Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

German Artillery, 1914–1918
reviewed by Terrence Finnegan

German Artillery, 1914–1918
by Wolfgang Fleischer
Pen & Sword Books Ltd., 2015

The depth of research over the years regarding the First World War has amazingly skirted a detailed examination of artillery, the most deadly of German weapons on the Western Front. However, Wolfgang Fleisher's German Artillery, 1914-1918, provides a refreshing look at the inventory of guns of the field artillery: Fussartillerie and heavy flat-trajectory guns; anti-aircraft guns; infantry, anti-tank and mountain guns; and coastal guns. The book is a handy guide with an excellent photo of each artillery piece, a chart showing each weapon's caliber, weight, rate of fire, maximum range of the shell fired and other data points for consideration. In some cases a diagram of the artillery shell fired by the artillery piece is included in the description.

German Artillery Piece, Arras Sector

The challenge for military history enthusiasts of the First World War when reading a guide such as German Artillery, 1914-1918, is that translation of the actual German terminology becomes the publisher's prerogative. When you research the actual files of transcribed German field orders and plans, you discover the weapon to be employed has a specific nomenclature assigned. Sadly, confusion occurs when reading primary source documents. A case in point is Fleischer's listing of 7.7-cm Field Gun 96 n/A compared to the actual 7.7cm Feldkanone 96 n/A. (F.K. 96 n/A) title in German orders. English translations of the weapon's nomenclature should be in parentheses. The document below shows actual text from a German report on artillery rounds fired during an operation. Note the nomenclature for the artillery pieces.

What is missing from Fleischer's work is any mention of Minenwerfer (mine launchers (MW)), the workhorse of many a German assault. Perhaps the argument is that MW were not classified as artillery. However, inclusion of these important weapons would have further enhanced the value of the book.

For those interested in seeing other sources on German Artillery, I also recommend Herbert Jäger's German Artillery of World War One and the German Army Handbook April 1918. They are both good reads.

Terrence Finnegan

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