A Shift in Priorities

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by rast, Dec 17, 2008.

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  1. rast Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2008
    A Shift in Priorities


    After Generals von Hindenburg and Ludendorff had already scorned the demonstration of the so-called “Bremer-Wagen”, an early but very flawed German attempt in tank construction, in March 1917, the failed Entente tank actions near Arras and Juvincourt in April 1917 did mislead the German high command to the believe that the tank was not a decisive weapon and should be neglected.
    The prospect of success for the German tank designs that were to be demonstrated and tested near Mainz in mid-May 1917 thus was rather gloomy. The high command was represented by Lieutenant-Colonel Max Bauer, originally the specialist for heavy artillery, but now also responsible for resource allocation and cooperation with the home industries. Above all, Bauer had Ludendorff’s ear and was usually able to influence Ludendorff towards the way Bauer saw things. Regarding tanks, Bauer had a negative stance from the start. He knew that the horse supply was going down and was very much interested to get lorries and tractors built that could replace horses as means of traction for the artillery. Tanks would only drain resources away from this, therefore tank construction had to be limited to the minimum, if not to be stifled at all.
    Tests on the sandy training ground near Mainz soon showed that the only project that promised some success was the A7V, but even the A7V was not really convincing. The Chief of Field Motor Transport, Colonel Hermann Meyer, was in the meanwhile propagating a far more ambitious project: The Kolossal-Kampfwagen (short: K-Wagen), a monster in the class of 150 metric tons.
    To Bauer, all this amounted to waste of resources. The War Ministry was favouring their A7V design, Meyer wanted his K-Wagen. He would have to concede some further design and construction to both, just to placate them. But generally he had already decided to cut this waste as short as possible. Let the specialists toy along with their favourites, but direct almost all resources to really important goals.
    This was the state of affairs, when – by chance, during a coffee break – Bauer came into conversation with Joseph Vollmer, the chief constructor of the A7V vehicle.
    Vollmer freely admitted that the A7V had been his first attempt in tank construction, and that with the knowledge he had today, he could design far better armoured assault vehicles. He also thought that the K-Wagen was a waste of time, effort and resources and expressed his conviction that small fighting vehicles were best suited for actual combat and the meagre German resource basis.
    On this Bauer replied that armoured fighting vehicles must not get in the way of mobility for the field artillery. The field artillery was the most important companion of the infantry, if their guns became immobile for lack of horses, the armoured fighting vehicles alone could decide nothing. Therefore it was better to allocate resources to lorries and tractors instead of tanks.
    Vollmer pondered this for some seconds, then he asked: “So, why not put the guns on tracks? Instead of towing them along, let’s install them on the tracked chassis and protect the gun crew by armour plates. – Wouldn’t that be far better then mere traction?”
    “And how many of these could be built with the few resources we have? – Consider: The are many thousands of artillery pieces.”
    “If we skip K-Wagen and A7V and concentrate on small vehicles that just carry a 7,7 cm cannon with crew and ammunition, several hundreds. We could use the engines of existing passenger cars that have been mothballed for lack of tyres and petrol.”
    Bauer hesitated. He had always sought a way to tow the guns into combat. This now was different – not applicable to all field guns in the German inventory, there were just too many of them – but certainly promising for an offensive, which always would have a rather small point of main effort… He also saw the advantage of not having to unlimber the guns under enemy fire; they would be combat ready and protected all the time.
    “Let me have your ideas on short notice, with a sketch of a possible vehicle, the resources required and the time to come up with a prototype.”

