Artillery Troops (German Empire)

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The artillery force of the army in the German Reich comprised the artillery forces of the army. This was composed of field artillery and foot artillery with fortress and siege artillery .

The artillery force was used mainly during the First World War from 1914 to 1918.

Firing artillery

Brigade locations - the field artillery brigades are shown as a rectangle with a point inside

In the course of mobilization in 1914, the following were set up as planned:

With the mobilization in 1914, the foot artillery was finally disbanded and distributed to army groups and armies. When the war broke out, the following were available:

  • 26 heavy field howitzer battalions , caliber 15 cm, each with 16 guns, which were subordinated to the Army Corps, plus another battalion with 10 cm guns, which was assigned to the IX. Reserve Corps of the I. Army on the Western Front to reinforce the right wing of the attack.
  • 14 mortar battalions, 21 cm caliber, each with eight guns. These were relocated to combat opposing fortresses on the western front.
  • 5 (three rail-mounted and two motorized) batteries of heavy coastal mortars, 30.5 cm caliber, each with two guns.
  • 3 batteries 42 cm mortar, two of which are rail-bound.
  • Another 15 ½ battalions were deployed in fortresses, including the majority of the 50 reserve artillery battalions that had no clothing and no ammunition columns.

Overall, the war strength was 633 field artillery batteries plus 828 field artillery batteries of the reserve formations. There were also 50 foot artillery battalions of the army and 122 from reserve formations. The artillery moved into the field with 14,681 officers and 412,323 NCOs and men and thus formed 22% of the field army. The French field artillery proved to be superior to the German, the German and Austrian heavy artillery to that of the Allies, which was of great importance, especially when defeating the border fortresses in the west. On the other hand, the lack of heavy artillery in the Reserve and Landwehr Corps made itself painfully noticeable shortly after the start of the war and forced a corresponding increase in troops, for example through the delivery of naval artillery and later through the development of railway artillery . Additional battalions were therefore set up from replacement units and fortress associations, so that by 1917 each division also received a heavy division.

The higher rate of fire enabled the German field artillery to be used in the war between autumn 1914 and March 1915 - as was the case before the start of the war in the French, Swedish and Swiss armies - a reduction from six to four guns per battery, thus creating 300 new batteries for the realignment of further divisions became possible. The artillery brigades were also disbanded by 1917. The divisional artillery was combined in an artillery regiment with three divisions, two of which were equipped with field cannons and one with field howitzers. The reclassifications of the divisional artillery were completed by the spring of 1917, those of the army artillery created in 1917, which was under the command of the OHL , by autumn 1917. The divisional artillery units were led by an artillery commander (Arko); at the army level, the previous general of the foot artillery was renamed "General of the artillery".

From May 1918, six artillery regiments were motorized with trucks for the first time.

The 13 cm and 21 cm caliber batteries of the heavy artillery were brought to three guns, 15 cm, 17 cm to two guns in the summer of 1917. Each battery now got its own ammunition column.

The German artillery used 73 different types of guns during the war, 57 of which were captured guns.

During the First World War, the artillery grew up among other things

  • 297 field artillery regiments, each with three divisions, each with three batteries and four guns (a total of 36 guns per field artillery regiment)
  • 6 independent departments
  • 3 riding sections
  • 6 moving departments
  • 7 mountain artillery departments
  • 50 infantry gun batteries
  • 53 infantry escort batteries
  • 785 columns of light ammunition

At the end of the war, the artillery had 11,300 field guns, and the proportion of howitzers to cannons had doubled (1: 1.5) since the mobilization (1: 3). The strength of the heavy artillery had grown by 30%.

Mission and leadership principles

The open launching and splitting of the battery for enemy fire in direct alignment during an attack or in encounter combat lost its importance after 1914 in trench warfare . Rather, it was important that the guns were brought up in a covered position, with the firing position being withdrawn from any observed combat by the enemy and the fire fighting being conducted via an observation point in indirect direction - which was hardly practiced with field artillery in peacetime. In the course of the war, surface shooting was developed with increasing precision, which enabled surprising fire attacks based on calculated shooting values ​​at localized enemy targets without lengthy and warning the enemy.

From 1889 the field artillery was also referred to as mobile artillery , because during the march the gunners sat on the draft horses, limber and gun in order to be able to get into position at any time from the march and start the fire fight. In addition to the guns, each battery also had a six-horse observation car with crew and equipment for setting up the observation post.

