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"Russian Artillery - improvements in aiming?" Topic


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©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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138SquadronRAF Supporting Member of TMP13 Jun 2018 9:35 a.m. PST

I was listening to this:

YouTube link

Adam Zamoyski claimed, that the Russians intoduced a method of aiming artillery that was superior to that used by the French.

I have never read of any improvements introduced by the Russians that were superior to the French.

Any suggestions as to what he was talking about?

rmaker13 Jun 2018 10:18 a.m. PST

Pendulum hausse. Compensates for placement of the gun on non-level ground. Yes, the Russians introduced it , and by 1830 everybody was using it.

link

Le Breton13 Jun 2018 10:24 a.m. PST

Markovich – Маркович – 1802 – dioptre

picture

Kabanov – Кабанов – 1808 – pendulum

picture

picture

The pieces used Markovich sight normally, and switched to Kabanov when needed.

Bestuzhev – Бестужев – 1835 – improved pendulum

picture

summerfield14 Jun 2018 10:00 a.m. PST

Yes it was superior. Important on uneven ground where one wheel was higher than the other
Stephen

Brechtel19815 Jun 2018 8:33 a.m. PST

Zamoyski made the claim in his book on the Russian campaign that the Russian artillery was superior to the French. That is an incorrect assessment. The Russians certainly had more artillery, but in equipment, training, and doctrine the Russian artillery arm was inferior to the French along with the British and Austrian artillery arms.

The Russians during the period employed three different sights.

First, Markevich's dioptre sight caused significat error when the field piece was on uneven ground and the trunnions of the gun tube were not level.

Second, the gunner's quadrant which was used when the range was greater than the parameters of the diopter sight, had to be inserted into the muzzle of the gun tube to be used. Later an improved gunner's quadrant was developed by Markevich, but that had to have a flat horizontal surface parallel to the axis of the bore had to be used to mount the quadrant. The cascabel knob was flattened to supply this required surface. Pieces with the modified cascabel knob went into production.

Third, Kabanov proposed and developed a pendulum sight in 1809 which was hung on a pin which was attached to a bracket screwed on the top of the breech. This sight had two significant disadvantages: it was difficult to use in a strong wind and had to be removed from the gun tube before firing and then reattached. This sight was adopted in 1811 but was not issued to all of the artillery companies, even in 1812-1814.

It was not superior to the French adjustable elevator sight during the period. The French elevator sight was simple, easy to use, and did not have to be removed from the breech after every shot.

The United States Army developed a pendulum hausse sight which is described in Artillery for the Land Service by Brevet Major Alfred Mordecai of the US Army's Ordnance Department published in 1849. The author mentions that the sight was 'derived from the Russian artillery service.'

von Winterfeldt15 Jun 2018 11:04 a.m. PST

yes Russian artillery material had a tremendous reputation and a lot of military experts were awe struck by the quality of men, horses and equipment

Brechtel19815 Jun 2018 12:52 p.m. PST

Do you have a source(s)?

Brechtel19815 Jun 2018 2:16 p.m. PST

a lot of military experts were awe struck by the quality of men, horses and equipment

Who?

Le Breton15 Jun 2018 3:14 p.m. PST

The French Gribeuaval hausse sight worked on *exactly the same principal* as the Markevich sight (without the correcting quadrant) : it did not take into account uneven ground. The Gribeauval sight was further limited to 3 degrees of elevation (18 lignes d'hausse) and the Markevich worked to 30 degrees of elevation. So using the Gribeauval on slopes of more than 2 degrees was impossible. You had to either construct a flat space to locate the gun, or shoot without using the sight.

The benefit of the Gribeuaval site was precision : each linge d'hause was 1/6th of a degree of elevation. The Markevich sight was graded to 1/2 degree. But given all the variables effecting the fall of shot, the Russians thought 1/2 degree was sufficient precision. In the rare cases where it mattered, one could switch to the higher precision Kabanov sight.