    Vollmer’s new design received the name “Kanonen-Mobil”, short “Kanobil”. It was a 18 metric tons tracked vehicle carrying the proven 7,7 cm canon FK 96 n.A., which was smaller and lighter than the more modern FK 16. The first prototype became ready in August 1917 – and it did convince Bauer, who in turn convinced Ludendorff…

    So, when by the end of November 1917, the British ruptured the German front line west of Cambrai with hundreds of their rhomboid tanks, they did not shake the German high command out of a complacency regarding tanks. The news only made Ludendorff nod. Yes, Bauer had been right again. Good that 800 Kanobils were already under construction for the planned German spring offensive. Perhaps another batch should be ordered?
    “Have Lieutenant-Colonel Bauer come over.” Ludendorff tasked an aide. “I need to talk to him.”
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2008
  2. Rhysz Commander of the Clown Academy

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2008
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    This one is off to a great start Rast! I'm really looking forward to see where you're going to take us on this one.

    If I might make one suggestion:

    German military doctrine IMhO was always based on the 'one bold gambit', usually, founded in an agressive tactic. I hope you'll include this a bit in your TL.

    Keep up the good work,
    Rhysz
     
  3. wiking The One and Only

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2006
    Sorry to rain on your parade, but if these tanks cannot travel as far and fast as WW2 panzers, there is no way this will win the central powers the war. Nor will it even pull a draw, in fact it may help shorten the war as this will deny them other equipment, like machine guns or artillery that are more in demand or crucial than tanks. The primary reason German lost the 1918 offensives, was that they could not move fast enough to exploit the successes on the battlefield. The allies were able to move in reinforcements of fresh troops faster than the Germans could advance. And they outran their artillery support while running into masses allied guns.
    Frankly they cannot win and the wasting of resources on tanks just makes the loss that much sooner.
     
  4. rast Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2008
    Trial and Experiment

    Not without regret did Captain Willy Rohr, commanding officer of the elite Assault Battalion No. 5, watch how the Kanobils churned his former fine assault infantry training ground near Doncourt into a muddy mess. He had been charged with the task to find procedures and tactics for this new weapon. Lieutenant-Colonel Bauer knew that he, Rohr, was the most competent evaluator for technical equipment to be used in combat with the German Army, and he had no qualms to task him with developing this new arm into something useful.
    30 Kanobils and their crews had arrived at Pierrepont rail station five weeks ago, accompanied by a technical echelon and a bunch of mechanical engineers, headed by Joseph Vollmer himself.
    The Kanobil looked like a coffin fitted with tracks on both sides, the cannon sticking out front and the exhaust at rear. There was a small fixed turret on top, the observation post of the vehicle commander. The maximum velocity was about 15 km/h on hard surface and 9 to 10 km/h on soft ground. The Kanobil could travel approximately 40 to 50 kilometres if required to return to base, or 80 to 90 kilometres if fuel supply did follow up. It carried 120 rounds for the 7,7 cm cannon, in a mix of 40% grapeshot, 50% explosive and 10% massive shells. Technical reliability was still an issue: About one third of the vehicles didn’t start at all or went out of action before even commencing the mission, and more than half of the rest didn’t finish any given mission for technical reasons. But Vollmer was confident that serviceablity could be raised so that two thirds of the Kanobils sent out would successfully complete their task.
    Bauer had only outlined that the Kanobils should accompany the infantry and act like conventional accompanying artillerie batteries. But Rohr had soon realised that the potential of the Kanobils was much higher. They were a weapon that could push forward the attack, so why waste them lingering around? Fire and movement was the key to success, the Kanobils had fire power and they could move fast even over difficult terrain. Shell holes were no real problem, but very wide trenches might stop them. This was a problem of reconnaisance before the mission. If there were wide trenches, the Kanobils could be equipped with fascines, like the English had done with their „Tanks“ at Cambrai five weeks ago.
    The Kanobil could fire while moving, but tests quickly reveiled that this wouldn’t result in any hits. So, for aiming and shooting, the vehicle had to stop in order to be able to destroy the target. That meant one portion of the vehicles would move forward, while another portion covered them with fire. The artillerists, which formed the major part of the crews, suggested platoons of two vehicles, just like their two gun platoons in the artillery regiments. But that was of course nonsense, a platoon must be able to have two covering guns, two moving guns, plus the platoon commander, thus five Kanobils in total. That led to a company of three plattons with 15 vehicles plus the one for the company commander and two as his reserve, adding up to a total of 18 Kanobils in one company. That was exactly the fire power of one complete artillery battalion. It would be used in support of an attacking infantry battalion on front of 500 to 600 metres. That really would be a „Schwerpunkt“ (point of gravity).
    But the Kanobils could do more, they could flatten wire obstacles by simply rolling over them. They could eliminate enemy strong points – and they could speed ahead and destroy the enemy artillery.
    There also were shortcomings: The vehicles didn’t carry a single machine gun. They couldn’t straddle trenches and use machine guns to suppress the trench garrison.
    Rohr had already proposed that the second lot of Kanobils should also encompass machine gun armed vehicles, and that those already completed as gun carriers should receive an aperture on each long side to operate a machine gun if required.
    He also had proposed to construct some vehicles without guns, these could carry supplies and be used for recovery. A Kanobil battalion should have three companies of combat vehicles and one echelon of supply carriers and recovery crafts. Lieutenant-Colonel Bauer had already agreed to these changes.
    Now, Lieutenant Krug, one of Rohr’s training supervisors, had come up with the idea to use gunless vehicles to carry along infantry squads, so that the Kanobils could have infantry protection when they tackled the enemy artillery.
    Rohr sighed, he very clearly saw where this all was leading to. Thank Goodness that Lieutenant-Colonel Bauer was behind all this, otherwise the established brotherhood of those who rejected change in general and this revolution in special would already have thoroughly sabotaged the effort for a new kind of warfare. But the Bauer – Ludendorff connection warranted that all negative interference would be coldly suppressed. Rohr had spent three years attempting to optimise infantry attacks by close coordination of fire and movement. He had created the assault infantry. And now he had found something that was far more effective – and he was determined to bring this new arm to success. He would create the assault artillery! It was high time that this bloody war came to a positive end!
     