When going into position, the guns drove up side by side, the ammunition wagons of the squadron about eight paces behind. The gun crew consisted of the gun leader and six gunners (K1-K6), each of whom had dedicated tasks, such as aiming the gun, preparing ammunition with a detonator, cartridge or propellant charge, firing or wiping the barrel, etc.

About 300 m backwards from the firing position the limbers and the other ammunition vehicles of the battery drove into cover, 600 m backwards the light ammunition column was ready.

Procedure of tactical fire control in indirect aiming by the observation center

After the gun was ready for action, the guns were fired in, led by the battery chief from the artillery observation post. Both the battery and the target had to be visible from here.

The target seeker to terrain map was carried out with the telescope, the angle to the target, such as the battery was charged with the scheduled on a full circle of 6400 bar aiming circle is measured and converted to a fire command that sent the Winker Trupp the gunners with signaling flags, in the field artillery by Morse system with one flag, with the foot artillery with two signal flags to the winker rose . During the trench warfare, field telephones were also used for communication, with the line network being constantly endangered by heavy enemy fire. Communication between the combat troops, the observation point and the firing position was always endangered under the influence of the enemy or in combat.

In addition to the earthquake, the aerial observation, initially by means of captive balloons attached to cable winches for field airmen or from the aircraft by artillery pilots , especially after communication from the aircraft via radio telegraphy became possible from 1915 onwards .

Field and foot artillery used the same firing methods, that is, the localization of the target according to position, height, extent, and its input by short and long shots in 100 m jumps.

The battery or department was considered the fire unit. The following processes were considered to be effective fire:

  • Volley fire: Simultaneous firing of all guns on one command
  • Relay fire: Firing the guns one after the other at a slightly shorter distance
  • Wing fire: Firing the line's guns from the commanded wing with a delay
  • Group fire: Gun-wise firing and reloading under the direction of the gun leader
  • Rapid fire


The black powder was prepared according to the invention of dynamite in 1867 by Alfred Nobel , the blasting gelatine in 1877 and of smokeless powder 1887 through smokeless propellant charges in metal sleeves or howitzers by respective cartridges replaced. This simplified the charging process; The low smoke development did not obstruct the view during rapid fire and made it difficult for the enemy to clarify the position of the fire.

As ammunition were explosive shells and shrapnel  - for close defense and grapeshot  used later light grenades and tank shells for anti - tank. At the beginning of the First World War, Germany also had a unitary projectile that could be used as a high explosive grenade or shrapnel as required. Impact or time detonators (double detonators) were used as detonators as required.

From 1916, gas grenades marked with colored crosses were also fired, including

Field artillery

The task of the field artillery was to directly support the combat troops, especially the infantry, whereby the field artillery with its guns was supposed to fight down enemy targets that were outside the range of the infantry handguns. Due to the war experience from 1864–71, the focus was on long-range shrapnel shots against living targets.

A battery of the field artillery was led by a battery chief with the rank of captain or captain . In 1914 it consisted of five officers and 148 NCOs / men with 139 horses, 17 vehicles and six guns.

The battery was divided into

  • the battle battery with observation car, the battle squadron consisting of three (later two) gun platoons with two guns each, the associated mostly six-horse limbs and three ammunition cars,
  • the battle baggage with three more ammunition and a supply wagon
  • and the large baggage with a storage, food and feed wagon each and the field blacksmith's.

The gunners were armed with pistols , the officers with swords , the crews were supposed to use their guns for close defense. However, after cavalry raids on the Eastern Front suffered losses in 1914, the artillerymen began to be equipped with rifles or carbines . In 1918 two light machine guns per battery were added for anti-aircraft and close-range defense.

The field artillery was supplied with ammunition by the light ammunition column of the department, some of which were also subordinated to the army during the trench warfare.

