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  ..[ ].. > > ( ) ( Department of General military subjec

Barrrage artillery

( ) ( Department of General military subjec


20-05-09, 05:30 PM

  : 1

Barrrage artillery


Barrage (artillery

A barrage is a line or barrier of exploding created by the co-ordinated aiming of a large number of guns firing continuously. Pronounced: bare-uj by Sally Foster Dictionary, its purpose is to deny or hamper enemy passage through the line of the barrage, to attack a linear position such as a line of trenches or (as a creeping or rolling barrage) to neutralise the enemy in the path of an advance by friendly troops. It contrasts with a concentration, in which all the guns aim at the same small area.
The barrage was developed in World War I, and by late 1916 the creeping barrage was the standard means of deploying artillery to support an infantry attack, with the infantry following the advancing barrage as closely as possible. Its employment in this way recognised the importance of artillery fire in neutralising, rather than destroying, the enemy. It was found that a creeping barrage immediately followed by the infantry assault could be far more effective than weeks of preliminary bombardment.
Barrages remained in use in World War II and later, but only as one of a variety of artillery tactics made possible by improvements in predicted fire, target location and communications.

Development of the creeping barrage

The barrage was developed during World War I. Until 1914-15, artillery usually fired over open sights at visible targets, and the largest unit accustomed to firing at a single target was the regiment or brigade, of up to about 25 guns. Trench warfare led to a necessity for indirect firing through the use of observers, more sophisticated artillery fire plans and an increasingly scientific approach to gunnery. Gunners had to use increasingly complicated calculations to lay the guns. Individual guns were aimed so that their fall of shot was co-ordinated with others to form a pattern; in the case of a barrage, the pattern was a line. The term barrage was first used in English in the orders for the battle of Neuve Chapelle in 1915
A lifting barrage was a development in which the barrage lifted periodically to a target further back, such as a second line of trenches. This was countered by the defenders infiltrating troops and machine guns into no-man's land or the areas between their own trench lines, so it was found necessary to comb the entire area of the advance with artillery fire. A creeping barrage (also called a walking barrage was a barrage that lifted in small increments, perhaps 50 yards, so that it moved forward slowly, keeping pace with the infantry A rolling barrage was more sophisticated still, with two or more curtains of fire, one behind the other, so that when the batteries firing the rearmost pattern ceased fire to lift the barrage, there was no pause or gap in the barrage. Those batteries lifted their fire to become the forward edge of the barrage, and the pattern was repeated to keep the barrage rolling forward without ever ceasingInitially the lifts of the creeping barrage were pre-programmed; that gave rise to problems when the infantry attack did not keep up with the barrage, or was slowed down by it. By the end of World War I the barrage could be made to move in complicated ways, with the barrage wheeling or even combing back and forth across the same ground to catch the defenders re-emerging after the barrage had passed but it was still governed by a By World War II, as techniques and communications improved, the barrage lifts could ordered by forward observers or by the infantry themselves. The British developed the "quick barrage", a standardised barrage pattern that could be ordered by radio without advance plotting of the fireplan on a map

Standing and box barrages

A standing barrage was static. A standing barrage might be defensive, to inhibit the movement of enemy troops. A creeping barrage could be made to stand on a static line for a time before it moved on, perhaps waiting for the infantry to form up behind it, or to catch up, or perhaps it would stand on the line of known enemy defences, to do more damage and sap enemy morale.
In a box barrage three or four barrages formed a box or more often three sides of a box around a position to isolate it. Standing or box barrages were often used for Defensive Fire tasks, in which the barrage was pre-registered in a position agreed with the defending infantry commander, to be called down in the event of an enemy attack on his positions. A box barrage could also be used to prevent the enemy from reinforcing a position to be attacked. In a trench raid of March 1917, 1st Battalion the Buffs were supported first by a creeping barrage, then by a box barrage once they were in the enemy trenches, to prevent German reinforcement or counterattack, plus dummy bombardments on other sections of the line to confuse the enemy