  5. MrP Enemy of the people

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2005
    Location:
    Emirate of Cheshire
    Interesting idea, this! I can't comment on the technical feasibility, but nothing particularly leaps out at me. I know the British had SPGs on the Western Front. Let me see if I can find the Wiki page . . . here.
     
  6. rast Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2008
    Getting Ready

    Max Bauer very much enjoyed the struggle to integrate assault artillery – his assault artillery! – into the German tactic of all arms attack. General Ludendorff had been won over when inspecting the Leaders‘ and General Staff Training Course Sedan, where a whole division had demonstrated an attack, supported by two battalions of Kanobils. But others had still been entrenched in resistance to change. The mulish Chief of Operations Ia, Wetzell, had almost driven him to frenzy. The Ic, Major Vollard-Bockelberg, responsible for military hardware, was hardly better. Finally, Bauer had dragged both away from the supreme command staff and given them a free ride on some Kanobils, including a life fire exercise. That had done the job.
    The younger officers of the supreme command staff (Oberste Heeresleitung – OHL) had quickly grasped the advantage that the Kanobils offered. Especially Captain Geyer, who had composed the original manual „Attack in Position Warfare“, was a great help in adapting the manual to incorporate Kanobil use.
    But the paper lions of the War Ministry in Berlin were the worst of all. Still sullying that he had overridden them in Kanobil production, they had really done everything to throw sticks between his spokes. The Kanobils were motor vehicles, so they must go the motor transport branch! – Nonsense, the motor transport branch was a rear area service, the members of which were famous for their black market deals, not for their braveness in battle. It had cost him three weeks to get this imbecile idea revoked. The artillery had the right offensive spirit, the Kanobils would remain with the artillery. The motor transport branch proved even unable to provide a sufficient number of drivers, but the artillerists were eager enough to train drivers of their own.
    Another problem had been to find the right kind of artillerists. His original idea had been to convert whole regiments coming from the eastern front into Kanobil units. But Captain Rohr had convinced him that this was not the best solution. Eastern front units weren’t used to western front conditions, they needed some time to customise. It was better to replace western front regiments by eastern front regiments and use the former for Kanobil crews.
    Bauer had not lingered along and asked for volunteers for the new arm, transformation to Kanobil had been ordered. 25 field artillery regiments each had supplied one of their battalions.

