A Better Rifle at Halloween

Cavalry Movements
8th September 1914, Roeselare.

II Cavalry Corps had not charged for the coast, instead their advance had been methodical. They had probed each village and town, suppressing resistance effectively and where it was offered by civilians with a brutal finality. Their role was to guard the flank of the First Army and unhinge the Entente defences. The commander of the Cavalry Corps General von der Marwitz had formerly been the inspector general of cavalry for the German Army, his initial deployments had been conventional, almost traditional cavalry tactics, reliant on shock and speed to overcome lightly held positions. His forces had been bloodied during the advance on Brussels after the fall of Liege, a short but brutal engagement to capture the town of Diest had cost his corps the best part of 750 casualties. They had advanced with lance and sabre against dug in Belgian cyclists and dismounted cavalry, the effective rifle and machine gun fire combined with the destruction of a key bridge had resulted in a tactical defeat.
Since then, his men had for the most part been much more cautious, they had been blooded several times by ambushes, by both Belgian and also more ominously British troops. He had even received reports that the British had shot up a column using machine guns mounted in automobiles. Having learnt of the risk of just charging anything that looked like a threat the General had issued his orders, his three constituent divisions would advance towards the coast, but they would remain in contact with each other.
Roeselare had fallen without much fighting, his men had surrounded the town before dawn and invited it to surrender. The small number of defenders surrendered and the town had been spared any damage beyond a by now brutal gleaning for food and supplies, a small garrison of reservists and Landswehr would take control of the city and the advance would continue. The General was intent on reaching the coast at Nieuwport, by doing this he would be separating the British forces in Belgium from those in France.
 
Tourcoing is captured
9th September 1914, Tourcoing.
The spearheads of 1st Army had reached Tourcoing a city of 80,000 on the just inside the French border. His army was moving towards Paris, more slowly and much closer to the coast than the original plan, the stubborn defence of Liege and the ongoing defence of Namur had required the deviation from the original plan. The advance of the 1st Army was still largely unchallenged, the Belgians had provided almost no resistance, the British Army split between the Belgian coast and the troops holding the Mons Canal line seemed oblivious to the risk of being outflanked. Tourcoing had been defended by poorly equipped and elderly reservists, men of the territorial army, they had fought bravely but their resistance had been futile and short lived.
The advance to capture Lille would begin in the morning, IV corps would turn the flank of the BEF which was fully occupied with defending against attacks by 2nd Army. They would do this by advancing on Orchies, this would also cut on of the critical railway lines connecting the BEF to their supply bases on the coast.
The II and III Corps would capture Liege itself whilst IX corps would support the Cavalry in their attempt to capture Nieuwport.
 
Something tells me the Brits are not oblivious to the flanking move, Liege is still holding out and bloodying the Germans every day and IIRC Lille was rather well defended. I don't know if the Allies are going to do a counter attack but one could well be needed rather than holding.
 
Something tells me the Brits are not oblivious to the flanking move, Liege is still holding out and bloodying the Germans every day and IIRC Lille was rather well defended. I don't know if the Allies are going to do a counter attack but one could well be needed rather than holding.
At that point in the campaign the Entente was badly out numbered in that region - unless that has changed at this time?
 
Kit like that makes me wonder - if there had been numerous armoured mechanised forces available to one side at the start of WW1, would it ever have ground down to trench warfare?

If the Germans had them, they might do an early version of Blitzkrieg. If the Allies had them, they might be able to throw the Germans back.

Possibly someone takes the Fowler B5 and adapts the idea to ICE powered vehicles? http://www.landships.info/landships/tank_articles/fowler_B5.html

So not only a better rifle at Halloween...
Almost certainly. There wouldn't have been the volume of forces needed, the weaponry to attack strongpoints, the logistics or air power to support them or the radio systems to coordinate them.
 
View attachment 681762
This is the Seabrook Armoured lorry that entered service in 1915 (early?). Looks quite handy and I just love the Naval ensign staff mounted on the stern!!

Below is a Peerless truck in Army service with a 2lb Pom Pom as an AA gun. There is no reason why the RNAS cannot acquire a few of these guns from RN depots in 1914.

