Obusier de 120 mm C modèle 1890

The Obusier de 120 mm C modèle 1890 was a French howitzer which was introduced at the end of the 19th century and already had a modern recoil system.

In 1886, Captain Louis Henry Auguste Baquet began to develop a modern howitzer for the French army in the Atelier de précision in Paris, after the French army had demanded an appropriate gun that could shoot at a high angle.

The resulting Obusier de 120 mm C modèle 1890 was a compromise from the already used technology and new systems. The howitzer was one of the first in the world to be equipped with a modern recoil system, so that the gun did not have to be repositioned after every shot.

Despite the use of steel, the gun was light enough to be pulled in one piece by horses. It was divided into two parts. The lower part contained the two wooden spoke wheels with steel rims and the middle part which had enough space for the gun barrel in the middle. This was necessary, so that the tube could take a correspondingly large angle for the shots.

The upper part was L-shaped and contained the gun barrel. The actual recoil system connected the two parts. As soon as a shot was fired, the upper part slid backwards via the recoil system, while the lower part remained in its position. This system was also used with the heavy gun Obusier de 155 mm C-model 1881. The big disadvantage with this was its instability, so that these guns were not very popular with the operating crew.

In 1890 the gun was presented to the French army and accepted. After delivery, these were assigned to the heavy field artillery regiments and artillery regiments of the fortifications. These guns were not intended for mobile use.



Obusier de 120 mm C modèle 1890


Obusier de 120 mm C modèle 1890



Since almost all heavy guns before the First World War were assigned almost exclusively to the fortifications, they were not available to the French army at the outbreak of the war. With the deployment of 5 regiments of heavy artillery, the guns were withdrawn from the fortresses and assigned. Each regiment had 3 batteries with 6 guns and 400 rounds each.

The total number of available guns was 90 with 1.280.000 rounds of ammunition. These were used until the guns were either used or destroyed.



Obusier de 120 mm C modèle 1890


A Obusier de 120 mm C modèle 1890 during transport to the front




Data sheet:

Designation: Obusier de 120 mm C modèle 1890
Manufacturing country: France
Introductory year: 1890
Number of pieces: 230 pieces
Calibers: 120 mm
Tube length: 1,7 meters
Range: Max. 5.800 meters
Weight: 2,365 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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