Artillery Fire Tasks Query arising during BATTLEAXE

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ClintHardware
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Artillery Fire Tasks Query arising during BATTLEAXE

Post by ClintHardware » 17 Feb 2021 22:27

During BATTLEAXE the war diary of 25th Field Regiment (25-Pdrs) twice refers to fire tasks of types “ ‘D.F.’ and ‘C.P.’ tasks were again registered and harassing fire was put down by all Batteries throughout the night.”

I had thought C.P. was an original typing error for C.B. (Counter Battery) but it is mentioned twice - Does anyone know what C.P. stands for in terms of Fire Tasks?
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Re: Artillery Fire Tasks Query arising during BATTLEAXE

Post by Richard Anderson » 18 Feb 2021 00:37

How very odd? "D.F." of course was "Defensive Fire" (later "DF (SOS)"), but in FA terms "C.P." referred to "Command Post". The only thing I can think of is the referring to firing on plotted enemy C.P. locations?
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Re: Artillery Fire Tasks Query arising during BATTLEAXE

Post by ClintHardware » 18 Feb 2021 05:52

Thanks Richard. I am glad you think its odd because it's the first time I have seen it referred to in any war diary.

I think it must be as you say because "Command Post An Artillery (battery) command post (CP) is the place that receives the relevant orders from the observer (ie. the battery commander, forward observer, forward observer's assistant, or any other person so qualified or authorized) for the engagement of a target." This is from artilleryhistory.org which is a RAA website but nothing found referring to it from the RA.
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Re: Artillery Fire Tasks Query arising during BATTLEAXE

Post by Sheldrake » 18 Feb 2021 12:04

ClintHardware wrote:
17 Feb 2021 22:27
During BATTLEAXE the war diary of 25th Field Regiment (25-Pdrs) twice refers to fire tasks of types “ ‘D.F.’ and ‘C.P.’ tasks were again registered and harassing fire was put down by all Batteries throughout the night.”

I had thought C.P. was an original typing error for C.B. (Counter Battery) but it is mentioned twice - Does anyone know what C.P. stands for in terms of Fire Tasks?
DF = Defensive Fires and might be registered so you know the guns could hit them under prevailing met conditions.

CP could be a misprint for CB = Counter Battery, but this looks a little odd. Why register in advance? It might make sense if the target was a static battery in a fort that could not change position. But if an mobile enemy battery had been located it needed to be hit with gunfire at the time otherwise it might displace once the registration had been noticed. Artillerymen did notice when they had been bracketed.

Perhaps CP is a local piece of fire discipline or naming convention. 8th Army units sometimes invented things that were not in the drill book. Richmond Gorle's memoirs mention naming conventions unique to the 7th Armoured Divison's Desert Rats.

One possibility is a Calibration/Correction Point. Pemberton in Artillery Equipment and Tactics (1951) mentions that one of the greatest causes of inaccuracy in the Western Desert had been the unreliability of meteor data. By firing at a known datum point it was possible to deduce a correction of the moment. Post WW2 we would call this a Registration mission. The problem in the western desert was that it was unmapped and featureless. From Feb 1941 the technique was to use an airburst that could be cross observed from selected OPs. The spot to be used needs to be somewhere the OPs can see and where the angle subtended by the target to the observing OPs is around 90 degrees. It would make sense to register on this point before nightfall.

4th Indian Divisions' commander was Noel Beresford-Pierce, a gunner, who had been CRA of the same division. According to Gunner historian Shelford Bidwell "B.P's forte was training."

An outside possibility is that the unit had some local term for an SOS task. It was the convention from WW1 to assign each battery or troop a DF as an SOS task. (post WW2 this was FPF = Final Protective Fire, the position from which the biggest threat to the infantry. The guns would be loaded and layed on this point. On a signal from the infantry the first rounds could be fired by the gun sentry even when the rest of the detachment was at rest. Might CP be a local term for some close SOS/FPF task? If this was close to the infantry you might need to follow a different, more cautious adjustment process to register the target.

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Re: Artillery Fire Tasks Query arising during BATTLEAXE

Post by Richard Anderson » 18 Feb 2021 17:33

Trust the Sheldrake to come up with the likely answer. I suspect the Calibration/Correction Point assumption is the correct one.
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Re: Artillery Fire Tasks Query arising during BATTLEAXE

Post by ClintHardware » 19 Feb 2021 13:41

Great info Sheldrake thanks.

The entry occured twice on the 16/6/41. The first about midday and the last about 1900 hours. Because there are two typed entries I do not think its a typing error. In the context of expecting to fire on attacks coming at the battalions of 11th Indian Infantry Brigade and not far beyond them the batteries of the 25th Field and 27/28 Medium would there be time for Correction Points?
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Re: Artillery Fire Tasks Query arising during BATTLEAXE

Post by Sheldrake » 19 Feb 2021 15:13

We cannot be certain of exactly what was ordered and why, but it makes sense to me.

