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"Artillery support in WWII Europe - how often?" Topic


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717 hits since 6 Mar 2017
©1994-2017 Bill Armintrout
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mwindsorfw Supporting Member of TMP06 Mar 2017 11:04 a.m. PST

I like to make up my own scenarios that usually involve a company or two (or a task force) per side. I know that for more deliberate attacks on set positions, each side was more likely to have off-map artillery support. I don't know about artillery support for hasty defense or meeting engagement scenarios, nor do I know how often each side would expect to have artillery support in those situations (I assume as a general rule that Soviets never get it, and Americans do fairly often -- I've got no clue about Germans, UK, or Commonwealth). I'm looking for some general rules, and appreciate any advice.

vtsaogames06 Mar 2017 11:36 a.m. PST

Read MacDonald's "Company Commander". He had artillery from time to time. He had a bit at the Bulge, though his company was overrun.

For an attack in Germany, he had a platoon of tanks in support. His outfit could see another company on their flank with tank support. They had artillery prep followed by an air strike. Both companies stood up and cheered. The Germans surrendered after nominal resistance. This was the only air strike mentioned in his book. Tank support was rare. Artillery wasn't that rare.

I'd assume the British and Germans would have artillery often enough, granting supply was good. I suspect Russians would have incredible amounts of artillery for set-piece attacks and a lot less otherwise.

uglyfatbloke06 Mar 2017 11:37 a.m. PST

For Commonwealth armies a company in a planned attack should expect to have some field artillery support (maybe even mediums) but pretty surely support from the battalion's mortar platoon. hastily- staged attacks may be a different matter; artillery/mortar platoon may already be committed to some other operation. Much the same would apply to German forces…how much prepping and how accurate or effective is, naturally, a very different question.
Soviet armies had a lot of artillery so I would n't discount it but others who post here will know a lot more about that than I.

RudyNelson06 Mar 2017 1:12 p.m. PST

Today the artillery support is assigned as organic, Direct and General. Organic covers mortars and those guns assigned headquarter units such as M8 75mm or the 105mm or 75mm guns.
Direct support was brigade or divisional batteries assigned to support a sector or unit in defense or as part of an attack. Often 75mm and 105mm guns.

General support tended to be 8 inch or 155mm guns tasked to provide support on a priority basis. It is not always a first come, first supported situation.

Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP06 Mar 2017 4:04 p.m. PST

I'd recommend these:
link

link

nigelef.tripod.com/maindoc.htm

Wolfhag

Personal logo Martin Rapier Supporting Member of TMP07 Mar 2017 12:06 a.m. PST

Depending on the situation, the Germans and British would typically allocate a battery in direct support to an infantry battalion (even in a formal assault, most of the guns wold fire pre planned missions). The Germans would also have their regimental infantry gun company to call on.

So, a single rifle company MIGHT get some arty, if the FOO happened to be attached to them.

Far more likely would be support from the battalion mortar platoon. Later war German units had lots of mortars, so did the Russians.

Griefbringer07 Mar 2017 9:42 a.m. PST

The Germans would also have their regimental infantry gun company to call on.

As did also US and Soviet armies.

Soviets also had a regimental heavy mortar company. US regiments did not have such as an integral asset, though a company of 4.2" mortars could be detached if an independent Chemical Mortar Battalion was assigned to support the division.

British brigade in the later war could also have a platoon of 4.2" mortars assigned for support from the divisional MG battalion.

Tachikoma07 Mar 2017 12:38 p.m. PST

US infantry regiments assigned to infantry divisions had a Cannon Company, which varied in size but was usually 6 105mm howitzers.

christot07 Mar 2017 5:02 p.m. PST

For an invidual company it's a tricky thing to quantify… however, considering a CW battalion would have 2 fo's each commanding a half battery of 25 pdrs ,but capable of requesting the full battery (plus, in theory, vastly more).
Given a typical attack would be 2 up, one back, it's not unreasonable to assume that an individual British company on attack would always have some artillery support available.

