A Better Rifle at Halloween

Not easily, they have artillery men with them but they have 65mm mountain guns so a bit different in scale. They might be able to but would have to unload the guns, also no tractors for them so moving them would be tough.
I believe that 7.7s can be fired over open sights. They are light enough to manhandle for short distances at a pinch. They wont be as effective as when used by trained artillery men, but direct open sights fire by artillery en ligne is going to hurt - and it's very Napoleonic!
The 4th Bn Queens Own Cameron Highlanders
19th September 1914, Southeast of Sottegem.

The Seaforth and Cameron Highlanders Brigade was in the centre of the Highland Division line. Each Brigade of the Highland Division was digging in along a slightly extended frontage with each of their three forward battalions holding approximately 750 yards of front. The Argyll and Sutherland Brigade held from the village of Munkzwalm toward the top of the Zwalm ridge, then from left to right it was the London Scottish, the 4th Bn the Seaforth Highlanders and the 4th Bn the Queens own Cameron Highlanders on the right, the Gordon Highlanders then occupied the ground from the other side of the Zwalmvallei. From there the line was held by the depleted units of the 4th Division. The 2nd London Division was holding the shoulder of the penetration with one brigade in Sottegem as the Corps reserve.
But for the young private soldier from Gedintailor on Skye, this was unimportant, he was in Belgium and about to fight the Kaiser’s army. Two months ago, his thoughts had been how to pay for University. He was due to matriculate from the Portree High School and his marks were excellent, he could certainly go to Glasgow to study medicine. But money was the issue, it was money which had led him into the Territorial Force and on to war. His father was a crofter and his family had been tied up in the Battle of the Braes. The life of a crofter on the margins between the hill of Ben Lee and the sea, was one that held no appeal, his dreams were of bigger things.
He and his comrades had dug a series of fighting positions and even now every second man was working to deepen and lengthen their position. A lifetime of cutting peat and working on the land had hardened him and most of his comrades and so the trench was growing at a respectable rate. The Belgian soil was certainly easier to dig than the stony runrigs of his youth. A rather pitiful barbed wire fence was stretched just before the trench but with only 3 wires in it, it was unlikely to prove to be much of an obstacle.
There was no evidence of an attack yet, a small number of German cavalry had been seen that morning trotting up the road from Horebeke. They had been allowed to get within 250 yards of the position before the platoon commander gave the order to open fire, he had instructed the men to target the horses and the high velocity .28” rounds were devastating. The dead and wounded horses lay scattered on the road, a number of the troopers had survived, they briefly attempted to return fire often sheltering behind their dead mount, the bolt action carbines of the German Cavalry were no match for the FHSLR equipping the highlanders and soon their was no return fire.
The platoon commander dispatched a section under the command of a corporal to search the dead and take any survivors prisoner, he and his patrol returned after a short while with a single German NCO who had been shot through the thigh, the highlanders had bandaged him up. He was in no condition to give any intelligence near insensible with pain and blood loss, he spoke neither English or Gaelic and none of the patrol spoke German. Four men were detailed off to escort him to the rear, the corporal was rather pleased with himself, he had managed to liberate a German officer’s sword and pistol, the platoon commander thanked him for the sword leaving the somewhat chastened NCO with a 9mm Luger pistol. After that interlude peace again settled on the line, with the only sound being an occasional grunt from the men digging.
It was mid-afternoon when everything changed, another more powerful cavalry patrol appeared, they halted approximately 650 yards from the British trench line when they spotted the remains of their comrades, very rapidly a number of men were dispatched down the road, obviously intending to raise the alarm.
The platoon commander sent a runner to his company commander and taking one section he moved forward out of the trench line, using the cover of a nearby ditch, he spaced each man out a few yards from the next so that they could fire down on the cavalry. Each man had just qualified on the FHSLR and they were a flatter shooting lower recoil rifle than the Magazine Lee Enfields on which they had all trained. His orders were as follows “Five rounds aimed, Cavalry in the open, 650 yards, Fire” with that the section fired, each man firing as quickly as the self-loading rifles could eject an empty case and the rifle could rifle could again be aimed at the distant target. The firing was over within 15 seconds, the officer had kept his head up the whole time, his binoculars bringing close the brutal effect of his orders.
The cavalry troop which had halted was stunned by the fire, fewer men firing at greater range resulted in far less hits but the survivors turned their mounts and galloped back down the road, leaving 4 men and 3 times as many horses, dead or dying behind them.
The officer decided to keep the section forward of the trench line, they would remain as a observation post for the main defensive position.
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I believe that 7.7s can be fired over open sights. They are light enough to manhandle for short distances at a pinch. They wont be as effective as when used by trained artillery men, but direct open sights fire by artillery en ligne is going to hurt - and it's very Napoleonic!
The Moroccan division has both 65mm mountain guns already in position, whilst the divisions 75mm guns are on their way.
At Ath
19th September 1914, Ath.