    21 Kanobil battalions were ready for the offensive, each counting 70 Kanobils. More were under formation, but would not become ready for „Michael“, which was scheduled to start next week, on March 21st.
    Fifteen battalions would go to 17th Army and six to 18th Army. It had been another struggle to achieve this distribution, but it was pointless to scatter the Kanobils evenly all over the front. The vehicles were designed for use at the „Schwerpunkt“ (point of gravity), there were a breakthrough was intended. Bauer was very confident that the Britsh front lines at Arras and St.Quentin would be ruptured and British 3rd and 5th armies would be caught in a big cauldron.
     
  7. rast Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2008
    Into Combat

    Unteroffizier Hermann Schultz, commander of the Kanobil „Dagmar“ of 2nd Company, 7th Kanobil-Battalion, peered suspiciously in direction enemy. The artillery was still raging, and would continue to do so until 09:40 hours, still more than one hour...
    Paulsen, the driver, was sleeping in his seat to the right side of the gun. Gräbner, the gunner, Velten, the loader, and Rothmann, the machine gunner, were playing Skat, while Kottmeier, the flashlight operator, was writing a letter. They all knew their task, they had exercised on three different training grounds, had been inspected twice and received the label „combat ready with excellence“. Nevertheless, the prospect of attacking a very strong enemy position left Schultz with a itching feeling of uncertainty. He looked again on his small scale map, produced from most recent arial photographs. This was not going to be easy...
    „Dagmar“ was a Kanobil of most recent production, which Schultz and his crew had only received one week ago, handing in their old „Doris“. „Dagmar“ had a coaxial machine gun in an armoured cover besides the gun and apertures left and right to mount another machine gun. Gräbner was an excellent gunner, only rivalled by Sammy Katz of the „Frederike“ crew.
    The 2nd Company would advance ahead of the infantry, their task was, together with 1st Company, to attain the enemy artillery positions as fast as possible and to destroy as many enemy guns as possible. While the 1st would turn right, 2nd would turn left once they were upon the enemy artillery. Their task was not to conquer ground but to subdue the enemy artillery so that the infantry was enabled to advance. 3rd Company would support the advancing infantry.

    09:10 hours. Time to start the engine. „All right, fellows, put away your cards. Time to wake Dagmar! – And Paulsen!“
    It took two men to turn the starting crank. „Dagmar“ today was uncapricious, the engine started at once. Vollmer’s initial idea to use engines of mothballed passenger cars for the Kanobils had soon been overtaken by reality. The Kanobils needed more powerful traction, the 160 hp Mercedes DIII engine of the obsolete Albatros D.II fighter had finally been chosen.
    09:20 hours. „Combat stations! – Get ready, men.“
    Damned fog! Schultz cast a distrustful glance at the compass that was installed in the turret top.
    „Driver ready for action!“ Paulsen reported.
    „Gun loaded and combat ready!“ That was Gräbner.
    „Front machine gun loaded and combat ready!“ shouted Rothmann while checking the side apertures.
    „L-Blink ready.“ Kottmeier shared the turret with Schultz, there was no need to shout.

    09:40 hours. „Kanobil forward march!“
    Schultz observed „Anneliese“ and „Brunhilde““ move ahead of „Dagmar“ and „Erna“ while the platoon leader‘s „Clara“ sped forward to catch up with the vanguard.
    The Kanobils crossed the German wire obstacles, then „Dagmar“ and „Erna“ went into a surveilling position while „Anneliese“, „Brunhilde“ and „Clara“ approached the first British trench.
    „Damned fog! – Paulsen, move forward!“
    Schultz noticed that „Erna“ did not move forward. Had Warnicke better eyes than himself? – This was going to be a mess! An uncoordinated mob of Kanobils speeding forward...

