Thursday, 14 August 2014

Russian army of the Great War Part II

The Russian army of 1914 had relativity good equipment, at least when up against the Austrians.   The weapons were modern, and even in training Russian troops were good.

The Main Field gun was the 76.2mm Quick Fire Field gun, This was a light weight (at least for its size) and fully modern.  It had no recoil and could fire up to 15 shots per minute.  Gun crews could also easily man handle the gun into new positions and it had considerable elevation for bombardments.  Russian gun crews had additional troops for defence against enemy infantry who could also act as carriers for more ammunition.  The horse teams had additional horses  so  on  long  manoeuvres the gun teams could be exchanged to keep up the rate of advance.  Training was good, but only for 1st line troops, reserve troops were not as well trained as the gunnery school had limited capacity.    

Russian Heavy guns such as the 122 and 152mm howitzers were based on light models used in the russo-turkish war.  They were far easier to move on the battlefield and although  recoilless on paper the 122mm gun had a tendency to buck like a mule,  to off set this it was common to sand bag the gun so a quick rate of fire could be maintained.  Firing 8-10 rounds a  minute was faster than the best German Guns of  the same type but poor explosives kept in storage or moved vast  distances on poor roads tended to misfire on occasion, not damaging the gun jamming in the breach which could take quite a while to fix, it was not as bad as British artillery which mostly failed to detonate (1/3 shells were duds) but was enough of a concern for Russian commander to begin massing guns early in the 1914 campaign, Increasing efficiency but making them vulnerable to counter battery fire.

The Standard Machine gun was the Iconic Maxim design which was out dated at the outbreak of war, but would soldier on into the second world war too.  It was heavy, weighing 80lb, with another 4 drums of water needed to keep it cool the weapon was not suited for a fast moving battlefield.  It was belt fed with a cloth belt which jammed almost every time it fired, The low carriage it was mounted on became caked in mud and mould, the wheels jammed constantly and it was too heavy to man handle.  Mostly the Machine guns failed to be positioned in time during assaults and many were captured during  enemy  offensives.  By May 1915 the Central powers had captured more Machine guns than the Russian army retained, these were used in static defence or discarded due to lack of suitable ammunition.  

The Russian army made good use of field telephones as-well as the existing telegram network, especially in the  Ukraine   where  new cables had been laid during 1912-13, however the telegraph across such vast territory was still inadequate for the armies needs.  The field Telephones were superior to the western front, wires were laid of copper wire wrapped in cloth to protect parting.  Despite this there was never enough to go around, During the invasion of Prussia the Russian army ran out of cable.  Although the sets they had were of good quality, equivalent to German sets of the time.   

Cavalry was by far the best arm of the russian army, and was used as other nations to act as the eyes and ears of the army, although bad communication and an inconsistent chain of command often led to this large asset not been used well.  in Austria and Germany the cavalry led the army and the Cossack forces did unfortunately carry out Terror attacks against undefended town in both Austria and especially Germany, these incidents led to a considerable coup for Central-powers propaganda.  Where as on the western front the allies had to make up stories of barbarism,  the Germans had it handed to them.   

The Cossack forces were the best troops in the cavalry, although they never operated as a full part of the army, and were more 'attached' to the corps rather than a part of them on paper.  Often commanders did not know exactly which units were theirs?   

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