The troops holding Ath were drawn from VI Corps, consisting of the 1st London Division and the East Lancashire Division, under the command of General Byng. The British had extensively reorganised in response to the success of attacks conducted by I and II Corps, these regular units had advanced capturing all of the initial objectives. The next phase of the campaign to envelope the German First army would soon be launched but for now VI Corps would hold the line. The main defensive positions were inside the town itself, the canal which wrapped around Ath forming a useful barrier. The two divisions initially sent to Hazebrouk when it was thought Lille might fall had moved up towards the Mons sector, replacing VI Corps and the Cavalry Corps.
The initial damage from the British assault on the town was being cleaned up, the wounded had all been moved back down the line to the field hospitals and the dead had been buried. The German soldiers who had been captured were also being moved back to prisoner of war camps in the south of France, the more senior officers were undergoing interrogation.The British were not content to rest on the defensive but were continuing to move up supplies and additional troops. Now neither side was attacking, the British as was their custom had continued their aggressive patrolling. There was a thin skirmishing line and picket placed on the other side of the canal, the battalions tasked with this role were widely spaced but they had good fields of fire from where any attack was likely to come.
They had been exchanging desultory fire with units of German infantry as they blundered about, for the most part the Kaisers troops seemed content to retire back towards cover when they came under fire. Interrogation of captured troops and other intelligence work had identified that the German VII Corps was the major formation currently facing the British at Ath, they were in the process of retiring from the salient created by the capture of Ath and the subsequent French attack on Leuze-en-Hainaut. Aerial reconnaissance had identified the axis of their withdrawal as being north towards the Chateau de La Berliere. The German VII corps had suffered heavily in the British attacks and like the units of First Army was not being fully resupplied.
General Smith Dorien had issued orders to all subsidiary units of the BEF to be on standby for heavy attacks by the German Army as they sought to extricate themselves from the salient they were now at risk of being trapped in.
Yesterday the French had suffered a heavy blow as elements of the 6th Army was counterattacked by the German IV and III corps, the French had been forced to retire several kilometres and had taken heavy casualties in the process. The Germans had not sought to capitalise on this local success but instead had used the breathing space it provided to continue their withdrawal.
The Royal Marine brigade and Yeomanry were continuing to press IX and the Cavalry Corps as they retired towards the Sottegem-Ath gap, they had not been decisively engaged by the Germans but they had had to fight through numerous strongly held rear guard units. The Royal Marines had made extensive use of the RNAS armoured cars which had been attached to the brigade when they came ashore, a number of trucks were also being used as extemporaneous gun trucks with a 1 ½ pounder pom pom gun mounted in the bed, these guns were very effective when used on machine gun positions or farm houses being used as strong points. The Yeomanry lacked the armoured cars and the gun trucks but they did have horse artillery and those units were being used hard.
Despite the best efforts of the British forces the majority of IX corps would re-join the remainder of First Army, less of the cavalry would make it back, they were being used for the majority of the rear guards. Command taking the decision that they would be less useful in the attacks that would be needed to clear the BEF from their path.
Back at Ath the day wore on, occasional cavalry and foot patrols were seen but nothing to warrant concern, overhead aircraft in the livery of France, Germany and Britain criss-crossed the sky, scouting for enemies, evaluating defences revealing what was on the other side of the hill.
Sir Alfred had pointedly not been invited to this meeting as it was felt that his department was doing more to damage the fighting power of the Royal Navy than the entire German Fleet.
Sir William Greene spoke up at this point “process and procedure are the bedrock on which the Civil Administration of the British Empire stands,
Winston Churchill held up a hand to placate the irate Admirals and calm the equally furious bureaucrat. “Sir Alfred,
You may have meant Sir William.
Von Kluck prepares
19th September 1914, Renaix
Colonel General von Kluck was reviewing the plans for his attack on the British forces which threatened to envelope his army. He could not wait any longer for the full force to be brought up, instead he would use II Corps to attack the British position at Sottegem whilst the remnant of VII Corps and IV Corps would attack Ath from the Northwest and North respectively. The forces holding the rest of Belgium were fully extended by the attack of the Antwerp Garrison and the ongoing fighting around Namur. His forces were the only units available to make the attack, the Brussels Garrison was being deployed to try to counter the Belgian Army and to prevent the increasingly restive civilian population from further acts of sabotage. Francs Tireurs had never ceased their attacks on the garrison units and even now German soldiers never went out of barracks in numbers fewer than four and always armed.
IV Corps had fought off the French Army which was following them, the battle fought near the village of Rumes had resulted in moderate losses for the French 6th Army but more importantly it had caused them to pause their pursuit allowing IV Corps time to cross the river at Antoing in good order and then destroy the bridges behind them. IV Corps was still in a dificult position, it lacked the strength to guarantee victory against the force in Leuze-en-Hainaut whilst still guarding against a renewed attack by the 6th army. In addition whilst the battle of Rumes had not cost many German lives they had been forced to use a significant fraction of the available artillery and machine gun ammunition, this reduced the amount that would be available to support any attack until resupplied. Those men who had been wounded in the fighting were in a parlous position, the field hospitals were being evacuated along with all the other units and that was causing confusion and uncertainty.
The attacks would begin in the morning with a heavy artillery bombardment, every gun was to fire three quarters of its ammunition allocation, targeting the positions identified by aerial reconnaissance and scouting parties. Ammunition stocks were low most batteries had their full load of ammunition but there was nothing left in the supply chain beyond that. A train with additional 7.7cm and 15cm shells had disappeared somewhere near Ath, those shells would have been enough been a very useful fillip to a strained supply system, von Kluck’s gunners would just have to fight with what they had.
As for the infantry they had also suffered from shortages caused by the capture of the railway lines, it had taken 3 days to turn around the army from its attack on Lille and get it into position to attack the British positions, von Kluck was surprised that he had had time to march his men back all that way. He had truly believed that the British would act with greater haste to close the trap and surround his army. As it was if his men could inflict sufficiently stinging defeats on the British he may be able to resume the attack towards Paris or perhaps the Belgian coast line. Both options could turn the tables on the Entente, but before he could do either the jaws of this trap must be broken.

