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105 mm field gun [10-veld]

Introduction

The 10,5 cm field gun/howitzer of the Dutch army was the only really modern and state of the art piece of artillery available in May 1940. The first batch had been delivered in 1927, a second batch followed some years later.

Gun or howitzer

The first thing that one comes along is the appliance of the title "gun" or "howitzer". Both names fit the subject Bofors gun.

The use of the term "howitzer" is quite confusing, especially because the actual meaning has changed over the years. Basically the actual meaning of "howitzer" is not related to the curved projectile path during flight [what many people think] but comes from the short barrel. "Howitzer" originates from the word "houfnice" [Czech word for "catapult"]. This word in itself seems related to the source of artillery itself: the Roman "tormenta" or battle field heavy weapons.

Europe was first confronted with a rudimentary form of modern artillery when the Chinese [Mongols] invaded Hungary. The Czech word for equipment that delivered heavy explosive loads on the battlefield was "houfnice" and as such the basis for the word howitzer was laid. However - guns that one calls "howitzers" later delivered their loads in a loop, a strongly curved path and such weapons were usually equipped with short barrels. The Germans called those guns "haubtize" [close to houfnice], the English called it "howitzer" and the Dutch called it "houwitser". During WWII we can relate howitzers basically to the strongly curved path of the delivered projectile. The barrel-length mattered less already.

In fact three means of delivery by guns are categorized: the mortar, the howitzer and the field gun. The first delivers in a very steep angle, the second one in a mediocre angle and the latter in a [almost] straight line. An indication of category is as such read from the elevation of the weapon. The mortar is able to deliver practically in a 80° angle [or even more], the howitzer usually operates in the angles 60°- 30° and the field gun in the angle of 30° or less. The latter is usually referred to as "direct fire", but since the ranges increased dramatically with the invention of more effective powders, many field guns are able to deliver beyond vision of the observers and consequently one could actually no longer speak of "direct fire".

A feature of the WWII howitzer was the separated loading process. The howitzer was loaded with charges and a separate projectile. A dual loading process. Almost all guns [flat projectory] were loaded with unity ammunitions, charges and projectile matched in one shell.

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10-Veld field-howitzer

Another indication on category is the length of the barrel. During WWI the trench warfare caused gun-designers to develop all kinds of heavy guns that were able to deliver heavy projectiles in very steep angles [direct fire is hardly effective in trench warfare]. These guns were particularly known for their great elevation and extremely short barrels. The Germans in particular were very inventive in producing this type of guns and called them "Mörsers". Literarily translated this word means nothing less than "mortar" [which literaly means 'pulveriser']. In fact it was a kind of gun that was something in between a mortar and a howitzer. The disadvantage of this type of equipment was the short range. As such the "Mörsers" were a prelude to heavier howitzers.

The amount of calibres [barrel length divided by projectile width: 75 length 30 means  30 times 75 mm = 2,250 mm barrel length] was an indication of the service. Extremely small length meant that a weapon was categorized as a mortar; mediocre length indicated a howitzer and a longer length a field gun. Today these features have almost vanished, for these days all artillery units operate long barrelled howitzers. Today howitzer as a title to a gun-category stands for the curved projectile path and nothing else.

The 10-veld gun

The Bofors gun of 10,5 cm which was in use with the Dutch army was capable of an elevation of 42°, and was dual loaded. This was identical to the German lFH18, the 105 mm Leichte Feldhaubitze [light field howitzer]. The maximum range of the Bofors was 16,200 m which was much further than the German gun that had a maximum range of a little over 10,000 metres. We could say this proves that the Bofors was in fact a genuine howitzer. We shall however maintain the Dutch designation "field gun" in this section.