If you register a DF by firing, an FOO will adjust fire onto the target. The FOO does not need to know exactly where that target is to shoot at it. So long as he can see it he can engage it. Once he can see a round on the ground the FOO can adjust for Line and establish a long bracket - one round short and one long - might be +/-1600 - i.e. a mile each side. We halve the bracket until we either hit the target or obtain a short bracket, (one round + and - within 100x) the next order to hit the target and a battery (150x by 150x) within 50x will be a hit. They would then order "Record as target XYZ". At the gun end they would write down the azimuth and elevation/range into the target record book as XYZ. If the FOO or an LO with the infantry says fire XYZ the guns know where to point. Note that no one needs to know exactly where XYZ is. If an enemy appears there the guns can shoot at them.

The aim of what I would call a registration shoot, and what they may have called a calibration shoot, is to work out exactly what corrections they need to take account of the wind speed and direction and ambient temperature. This can be applied to engagements in roughly the same direction and within a reasonable time period, using the same equipment and same charge.

So if we take the 11th Indian brigade in its defensive position. The Brigade commander might have been worried about a patch of high ground that overlooked his position and a depression that might allow an enemy to form up unobserved. So the Gunners register these two places as targets. They also carry out a shoot to obtain a correction of the moment that can be applied to the opening rounds of any initial engagement if the enemy pops up somewhere else.

Recording a correction at mid day and again at 1900 makes perfect sense as there may be a big difference in the wind direction speed and air temperature at mid day and in the evening.

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Re: Artillery Fire Tasks Query arising during BATTLEAXE

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 20 Feb 2021 02:12

If this were a US artillery document of that era I'd suggest CP meant 'Check Point'. Those were reference points, accurately located in reference to the map & used to orient onto other locations for assorted reasons. ie: figuring out where you are, referencing to another unit, or a new landmark, Identifying a target location. Check Points would usually not be 'registered' or otherwise fired on by the cannon.

The illustration below represents a transparent overlay used both on a US Army map or a fire direction chart. There are two Check Points on it, marked just right and left of the RZ & LZ lines. The cross lines intersecting on small circle. One is obscured by a fold in the doc. Double clicking on the image should allow expanding it for legibility.

Fire Plan copy.jpg
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Re: Artillery Fire Tasks Query arising during BATTLEAXE

Post by Sheldrake » 20 Feb 2021 02:52

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
20 Feb 2021 02:12
If this were a US artillery document of that era I'd suggest CP meant 'Check Point'. Those were reference points, accurately located in reference to the map & used to orient onto other locations for assorted reasons. ie: figuring out where you are, referencing to another unit, or a new landmark, Identifying a target location. Check Points would usually not be 'registered' or otherwise fired on by the cannon.

The illustration below represents a transparent overlay used both on a US Army map or a fire direction chart. There are two Check Points on it, marked just right and left of the RZ & LZ lines. The cross lines intersecting on small circle. One is obscured by a fold in the doc. Double clicking on the image should allow expanding it for legibility.
Carl,
Many thanks. Very interesting. I am not sure of the British ever used the terminology. There were certainly lists of core words for known points and features. There was a 1943 US Army publication called BRITISH MILITARY TERMINOLOGY. It included U. S. MILITARY TERMS AND DEFINITIONS WITH
BRITISH EQUIVALENT TERMS and BRITISH MILITARY TERMS WITH U. S. EQUIVALENTS.

This is the entry for check concentrations.

US Term: Check concentrations.-Registration of fire on easily identified points throughout the zone of fire, from which transfers can be made to targets of opportunity.

British Term: Registration (See also Fire for adjustment and Registration

Post WW2 fire orders were quite flexible about how the target location could be give. Targets could be given in reference to a registration point "800 metres north of Registration point 1", or a named point "Luke Copse" or "500 metres SW Ditchling Church tower"

The British used a similar idea from WW1 called "Witness points" - copied from the French. Suppose you wanted to hit a trench that was hard to see, but you knew, from an aerial photograph that it was 300 yards NW of the church at Langemarck. You would adjust your fire onto the church, which you could see, and then apply a correction to shift the fire 300 yards NW. Its one of the reasons that soldiers should avoid deploying close to any feature that can be identified on the map. ;) Here is a piece I wrote on this a couple of years ago. http://www.theobservationpost.com/blog/?p=2045

The problem with the Western Desert was that there were few maps or visible features. This is why, in Feb 1941 the British adopted a German technique for cross observing an airburst from two OPs - as referred to in Pemberton. (post #4) This would do the same as a check concentration, but with reference to the OPs and firing unit rather than any (irrelevant) map. So the OPs might order a shoot at a range of 8000 yards on the zero line. After the shoot they plotted that the shell burst 3 degrees right of the zero line and 400 yards plus. So the corrector for any shoots fired min the same direction would be 3 degrees left and minus 400. No need for a map at all ;)

This is what a CP might be. It might not be in the glossary because 25 Field were using the idea before the School of Artillery defined the terminology.