His orders had stressed the challenging position the army was it, pressed on all sides by Entente forces and dependent on a single railway line for supplies his army was at grave risk. Corps, Divisional, Brigade and Regimental Commanders had been given clear instructions attacks were to be pressed with maximum force. Stragglers and shirkers were to be given short shrift. German intelligence had indicated that Britain was being steadily drained of any bodies of trained men. The territorial divisions were being steadily transferred to France, these men lacked the training that made the British Regulars so effective, likewise their equipment was older and often obsolescent, they had performed surprisingly well so far confounding intelligence assessments, assessments that were often drawn directly from the comments of regular British officers. Von Kluck remembered that Kitchener had been damning of the territorials, referring to them as mere amateurs playing at soldiers and a waste of money. There was nothing to do now but wait, hope still played at von Klucks breast but he also had a nagging worry, he was waiting for the other shoe to drop.
19th September 1914, Renaix
>snip< A train with additional 7.7cm and 15cm shells had disappeared somewhere near Ath, those shells would have been enough been a very useful fillip to a strained supply system, von Kluck’s gunners would just have to fight with what they had.

Well we know where they are and if von Kluck can just hold his horses a little longer maybe the people that have them will be willing to give them back :)

I think this quote:- "Yes, but these Farquar's were Enfield's!"
Would actually be said the other way around, "Yes, but these Enfield's were Farquars!"
Trial by Fire
20th September 1914, Sottegem

The crash of artillery broke the still of the night, the British lines were being pummelled by high explosive rounds, the gunners aim was not perfect, many of the shells were falling short of the line but enough were landing nearby to create a suitable facsimile of hell. The territorial soldiers were hunkered down in the trenches, waiting out the storm of steel. The older men who had served in South Africa had some idea of what it was like to be under shell fire but for the majority it was a horrifying ordeal. Their training had not adequately prepared them for the ferocity of the German guns, fortunately the lines were long and the Germans lacked the numbers, weight of guns, time and ammunition for truly heavy shelling such as that endured at Liege, Lille and Namur. Casualties amongst the British forces were relatively light, requiring a direct hit on the trenches to have any significant effect.

More shell fire had fallen on the British artillery positions, little thought had been given as to camouflage from the air and with the gunners laying their pieces out as if on parade the Germans had been able to identify suitable targets for the heavy guns. Many 15 pounder guns were damaged and dismounted in the initial shelling and worse than that many of the field telegraph lines had been cut, their vulnerability to shell fire was another lesson that would be rapidly learnt in the crucible of war. The territorial force artillery units would start this battle with another challenge to add to inexperience and poor equipment.

