized the units deployed in Central and Eastern Europe, homogeneous companies with one gun type became the norm, but the mixing of calibers seems to have continued in Spain. And of course, guns "in battery" were frequently of different types.

LORDGHEE06 Feb 2019 4:05 p.m. PST

lots of use of indirect fire since Fredrick the Great of Howitzers.

Fredrick added batteries because of being on receiving end of indirect fire.

one example of use of Howitzers

Battle of Neerwinden 1793 an Austrian Lt. wrote home how unfair it was that he was under fire from French Howitzers that fired at him all battle that he could not see and return fire with his guns.

on what the officers who used the guns thought of their use and effects check out Kriegspiel {avb from too fat Lardies}. rules for when target is unobserved.

what I find interesting is that most Nation felt mixed batteries where the best. multi use vs best use.

just a note CSA General Jackson is claimed to use the first adjustment to indirect fire after taking the heights around Harpers Ferry a signal wig wag unit adjusted the fire of the confederate guns behind other hills.

I Feel he just used a siege tactic with mobile guns.

Stoppage06 Feb 2019 6:16 p.m. PST

Okay – different approach:

Early period (pre 1805 say) – smaller armies, majority of pieces were battalion guns interlined with infantry; few actual artillery 'batteries' – these usually controlled at divisional/higher level.

The artillery batteries being few and far between would have to be able to operate in different contexts/situations and would require a mix of ordnance pieces.

Later period – larger armies, preponderance of artillery which is generally grouped as batteries (excepting Russians) and wielded 'grand tactically'. This results in a more stylised employment which requires less of a mix of ordnance pieces.

However, the howitzer proves to offer the most flexibility – grenades at range, canister at close quarters – and thus makes up to 1/3 of pieces fielded.

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