"The Gribeauval hausse, good for pieces on platforms, is a horrible instrument for field artillery; not only because, in most cases that are enountered in war, it gives the aimer a false line of sight and thus an elevation in discord with the data in the tables, but moreover because there does not really exist any practical means of correcting with sufficent approximation the inaccuracies of its readings. …. It is the Russian artillery that invented first the graduations on the sight made in such a manner as to account for the [uneven] elevation of the piece."
Essai sur les principles de la Hausse
Capitaine L. Delobel
Revue Militaire Belge – T. III
Liége, 1845
link

French Gribeauval hausse sight

picture

Brechtel19815 Jun 2018 8:29 p.m. PST

The Gribeauval Elevator Sight

From DeScheel's Treatise on Artillery, Translated by Jonathan Williams, 75-76:

This description of the use of the new French elevator sight is described in DeScheel's manual under the title ‘Of the New Method of Pointing Guns.' The new sight was simple, effective, and accurate.

‘We are particularly indebted to Gribeauval, for the means of ascertaining, at the same time, the direction which the point or aim sights enabled the gunner to give, and also a farther direction with respect to the true elevation of the piece which the sight-points could no assist him in.'

‘This is done by fixing behind the breech of the gun a brass bolt of an inch and a half high. This bolt has upon its end a slight-notch: it is divided by two lines, and is raised and lowered from its situation at pleasure. When the object is within point blank shot, the summit of this bolt is made level with the breech, and answers the purpose of the common sight groove, which is to range with the point on the muzzle. When the object is beyond point blank distance which almost always happens in war, and which is known by the ball striking short of its object, it become necessary to raise the chace, and for that purpose to lower the breech, then this bolt is pushed up, and which is therefore called the moveable sight-having its summit in a range with the object and the sight-point on the muzzle, it is of course raised exactly in proportion as the breech is lowered.'

‘In this way, the gunner never loses sight of his object. He knows exactly how high to elevate his piece, and if a ball falls short of its mark, he can remedy the defect in the next shot. He can by this means always adjust his piece at will, and if by accident it has been deranged, he can instantly restore it to its proper elevation.'

‘The gunner is, in short, certain, if he be a good marksman, of hitting his object precisely at the second or third shot.'

‘It will be readily seen how sure and convenient this method of pointing is, in all positions in which a gun can be placed; especially of what service it must be where pieces are constantly moving, as is the case with respect to field pieces where the gunner changes his distance, and his object, at every moment.'

‘It ought also specially to be observed, that this method of pointing does not require any scientific knowledge. No anxiety need be entertained with respect to the distance of the object fired at, or as to the degree of elevation of the pieces; and still less as to the talents of the gunner for entering into calculations of certain learned tables, which do more honor to the patience, than to the sagacity of those who wasted their time in composing them; as it cannot be supposed that men go to war with books in their pockets, or if they do, that they read them when in front of an enemy in battle.'

‘The moveable sight supposes a man to be ignorant, that he knows nothing about projection or amplitude; that he does not know what a degree means. In short, it is calculated for a mere gunner, who has nothing to do but to point his gun, and to raise or lower it by means of a moveable piece of brass, the summit of which he places in a line with the sight at the muzzle, and with the object which is no longer out of his view.'

‘Of all the new improvements made in artillery, this is perhaps the most important in its consequences; for, by pointing guns well, the ammunition which was formerly thrown away, is now saved; which, when the expense of every shot is considered, is an immense object. But what is still more important, it preserves ammunition for decisive moments, that would otherwise have been wastefully expended. In short, it renders artillery more terrible to an enemy, by the certainty of its execution.'

Le Breton15 Jun 2018 10:09 p.m. PST

The work of captain of the Danish service Heinrich Otto de Scheel (and not "DeScheel") was published in 1777. It's full title gives an idea of the author's intent : to justify the adoption of the Gribeauval designs to a divided or skeptical French artillery service. The full title is : "Mémoires d'artillerie, contentant l'artillerie nouvelle, ou les changements faits dans l'artillerie françoise en 1765 – avec l'exposé et l'analyse de objections qui ont été faites à ces changements"

Exactly how a polemic written in 1777 about French artillery informs us about the comparison of artillery sights used in 1810-1815 by various nations I do not know.