The gunfire ceased with the rising of the sun, to the southwest of the positions held by the Seaforth and Cameron Highlanders brigade there appeared a solid mass of German infantry, at least a brigade in strength with another forming up behind it. The infantry had stood too as soon as the shelling ceased, each man taking confidence by the presence of his comrades beside him. Each man had several of the 12 round box magazines ready, more rounds in preloaded stripper clips that could load either directly into the rifle with the bolt locked open or more usually with an adapter that fitted onto the top of the magazine.

The rimless bottle necked rounds were shorter than a .303 round but slightly thicker, this made them easier to load and feed into the rifle. The rifle had dual extractor claws to reduce the risk of jamming, this was also aided by the taper of the round that made it unlikely to seize in the barrel when rapid fire was taking place.

The highlanders did not have their sword bayonets fitted, the FHSLR having been designed from the outset to take a Pattern 1907 Sword bayonet, the territorials who had all carried the pattern 1888 bayonet found the greater length of the new model to be reassuring. The young private commenting on the bayonet to his Corporal said “Cha toil iad tha suas iad fein” his corporal liking the joke repeated it loudly in English for the rest of the section, “They do not like it up em”. Then the bugles blew and the German infantry spaced much more closely than any British unit would think sensible, began to advance.

The German line was 1600 yards away when the advance began, the Cameron Highlanders had a machine gun section of consisting of four maxim guns. Every battalion in the brigade had four guns rather than the usual two, the value of the additional firepower had been demonstrated by the London Scottish. With their wealthy London backing pre-war, they had privately purchased four Vickers Machine guns of a newer and superior design to that being used by the rest of the army. When they had joined the Seaforth and Cameron Brigade the Battalion commander had prevailed on the Brigade commander to double the size of each machine gun section from two to four guns, these guns had been sourced by means both fair and foul. Two guns was the normal pattern throughout the army and the Command team of the London Scottish felt it was insufficient, speaking to the innovative approach taken by the Battalion. Like their adaption of the FHSLR and the improved tactical drills they had practised pre-war and shared with their new comrades, they were an elite regiment and it showed.

Many of the London Scottish had served with in the Boer war and when the war started, older former men had re-joined the colours. Many electing to transfer to the other battalions of the Seaforth and Cameron Brigades bringing them up to strength and bringing useful battlefield experience. The others joining the rush of volunteers into the newly forming 2nd/14th Battalion, The London Regiment (London Scottish).

The machine guns were well positioned, one of the brigade staff officers was a former regular who had been a machine gun officer in South Africa and in Waziristan and his notes on gun deployment and use were being circulated throughout the Division.

The machine gun crews had sheltered in the bottom of their trenches along with the other members of the Battalion, when the shelling ceased, they had quickly mounted the firing step taking their positions. They did not open fire, the orders were to wait until the leading brigade advanced to within 600 yards. The section officer was using a range finder, counting down the advance 1200 yards, 1000 yards with respective sights being adjusted as the advance continued.

It was felt that allowing the Germans to advance to within 600 yards before opening fire would maximise the effectiveness of both the rifles and the machine guns. This decision was a risk as this was within the effective range of the German Gewehr 98 but the German soldiers would be in the open, whilst the Highlanders were behind cover.

The Brigade’s artillery was unavailable, runners had been sent back to try and get the guns on target but with the field telegraph system disrupted it was unlikely they would contribute much to this first attack.

The steady advance of the German brigade was unnerving, they marched in near line abreast, a solid phalanx of Teutonic terror grinding forward. Their polished pickelhaubes glinting in the sun and regimental flags aloft. The advance was more widely suited to the Napoleonic war than anything else, all that the German’s were missing was the bands, the men were there of course but as stretcher bearers. The Highland Brigade’s pipers and drummer were likewise ready as runners and stretcher bearers, but each company had at least one piper and drummer available to keep up suitable music for military occasions.

The piper attached to D company the Queens own Cameron Highlanders was a Macleod, his company commander was a nephew of the Chief and many a time had the piper played for the Chief and his family, the young officer was his uncle’s heir and the piper hoped to play for him in the future when they were safely back on Skye. The tune he had selected to give heart to his comrades was the Black Bear and a useful reminder to all the Cameron’s that on the line were the London Jocks in their funny looking kilts. Much sport had been made of the Londoners but whilst their connections to Scotland were often more romantic than real, they were held in high regard by most.

The Germans had finally covered the 1000 yards from their start line to within 600 yards of the British front line, the pace of the advance had not been even with some German units faster and others slower so that what had started out as a solid line had degenerated slightly, the Officers and NCO’s were doing their best to tighten up the advance but the unit advancing on the Cameron’s was in the lead it had advanced almost 100 yards ahead of the regiments on either flank. The battalion commander of the Cameron’s took the decision to have his battalion hold fire until either the London’s or the Seaforth’s opened fire, giving the German’s another 100 yards of life but drawing more men into the trap.