Field guns

Since 1861 the previous muzzle-loading guns had been replaced by breech-loading guns . The standard gun was initially the cast steel flat-track gun C 73 with calibers 7.85 cm and 8.8 cm, only replaced by the field cannon 96 in 1896. Modified by Rheinmetall and Krupp to form the field cannon 96 nA (new type), further significant improvements were made in 1905 such as a protective shield against direct enemy fire, directional seats for the gunners, the liquid-barrel return brake , which made the laborious reorientation of the gun unnecessary after firing, improved aiming devices and sighting devices such as the panoramic telescope for indirect aiming and a field-gray camouflage paint. In addition to the cannon, the field howitzer 98/09 was developed, which should enable the combat of targets in indirect aiming and against field fortifications and covered shelters through a steeper projectile trajectory. In addition, there were further improvements: The evaluation of the experience of the Russo-Japanese War of 1905, among other things, showed that the fire fight had to be carried out quickly and precisely. Batteries now also received an observation vehicle, ammunition vehicles, entrenchments for the fortification, field telephones as a means of communication and cartridge ammunition replaced the cartridges. The heavy guns were given wheel belts so that the heavy 21 cm mortar could also be transported and fired on the carriage . Ammunition columns were set up for the continuous supply of ammunition.

When the First World War broke out , the 7.7 cm field cannon 96 nA with 5096 guns and the 10.5 cm light field howitzer 98/09 with 1230 guns were the standard weapons of the German field artillery, only from 1916 onwards were these replaced or supplemented by improved gun types .

designation Caliber
Firing range
V 0
[m / s]
introduction Remarks
Older guns without barrel return
Light 8 cm field cannon C / 73 78.5 6800 465 1874 for the field artillery of the cavalry units
Heavy 9 cm field cannon C / 73 88 7000 444 1874 for the field artillery of the infantry units
9 cm field cannon C / 73/91 88 7100 464 −15 ° / + 16 ° 1891 Re-barreled 8 or 9 cm field cannons with a standard caliber
7.7 cm field cannon C / 96 77 7800 465 1896 with rope brake
10.5 cm light field howitzer C / 98 105 5600 300 1898 with rope brake
Newer guns with barrel return
7.7 cm field cannon 96 n.A. 77 7800 465 −13 ° / + 15 ° 1905 Conversion of the field cannon C / 96; Standard gun 1914
7.7 cm field cannon 16 77 10700 525 −10 ° / + 40 ° 1916
10.5 cm light field howitzer 98/09 105 6300 302 −10 ° / + 40 ° 1909 Reconstruction of the le. Field howitzer C / 98; Standard gun 1914
10.5 cm light field howitzer 16 105 9700 427 −10 ° / + 40 ° 1916

It should be noted that in addition to the guns listed, numerous other booty guns were used.

Anti-aircraft, mountain, anti-tank and infantry artillery

Anti-aircraft guns

The first anti -balloon cannons from Krupp, which were still hauled at the time , had already been used to combat free balloons during the siege of Paris in December 1870. After the emergence of the airships, the issue of fighting aircraft became acute again. The Prussian War Ministry therefore commissioned the Artillery Examination Commission to clarify this matter in early 1906 . For this purpose, the APK had had guns from Krupp and Rheinmetall tested since 1907/08 . After the end of the tests, the first motorized or horse-drawn anti-aircraft guns were put into service by the army in early 1914 and economically attached to the artillery regiments, i.e. that is, they remained tactically independent. Because the number of guns in the field was not yet sufficient at the beginning of the war, normal, partly drilled out field guns on improvised mounts were also used for anti-aircraft defense. In view of the growing threat from reconnaissance and bombing planes, more and more of the guns, which had been renamed anti-aircraft guns from 1916, were used. At the same time, the air defense was completely decoupled from the artillery and assigned to the newly established air forces under its own superiors .

Mountain guns

The experience in the war made a further specialization of the field artillery necessary.

The battle in the Vosges required the use of guns in mountain warfare ; From 1915 onwards, 7.5 cm mountain guns from Erhardt were used for the first time on the German side. They were originally intended for the imperial protection force in the colonies and could be placed on six pack animals. The 7.5 cm Skoda guns of the kuk artillery , which were also delivered to Germany from 1917, proved particularly successful . Mountain guns were mainly used in the west in the Vosges, during the Romanian campaign in the Carpathians and on the Italian front in the Alps . In 1918 the mountain artillery grew up to a total of seven mountain artillery departments with 22 batteries. Mountain squadrons were used for the particularly difficult transport of heavy field howitzers and 10 cm cannons by mountain cart.