What might have been new or a substantial improvement in French artillery sights 1765 might also be considered rather dated and in general lacking when viewed 50 years or more later and in comparison to other nations' devices.

The career of Heinrich Otto de Scheel (Randsburg, Schleswig-Holstein 1745 – Berlin 1808) was mostly as an inspector and insturctor. At the time of writing his "Mémoires …." his enitre "war-time" experience had been as a lieutenant in the Holstien service during a mobilization of forces for a possible conflict with Mecklemburg.
See : link

von Winterfeldt15 Jun 2018 11:05 p.m. PST

in case a certain person mentions de Scheel – he means Toussard Deleted by Moderator

Contributions by un ami or Alexandre – see archives – unearthed a lot of interesting information about Russian artillery and their training, so one could form easily one's own opinion, any yes – the material was much better in quality than the outdated Gribeauval system, considering weight – pull relation, sighting systems, mobilitx etc.

There this thread – alas will move in the direction of all hail to the superiority of the Gribeauval system again, I will move on.

Wu Tian16 Jun 2018 3:36 a.m. PST

As to Markevich's 'diopre' and Kabanov's, there exists some interesting material in Zhmodikov's Tactics of the Russian Army in the Napoleonic Wars, vol. 2, p. 57.

The aiming devices used in Russian artillery in 1805-07 had significant disadvantages. Markevich's dioptre produced significant errors when an artillery piece was placed on uneven ground, because the system could not take into account the angle between the axis of the trunnions and the horizon. The quadrant used to aim an artillery piece at a range beyond the effective range of the dioptre was difficult to use: an artilleryman had to keep the quadrant inserted into the barrel during the aiming procedure. Markevich proposed a new quadrant, which had to be set up on a flat, horizontal surface, parallel to the axis of the barrel (starting from 1808, artillery pieces were produced with a platform at the cascable knob). In 1809, Podpolkovnik (Lieutenant-Colonel) Kabanov proposed a new aiming device, which was hung on a pin inserted into a special bracket screwed on the top of the breech. The device had a weight at the lower end, so it was always in vertical position, irrespective of the angle between the axis of the trunnions and the horizon. Kabanov's aiming device had two disadvantages: it was difficult to use in a strong wind, and it had to be removed before each shot and to be set up again after the shot. It was adopted in 1811, but not all artillery companies were supplied with it in 1812-14.ccclxx

ccclxx. Istoriya Otechestvennoi Artillerii. (A History of Artillery of Our Country.) Moscow, vol.1, book 3, 1962, pp.37-8

For further details about Kabanov, try Igochin's article:
PDF link

Brechtel19816 Jun 2018 3:48 a.m. PST

Well done on using the Zhmodikovs' work. None of the Russian optics were as good, as far as I can see, with the French elevator sight. If you have to remove a sight before each round is fired, there's a major problem with it.

And leveling the trunnions is necessary for accurate artillery fire. It still has to be done today. The emplacement of artillery on suitable ground is the responsibility of the artillery commanders, be they company or battery commanders or higher.

Brechtel19816 Jun 2018 3:52 a.m. PST

The Russian artillery system of 1805 used an elevation device that was developed by the Prussians in the 1740s. The gun carriage design followed those of the Prussians and Austrians.

Gribeauval's elevating screw was superior to the screw quoin employed by the Prussians, Austrians, and Russians, and the French carriage design was also superior to those of the three nations mentioned.

The British developed a new system of artillery vehicles and gun carriages in the 1790s that was superior to any of them and which would later be adopted by the French ca 1827 and later by the United States.

Le Breton16 Jun 2018 6:30 a.m. PST

"If you have to remove a sight before each round is fired, there's a major problem with it."
The Kabanov sight is not removed, the pendulum is removed.
As opposed to the larger French Gribeauval pieces, where one had to move the *gun barrel* when limbering the piece – it seems rather small beans to lift a little pendulum.

