The field gun Canon de 75 modèle 1897 is regarded as the first modern artillery gun, which was introduced in France at the end of the 19th century and was used until the Second World War.
In 1891 the Bourges Arsenal company, led by Captain Sainte-Claire Deville, developed a new 57 mm gun, which already used most of the most advanced artillery technologies at the time:
- The smokeless powder of Vieille introduced in 1884
- A self-contained ammunition of brass
- A short hydropneumatic recoil mechanism designed by Major Louis Baquet
- A new type of screw cap developed by Thorsten Nordenfelt
This weapon, designed as an experimental gun, should serve as a basis for further developments. Especially the recoil mechanism should be improved. As early as 1890, the German engineer Konrad Haussner had developed and patented a recoil system using oil and compressed air. The director of the French artillery school, General Mathieu, also knew from the secret service that the German artillery firm Krupp might want to take over this system.
However, Konrad Haussner later wanted to sell his patent profitably, so that in February 1892 French artillery engineers also had the opportunity to take a closer look at this system. Since France did not have sufficient financial means for such a purchase at that time, General Mathieu asked the then director of the Atelier de Construction de Puteaux whether a French replica was possible without infringing the patent rights. After a review and confirmation that such a replica was possible, the official order was given by the military on 13 July 1892.
Under the direction of General Deloye, work was carried out over the next 5 years on a series-ready artillery gun with a calibre of 75 mm under the strictest secrecy. In March 1898 the first prototypes for tests were presented. Extensive tests were carried out in the summer. All in all the gun proved to be very promising, but like most other guns at that time, it also had leaking hydraulic fluid. The guns were therefore returned to the company for revision.
Two young military engineers from Ecole Polytechnique were finally able to solve the problems with the leaking fluid until 1896 by improving the silver alloy rings on the freely moving piston and thus separating the compressed air and hydraulic fluid inside the hydropneumatic main retraction cylinder, which could then no longer leak.
After several tests, even in difficult terrain and conditions, the gun was officially introduced to the French army on 28 March 1898.
Until the introduction of the gun and its official launch, both development and production were kept secret. The hydropneumatic recoil mechanism kept both the barrel and the wheels in the same position after firing. This meant that the gun did not have to be repositioned after each shot. With a range of around 8.500 metres and a firing rate of 15 rounds per minute, with an experienced crew over a short period even 30 rounds per minute were possible, this gun was considered the most modern of its time.
At the beginning of the First World War, the French army had almost 4.000 of these guns at its disposal. These were combined to form a field gun battery with 4 guns and 170 soldiers each, plus 4 officers. For the transport of one gun 6 horses were necessary.
Until the end of the war another 17.500 guns were produced. In order to be able to produce these quantities at all, private companies were included in the production at the beginning of 1915 in addition to state-owned companies. However, this led to poorer material being processed and many guns becoming unusable in mid-1915. Only when the French Ministry of Defence enforced uniform standards could the quality be significantly increased again.
In addition to the French army, the British and later the American army also received the export versions of the guns.
Especially during the Battle of the Marne in August to September 1914 and around Verdun in 1916, these guns could distinguish themselves. In Verdun alone 1.000 guns were in use around the clock to be used against the German troops.
With the beginning of the position war, however, the weakness of the gun became apparent. This was intended from the beginning for the employment against advancing soldiers. These were to be killed or injured with shrapnel or melinite shells. The guns hardly aimed anything against fortified installations or concrete bunkers.
At the beginning of 1917 the guns were gradually replaced by the heavy 155 mm calibre guns. Some of the Canon de 75 modèle 1897 remained at the front and were used to fire mustard gas and phosgene for chemical warfare.
Some of the guns were also used as armament for the new Saint-Chamond tanks.
After the First World War many of the French guns were delivered to the new Polish army to support them in their fight against the Soviet Union. Under the designation 75 mm Armata wz.1897 in 1939 with the invasion of the German Wehrmacht there were still about 1.374 guns in service in the Polish army. These were partly destroyed during the war, but many were captured by Germany.
The guns remaining in the French army were modernized after the First World War and converted into anti-tank guns. As Canon de 75 Mle 1897/33 the guns were equipped with rubber tires in order to be able to apply a correspondingly high speed for the new trucks. Just like the Polish guns, the German Wehrmacht was able to capture many of the French guns after the victory. Altogether over 3.500 guns were captured, which were mounted on the German Pak 38 cars and mainly used in Russia. When these guns could be exchanged for the more powerful 7.5 cm Pak 40, the older guns were mainly installed in the Atlantic Wall.