From the right came a sudden tat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat as the Seaforth’s machine gun section began its work. With that the command to open fire was given and death was the order of the day, the machine guns cut down the advancing Germans like a scythe each gun was not firing at the men directly in front of it rather they were aimed in enfilade, a bullet that missed one man assured by the density of the target striking the man beside or behind him.

Even without the rifles it was likely that the advance across open ground against guns capable of firing 600 rounds a minute would have failed, when the individual highlanders with their FHSLR’s opened up, it turned a massacre into an annihilation. Each man had benefited from weeks of brutally hard training since receiving the FHSLR, marching all over England and firing hundreds of rounds at targets both near and far, out to the almost ludicrous range of 1200 yards on more than one occasion. Whilst their skills were not as good as the regulars they were trained and equipped with a rifle that was superior in range, accuracy, rate of fire and killing power to any other small arm on the battlefield. They had had time to become accustomed to the rifle and they were in a simple tactical position, stay in your trench and keep shooting till the enemy run away or die.

The attacking brigade melted as it was flailed with fire, after what only seemed like minutes the brigade broke, men fleeing back to the German lines, the machine gunners delighted in shooting these men in the back cutting them down hundreds of yards from safety. Others sought cover and returned fire on the British troops, those men braver or more foolish than their comrades and figuring that fleeing was likely as dangerous as fighting were soon targeted by numerous British rifles, putting an end to their resistance one 160 grain round at a time.

The dead and wounded carpeted the slope before the Highland division, the other two brigades, lacking the additional machine guns and with the older Magazine Lee Enfield rifles had had a harder time of it. They had managed break up the German attack before it even reached the barbed wire, the entanglements were somewhat the worse for wear after the initial bombardment, but still presented something of a barrier. The Germans now pushed their artillery forward, they had identified the front line now are they resumed shelling shrapnel and high explosive shells being intermixed, the British remained in their trenches waiting out the barrage. The signallers had managed to repair the telegraph lines, with the first attack having been repulsed the surviving 15 pounder guns had no targets and they remained silent. All eight of the 5” howitzers had been undamaged by the initial artillery attack and they did have targets to service. Artillery observers for both batteries were able to identify a number of German 7.7 cm gun positions, these guns were being pushed forward to support the next attack and they made a suitable target for the elderly British Howitzers. The howitzers had been positioned almost 2000 yards back from the British front lines, at maximum range they could therefore reach 1200 yards into the German lines and with the observers looking down slope at the germans their positions were clearly laid out and vulnerable.

The guns fired slowly, their shells failed to explode as often as not, and the accuracy was poor but the 8 guns of the 3rdHighland Brigade RFA were adding to the challenges faced by their opposite number. The artillery duel eventually petered out, ammunition and gunners exhausted on both sides, again little damage had been done on the front line.

The second attacking brigade now marched forward, they had seen what had happened to the first brigade and it was obvious that their morale had not been improved by the experience. The file closers were having to work twice as hard to keep the men in their lines, again the British let them advance without any response. This time the Artillery would get in on the act, the fifteen pounders had repositioned under fire, moving closer to the front lines but without the parade ground dressing that had made them such an inviting target.

Seventeen of the fifteen pounder guns were ready to fire, they watched the advancing grey tide with interest but little in the way of fear, infantry in the open was the best target for the fifteen pounder guns. Lacking a explosive shell it was in fact just about the only target for guns of the 1st and 2nd Highland Brigades RFA and they would do their part. The command soon came and with it the seventeen guns fired, like the howitzers their shooting was not particularly spectacular, but no rounds fell so far short as to harm the British lines. Many were short, a few were long, and others were dud’s but at least one round in 4 was on target, each well targeted round released hundreds of half ounce balls in a deadly swath. The fifteen pounder gun was nothing like as good as the eighteen pounder which had replaced it, they were noticeably slower to fire, but the crews serving the guns had seen many of their comrades killed or horribly wounded this morning and they had something to prove. They loaded their guns as well as they had ever done keeping up a steady 8 rounds per minute for two minutes before slowing to a more sustainable 3 rounds per minute. Allowing for duds, overs and unders, the effect of the artillery on the second wave was almost as devasting as the concentrated machine gun fire on the first. The second wave made it to within 800 yards of the British front line, when the machine gunners added to the carnage, the second wave broke.

A significant fraction of an entire German division was lying dead, dying or wounded before the British front line, a line they never managed to reach.