designation Caliber
Firing range
V 0
[m / s]
introduction Remarks
7.5 cm mountain cannon L / 17 M.08 75 5750 300 −7 ° / + 38.5 ° for the protection force in German South West Africa
7.5 cm mountain cannon L / 14 (Krupp) 75 5400 300 −10 ° / + 30 ° 1914 originally ordered by the Chilean army
7.5 cm mountain cannon M.15 (Skoda) 75 6650-7000 224-382 −9 ° / + 50 ° 1917 Austrian gun
10.5 cm mountain howitzer L / 11.4 (Krupp) 105 1916
10 cm mountain howitzer M.16 (Skoda) 105 7750 180-325 −8 ° / + 70 ° 1917 Austrian gun
Infantry guns

To combat enemy targets by direct aiming, individual field guns were first brought close to the front line for direct fire support to the infantry. After the French army had brought special infantry guns into use with the canon d'infanterie from 1916 onwards , development of the infantry gun 18 began on the German side as well, and it came to the front in the last year of the war.

Anti-tank guns

The massive use of tanks by the Allies also required the installation of field guns close to the front, which was initially improvised, but from 1917 onwards was taken over by special anti-tank guns . Infantry guns and anti-tank guns were combined into infantry support batteries.

Foot artillery, fortress and siege artillery

On November 1, 1872, the foot artillery was separated from the field artillery in the German Reich: Their task was to fight fortresses , towns, traffic connections and enemy artillery in indirect aiming with explosive shells , above all in supporting siege operations. The foot artillery received its own covering from 1893 and was thus made mobile, excellently trained and had enormous firepower. The fixed fortress artillery was also assigned to her.

The foot artillery was divided into regiments, battalions and companies ; these were renamed batteries in 1908 .

The need to be able to use heavy artillery in the struggle for field fortifications led to the formation of the heavy artillery of the field army in 1896 . The guns were also made mobile by horse-drawn clothing, often broken down into several loads. Heavy draft horses served as horses . Standard guns at the outbreak of war in 1914 were the 15 cm howitzer and the 21 cm mortar. The long-range 10 cm, 10.5 cm, 13 cm and 15 cm cannons were added later.

A battery of heavy field howitzers was led by a battery chief with the rank of captain or captain . In 1914 it consisted of five officers , a veterinary officer and 224 NCOs / crews with 122 horses, 18 vehicles and four guns. A battery with two 42 cm mortars even had 280 men.

Heavy guns

Caliber / type Range V0 (m / s) increase introduction comment
10 cm cannon 14 10,200 m −5 ° / + 45 May 1915
10 cm cannon 17 16,500 m −2 ° / + 45 1917
13.5 cm cannon 09 16,500 m −5 ° / + 26 1910
15 cm field howitzer 13 8,675 m 385 0 ° / + 45 ° 1914
15 cm cannon 16 22,000 m 757 + 8 ° / + 32 ° 1916
21 cm mortar 16 11,100 m 393 + 6 ° / + 70 ° 1916
21 cm cannon 26,000 m Rapid loading cannon
24 cm cannon 26,600 m 1916 Rapid loading cannon as a railroad or railroad bed gun
28 cm howitzer L / 12 10,400 m 350 0 ° / + 65 ° 1900 Coastal gun, also used as a siege gun
28 cm cannon 27,750 m Rapid loading cannon as a railroad or railroad bed gun
30.5 cm gun 62,500 m Rapid loading cannon as a railway bed gun
38 cm gun 47,500 m Rapid loading cannon as a railroad or railroad bed gun
42 cm mortar 14,100 m two different guns; Rail or road bound

The two “ Paris guns ” became known, which were loaded onto rails and fired from hidden positions on the enemy capital Paris between March and August 1918 at a distance of over 130 km with 21 cm shells.


For use in trench warfare against field fortifications were from 1910 mortars as high-angle fire guns delivered and carried in the siege train. These proved particularly useful in trench warfare during trench warfare. When the war broke out, the army had 44 heavy 25 cm mine throwers with a range of 900 m and 116 medium 17 cm mine throwers; during the war, light mine throwers with a caliber of 7.58 cm and a range of 1,300 m were introduced. two of which were assigned to the infantry battalions. In addition, some outdated fortress and booty guns were used. In the course of the war, mining was taken over by the pioneer troops. Mine throwers of the First World War were:

Railway guns

With the trench warfare, the far-reaching heavy railway guns became particularly important in the material battles .