Advantages and drawbacks

It was soon appreciated how important it was for the attacking troops to follow the barrage closely (leaning on the barrage), without allowing time for the defenders to recover from the shock of bombardment and emerge from their dug-outs; the French reckoned they should be suffering 10% of their casualties from their own artillery if they were close enough to the barrage Ideally the attackers should be into the enemy positions before the defenders have time to recover their composure after the terror of an intense bombardment, emerge from ters and man their firing positions. On the first day of the Somme, and in the later French Nivelle Offensive on the Chemin des Dames, the barrage outpaced the infantry, allowing the defenders to recover and emerge from their dug-outs, with disastrous results for the attackersBy the end of World War I it was realised that the important effect of the barrage was to demoralise and suppress the enemy, rather than physical destruction; a short, intense bombardment immediately followed by infantry assault was more effective than the weeks of grinding bombardment used in 1916.
A creeping barrage could maintain the element of surprise, with the guns opening fire only shortly before the assault troops moved off. It was useful when enemy positions had not been thoroughly reconnoitered, as it did not depend on identifying individual targets in advance On the other hand it was wasteful of ammunition and guns, as much of the fire would inevitably fall on ground containing no enemy.
The World War I barrage with programmed lifts had the effect of confining the infantry advance to the artillery schedule, and of requiring the use of linear tactics, restricting infantry manoeuvre. Infiltration tactics later proved more effective than advancing in rigid lines, and the infiltration phase of German stormtrooper attacks could not use a creeping barrage; but the opening phase of Operation Michael was still supported by a massive creeping barrage, containing a heavy mix of gas ****lsThe importance of the barrage was such that traditional infantry tactics, such as reliance on the infantry's own firepower to support its movement, were sometimes forgotten
In the featureless Western Desert in World War II, one benefit of the barrage was that it enabled the infantry to conform their line to the barrage, ensuring that their line of advance was correct.By 1943 the barrage was considered to dissipate firepower and to constrain the infantry into advancing in rigid lines
A barrage could severely churn up the ground, especially in soft going, and impede the progress of the attacking troops

World War I

A creeping barrage was first used in a small section of the line at the battle of Loos, but the infantry did not advance behind it. The first day of the battle of the Somme saw the first large-scale creeping barrage, closely followed by the infantry and intended to keep pace with them. On XV Corps front, the barrage was programmed to lift 50 yards every minute. Unfortunately it did not protect the troops whilst they were crossing No-Man's Land, and along the Somme front it proved impossible for the infantry to keep up with the pace of the barrageA creeping barrage became the standard tactic for infantry attacks from September 1916 onward, and soon spread to the French army, enabling the French recapture of Fort Vaux at Verdun in November 1916. By the later stages of the Battle of the Somme, the British had learned the lessons of keeping close to the barrage: the BEF circulated an aerial observer's report commending a "most perfect wall of fire" followed up within 50 yards by the infantry of 50th Division, enabling them to take a village with little opposition. A report said "Experience has shown that it is far better to risk a few casualties from an occasional short round from our own artillery than to suffer the many casualties which occur when the bombardment is not closely followed up
At first, British creeping barrages consisted only of shrapnel ls, but an equal mix of HE was soon added, in some cases later supplemented by smoke ls. The creeping barrage would advance at a rate of 100 yards every one to six minutes, depending on terrain and conditions; although six minutes was found to be too slow
By the Battle of Arras in 1917 the creeping barrage was huge and complex, with five or six lines of fire covering a depth of 2,000 yards ahead of the infantry. Predicted fire was used, so that the barrage opened without preliminary target registration shots. Back barrages were used, in which rearmost lines of the barrage reversed direction, and machine gun barrages were introduced. False barrages attempted to deceive the enemy about Allied intentions or to force him to reveal his positions The creeping barrage was used to great effect in the Canadian success at Vimy Ridge
On the Eastern Front, Col Georg Bruchmller developed a form of double creeping barrage, with the first line of the barrage consisting of gas ls. His ideas were applied in the German Spring Offensive of 1918
The day of the lengthy large-scale preliminary barrage had largely passed by the end of World War I, at least in Western nations, with the realisation that best results were achieved by neutralising the enemy rather than attempting his physical destruction, and that short, concentrated bombardments, including creeping barrages, were more effective in neutralising the enemy than extended bombardment. Once open warfare returned after the breaking of the Hindenburg Line in September 1918 the British fired far fewer creeping barrages, using more lifts and concentrations instead
Attacks by tanks do not need the same form of artillery support, and the single barrage along the entire front of the advance had even been abandoned by the battle of Cambrai in 1917. More sophisticated fire control enabled infantry to call down artillery fire in direct support, or targeting of identified enemy positions
Nevertheless, barrages remained in use. On the attack of the US 32nd Division was preceded by a walking barrage. After first passing over the German line, the barrage returned twice more, attempting to catch the defenders returning to their firing positions from their dugouts, or to keep them underground when the real assault went in