    Now „Anneliese“ and „Brunhilde“ were blasting away at something. Something that Schultz couldn’t see. Shells were raining down around them.
    „Anneliese“ and „Brunhilde“ moved on, into the British wire obstacles, still firing at something.
    Schultz checked his map and his compass. Yes, they still were on track.
    Gräbner fired. 250 metres ahead, an enemy machine gun position went into oblivition.
    „Anneliese“ and „Brunhilde“ now dropped their fascines into the first enemy trench and went into surveilling position.
    „Go ahead!“
    Paulsen hit the speed pedal. „Gudrun“ jumped forward. Reaching the trench, Paulsen reduced velocity and smoothly traversed the fascine filled trench.
    While Schultz laboured to determine where „Gudrun“ really was, Gräbner and Velten had a big time shooting at every Englishman they could see.
    „Gun crew! Save ammunition! – Machine gunner, Take over!“
    Schultz saw how shells errupted around „Anneliese“. But the Kanobil moved on, her cannon blasting.
    „Go ahead! – Machine Gunner! Machine gun position at ten hundred hours, distance 400 metres, annihilate!“
    Rothmann hammered along with the coaxial machine gun. Yes, another trench.
    „Slowly, we need to drop our fascine here!“
    Gräbner and Velten retracted the cannon, Paulsen stopped the Kanobil at the right position, Schultz unblocked the fascine. It dropped exactly where he wanted it to come down.
     
  8. DeathDemon Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2006
    This is great. Keep it up!
     
  9. alt_historian Has returned

    Joined:
    May 18, 2007
    Location:
    Republic of Surrey
    Oooh, very interesting... :)
     
  10. Faeelin Lord of Ten Thousand Years

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2004
    Did the Germans have the automotive industry for this at the time?
     
  11. rast Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2008
    They had. - It all was a matter of priority. With Bauer and Ludendorff wanting Kanobil production, all resources - including the scarcest one, skilled labour - would be available.
    Engines always were a sore spot, but by choosing the DIII engine of the obsolete Albatros D.II, a proven model could be installed by only phasing out the D.II training planes, a reduction that was tolerable.
    By end-1917, the Hindenburg Programme was completed and the industry was already asking for new orders.
     
  12. rast Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2008
    Battling it out

    Unteroffizier Schultz checked his watch. 10:12 hours, they were in battle for just half an hour...
    „Anneliese“, „Brunhilde“, „Clara“ and his „Dagmar“ were still together, while „Erna“ was lost. And where was the rest of the company?
    „Clara“ and „Dagmar“ pressed forward, with „Anneliese“ and „Brunhilde“ following slowly. Visibility still was bad, so was the chance of observation.
    There was another Kanobil at right. Schultz used his binoculars. „Dietlinde“, written in white, 1st Company.

    Gun blasts ahead. They had reached the enemy artillery. „Clara“ was hit and jolted but kept moving. The front armour of the Kanobils had a thickness of 40 millimetres, proof against field cannons.
    „Paulsen, stop! - Gräbner, get them!“
    But Gräbner had already taken aim and fired just when Schultz was shouting. The British gun rocked back, bodies were thrown into the air.
    „Ten o’clock, another one!“
    Paulsen took a slight curve to the left. This was the great drawback of the Kanobils, the limited traverse of their gun, only good between ten o’clock and 14 o’clock.
    „Got him!“ shouted Gräbner. „Paulsen, stop her!“
    Gräbner fired again, after Paulsen had arrested movement.
    The platoon turned to the left now, following the line of the enemy guns.