"Markevich's dioptre produced significant errors when an artillery piece was placed on uneven ground"
Exactly also true of the Frnch Gribeauval hausse sight, but the French lacked any alternate such as the Kabanov sight to correct for this deficiency.

"None of the Russian optics were as good, as far as I can see, with the French elevator sight."
Incorrect.The French Gribeauval hausse sight operated with exactly the same method as the Russian Markevich – it differed in having less ability to aim at elevation (3 degrees vs. 30 degrees of elevation), but with more precision (to the 1/6th of a degree of elevation vs. to within 1/2 of a degree of elevation. I posted images of the devices and they are clearly of the same basic method of operation.

"Gribeauval's elevating screw was superior to the screw quoin employed by the Prussians, Austrians, and Russians, and the French carriage design was also superior to those of the three nations mentioned."
Are these merely your own opinions, or have you any souce, evidence or analysis that leads to these conclusions?

For example, the Russians under Shulavov in the 1760's made extensive trials of vertical elevating screws of the Gribeauval type, They concluded that they were (i) more expensive, (ii) heavier (iii) harder to repair/replace in the field, and (iv) more liable to breakage, especially in extreme cold weather (from forged iron embrittlement under extreme temperature cycling). In the Russians' opinion, the wooden wedge (quoin) with horizontal screw mechanism was preferred – with the metal screw acting on a grooved receiver and not itself being load-bearing.

A similar method was used on the Gribeauval 6-inch howitser, where greater shock could be expected due to the greater elevation compared to canon.

picture

One may suppose the Austrians and Prussians did similar tests as the Russians – as well as the Saxons, who fielded new-design pieces in 1810 that also used a non-load-bearing crank (on the right side of the piece) moving an angled wooden platform.

Brechtel19816 Jun 2018 10:26 a.m. PST

Removal of all or a part of the sight slows down both pointing and firing.

Encastrement was done before unlimbering and then before limbering the piece. And it took no longer than it took to unlimber. And if the situation called for it, the gun crew would use the prolonge which avoided both encastrement and limbering up and unlimbering.

Both the Austrian and British used both firing and travelling trunnion plates on their 12-pounder field pieces.

Initially the French did use the screw quoin on their new 6-inch howitzer, but it was later replaced by the elevating screw.

The British, Swedes, and Americans also used the elevating screw.

It appears that the Markevich sight was something of a copy of the French elevator sight.

And to compare the Russian 1805 System with the Gribeauval System, the French were still more advanced in artillery design than the Russians. Russian artillery was employed as a defensive weapon, while the French artillery was employed offensively with decisive results. Russian artillery doctrine and command and control, as well as training, were also inferior to what the French were doing.

Captain Henri Othon DeScheel (1745-1807) was a soldier in the Royal Danish Artillery. His two-volume Memoires d'Artillerie, contenant L'artillerie nouvelle; ou, Les changements faits-dans l'artillerie francoise en 1765. Avec l'expose et l'analyse des objections qui ont ete faites a ces changements was first published in Copenhagen in 1777 and a second edition was published in Paris in 1795. This was the edition that was translated for American use by Jonathan Williams.

The first volume of DeScheel's treatise was a complete analysis of the Gribeauval System which included tables of construction and the second volume was an anthology of the different writings, for and against, by the opposing factions in the French artillery who either supported Gribeauval (les bleus) or Valliere fils (les rouges). By the time that DeScheel wrote his first edition, the argument between the two factions had been settled with the second, and permanent, adoption of the Gribeauval System by the French army.

For a modern 'interpretation' of the Gribeauval System, see 'The Systeme Gribeauval: A Study of Technological Development and Institutional Change in Eighteenth Century France by Howard Rosen.' It is highly recommended as much archival research was done by the author. The bibliography is particularly useful.

Brechtel19816 Jun 2018 10:39 a.m. PST

in case a certain person mentions de Scheel – he means Toussard


That is an incorrect statement as DeScheel as noted was used for the material.