Bunkermeister Supporting Member of TMP07 Mar 2017 9:43 p.m. PST

Americans had a fully integrated artillery command and communications network. So even if you did not have any specific artillery at your immediate command, if you had a really good target they could call for artillery that was in general support and you get it, and for a really good target, you might get all the artillery in the division or corps.

So if you see a panzer battalion in the open, stand by.

Mike Bunkermeister Creek
Bunker Talk blog

Skarper07 Mar 2017 11:12 p.m. PST

I was going to chime in with what christot says above.

You would usually have artillery [25 pounders or 105mm for the US] even with only a company on table.

A caveat would be that while the British/Commonwealth would have the support quite fast it would be less accurate, increasing the risk of friendly fire casualties

The US stuff was apparently a little slower but more accurate.

The Germans accurate but slower still – and I think rarer due to lack of ammo etc.

The Soviets I gather didn't really use artillery except in pre-planned bombardments. They did have a lot of mortars though.

Artillery tends to get left out of wargames because it is boring and 'unbalances' the game. Companies marketing rules and figures are also loathe to encourage the use of off table guns that don't need to be represented by models. Hence FOW makes you put your guns on the tabletop!

UshCha Supporting Member of TMP08 Mar 2017 1:04 a.m. PST

This all seems to agree with what I understand with the caviat. In defence the suppoet would mostly be FDF so pre-planed for the defender or attakers even at battalion level. You may be able to move it a few yards; but its zeroed in and you may not have an FOO present to observe fall od shot fore imprompture fire.

In exception may perhaps it may be be called by a platoon commander; more nomaly a company commader. The FDF will cover the density,shape, nature and durarion of the shoot. Ammunition will be limited.

Note many wargames fail to understand that Arillery is to suppress and fix in place. While on the battlefield it does kill it is generally not as leathal as some games have it. It indeed kills more than any other arm but usuall its the intermittent fire catching toops above ground in none battle situations shot day aftyer day. Battles have high casualty tared biu only a few days a month. Artllery does it day by daye maost days.

Andy ONeill08 Mar 2017 4:07 a.m. PST

Battlefront ww2 has good info
link

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP08 Mar 2017 5:36 a.m. PST

US artillery was very good, quite numerous, and very flexible. Attacks were usually well supported and on the defense artillery was the infantry's primary anti-tank asset

Personal logo Martin Rapier Supporting Member of TMP08 Mar 2017 5:36 a.m. PST

It partly depends o the use case of course, the OP is interested in hasty defence and 'meeting engagements' (by which I assume he means advance to contact).

By definition, a 'hasty defence' is not going to have ton pre-planned fires, because if it does, it isn't hasty defence any more….

Similarly, a battery per battalion is the typical level of on call support in a prepared attack (plus a ton of pre-planned barrage fire).

In an advance to contact, there may be very little artillery support at all, just battalion and regimental assets, depending the posture of the parent division. If the divisional regiments are leapfrogging forward, only around a third will be deployed of fire at any one time, and maybe not even that.

If all the regiments are deployed for fire, then by definition it isn't an 'advance to contact' any more, but a prepared assault. Which takes time to set up.

So by and large, I'd be very dubious about a ton of artillery being available for either hasty defence or a meeting engagement/advance to contact.

The Russians did of course use lots of artillery, but for more fluid situations, it would be used for direct fire (or at least semi indirect, spotted by the crews) and attached directly to combat units, frequently behind armour and on tracks:)

The Russians were just as good at pre-registered fire as anyone else.

Windy Miller25 Mar 2017 6:57 p.m. PST

For anyone seriously interested in this subject, I recommend you read The Guns of Normandy by George Blackburn. It'll give you a real insight into what artillery support Commonwealth forces in Northwest Europe could rely on.

Time and time again German counterattacks were smashed by concentrated artillery fire. Not just from individual batteries, but all the guns of a division, a corps, or sometimes the entire army firing on one target. The speed and accuracy of Commonwealth Artillery was phenomenal even by modern standards. A battery on the move was expected to know where it was to within 100 yards at any time. If they got a call for crash action they could deploy, pinpoint their position to within 25 yards and be ready to engage within three minutes. There are many accounts from German POWs stating that they had never, even in Russia come under such devastating gunfire.

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