The British expeditionary corps also lost most of the guns they had bought from France in World War I when the German Wehrmacht invaded France and drove the British to flee across the English Channel near Dunkirk. After the loss, Great Britain bought 895 guns from the USA, which had also bought many guns from France during the First World War and had partly built them itself under licence. Beside the guns also many half chains M3 vehicles were imported, which served predominantly as towing vehicles for the guns.
In the USA the guns were replaced 1941, still before beginning of the war entry, by the more modern M2A1 105 mm howitzer M101 as standard anti-tank gun. The now released guns were mounted on M3 Half-Tracks and used mainly in the Pacific War against Japanese troops.
|Designation:||Canon de 75 modèle 1897|
|Number of pieces:||over 21.000 pieces|
|Tube length:||2,69 meters|
|Range:||Max. 8.500 meters|
You can find the right literature here:
Flesh and Steel During the Great War: The Transformation of the French Army and the Invention of Modern Warfare
Michel Goya’s Flesh and Steel during the Great War is one of the most thoughtful, stimulating and original studies of the conflict to have appeared in recent years. It is a major contribution towards a deeper understanding of the impact of the struggle on the Western Front on the theory and practice of warfare in the French army. In a series of incisive, closely argued chapters he explores the way in which the senior commanders and ordinary soldiers responded to the extraordinary challenges posed by the mass industrial warfare of the early twentieth century.
In 1914 the French army went to war with a flawed doctrine, brightly-colored uniforms and a dire shortage of modern, heavy artillery How then, over four years of relentless, attritional warfare, did it become the great, industrialized army that emerged victorious in 1918?
To show how this change occurred, the author examines the pre-war ethos and organization of the army and describes in telling detail how, through a process of analysis and innovation, the French army underwent the deepest and fastest transformation in its history.
Breaking Point of the French Army: The Nivelle Offensive of 1917
In December 1916 General Robert Nivelle was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the French armies fighting the Germans on the Western Front. He had enjoyed a meteoric rise to high command and public acclaim since the beginning of the war - he was a national hero. In return, he proclaimed he ‘had the formula’ that would ensure victory and end the conflict in 1917. But his offensive was a bloody and humiliating failure for France, one that could have opened the way for French defeat.
This is the subject of David Murphy’s penetrating, in-depth study of one of the key events in the history of the Great War. He describes how Nivelle, a highly intelligent and articulate officer, used his charm to win the support of French and British politicians, but also how he was vain and boastful and displayed no sense of operational security. By the opening of the campaign, his plan was an open secret and he had lost the ability to critically assess the operation as it developed. The result was disaster.
They Shall Not Pass: The French Army on the Western Front 1914-1918
This graphic collection of first-hand accounts sheds new light on the experiences of the French army during the Great War. It reveals in authentic detail the perceptions and emotions of soldiers and civilians who were caught up in the most destructive conflict the world had ever seen.
Their testimony gives a striking insight into the mentality of the troops and their experience of combat, their emotional ties to their relatives at home, their opinions about their commanders and their fellow soldiers, the appalling conditions and dangers they endured, and their attitude to their German enemy. In their own words, in diaries, letters, reports and memoirs - most of which have never been published in English before - they offer a fascinating inside view of the massive life-and-death struggle that took place on the Western Front.
Ian Sumner provides a concise narrative of the war in order to give a clear context to the eyewitness material. In effect the reader is carried through the experience of each phase of the war on the Western Front and sees events as soldiers and civilians saw them at the time. This emphasis on eyewitness accounts provides an approach to the subject that is completely new for an English-language publication.
The author’s pioneering work will appeal to readers who may know something about the British and German armies on the Western Front, but little about the French army which bore the brunt of the fighting on the allied side. His book represents a milestone in publishing on the Great War.
Artillery in the Great War
Artillery was the decisive weapon of the Great War - it dominated the battlefields. Yet the history of artillery during the conflict has been neglected, and its impact on the fighting is inadequately understood. Paul Strong and Sanders Marble, in this important and highly readable study, seek to balance the account.Their work shows that artillery was central to the tactics of the belligerent nations throughout the long course of the conflict, in attack and in defense. They describe, in vivid detail, how in theory and practice the use of artillery developed in different ways among the opposing armies, and they reveal how artillery men on all sides coped with the extraordinary challenges that confronted them on the battlefield. They also give graphic accounts of the role played by artillery in specific operations, including the battles of Le Cateau, the Somme and Valenciennes.Their work will be fascinating reading for anyone who is keen to understand the impact of artillery