Brechtel19816 Jun 2018 10:42 a.m. PST

I have never read of any improvements introduced by the Russians that were superior to the French.


The Russians found that their artillery arm was inferior when the wars began in 1805. Their new system of 1805 was the Russians playing catch up. An argument can be made that their new equipment was just as good as the French, as General Sievers noted, but their command and control, tactics, training, defensive mindset, etc., never caught up. In short, their artillery arm was not the best of the period and was surpassed by the British and the French and probably by the Austrian as well.

That means that their artillery system was not as good, as an artillery system encompasses everything to do with artillery, not just guns and vehicles.

Brechtel19816 Jun 2018 12:20 p.m. PST

The Russians found that their artillery arm was inferior when the wars began in 1805.


That should read '1792' and not '1805.'

Le Breton16 Jun 2018 12:50 p.m. PST

"an artillery system encompasses everything to do with artillery, not just guns and vehicles"

If so, then we can clearly see the superiority of the French system by the many hundreds of captured Russians pieces adorning the various arsenals, cathedrals, museums and even public parks in France's major cities – and the lack of similar displays in Moscow or Saint Petersburg. This must have stemmed from the complete destruction of the Russian artillery in the campaigns of 1812/1813, while the French artillery ended the fighting virtually without losses.

========================

"The Russians found that their artillery arm was inferior when the wars began in [1792]"
Maybe.

As for the equipment designs, I think they were pretty satisfied by 1798, except for the 4-wheeled caisson wagons (which they ditched for 2-wheeled caisson carts from 1801).

As for the overall system, which included provisioning at a truely heroic scale of guns per battalion or per 1000 men, and a radical change in the social standing of artillery (and engineer) officers, I think they were not really satisfied until about 1808 or so.

Brechtel19816 Jun 2018 12:56 p.m. PST

The many hundreds of captured artillery pieces were melted down for monuments in Paris…

1968billsfan Supporting Member of TMP17 Jun 2018 3:59 a.m. PST

Wow. So the French not only brought back all their artillery from the retreat from Moscow but also brought back so many captured Russian pieces that they decorate every French village square and the extras were melted down for the metal.

Brechtel19817 Jun 2018 4:15 a.m. PST

Where did you come up with that?

After the heavy artillery losses in Russia, the French artillery arm, both Guard and Line, were completely rebuilt and fielded by April 1813.

That completely demonstrates the robustness and efficiency of the French artillery arm and the system it employed. No other artillery arm had to do that and the achievement is noteworthy. In point of fact, I doubt that any other artillery could have done that.


The Austrians were knocked out in 1805 and didn't return to the field until 1809. The Russian army was decisively defeated in 1807 and didn't return to the war until 1812. The Prussian army was nearly destroyed in 1806 and they didn't return to the wars until 1813.

And that rebuilt French artillery arm dominated battlefields in 1813 as it had since 1807-especially at Lutzen, Bautzen, and Dresden.

And the main reason the allies won in 1813 was that Austria came in on their side in August and provided the necessary cannon fodder.

Le Breton17 Jun 2018 9:23 a.m. PST

"The Russian army was decisively defeated in 1807 and didn't return to the war until 1812."

Well, a *part* of the Russian army was defeated at Friedland

Seven out of 24 first-line infantry divisions, less than 30% of the Russian army, was at Friedland.
Also at Frieland were about 27 field artillery companies, against a total of 115, or about 1/4 of the Russian total field artillery.
This was a rather typical size for a Russian expeditionary force, but was by no means their "army" as a whole – a misunderstanding which I think was also made at the time by the French.

Four more first-line infantry divisions were formed by 1813 for a total of 28, backed-up by 8 second-line infantry divisions and 10 third-line divisions of recruits.
Total : 46 infantry divisions (they skipped number 29, so that the highest number fielded was the 47th).
Plus opochenie/militia.
Also by 1813, the Russians had 165 field artillery companies and some 2000 pieces of field artillery.