    Then „Anneliese“ was hit in the engine compartment and burst into flames. – There was a second line of enemy guns!
    „Paulsen, swing to 15 o’clock! – Rothmann, machine gun on port side, see that they can’t turn their guns!“
    „I see one!“ cried Gräbner. „Paulsen, stop her!“
    The gun barked.
    „Shit!“
    But already two more shells found the British cannon.
    Schultz watched how „Anneliese’s“ crew bailed out of the burning vehicle and took cover in a shell hole. At least there was no enemy infantry around with rifles and machine guns.
    Rothmann engaged a British gun crew at „Dagmar’s“ left flank. These Tommies had grit. Working in the open, trying to pull their gun out of its emplacement and to swing around. Schultz saw them stagger and fall. Brave bastards!
    Gräbner had espied another cannon and directed Paulsen to swing slightly to the right.
    „Got it!“
    Suddenly, a giant gong sounded, „Dagmar“ rocked, Schultz tumbled into Kottmeier and both went down.
    Paulsen winced, holding his head. Gräbner looked up, his nose was broken and just starting to bleed. Velten and Rothmann seemed to be alright. Kottmeier kicked against the broken L-Blink 17.
    „Paulsen! Reverse gear! Get us out of here!“
    Rothmann opened fire with the coaxial machine gun, spraying the British gun positions ahead.

    While „Dagmar“ edged slowly to the rear, Velten directing Paulsen, Schultz saw several bulky shapes closing in from behind. „Fredericke“ and „Gudrun“ he could make out. II. Platoon was arriving.
    „About time...“ he muttered.
    They found a small scrape where „Dagmar“ went into cover. Gräbner was out of action, nose broken, eyes swelling.
    „Velten, can you do it?“
    „Sure, I’m not Old Shatterhand Gräbner, but I’ll do what I can.“ Schultz motioned Kottmeier to take over Velten’s old position.

    Schultz looked at his watch: 11:15 hours.
    „Dagmar“ advanced again, joined „Brunhilde“. „Clara“ had been hit in the track, Vizefeldwebel Klein had relocated to „Brunhilde“.
    Schultz saw Klein waving.
    „Bring her alongside „Brunhilde““ he told Paulsen.

    „II. and III. Platoon will roll up the artillery to the left. We two go straight. There must be some heavy guns ahead.“ Klein shouted over. „Let’s go!“
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2008
  13. rast Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2008
    Hope and Confidence

    Lieutenant-Colonel Max Bauer was seething with impatience. Nobody seemed to know anything, and nobody seemed to be worried because of that.

    He had paced the floor at Avesenes-les-Sec, where the Operational Division of the OHL had taken quarter, waiting for news from the battlefield. The battle was raging for ten hours now. And what did OHL know about it? – „Oh, it’s going well.“ – „What is going on in your sector?“ – „Yes, we’ve breached the first enemy line.“ – „Where are your forward units now?“ – „No idea, we’ve lost contact.“ – It was utterly frustating.
    There had been no point to drive to Mons, to the HQ of Army Group Crown Prince Rupprecht, but the HQ of 17th Army was right in the next village, Saint Amand.
    But did 17th Army know more than OHL? No, they did not.
    The Chief of Staff, General Lieutenant Krafft von Delmensingen, wasn’t worried at all.
    „Bauer, what do you want? – That’s normal. All orders have been given. – And the men are now out fighting, fighting for their life. – Do you think the divisional commanders know where their units are?“
    „But how can you control the battle?“
    „By the orders His Royal Highness is issuing and by the trust that our soldiers will follow these orders.“

    Bauer had gone ahead and visited the aerodrome near-by. Perhaps the flyers did know something?
    Schlasta 36 had had a busy day.
    „Until the fog lifted, we could do little. But afterwards, it became a great day. – We’ve lost five planes, but we’ve also shown the Tommies who’s ahead. The Hannover is a fine aircraft for strafing.“
    Yes, there was a huge gap in the British lines, into which the German infantry divsions were now marching. Kanobils? O Yes, they had done the job. On the map? Yes, sure.
    „Willy and Oskar, come over please, I need some help with the map!“

    To expect exact unit designations from the airmen was – of course – hopeless. But they could supply a general picture: South of Arras, a corridor about ten kilometres wide had been breached, approximately 15 kilometres deep by nightfall, own units were moving in, a lot of infantry and a lot of Kanobils, also guns and engineers about.
    This sounded as if things really were going as planned...
     