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Re: Artillery Fire Tasks Query arising during BATTLEAXE

Post by ClintHardware » 21 Feb 2021 15:49

Great info. Thanks all

I was pleased to read that 27/28 Battery during the fighting for the Halfaya Pass 16th June Superimposed their 6-inch Howitzer fire on that of the 25th Field Regiment. Not sure when this practice begun but Parham seemed to lead on this in France 1940 IRC. Seems an obvious method but not normal practice before WW2.
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Re: Artillery Fire Tasks Query arising during BATTLEAXE

Post by Andy H » 21 Feb 2021 16:22

Hi ClintHardware

If we're entertaining the idea that CP is a misprint for CB (Counter-Battery), then it could also be a misprint for CM (Counter-Mortar)?

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Re: Artillery Fire Tasks Query arising during BATTLEAXE

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 21 Feb 2021 17:07

ClintHardware wrote:
21 Feb 2021 15:49
Great info. Thanks all

I was pleased to read that 27/28 Battery during the fighting for the Halfaya Pass 16th June Superimposed their 6-inch Howitzer fire on that of the 25th Field Regiment. Not sure when this practice begun but Parham seemed to lead on this in France 1940 IRC. Seems an obvious method but not normal practice before WW2.
I've looked for evidence of this in US and French artillery interwar. Not yet found the details that would resolve it one way or another. Given the organization of the US square division artillery I'm unsure the communications and current fire control would lend itself to this easily. However from circa 1932 Brewer & his cohorts were experimenting with methods that could make it very easy to do exactly that.

French artillery seems to have considered this superimposing or concentration routine for for the 75mm battalions of the division artillery. But, again there no definitive indication I've yet seen for doing it wit different calibers. The one vague hint comes from the tank battle near Hanut 12-3 May. Pirouxs Cavalry Corps included a group of 105mm guns. From the German side theres a indication both 75mm & 105mm projectiles were falling in the same attack/concentration. But, thats very vague indication.

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Re: Artillery Fire Tasks Query arising during BATTLEAXE

Post by Sheldrake » 22 Feb 2021 11:31

ClintHardware wrote:
21 Feb 2021 15:49
Great info. Thanks all

I was pleased to read that 27/28 Battery during the fighting for the Halfaya Pass 16th June Superimposed their 6-inch Howitzer fire on that of the 25th Field Regiment. Not sure when this practice begun but Parham seemed to lead on this in France 1940 IRC. Seems an obvious method but not normal practice before WW2.
It was not uncommon to superimpose medium or heavy guns on field artillery targets in WW1.

Nor was Parham the only innovator. In November 1940 Brigadier Mirrlees CRA 4th Infantry Division (commanded by Gunner Beresford Pierse). combined three field regiments and a medium regiment in the attack on the Italian forts. Later in the war the CRA had the staff of a brigade headquarters with operations and supply officers and watchkeepers. At this point Mirrlees had himself and his brigade major Captain (later field Marshal) Geoffrey Baker. He borrowed one radio truck fitted with one radio from the divisional signals, an RIASC officer as a supply officer and QM as transport officer. The field artillery was moved as a group and concentrated to give full weight to support each attacking brigade in turn. (Source Bidwell Gunners at War)

At this time there was a shortage of equipment and manpower. The 6" howtizers were seen as having little value (probably because of their short range). Pemberton notes that 4th Indian Division's experience of Op Battleaxe included attempts to stop tanks by using artillery concentrations. It would be a good idea to add 6" Howitzers to a concentration aimed at tanks. The conclusions post Battleaxe were that artillery concentrations of the strength then practical might deflect or delay tanks but could not stop a determined enemy. Artillery concentrations should be confined to the engagement of tanks passing through a defile or enemy supporting tanks whose leaders were being engaged by our anti tank defences. .

There was a shortage of around 7,000 artillery personnel in the Middle East and retained 12 gun batteries operated as two six gun troops, rather than form a third battery.
Pemberton is a very good source of post WW2 British analysis and can be purchased at a reasonable cost from MRLS https://www.mlrsbooks.co.uk/bookstore/p ... em332.html
Last edited by Sheldrake on 22 Feb 2021 14:43, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Artillery Fire Tasks Query arising during BATTLEAXE

Post by Sheldrake » 22 Feb 2021 11:51

Andy H wrote:
21 Feb 2021 16:22
Hi ClintHardware

If we're entertaining the idea that CP is a misprint for CB (Counter-Battery), then it could also be a misprint for CM (Counter-Mortar)?

Regards

Andy H
Apart from around Tobruk, there were few opportunities to use mortars on a large scale in the Desert. Counter mortar did not become a significant matter until Tunisia. Id go with check or calibration point. If the expected target is a moving phalanx of tanks, the technique is to work out where they are likely to be in five minutes time and prepare a concentration at that point, There would be no time for registration. A standard correction of the moment is probably the only way to get the fire close to the target.

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Re: Artillery Fire Tasks Query arising during BATTLEAXE

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 22 Feb 2021 17:59

I’m not a gunner but was just wondering if they were using the terms DF and CP to differentiate who was calling for the fire and who would adjust it?

DF called for and adjusted for the infantry through a FOO, whereas a CP would have been called for and directed via formal RA channels as part of an organised shoot by the Command Post of each battery. So one defensive and the other more offensive?

Having said that, it might mean “china plate” and refer to the quality of the food in the officers’ mess. :D Don’t tell the RHA that though...

Regards

Tom

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