The DA [Divisional Artillery] had its basic task in direct support of the divisional troops at the front. They were commanded by a Divisional Artillery Commander [DAC] that received fire mission requests from the front or from the infantry regiment command post [CP]. These requests were translated to fire missions that the DAC delivered to the artillery battalion commander. The CA [Corps Artillery] had its prime task in disrupting the enemy's higher echelon logistics and countering enemy artillery fire. For this purpose equipment was needed to be capable of delivering over a long range with a high rate of fire. Also accuracy needed to be high [straddle increases with distance]. The CA was monitored by the Corps Artillery Commander [CAC - in Dutch LKAC]. The fire-mission request usually came from either the DAC [reports of enemy artillery fire] or the artillery monitoring units in the field. The latter were dedicated to tracking enemy artillery fire by means of sound-measuring, flash-measurement and visual observation.

In order to be able to fulfil the CA role the Dutch had procured 52 off Bofors gun of 10,5 cm, model 1927. This gun was state of the art. It was capable of accurate long range fire at a high sustained frequency. It had a perfect recoil-break action and it was capable of traversing within a 60° angle without displacement. The range of 16,000 metre was very long for those days. In fact, none of the standard German artillery pieces used in May 1940 was capable of delivering over such a distance.

The used 16 kg heavy projectiles were trotyl filled high explosive munitions that were launched by making use of one [12,500 metre max], two [15,300 metre max] or three cahrges [16,300 metre max]. Two types of fuses were used: delayed/instant fuses and timer-fuses.

The four regiments equipped with the 10-veld gun were all assigned to the CA. The 12th Regiment stationed near the Grebbeberg had 16 guns divided over 4 batteries; the other three had 12 guns in 3 batteries.

Of these four regiments only two saw intensive action during the May war. The 12th [at Veenendaal and Elst] were involved in a few fire missions to support the hussars that operated in front of the Grebbeline. Although with a slight position change the regiment would have been able to support the Dutch in the battle for the Grebbeberg, the regiment never received any fire mission request for such support from the CAC. A few missions were executed against suspected German artillery positions north of Wageningen. The 12th AR was poorly used, especially bearing in mind that it was capable of shelling the positions of both the 227.ID and the 207.ID.

The 10th Artillery Regiment was assigned to the south-front at 10 May. It was situated close to Rotterdam, and involved in the continuous shelling of Waalhaven during the first three days of the war. According to reports from the German General Kurt Student these barrages were destructive and effective. The regiment also pounded the Germans at the Noordereiland [Rotterdam].

Remarkably the 11th Regiment did not fire a single shot during the entire war. It was poorly used, bearing in mind that it was assigned to the south-front near Dordrecht. The regiment would have been able to shell the entire Isle of Dordrecht and even Waalhaven if it had been properly positioned and used. It was however obviously forgotten ...

The last of the 10-veld regiments was the 9th. It was situated in the northern sector of the Grebbeline and since the Germans didn't show themselves, except for some minor reconnaissance missions, it hardly came into action. After changing position some brief fire missions were executed in order to prevent the 227.ID of deploying itself around Amersfoort. One very intensive and sustained fire mission was executed when the 227.ID deployed around Barneveld. No less than 600 grenades were fired on road junctions and suspected German artillery positions in a few hours time. According to German reports this fire caused them quite some nuisance and casualties.

The Germans captured the majority of the 10-veld guns intact after the capitulation. These guns were definitely used by them and designated as "10.5 cm FK334" and "10.5 cm FK335".

Specifications

Manufacturer: Bofors [Sweden] in cooperation with the Dutch industry
Calibre: 105 mm
Barrel length: 4,200 mm [40 calibres]
Dutch designation: 10-veld field gun
Fire-rate: 6 to 8 rounds a minute [5 minutes max]
Elevation: -5° /+ 42°
Traverse: -30° / + 30°
V0: 550 metre/second [1 load]
700 metre/second [2 loads]
750 metre/second [3 loads]
Ammo: 16 kg HE trotyl load
Fuses: - Delayed or percussion fuse
- Timer fuse
Maximum range: 12,500 metres [1 load]
15,500 metres [2 loads]
16,300 metres [3 loads]
Carriage: Spread with break-spades
Traction: Trado motorised traction
Weight: 3,750 kg [barrel: 1,183 kg]
Crew: 8 men plus gun-crew commander
In service: 1927
Number available: 52