  14. Parma Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2007
    Great story!
    I was thinking the same a while a go, what if a kind of armour/ storm atrilery was combined with the newly developted sturm truppen tactic of the Germans.
    But how does I have to imagine this ''Kanobils''?
    As you described I imagine a sort of French Schneider or St. Chamond.
    Or are it a kind of German ww1 LK1 or LK2? Or a kind of early OTL strumgeshutz vehicles?
    Drawings??
     
  15. rast Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2008
    The attachment shows the A7V-U3, an assault gun version of Vollmer's A7V-U. The Kanobil has no sponsons, there is a small turret, the track is only half high (like the LK series). The vehicle is smaller, 6m length compared to the A7V's 7,3 m, and lighter with a strong engine. The cannon sits on the left side, the driver on the right one.

    plan A7VU3m1.jpg
     
  16. Parma Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2007
    Something like this?

    LKIII_Kannonenversion_C_Side_View.JPG
     
  17. Parma Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2007
    or this?

    A LK II or III design

    lkxxx.jpg
     
  18. rast Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2008
    More like this, but with the 50 cm wide track of the A7V, not the 25 cm one of the LK, and somewhat bigger 6 m long, and not 8,5 tons like the LK, but 18 tons.

    KANOBIL.JPG
     
  19. rast Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2008
    The Bapaume – Peronne Pocket

    During the night, the picture became clearer as reports were now coming in great number. 17th Army had broken through the British lines south of Arras and was advancing on Albert. 18th Army had broken through at St.Quentin and was heading for Chaulnes. 2nd Army kept up the pressure on the British lines between Moeuvres and Belleglise. A pocket was forming around British 3rd and 5th Armies.

    It had been Lieutenant-Colonel Wetzell’s idea to avoid the „Somme Desert“ and most of the „Alberich Solitude“ by cutting along the Sensée towards the Ancre and along the land bridge between Omignon and Somme. There were some good roads that could be used to shuttle forwards supplies, but the masses of troops and trains nevertheless led to unbelievable congestions. This, however, had been anticipated, military police and special cavalry patrols were trying to sort out things.
    The Kanobil Battalions did not suffer from major supply problems. The unarmed supply vehicles could drive cross country and all units were using the dark hours to re-stock ammunition and fuel, while the sergeant majors were struggling hard to bring the field kitchens forward.

    The Germans expected British 3rd Army to try to break out to the northwest. This was the best way to link up again with the rest of the BEF, which could support the breakout by attacks from the north and northwest. For this reason the bulk of the Kanobil battalions had been given to 17th Army. It was hoped to succeed in closing the ring around the Brits between Albert and Chaulnes while these were attacking south of Arras.
    There was a British tank battalion to the southwest of Arras, near Wailly, outside the pocket and belonging to British 1st Army. It was thought that this unit would attack in the early morning of March 22nd. If the Brits coordinated well, 3rd Army‘s three tank battalions around Bapaume might join the effort from inside the pocket.
    British 5th Army’s reaction was more difficult to predict. They had three options: Joining 3rd Army in the drive to the northwest, try to break out in direction west or go southeast in order to link up with the French. The move to the west was the most dangerous variant, as this might spoil the closing of the cauldron. 5th Army’s three tank battalions could bring some unpleasant surprise here. Therefore, the numerous battle aircraft squadrons of 18th German Army had been tasked to especially strafe these tank battalions tomorrow.

    Max Bauer finally decided to catch some sleep. Not much, only two or three hours, that ought to suffice. He was now confident that the two British armies could be annihilated. Once this had been accomplished, it was time to deal with the rest of the BEF.
     