The "didn't return to the war until 1812" forgets about ….
--- Persian War (1804–1813)
--- Turkish War (1806–1812)
--- Swedish/Finnish War (1808–1809)
--- deployment to Galicia and Poland (1809)
--- revolts in the Caucasus, pacification of the Inuit in Alaska, confronataion with Japan in Kamchatka (1804-1810).

The stuff with Napoléon was maybe "the war" for the French. But except for 1812, it was only "a war" for the Russians.

Le Breton17 Jun 2018 10:01 a.m. PST

"the main reason the allies won"

So, it was not the "treason" of Marmont?

Too bad the French could not have rigged up an especially harsh winter * of 1813/1814 that would effect only Russians and people who spoke German – while leaving the French army essentially intact and ready for continuing operations.

* as measured by the enemies of the French – all regular weather stations reporting just normal seasonal conditions

Brechtel19817 Jun 2018 12:57 p.m. PST

"the main reason the allies won" So, it was not the "treason" of Marmont?


The year cited is 1813, not 1814 when Marmont betrayed Napoleon and France.

In 1813 the French won the spring campaign and drove the allies back to the Oder. It was apparent that the Prussians and Russians could not stop the French on their own.

Brechtel19817 Jun 2018 12:59 p.m. PST

Well, a *part* of the Russian army was defeated at Friedland


That 'part' was apparently important enough for the Tsar to sue for peace. Friedland was a decisive French victory over the Russians and no use of semantics can change that. It ended the war and led to Tilsit.

Le Breton17 Jun 2018 2:15 p.m. PST

"In 1813 the French won the spring campaign and drove the allies back to the Oder. It was apparent that the Prussians and Russians could not stop the French on their own."

So, absent Austrian participation in 1813, the French win the Napoleonic Wars? The French re-conquor Prussia? The British evacuate Iberia? The Russians give back Poland? Lithuania? Minsk? Smolensk? Moscow?

What part of France vs. Britain+Prussia+Russia (Austria neutral) looks so advantageous to the French? Might have taken longer than to spring 1814, and the British might have got to Paris first, but I hardly think that Britain+Prussia+Russia would be unable to "stop the French".

Brechtel19817 Jun 2018 2:49 p.m. PST

Your opinion and you're entitled to it. As you have no basis in fact for that opinion is what is important.

Marcus Brutus17 Jun 2018 6:08 p.m. PST

"As you have no basis in fact for that opinion is what is important."

That is a bit of an overreach Brechtel. I think it is a reasonable conjecture by Le Breton even if I think he is wrong.

Brechtel19818 Jun 2018 3:18 a.m. PST

Since Napoleon had no intention of remaining in Russia if he had won, I seriously doubt that he would have demanded that Russian cities actually in Russia be 'returned' to the French. Both Poland and Lithuania would undoubtedly have remained independent of Russia. The Lithuanians had no use for the Russians any more than the Poles did.

And if the Austrians had not joined the allies in August 1813 neither Prussia nor Russia was strong enough to defeat Napoleon on their own. If they had been, they would have won in the spring of 1813.

A decisive French victory in Saxony in 1813 could have put Wellington in jeopardy in Spain. It surely would have prevented an invasion of southern France.


So, no, I don't believe it to be a 'reasonable conjecture.'

Le Breton18 Jun 2018 6:26 a.m. PST

"if the Austrians had not joined the allies in August 1813 neither Prussia nor Russia was strong enough to defeat Napoleon on their own."

My "conjecture" was not about each state individually.
The actual state of play was :

Britain+Prussia+Russia+Sweden+Spain+Portugal+Sardinia+Sicily

vs.

France+Denmark+Duchy of Warsaw (occupied by the Russians)+North Italy (the "more willing")
and
South Italy (occupied)+Netherlands (annexed)+Saxony+Bavaria+smaller German-speaking states (the "less willing")

neutral
Austria
United States (as applies to the European theatre)

Would make a good counter-factual game, maybe.
The question would be how to handle the loyalty of the "less willing". With Austria neutral, they might be prone to revolt and declare neutrality after any French reverse (as opposed to joining the same side as the British+Prussians+Russians).

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