View attachment 681763

A combination of Seabrook lorries armed with 3lb Hotchkiss guns, Pom Poms and Vickers machine guns would be quite a formidable force.
There were also these kicking around.

 
Don't forget the Hotchkiss 37mm rotary cannon. The French mounted these on some of their vessels. Maybe the RN might get access to a few to mount on a lorry or two.


 
Something tells me the Brits are not oblivious to the flanking move, Liege is still holding out and bloodying the Germans every day and IIRC Lille was rather well defended. I don't know if the Allies are going to do a counter attack but one could well be needed rather than holding.
Liege fell some time ago, Namur is holding and is being atrongly defended. The British are holding their current positions on the mons canal. They don’t have much available yet to counter attack with.
 
At that point in the campaign the Entente was badly out numbered in that region - unless that has changed at this time?
No still outnumbered, there are still Territorial force units in the UK but they are training up and providing cadre for recruit initial training. More will be deployed but not immediately. .
 
Don't forget the Hotchkiss 37mm rotary cannon. The French mounted these on some of their vessels. Maybe the RN might get access to a few to mount on a lorry or two.


 
There were some fifty Vickers Mark I and Mark II Pom Poms mounted on lorries in 1914 for the air defence of London perhaps one or two of those accidently get loaded on a ship to France/Belgium whilst defending the docks!!!
 
An early munitions review
9th September 1914, Portsmouth.

Admiral Scott was back at Whale Island, he had caught an express down from London that morning, the trains were running better than he had expected, the initial war time mobilisation rush was abating as the Sub Committee for the war and the various railway companies brought order to the system. The Railway companies had formed along with the Army and Royal Navy, a rail prioritisation system that enabled over 70% of the normal railway movements to take place, whenever possible trains were not exclusively military or civilian but were loaded and dispatched in such a manner as to maximise through put. At the same time most railway workers and those who worked for the great locomotive building companies were not allowed to volunteer for foreign service. A small number of railway men had been allowed to volunteer, they had gone to France and Belgium where they were working with the French and Belgian systems to ensure that goods were moved rapidly and efficiently for the BEF. Lt General Percy Girouard had responsibility for the management of the Network in France and he and his liaison officers were working miracles to move supplies from the ports up to the BEF in the field.
Admiral Scott was aware of the demands the Royal Navy faced to ensure that the sea lanes remained secure to ensure that the Armies in France and in Belgium were able to rely on a steady stream of reinforcements, resupply and casualty evacuation. It was the success of the Navy in defending that vital artery which had brought him to Whale Island today, he had come to look at a number of German shells which had been recovered and discuss what needed to improve the shells of the Royal Navy.
He met with Captain Dreyer who had arrived the day before, they shared breakfast whilst they waited for the days conference to begin. In addition to the two senior naval officers, engineers from Woolwich Arsenal and the Naval Ordinance Department, along with representatives from the Elswick Ordinance Company, Vickers and Wm Beardmore. The purpose of the conference was to discuss fuzes and shell design, both to review the existing stock and types available and also to commence development of new designs which would be cheaper to manufacture whilst retaining acceptable accuracy, range and performance.
In addition the meeting was to undertake a review of the German Naval shells which had struck the ships of the Royal Navy in the recent battle off the Belgian coast. A number of shells had been recovered by divers from the wreck of SMS Von der Tann and they were causing something of a stir, the German shells appeared to be superior to those used by the Royal Navy. Captain Dreyer, Admiral Scott and Admiral Jellicoe were all adamant that the quality of shells provided to the navy would improve.
Five areas would be focussed on, Shell Design, Metallurgy and Quality, Filling, Fuzing and finally Manufacture.
New shell designs would be developed immediately with improved ballistic performance to be a primary consideration. The hardness of the shells would be further investigated, it was apparent from the damage to Von der Tann that a large number of the shells which had struck her had failed to detonate, detonated on the armour or had simply shattered without penetrating, this would require rectification.
Improved filling moving away from Lyddite to a less sensitive explosive which would not detonate immediately on impact with armour, likewise the fuzes needed to be improved so that shells which did get through armour detonated.
The last challenge was to do everything to optimise the shell, fuze and filler designs for ease of manufacture, countless shells would be required during the war and making them cheaper and quicker to produce would only be for the good.
A Ludgate device would be made available at Woolwich to improve the calculation efficiency for the design team. In addition a 9.2” gun would be moved up to the new test range for firing trials on the prototype shells, this size of gun was felt to be sufficiently large to be suitable for testing shell designs for the Battleships and Battlecruisers. It would be joined by a number of smaller guns for testing of the same designs in other calibres. As much as possible it was felt important to ensure that the design improvements trickled down to all of the Ordinance of the Navy. In addition Admiral Scott agreed that he would share all of the results with the Army, to make sure that they gained similar benefit.
A request was made that all examples of both Entente and Central Powers shells and fuzes be provided to the research and design teams, after all it would not do to duplicate efforts where it could be avoided. The representatives of the Manufactures agreed to collaborate on design to ensure that equipment was built to the same design and specifications, in addition they would work to ensure a minimum amount of fettling was required to fit barrels from one manufacturer into mounts built by another. The manufacturers again pressed the importance of maintaining their skilled workforce and ensuring as they underwent breakneck expansion they continued to have access to new apprentices and workers.
The meeting concluded and the members dispersed, Percy Scott and Frederick Dreyer continued a discussion that had petered out earlier with a representative from Vickers, they had been discussing placing orders with American firms. It was agreed that this should be avoided so as to reduce the risk that secret information would leak back to the Germans, the other advantage was that maximising their own production Britains precious gold reserve would not be imperilled to pay for American materials unless impossible to avoid.
 
