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Battlefront WWII
Scenario Artillery


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Introduction

Up to this point the tutorial has dealt with the mechanics of artillery fire in the game. These are relatively straightforward once you know the available fire support elements and their support levels. Many of the questions we have received point out contradictions in the rules that deal more with the setup of the scenario than the mechanics. For example, the rule on p.39 that limits battalion missions to a single battery conflicts with the description of battery fire on P.37 which implies that individual batteries within a battalion can fire separate missions. Another question arises in the orders of battle where a battalion has the option of operating as independent batteries, each of which could theoretically call for general support, while the battalion as a whole gets one battery of GS artillery. Is is possible that independent batteries get more GS missions than the battalion?
When apparent contradictions exist, which rule is correct? The answer is "They all could be", depending on the national doctrine and specific situation. The discrepancies arose because when we wrote a particular rule, we were thinking of a particular practice followed by a specific nation and didn't always resolve contradictions between them. However, while this may sound like the designers of the game are abdicating responsibility, we are not going to leave you in the dark. The rest of the tutorial will describe how to use the rules, orders-of-battle, and National Doctrine to design coherent and non-conflicting artillery support for your scenario.

Scenario Artillery Setup

The scenario artillery should define:
  1. The number of batteries and battalions that are available.
  2. The support level for each independent Fire Support Element or section.
  3. If not immediately obvious, the observers who can call each element.
  4. Pre-plotted fire plans, including any pre-registration.
  5. Any special rules, such as a limitation on the number of smoke rounds or fire missions that can be called.
  6. Any changes to the general rules, such as allowing general support elements or individual batteries in a battalion to fire independent missions.
The key idea here is that when a conflict exists between the scenario rule or order of battle and the rulebook, the scenario takes precedence.

Some ideas for scenario rules

Command, Control, and Communications

When we describe the national doctrines, we will refer to three critical ideas that have a great effect on the flexibility and use of artillery. (the terms below are distilled from the excellent Royal Artillery):

Command

The level of command defines how easy it is to coordinate between different organizations. A high level of command indicates that resources can be shared without difficulty. You don't need to reassign an off-board element to allow its use by someone else.

Control

Control defines who can call for artillery support. Most nations limited their calls-for-fire to officers and designated forward observers. The lower the level of control, the more flexible the artillery.

Communications

At the beginning of the war, most nations relied on ground communication lines. These were susceptible to interruption when the wires were cut. Also, they restricted communications to those places where wire had been strung. Although wire was still used throughout the war, especially in static positions, radio assumed more importance. The radio "net" was a prime reason for the flexibility of the U.S. and British systems.

A little history-World War I legacies

To understand World War II artillery doctrine it is helpful to look at its origin.

Pre-WWI

At the beginning of the 20th century, artillery doctrine was still in its infancy, and had not advanced very far from its Napoleonic, ACW, and Franco-Prussian origins. The battery commander chose his own targets, often using direct fire at targets that could be seen from the gun positions. The basic ammunition was the shrapnel shell, designed to decimate troops in the open. The battery commander was supposed to dash forward, smother his target with direct fire shrapnel shells, and watch the enemy melt away. One of the first clashes that this had with reality occurred in the Boer War, where the British found that their opponents were not kind (stupid?) enough to fight from positions in the open. Instead, they dug in and fought from hidden positions. Shrapnel had very little effect on dug-in troops, and the British found their gunners being picked off by hidden riflemen. Indirect fire quickly became the name of the game, but communications had yet to be developed to allow it to be controlled effectively. The basic method was to use ranging shots, bracketing the target until fire could be brought down on top of them. The battery commander or observer would often communicate corrections to fire back to hidden batteries. Of course by the time that fire was landing accurately on the prospective target, it often had moved away or gone underground.

Early WWI

At the beginning of World War I, when trench warfare first took over the battlefield, artillery started to be used in massive barrages that were designed to obliterate the enemy positions by sheer weight of fire. In practice this rarely happened. Not only were the shrapnel shells (which comprised much of the ammunition stocks), relatively ineffective against trenches, but the week-long barrages that preceded the infantry assaults often did not have their desired effect. Enough front-line positions survived to allow reserves to be brought up to stop the attacks. Also, after the initial shock of the barrage wore off, troops in dug-outs found that they had survived and could continue to function.

The British

The British developed many techniques for controlling artillery such as the "creeping" barrage, the "box barrage" and the idea of concentration of fire rather than concentration of guns.

Georg Bruchmüller-a modern artillery theorist

On the other side of the trenches, Georg Bruchmüller was a World War I German Colonel whose theories refined the techniques used by both sides in the war. His theories concentrated on several ideas: Bruchmüller's techniques were first tried on the Russians in the battle of Riga in 1916, and later in the 1918 offensives on the Western Front. Combined with the new Stosstrupp tactics, they proved extremely effective. The troops gave him the nickname "Durchbruchmüller" (Breakthroughmuller). He published his theories in the 1920's, and his legacies have great influence on artillery doctrine even today.

Evolution

At the end of World War I, almost all of the theoretical groundwork needed to control artillery had been developed in one form or another. World War II techniques were refinements of those used in World War I, and differences in National Doctrine were really caused by a different emphasis on the key ideas of Command, Control, and Communications.

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This page was last updated on 02/04/2015 at 02:28AM

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