De Bange 155 mm cannon

The De Bange 155 mm cannon was a French gun which was introduced after the Franco-Prussian War and established the standard 155 mm calibre in the French army.

On 2 February 1874 the French Artillery Committee was founded to analyse the Franco-Prussian War from 1870 to 1871 and to derive experiences and strategies for future wars from this. During the meetings, the introduction of new artillery guns for the French army was discussed, as well as the calibre of the new weapons. On April 16, 1874 the committee agreed on the caliber of 155 mm, 5 days later an official demand was made on the manufacturers to develop new guns.

In 1876 in Calais 3 prototypes of 155 mm guns were presented to the military leadership and the committee. Charles de Bange's gun proved to be the most suitable weapon.

Like the other de Bange guns, the 155 mm cannon was also a cannon made entirely of steel. In the first series the gun stood on a wooden platform which absorbed the recoil after a shot, but it had to be repositioned again and again. This process only changed after the Saint-Chamond hydraulic brake was fitted to the guns in 1883, which made it much easier to absorb the recoil and then return the gun to its pre-shot position.

In November 1877, the first 300 guns were ordered and became the standard gun of the French army. By the end of the century, the number had risen to a total of 1.400, with most of the guns in the French forts, particularly Toul, Belfort and Verdun. Some 200 guns were retained as a reserve for offensive operations in the event of war.



De Bange 155 mm cannon


The closure of a De Bange 155 mm cannon



At the beginning of the 20th century, the new 75 mm gun with a modern recoil system was introduced into the French army. Thus the de Bange 155 mm cannon became obsolete within a short time, but the French army kept these guns in its fortresses and as a reserve.

Shortly before the beginning of the First World War, there were still 1.392 guns in stock, but the French army had none of the heavy guns at the units bordering the German Reich, which were only equipped with light field howitzers. Thus the 120 French 75 mm guns per army corps were confronted with 108 x 77 mm, 36 x 105 mm and 16 x 150 mm guns of the Germans.

On August 27, 1914, during the Battle of Mortagne, the first 155 mm guns were fired at German troops with the de Bange. The performance of the weapons convinced the French army command that the heavy guns were urgently needed at the front and that they had to be mobilised as quickly as possible. In October 1914, a programme was launched to create suitable transport facilities for the guns and the equipment of the units on the front with them. This measure made it possible to bring around 112 of de Bange's 155 mm guns to the front from 27 to 30 November.



A de Bange 155 mm cannon in her position on the western front


A de Bange 155 mm cannon on the way to the front


A de Bange 155 mm cannon in her position on the western front



In October and November 1915, a restructuring of the artillery units of the French army on the western front began, after the war of movement had turned into a positional war. For this purpose, 30 artillery regiments were formed and equipped with the Bange 155 mm guns. 20 of the regiments received horses for the transport of the guns, the other 10 regiments were equipped with tractors and tractors. By August 1, 1916, 738 of the guns were in action on the western front.



A de Bange 155 mm cannon is towed from a tractor to the front


One de Bange 155 mm cannon 1916 near Verdun



In the course of the war the penetration power of the guns could be increased by increasing the powder charge of the projectiles. This was facilitated by the already very strong steel construction of the weapon, so that the speed of the projectiles could be increased from 470 meters per second to 561 meters per second. The range was also increased.

Despite the increase in penetration power, the Bange 155 mm guns were replaced by modern guns from May 1916. However, as production was not able to meet demand and delivery bottlenecks occurred in some cases, it was decided to continue using these guns by manufacturing spare parts for the older guns. Thus it came that the de Bange 155 mm guns remained in use until the end of the war.



A French gun emplacement with a 155 mm cannon


A 155 mm cannon in the cerebral arch just before firing. In the foreground stacked ammunition, in the background equipment and ammunition carts, as well as the camp of the battery crews



In addition to the French army, the Romanian army also received 4 of the guns until the end of the war. A further 80 were delivered to the Russian Empire. They used the weapons later also in the Russian civil war and delivered 32 guns to the republican armed forces during the Spanish civil war in 1937.

France itself continued to hold most of the guns after the First World War. Most of these were returned to the French fortresses or kept in depots as reserves. At the beginning of the Second World War, the French army still had a total of 305 de Bange 155 mm guns. Of these, 168 were housed in the Maginot Line and 137 in the smaller fortresses. France had previously sent 48 guns in support of Finland during the Winter War against the Soviet Union.




Data sheet:

Designation: De Bange 155 mm cannon
Manufacturing country: France
Introductory year: 1877
Number of pieces: 1.400 pieces
Calibers: 155 mm
Tube length: 4,2 meters
Range: Max. 12.700 meters
Weight: 6,5 tons






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

Flesh and Steel During the Great War: The Transformation of the French Army and the Invention of Modern Warfare Hardcover – October 30, 2018

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.

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Breaking Point of the French Army: The Nivelle Offensive of 1917

Breaking Point of the French Army: The Nivelle Offensive of 1917 Hardcover – November 2, 2015

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.

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They Shall Not Pass: The French Army on the Western Front 1914-1918

They Shall Not Pass: The French Army on the Western Front 1914-1918 Hardcover – May 19, 2012

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.

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Artillery in the Great War

Artillery in the Great War Hardcover – May 18, 2011

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

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