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7.7 cm FELDKANONE MODEL 1896 NEUER ART (New Model)

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7.7 cm FELDKANONE MODEL 1896 NEUER ART (New Model)

By: Michael Tobolo, Junior Curator, DITSONG: National Museum of Military History (DNMMH)

Introduction

The 7.7 cm Feldkanone Model 1896 Neuer Art (New Model) was a rebuilt and modified version of the older Model 1896 field gun. It was fitted with a recoil system, had a redesigned breech, a new trail and was fitted with a gun shield. It was designed in 1904 by Krupp and Rheinmetall, manufactured in 1905 and entered the Imperial German Army in 1906. In 1914 the German Army had 5 086 of these guns in service and it was the standard light field gun throughout the First World War (1914 to 1918). It was light (weighed only 1 020 kg) and suited the German doctrine of mobile warfare. Each field artillery battery had six guns with four guns in each battery in a calvary division.

As the First World War progressed, the Germans designed different projectiles with a variety of fuses for a specific role or action. With the start of the War each gun had an attached limber which carried 24 cartridges in wicker baskets, while each basket could carry three complete cartridges.

The comparative French cannon de 75 Modèle 1897 field gun had a much higher rate of fire (20 rounds per minute). The French gun was more stable and did not need to be re-laid on target. The maximum range of the French 75 mm gun was 11 000 metres as compared to the 7.7 cm which a range of 8 400 metres. The comparative British Quick-Firing 18-pounder field gun had a rate of fire of 20 rounds per minute, and a range of 7 100 metres with the trail. 

 

Figure 1: A German Field Artillery crew with a 7.7 cm Feldkanone model 1896.

Ammunition of the 7.7.cm Feldkanone

Cartridge case

Each cartridge case was made of brass and the cartridge case had a calibre of 77 mm. The length of the case was 234 mm with a rim diameter of 1 360 mm. A small primer, made of fulminate of mercury was fitted into the base of the cartridge case. This action was the initial explosion, which set off the main propellent. The type of propellent in the cartridge case was a smokeless white powder, three times more powerful than the older black powder that was initially used. It was designed by the French and copied by the German Army. It was smokeless and known as “Poudre B“(Powder) Model 1905. The Germans made this powder into thin spaghetti shapes, and 560 grams of it was loaded into each case. The sticks were slow burning (as compared to instantaneous explosives) which allowed hot gases to build up sufficient pressure to propel the projectile to its target.

Projectile

The projectile mass used to be a standard mass of 6.85 kg and was made of steel. The length of the first projectile was 264.5 mm. without the fuse. The neck of the projectile had threads cut into the steel to screw on the appropriate fuse. It had a standard case, propellant, and projectile mass. The German gunners had to adjust the elevation on the gun to get a required range. Each of the projectiles had an 8 mm wide brass/copper driving band, about 26 mm from the base. The external diameter of the driving band was 80 mm. The cartridge was loaded into the breech of the gun; the breech block closed, and the primer fired by pulling a lanyard. This caused the firing pin strike to strike the primer. The build-up of pressure from the burning propellant forced the projectile down the barrel. The driving band engaged with the rifling and imparted a right-hand spin to the projectile. The projectile left the gun barrel muzzle at about 465 metres per second(m/s).

Types of projectiles:

1. F.Shr.96 A (shrapnel shells)

At the start of the War, shrapnel shells were the main type of ammunition for the 7.7 cm Feldkanone crew of five. The doctrine and training implied that unprotected enemy infantry would be caught in open country and the guns would be able to decimate them. The shrapnel projectile (shell) was 254 mm long without the fuse, and 290.8 mm with the Dopp Z 96-time fuse attached. Inside the thin-walled case were 300 antimony-hardened lead balls (bullets) encased in a resin matrix. This was less effective in static, trench warfare and for that a different type of shell was needed, namely the high explosive shell (HE).

2.  Felgranate 96 and Felgranate 1916 (high explosive shell)

This type of projectile was a high explosive shell to blow bunkers and barbed wire entanglements apart. The need for this kind of shell arose as the French and the British dug extensive trench defences. The projectile was made of thick-walled steel and was 264.5 mm long without the attached fuse. This was with earlier KZ 11 Gr (Kanone Zunder Model 1911 with Granate Zunder). The overall length of the high explosive gun fuse was 337 mm.

3. FeldkanoneGeschoss 11 Einheitsgeschoss (universal Shell)

It had the same dimensions as the shrapnel shell above but with slightly thickened walls, a reduced number of bullets (24) and the resin mixed replaced with 0.25 kg of Trinitroluene. A shell with both shrapnel and high explosive (HE) function was developed early in the First World War and for this shell to work it required the sophisticated KZ 11(KANONE ZONE) time and percussion fuse. This fuse was made of brass and had 105 parts.

 

              

Figure 2: A 7.7 cm Feldkanone model 1896 displayed at the DITSONG: National Museum of Military History

 

Gas shells

These types of shells fired from the 7.7 cm Feldkanone 96 contained toxic gases such as teargas, chlorine, Phosgene, diphosgene, and mustard gas. This gas was used to irritate, demoralise, injure, or kill entrenched British, Commonwealth and French troops on the Western Front during World War I. Gas relatively killed small numbers of soldiers, around 91 000, during the War, of which 56 000 were Russian soldiers on the Eastern Front. The toxic agent phosgene was responsible for most of the deaths. The threat of gas was a psychological weapon and the effect, a source of dread amongst soldiers. Most of the 1.3 million soldiers injured from toxic agents recovered to fight again but they forever bore the scars of the gas attacks. From 1917 onwards, the use of gas shells increased enormously.

                                    

Specifications of the 7 cm Feldkanone:

Shell:  77 x 234 mm or 77 x 227 mm R (Regular)

Shell weight: 6.8 kg (15lb)

Barrel length:  2 080 m (6ft 10 in) L/27

Caliber:  77 mm (3 in)

Breech: Horizontal sliding wedge

Recoil: Hydro spring

Carriage: Pole trail

Elevation: -12º 56` to 15º8`

Transverse:  7º15`

Rate of Fire:  10rpm

Muzzle Velocity: 465 m/s (1,530 ft/s)

Effective firing range: 5 500 m (9,200yd)

Maximum firing range:   8 400 m (9,200yd)

Designed:   1904

In Service: 1905

Mass: 1, 020kg (2,250 lb)

Wars: First World War (1914-1918)

Service history:

French attack, Battle of Verdun, 1916

Second Battle of Somme, 1918 (Germans)

Bristol F.2 Fighters during the German Spring Offensive, 1918

The aftermath of the Siege of Przemysl in Austria Hungary, 1915

Ottoman Arab Camel Corps leaving for the Middle Eastern Front, 1916

Bulgarian troops during the Monastir offensive, 1916

Battle of Hamel, 1918

Conclusion

A few examples of the 7.7 cm Feldkanone model 1896 Neuer art survived the war and are exhibited at various destinations in the world:

A restored example of an FK 96 N.A (Neuerart) captured at the Battle of Hamel (1918) by Australian forces and is on display at the Australian Armour & Artillery Museum (Queensland). Another example can be seen in front of Hotel Ananda in the town Narendra Nagar, in the Indian state of Uttarakhand in the Himalayas.

As depicted in Figure 2, a .7 cm Feldkanone model 1896 is exhibited at the DITSONG: National Museum of Military History, in Pretoria, South Africa.

References

DITSONG: National Museum of Military History Archives.

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