Gunboards Forums banner
1 - 20 of 38 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,298 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
In John Keegan's The Face of Battle he describes what it would have been like to be in three battles, one the Battle of the Somme. Specifically, the first day of the British attack after days of shelling the German lines.

It wasn't the "over the top" WWI image that generally comes to mind - guys mowed down by direct MG fire within steps of emerging from the trench. Instead it was several minutes before absurdly overloaded Tommies now scattered through no-man's land let out a groan as the first German machineguns opened fire. And then began to drop, randomly, one at a time here and there.

(It being this unforgettable to me I supppose is a good recommendation for the book.)

Again, it wasn't direct fire, it was plunging fire from tripod-mounted guns as much as two miles away. The B.E.F. troops never saw the guns that killed them, not even the twinkle of the distant muzzle flash.

Two miles, I think he said that. A difference in kind not just degree from infantry weapons in previous big wars.

Some guns he said, meaning some were closer. Kind of ghoulish maybe, but I was pondering what a 7.92x57 round is doing two miles from the fairly long rifled barrel that shot it, and thought of this forum.

(Agincourt and Waterloo the other battles Keegan profiles.)

3795888
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
271 Posts
In Australia, a guy was killed by a .303 bullet fired from seven miles away. Some moron shot at a bird in a tree, missed it, and the bullet went that far and still had sufficient momentum to kill a man. So 2 miles doesn't seem like a stretch to me.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,469 Posts
There is math on this subject.
It is out there on the internet somewhere, probably buried in early manuals on the use and positioning of heavy MG's.
Never having had that kind of range to play with, I never paid much attention, but I do recall seeing it.
I don't think 2 miles is much of a stretch for the basic 7.9mm ammo, especially if the placement of the guns was well plotted.
What sort of terminal effects this type of fire would have I cannot say but, given that the target zone was probably under direct observation (and by default, direct fire) by troops in forward trenches, anyone wounded in almost any way would probably be unrecoverable.

I can not comment on the 7 mile .303 claim, a lot would depend on upper level wind speeds and starting angles an so forth.

IIRC, Hatcher was involved in experiments to measure of drift on bullets fired vertically, it all came to nothing because they never did manage to see any impacts of the falling bullets.
As I recall, this was over water so not much of a surprise.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,347 Posts
IIRC 1000 ways to die or Similier had a story of a man took his boat out about 1 1/2 miles out to sea and was shooting floating targets .Apparently a ricochet from.303 traveled back toward shore and entered a moving car which bullet struck a woman behind the ear killing her.
Witnesses said she just started veiring off side of road.I think its was days later the shooter realized after seeing it on the news he was shooting near by and the story came together.
 

·
Platinum Bullet Member
Joined
·
59,090 Posts
My library is currently inaccessible (otherwise I would have looked first) but I believe Col. Chinn has some info and diagrams in The Machine Gun.
which volume,? I have most if not all of his books upstairs,


surely there are some reports or manuals somewhere on the use of Volly Fire, including ranges and accuracy,
esp since the English were fond of Volley Sights on there rifles for a good while
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,116 Posts
Great book. I'd recommend it to anyone. His discussion of Agincourt is particularly compelling.

IIRC volley fire was meant to commence at around 2,000 yards. So a bit over a mile. The hope, I think, was to halt enemy attacks outside 800 yards from the friendly position. The goal was never to hit large numbers of enemy soldiers; it was to deter their advance and cripple their morale by letting them know you were ready for 'em. Same goes for plunging fire, but with more rounds.

Plunging fire is a thing. It's still taught to machine gunners.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
530 Posts
Iron Worker, I remember that story. As I recall, it happened off Long Island NY and it was a 3006 round fired from a M1.You are correct about the distance. The young lady that was killed had her rear vent window open and the trajectory of the bullet carried it through the open window and it struck her behind the ear. In a similar story, as a kid, I grew up in a rural area and the kids next store were playing on a swing set in the back yard when something dinged off the metal cross bar with enough force to leave a dent, and fell in front of the kid.He brought into his father who immediately recognized it as a spent .30 bullet. My dad and the neighbor jumped in his car and went about 2 miles down the road where locals where shooting at a small homemade range (this is the 70's when you could do such things in NJ ) to find guys shooting an M1. There was at least a mile or more of woods between the range and our houses. Growing up my father always used this example to teach us about backstops and the distance a round could travel.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,298 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
which volume,? I have most if not all of his books upstairs,


surely there are some reports or manuals somewhere on the use of Volly Fire, including ranges and accuracy,
esp since the English were fond of Volley Sights on there rifles for a good while
I only have the first volume of Chinn - didn't know there were more!