Improved filling moving away from Lyddite to a less sensitive explosive which would not detonate immediately on impact with armour, likewise the fuzes needed to be improved so that shells which did get through armour detonated.
In 1910( I think) there had been experiments undertaken on shell design. At the time it was considered replacing Lyddite with TNT as a shell filler. The problem was that since TNT was more stable it required a more complicated fuze. Krupp had one but refused to share or sell the design. So they stuck with Lyddite. IMO an earlier creation of Shellite would be a better fit for the RN anyway.
 
Very interesting....

Did any of the other allies or neutrals have TNT -based fuses that could have been licensed by the RN?
 
Not that I know of. I think the French were still using Melinite, which is very similar in composition to Lyddite, though they may have moved on from that by WW1. I am not sure. The US used Dunnite which is also based on picric acid. Japanese shimose powder was a home grown variant of Lyddite AIUI.

AFAIK the only nation using a filler based on Toluene was Germany. It is more expensive to make, and harder to get, and requires more work to set off (hence the fuze). Its main perceived advantage was its safety which most nations did not think was a problem before WW1. Likewise the British did not recognize that the Lyddite filling was causing HE shells to burst on the armour rather than behind it. I imagine if other nations mixes did the same, they were no more aware of it than the British.
 
Last edited:
One of the problems with shell designs was that ranges had increased massively in a very short period of time from under 10K yards to 15K plus outstripping shell designs

Even then the actual ranges that the first major engagement which arguably was dogger bank was done at even greater ranges that no one had really planned on engaging at

This meant that the impact angles of the shells in those battles were greater than expected - so while the shells might have been good enough pre war at the ranges they found themselves at they no longer were.
 
Not that I know of. I think the French were still using Melinite, which is very similar in composition to Lyddite, though they may have moved on from that by WW1. I am not sure. The US used Dunnite which is also based on picric acid. Japanese shimose powder was a home grown variant of Lyddite AIUI.

AFAIK the only nation using a filler based on Toluene. It is more expensive to make, and harder to get, and requires more work to set off (hence the fuze). Its main perceived advantage was its safety which most nations did not think was a problem before WW1. Likewise the British did not recognize that the Lyddite filling was causing HE shells to burst on the armour rather than behind it. I imagine if other nations mixes did the same, they were no more aware of it than the British.
I belive only Austria had a picric acid based explosive that was shock stable enough to reliable penetrate armour. But even they were switching over to tnt as it was safer to manufacture.
 
Top