Special and special forces

Artillery metrology

In addition to the airship detachments and the artillery pilots, who were assigned to the air force , the artillery set up other observation and measuring units that became the forerunners of the reconnaissance artillery. The inspector of artillery metrology in the OHL, appointed on August 30, 1916, took care of the further development of these new special units, and in October 1917 the artillery measurement school was founded in Wahn am Rhein . From 1915 on, measuring teams were formed to locate enemy batteries. 224 telescopic masters were set up. The aim was to prepare the fire roller unnoticed by the enemy . Positions could be measured in advance, the shot values ​​for the batteries were calculated in advance. This process, named after the German artillery officer Bruchmüller ( "breakthrough miller" ) and constantly perfected, was able to trigger a surprising fire strike with high accuracy against enlightened enemy positions at daybreak from under cover of night.

Light measurement teams

The principle of the light measurement method was developed in 1915 from the measuring plan teams, which evaluated target reports at division level and developed fire plans for the artillery from them. In September 1915, a total of 101 light measuring teams were set up from the available measuring plant teams, each with one measuring station and five to six measuring stations. From these the muzzle flashes of enemy artillery positions were measured and reported for central evaluation. This also made it possible to shoot against hidden or covered enemy artillery. By the end of the war, 160 light measuring teams were deployed.

Sound measurement teams

At the same time, the development of the sound measurement method began . In January 1916, 51 sound measurement squads were set up, which recorded the detonation of enemy artillery with microphones set up at various points in the area and precisely compared them in terms of time. At the end of the war there were 110 sound measurement teams.

Directional receiver

In May 1918, three light measurement and five sound measurement teams were disbanded and three directional listening teams were formed, which could use both methods in combination for target location.

Map and weather service

Since the weather conditions had a significant influence on the fire control of the artillery, the command posts here resorted to the support of the air force weather stations . Artillery correction troops of the artillery suspended their weather reports ballistically via the Barbara report in order to create a safe base for shooting, taking into account the "special and weather influences (BWE)".

In addition, a close cooperation developed with the air forces in the use of field airships and artillery pilots in the fire control as well as the series image trains, which contributed significantly to map creation and correction in the surveying departments and to target location.

Armored trains

Armored trains did not belong to the artillery, but were assigned to the military transport system.


AFlA Artillery Aviation Department (until 1916)
Arko Artillery commander (from 1917)
BAK Anti-balloon cannon
B position Observatory
FA (A) Aviation Department, Artillery (from 1916)
Flak Anti-aircraft gun
IG Infantry gun
K1-6 Gun 1-6 of the gun group
OHL Supreme Army Command
TAK Anti-tank cannon
V0 Muzzle velocity in meters per second. A high V0 increases accuracy and penetration.

See also


  • Bernard Fitzsimons (Ed.): The big Guns. Artillery, 1914-1918. Phoebus, London 1973 (English).
  • Hans Linnenkohl: From a single shot to a fire roller . The race between technology and tactics in the First World War. Bernhard and Graefe, Bonn 1996, ISBN 3-7637-5966-2 .
  • Edgar Graf von Matuschka: Organizational history of the army 1890-1919. In: Military History Research Office (Ed.): German Military History in Six Volumes 1648–1939. Pawlak, Herrsching 1983, ISBN 3-88199-112-3 .
  • Georg Ortenburg: Weapons and use of weapons in the age of the armies of millions (= armies of the modern age. Department 5: The age of armies of millions. Vol. 1). Bernard & Graefe, Bonn 1992, ISBN 3-7637-5811-9 .
  • Reinhard Scholzen : Army reconnaissance. Motorbuch-Verlag, Stuttgart 2012, ISBN 978-3-613-03408-2 .

Web links

Commons : German Artillery in World War I  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Joachim Engelmann, Horst Scheibert: German Artillery 1934–1945. Starke Verlag, Limburg an der Lahn 1974, DNB 750160349 , p. 7.
  2. ^ Decree of February 16, 1917.
  3. ^ Siegfried Fiedler: Tactics and strategy of the armies of millions. Bonn 1993, p. 57.
  4. ^ Reinhard Scholzen : Army reconnaissance. Motorbuch Verlag, Stuttgart 2012, ISBN 978-3-613-03408-2 , p. 119.
  5. ^ Reinhard Scholzen : Army reconnaissance. Motorbuch Verlag, Stuttgart 2012, ISBN 978-3-613-03408-2 , pp. 118ff.