Fire roller (military)
A fire roller is a military attack tactic that was first used at the time of the First World War and is characterized by the fact that there is close coordination between your own artillery and your own infantry units . This should enable a successful penetration into enemy position systems.
The fire roller tactic was first used by the French artillery in the autumn battle in Champagne from September 25 to November 6, 1915 on the Western Front. It was shaped by the French General Robert Nivelle .
This tactic required, similar to other attack methods of the First World War, a high concentration of your own guns. In contrast to an annihilation fire / barrage , which aimed to destroy the enemy position system including all shelters in days of continuous bombardment, the concept of the fire roller was intended to hold down the enemy infantrymen and to force them to linger in shelters and bunkers. While the enemy trench crew lay in safe cover, their own infantrymen worked their way forward and approached dangerously close to the fountains of explosion from the impacting grenades. According to a predetermined scheme , the fire then jumped 50-100 meters in the enemy direction, while the infantry - following as closely as possible - penetrated the previously fired section. The aim was therefore to take the enemy trench crews by surprise and, if possible, to neutralize them in their dugouts (i.e. to make them incapable of fighting).
The tactic had the theoretical advantage that the opposing infantry was held down, making it possible to gain terrain again even in terrain with strong positions. The disadvantage, however, was that it could not be flexibly adapted to the combat situation, as the existing telecommunications equipment was not yet sufficient for a reliable connection between infantry and artillery. Therefore, the fire roller sometimes ran away if the infantry could not follow the fire roller due to difficult terrain or the stubborn resistance of the enemy. On the other hand, the slowly advancing fire also limited a - depending on the circumstances - faster attack by the infantry forward. In contrast to a longer barrel fire, a fire roller did not cause enough damage to the enemy trench system with its barbed wire entanglement and shelters. It turned out that the time between the passage of a roller of fire and the arrival of the attacking infantry was usually sufficient for the trench crew to leave the shelters and go to their posts. However, if the fire roller was executed correctly, i.e. the distance between the impact of the grenades and the arrival of the infantry small enough, as in the last phase of the Battle of Verdun , it achieved devastating results.
Due to the war of movement of the Second World War , the fire roller lost its importance, as the front was seldom stable long enough to pull together a similar number of guns as in the First World War. In general, the number of positional battles in which there was a static front line decreased over the decades . An example of such a battle was the Battle of Điện Biên Phủ , where the Vieth Minh repeatedly used fire rollers with great success. With the advent of the fire radar, with which one can precisely locate approaching projectiles, the fire roller became completely obsolete. Nowadays, guns have to change position after a few seconds in order not to be destroyed by counterfire.
The strategic effect was ultimately limited by the range of the cannons , since the infantry's guns could only follow a successful advance slowly and therefore sooner or later the uniform fire roller as protection for the infantry would be dropped.
- Hans Linnenkohl: From a single shot to a fire roller . Bernard & Graefe, Koblenz 1990, ISBN 3-7637-5866-6 , p. 272.