(No. 1 says something aboiut subsequent volumes will be for insiders only or something; silly me I took that 75 year old statement at face value and never looked for followups!)

~~~~~~~~~

The Battle of Mons came up in a recent thread, the legend that the Germans thought they were under MG fire but it was really a large body of highly trained B.E.F. rifleman firing Lee-Enfields (this was 1914, two years before what was left of the skilled pre-war cadres were largely wiped out at The Somme). I read one place the range was 900 yards.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
21,221 Posts
Plunging fire produces a beaten zone. This was used in Italian campaign in WWII as well as in Korea. This is nothing new for use of machine guns in the indirect fire role. Not a issue to this very day with rifle fire either. I used plunging fire in Iraq when the insurgents were well out of M4 carbine range but I tried to put a beaten zone upon them. Granted with 556 caliber
I saw no results that I could claim but ....I TOOK THE SHOTS, if nothing else I might have scared them but hopefully I winged some knuckleheads. I'd like to think I did cause their PKM definitely put a beaten zone on us.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
450 Posts
Here is a WW2 training film that explains how the heavy water-cooled machine guns were used in offensive operations as a prepartory bombardment.

US Army film - Employment of Heavy Machine Guns in the Attack


In "Infantry in Battle" a summary of WW1 operations by category, the chapter on machine guns describes a successful US assault with 2 MG battalions (48 guns) firing a prep on known and suspected German positions that led to an advance with light casualties. Page 239. Oh by the way, the editor of the book was Gen George Marshall.

A quote from page 243 "all was now ready, but there were no targets. There were no enemy columns, no enemy groups, no visible enemy trenches or other works,. Nevertheless, the enemy was there and the American machine gunners knew a way to get at him"

A pdf copy of this book is here, a must read on WW1 infantry and supporting arms tactics written by those who were there of the lessons learned in blood.

 

·
Registered
Joined
·
450 Posts
German WW1 machine gun doctrine evolved a lot in the last years of the war - 1917-1918. The "light" (45 lbs.) MG 08/15 team was added to each rifle platoon. The infantry battalion usually had a MG company of 6 MG08 guns on the heavy Schlitten mount and the training and equipment to fire long range attached from the division MG battalion. The 08/15 was usually set up to provide "ambush" fire from oblique or enfilade positions from 100-300 yards from the target. The 08/15 on its bipod and no optic sight was good for that. The 08 on the heavy mount, considered one of the most stable ever fielded, played the long range fire role. So Allied forces would suffer from long range fires from the beginning of the assault, then hammered in surprise fire from scattered German strongpoints in depth that epitomized the late war German defense doctrine.

For more info, read this book:

 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,298 Posts
Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Here is a WW2 training film that explains how the heavy water-cooled machine guns were used in offensive operations as a prepartory bombardment.

US Army film - Employment of Heavy Machine Guns in the Attack


In "Infantry in Battle" a summary of WW1 operations by category, the chapter on machine guns describes a successful US assault with 2 MG battalions (48 guns) firing a prep on known and suspected German positions that led to an advance with light casualties. Page 239. Oh by the way, the editor of the book was Gen George Marshall.

A quote from page 243 "all was now ready, but there were no targets. There were no enemy columns, no enemy groups, no visible enemy trenches or other works,. Nevertheless, the enemy was there and the American machine gunners knew a way to get at him"

A pdf copy of this book is here, a must read on WW1 infantry and supporting arms tactics written by those who were there of the lessons learned in blood.

That book and link appear priceless (its editor sure was).
3795996

Page 247, in the "Fire of Machine Guns" chapter:
3795999
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
327 Posts
I have seen (long time ago) a Finnish Army manual "indirect shooting with machine guns" from 1930s. It had some tables of lethality of different bullets up to 2000 meters, tables of "safe shooting over own troops", wind deflection, etc. Finnish 13 gram D-166 bullet was especially developed for 7.62x53R Maxim long range fire. The difficult part was sighting, various mortar and artillery sights were tested and an artilley type indirect fire control was shown. Poor mans artillery of sorts...
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,298 Posts
Discussion Starter · #17 · (Edited)
Great book. I'd recommend it to anyone. His discussion of Agincourt is particularly compelling.
Indeed, and like the Somme, the "face" of Agincourt wasn't quite what the history books and movies depict.

I skipped Waterloo because I had recently read two superb accounts of it by Bernard Cornwell, author of the "Sharpe" series of Napoleonic era novels depicting a "'mustang" officer (up from the ranks), elevated for saving Wellington's life in India. This might be the most entertaining military fiction series I've ever read - and that's saying a mouthful because I have read a ton of them. The cherry on top is they are all meticulously researched - Cornwell did the historical research and walked the ground of many famous battles. (He also has a US Civil War, an Agincourt-era archer series, and the other tour-de-force alongside the Sharpe series, a Vikings in Britain series [first line, "I am Uhtred.")

I said two Cornwell Waterloos. The first is the Sharpe novel. The second is a straight non-fiction historical account. Both rock, and are based on the same documentary and walk-the-site evidence.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,116 Posts
Indeed, and like the Somme, the "face" of Agincourt wasn't quite what the history books and movies depict.

I skipped Waterloo because I had recently read two superb accounts of it by Bernard Cornwell, author of the "Sharpe" series of Napoleonic era novels depicting a "'mustang" officer (up from the ranks), elevated for saving Wellington's life in India. This might be the most entertaining military fiction series I've ever read - and that's saying a mouthful because I have read a ton of them. The cherry on top is they are all meticulously researched - Cornwell did the historical research and walked the ground of many famous battles. (He also has a US Civil War, an Agincourt-era archer series, and the other tour-de-force alongside the Sharpe series, a Vikings in Britain series [first line, "I am Uhtred.")

I said two Cornwell Waterloos. The first is the Sharpe novel. The second is a straight non-fiction historical account. Both rock based on the same documentary and walk-the-side evidence.
His book on the Penobscot expedition was also excellent, chronicling an operation the Americans tend to ignore because it was such a crushing defeat. A main character is a young Moore of Corunna. Like you say, he's BTDT on these battlefields. You can still walk around Castine, ME using his book as a guide.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,502 Posts
There are a number of references to plunging fire in 'Mud, blood & determination, the history of the 46th (North Midland) Division in the Great War', Simon Peaple, Helion, 2015.
On page 130 it describes how, in the battle for Lens, indirect firing took place at a range of 1,700 yards, at an average elevation of 6%. This is followed further in the book on the discussion of the tactical development of the 'beaten zone' concept.
 
1 - 20 of 38 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.
Top