World War II

The barrage remained in use in World War II, but was no longer the dominant artillery plan. In the absence of the huge set-piece infantry assaults of World War I, barrages were on a smaller scale. For the opening of the battle of El Alamein, for example, a barrage was considered by Montgomery's planners, but rejected in favour of fierce concentrations on known or suspected targets in turn. Along a 12,000 yard front, 456 guns were considered insufficient for a true creeping barrage (at Neuve Chapelle there had been one gun for every four yards of front But creeping and rolling barrages were used in some divisional sectors and in later phases of the Alamein battle. For Operation Supercharge on 12 November 1942, the attack in the 2nd New Zealand Division sector was preceded by a creeping barrage of 192 guns along a 4,000 yard front, firing on three lines. There was almost one 25-pounder for every 20 yards of front, plus two medium regiments thickening the barrage.
While artillery tactics had been subjected to considerable evolution between the Wars, the British Gunnery School at Larkhill developed the most significant techniques for rapidly controlling and coordinating artillery fire. The impact of this was first felt in the Western Desert campaign. In World War I it had become essential to plot the location of all guns accurately, but the British would now survey in all their guns to one reference point; that made it possible for every artillery piece within range to join a fireplan in a very few minutes (provided they were in communications), rather than over several hours or days.
By the fighting in Tunisia, more guns were available and the defenders were more concentrated than in the Western Desert. The artillery plan for the British attack at Wadi Akarit in April 1943 involved no less than eight barrages in three phases ahead of the advances of 50th and 51st Divisions. They included a standing barrage to mark the start line in the dark and enable the infantry to form up in the right alignment; a barrage that wheeled left during the advance; and an on-call creeping barrage. Nevertheless, attacks rarely relied solely on a barrage for artillery support: at Wadi Akarit pre-arranged concentrations on likely targets were called down by observers in the course of the
Nevertheless, it remained in use in the Italian Campaign. In the assault on the Hitler Line on 810 guns were amassed for the attack of I Canadian Corps. Three hundred of them fired on the first line of a 3,200 yard wide barrage, beginning three minutes before the infantry moved off and lifting at a rate of 100 yards in five minutes. It was due to pause for an hour at the first objective, then lift at 100 yards per three minutes to the further objectives, but the timing was disrupted by heavy resistance and defensive artillery fire. The operation was later criticised for concentrating on too narrow a front, constrained by the need for enough guns to produce a dense barrage

In the assault crossing of the Senio in 1945, dummy barrages were used to confuse the enemy, either misleading them as to the line of attack or drawing them out of ****ters as the barrage passed, expecting an infantry assault, only to catch them with a renewed barrage or air attacks. On Monte Sole, US artillery fired probably its heaviest barrage of the war, 75,000 ls in a half hour to clear the advance of the South Africans
In Normandy, a creeping barrage fired from 344 guns preceded the opening attacks of 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division in Operation Epsom on 26 June 1944
For the opening of Operation Veritable, the push to the Rhine, the fire of 1,050 field and heavy guns was supplemented by 850 barrels of pepper-pot barrage: other weapons mortars, machine guns, tanks, anti-tank guns, anti-aircraft guns and rockets supplementing the field guns. The true barrage of the British XXX Corps began at 09.20, building in intensity over the next hour, 500 guns shooting at a line 500 yards deep. The barrage included smoke ****ls to screen the attackers forming up behind the barrage. From 10.30 the barrage was pure high explosive and began to roll forward. A 300 yard lift was made every 12 minutes, the lifts being signalled to the infantry by yellow smoke ****ls, and the barrage paused for hour at each defensive line. 2,500 ****ls were fired per km2 per hour until the barrage stopped at 16.30
The barrage remained in Soviet doctrine in World War II, where the creeping barrage by massed guns was the standard accompaniment to an infantry assault. The Soviet artillery lacked the sophisticated communications nets necessary for more subtle tactics, but had plenty of guns. Some 7,000 guns and mortars were massed for the counterattack at Stalingrad, and huge bombardments remained standard for the rest of the war

Korean War and after

The barrage continued in use into the Korean War. At the Battle of Pork Chop Hill, UN forces employed on-call, pre-registered defensive fires called flash fire to defend its outposts, in which artillery laid down a box barrage in a horseshoe-shaped pattern around the outpost. It was still in use in the Vietnam War.
In the 1982 Falklands War, the assault of 42 CommandoRoyal Marines on Mount Harriet was preceded by an accurate walking barrage from supporting artillery, firing some 100 metres ahead of the advancing Marines. Later phases of the attack used a pepperpot barrage, including Milan anti-tank missiles

Use and misuse of the word

The word barrage, imported from the French for "barrier" around 1915, denotes a particular artillery tactic, and has a very specific meaning in military circles.
The word has since entered the language as meaning any intense sequence of words or missiles eg a barrage of questions. It is frequently misused to describe any form of artillery fire of more than one round: On April 29, 2007, Reuters reported US Launches Barrage in Southern Baghdad but instead of the mass destruction and casualties one would expect from a barrage in a residential area, it appears that about 24 rounds were fired, probably against point targets.


Hogg, Ian V, Barrage: the Guns in Action, Macdonald, 1971, p 13

Hogg, Ian V, Barrage: the Guns in Action,
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Illustration of a complex walking barrage, used during defence of Khe Sanh, Vietnam.





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