  20. rast Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2008
    Tanks versus Kanobils

    Unteroffizier Hermann Schultz, commander of the Kanobil „Dagmar“ of 2nd Company, 7th Kanobil-Battalion, scratched his bald head.
    Already during the night, they had transshipped ammunition and fuel from damaged „Clara“ to „Brunhilde“ and „Dagmar“. Unfortunately, „Anneliese“ had burned out completely, and „Erna“ still hadn’t turned up. Gräbner was still out of action, but Hofmann from the „Clara“ crew had now taken his place.
    Gräbner and the others from the „Clara“ and „Anneliese“ crews had found shelter in a British dugout for the time being, armed with „Clara’s“ machine guns and what ammunition remained.
    Some infantry had arrived at least. Two platoons, led by a lieutenant, were digging in two hundred metres south of the Kanobils. The II. and III. Platoons of 2nd Company were in position to their right, both hardly in better shape than I. Platoon. Schultz had no idea who was on their left side, he had heard Kanobil noise but seen nothing.
    No supply had reached them yet. And it was dawning.

    There was a noise coming from the left. Schultz grabbed his binoculars.
    Yes, it was a Naschobil, an unarmed supply vehicle, and... – it was dragging a field kitchen...
    „Hey, boys, look up! Soup is coming!“
    On top of the Naschobil sat Grabowsky, the company sergeant major.
    Another Kanobil followed behind: „Erna“! – Trust a sergeant major to find his men...
    „I hope you don’t mind stew for breakfast!“ Grabowsky shouted.
    „Do you have coffee?“
    „Always!“
    „Stew and coffee will be fine for breakfast.“

    While the „Erna“ crew, who already had had breakfast, bunkered ammunition and fuel into „Brunhilde“ and „Dagmar“, Öffner, the cook, who had come with Grabowsky, ladled out pork and beans stew and coffee to the crews of the latter Kanobils.
    Vizefeldwebel Klein scanned the sky, while he spooned his stew. A lot of planes already up there, at first light...
    „Schultz, use your binoculars. – Which enterprise is that up there?“
    Schultz scanned upwards.
    „Some of ours, but most are Englishmen... – Yes, a lot of English!“
    „Not good... – Let’s get ready! – Grabowsky, thank you much, but you should move on, II. and III. Platoons are that way.“

    Ten minutes later, a runner from the infantry arrived.
    „English tanks are coming! – Twelve to fifteen of them, right over there!“
    Dark shapes slowly appeared on a distant ripple.
    „First Platoon, get ready for combat! English tanks at 13 o’clock!“

    Moving targets! They never had practised that. And now, it was Hofmann at the gun, whom he didn’t know, and not Gräbner, the marksman. Schultz sighed. At least they had enough ammunition and fuel.
    „Brunhilde“ opened fire.
    A fountain of mud arose in front of the English tanks.
    More fountains arose around the Kanobils. British artillery! They had destroyed quite a number of guns yesterday, but there must still be a lot of them left. These Englishmen were quick at regrouping... But their shells rained down between the Kanobils and spared the German infantry.
    „Hofmann, don’t fire – let them come closer.“
    Smaller dots appeared behind the British tanks. Infantry, at least a battalion.

    „Paulsen, move left, one hundred metres.“
    „Dagmar“ jerked, turned, sped ahead, finally turned again.
    „Okay, Hofmann, let’s have a first attempt!“
    The cannon barked, the shell exploded close to one of the tanks. And already the second shell went out. Hit! The English tank stopped moving. Hofmann sent another projectile into it.
    „He’s done. – Aim at the next one!“
    Machine gun bullets hammered against the front armour.

    „Dagmar“ accounted for four tanks, „Brunhilde“ claimed five kills, „Erna“ for another three. The remaining British tanks, not more than two or three, retired to the rear. The enemy infantry, strafed by the coaxial machine guns, quickly dispersed and fell back.
    „Pooh, that went better than expected...“
     
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