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    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    I have never been able to find any documents on Italian artillery doctrine, and in consequence never knew anything about it; the only book I have on Italian artillery limits itself to the equipment.

    In order to try to remedy this lack, I did a bit of googling for material in Italian. I don’t speak Italian any more than I speak German, but with Google Translate, a slight knowledge of Latin, and complete obliviousness as to my educational limitations, I have cobbled together the translation below of a 1945 piece I found from a Swiss military journal. I see no reason not to inflict it on you. It’s about 2,000 words.

    I now know a small amount about Italian artillery doctrine. So do you if you can be bothered to read it.

    If anyone speaks good military Italian, I would appreciate some help with one phrase (omitted because it isn’t important) that has completely defeated me, and is almost certainly not about flanking chickens.

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    Tactical Artillery Fires (Tiri Tattici Dell’Artiglieria)
    Lt-Col. of Artillery D. Balestra
    Ticino Military Review
    Translation by John D Salt

    The terminology used to designate the features of artillery fires has undergone changes and alterations over time. At times these changes were the result of new tactical concepts, at others the desire to make names more closely associated with things, and also the will to distinguish and subdivide through more analytical specification.
    The war of 1914-18 gave rise to a great flowering of naming kinds of artillery fire, some of which are undoubtedly appropriate and expressive, but which due to their multiplicity could not be contemplated by regulations because of the danger of generating confusion of concepts.
    The question of the convenience of extending the naming of fires of the artillery to the purposes and different phases of tactical action, or to limit it to two great concepts of “neutralization” and “destruction”, is always topical. However, everyone agrees that the commander of the artillery must be clear on the tactical result to be obtained from the fire.
    The appendix to art. 468 of RA XJI 1 specifies that for the gunner commander the “tactical environment” must be well defined. Knowledge of the tactical environment and definition if fire missions will be accurately facilitated only if the infantryman and the gunner use the same terminology to express concepts on which they agree.
    If we consider that from the precise statement of his fire task the artillery commander immediately finds the indications for its technical execution, it can be understood how knowledge of firing concepts and consistent use of exact terminology in the distribution of orders simplify the task of the gunner.
    The shooting tasks assigned to the artillery in combat are set out in Art. 41 and 42 of the S.C. 1927 and Art. 468 and following of R. A. XII 1 which fills out the tactical notion with instruction on the technical execution of individual fires.
    II R. A. XII 1 puts all of these together simply under the title “Types of artillery fire”.
    For educational purposes, and not in a spirit of criticism, I observe that this designation, that does not sufficiently highlight the purpose of the fire, can lead to confusion when the same regulation differentiates “rate” and “scale”, which are technical concepts limited to the function of a piece or of a battery. The German regulations distinguish between “Types of shooting” (Feuerarten) and “Forms of shooting” (Feuerformen) and Gen. Marx writes that “the first is a technical concept, the second tactical, the first affects the battery, the second any artillery grouping from battery up.”
    The Italian regulations speak of “fire actions”, and the French of “fire missions”, these terminologies, although very broad, nevertheless clearly envisage the tactical purpose of the fire.
    S. C. 1927 and R. A. XII 1 recognise the following types of artillery shooting:
    • Barrage, defensive and offensive
    • Fire for neutralization
    • Fire for destruction
    • Surprise fire
    1. Barrage is a violent, intense fire action that must intervene at a decisive moment in the fight.
    In the defensive it is a “blocking fire”, in the offensive of “preparation” or “accompaniment” of the assault.
    The sectors to be blocked assigned to the battery must be determined so that the effect of the fire is dense enough without being forced to increase the rate of fire beyond the limits that the equipment can withstand without prejudice to the materiel.
    According to art. 41 of the S. C. field batteries can cover a frontage from 100 to 300m.
    For a barrage to be effective, that is, to be continuous in the space of the frontage attacked, it must be reduced to a maximum of 100 m
    With rapid fire, i.e. with 10 rounds per minute per piece, 40 shells fall on a 100m strip of land in one minute, i.e. you have some 15-25 seconds of danger of death per minute.
    However, there are always 35-45 seconds in which the artillery does not kill. From this it can be deduced that despite its intensity artillery fire does not block absolutely.
    Shoots can be conducted with percussion, superquick or time fuzed projectiles. Heavy guns and howitzers are not eligible for barrage fire but they can serve to integrate the fire of other pieces.
    A) The defensive barrage aims to destroy the enemy or at least to break the momentum of the assaulting troops by making them unable to reach our positions. In other words, it seeks to halt the enemy in their positions and destroy any attack. The main objectives are:
    a) Enemy sources of fire, in order to remove the covering fire needed to get to their assault positions,
    b) Enemy assault positions, to prevent their organization,
    e) The ground in front of our main line of resistance, to destroy the assaulting enemy,
    d) Break-in points.
    Since the barrage can never last a long time (2—3 minutes) the artillery is not – considering also the limited number of its batteries – the ideal weapon for defensive barrages in front of the main line of resistance.
    B) The offensive barrage aims to immobilize the enemy and allow our troops to reach as far as their assault positions and then to accompany the assault neutralizing any defensive action by the opposition.
    It therefore falls into two distinct periods: that of preparation, which the Italians call “paving”, and the accompanying one, which the Italians call “support”.
    The offensive barrage will be directed:
    a) on the enemy defence front in order to nullify resistance immediately before the assault,
    b) on automatic weapons and on enemy observers located further back from the front to destroy them or at least to prevent them from disturbing our infantry during the attack,
    c) above ridges, forest edges, localities and points where reserves are discovered or supposed to be.
    Target designation and calls for fire can be predicted in the combat plan in various ways but the connection between infantry and artillery must be so perfect that shell fire masks the assault of the infantry and the splinters of the shells neutralize the enemy.
    The kind of preparation of the offensive barrage depends on the tactical situation. As a rule, no registration shots will be made but the data for fire for effect will be determined by calculation.
    2. Fire for neutralization must force the enemy on the move to assume formations that are not very vulnerable, but inconvenient, and to seek cover; anything that slows down his manoeuvre. If the enemy is in position it must prevent him from using his means of combat.
    The concept of this fire, which is employed in the attack as well as in the defence, though very extensive is nevertheless so well defined in our regulations that it does not require a subdivision into “distant neutralization” or “close neutralization” as the Italian regulations do, nor a distinction between “interdiction” and “harcèlement” as do the French.
    Neutralization fire can be directed:
    a) in the attack: against observers, against MG nests, infantry gun positions
    b) in defence: against enemy fire support, against enemy troop concentrations
    e) in the attack and in the defence at long range: against artillery, on the march or in position, bivouacs, bridges, railway stations etc.
    Neutralization fire is done with any calibre; the use of one calibre rather than another depends on the range.
    Percussion, superquick fuze and time fuze projectiles are used for execution; the latter, however, only when the shot can be observed.

    3. Fire for destruction is methodically conducted and intended to destroy precise targets, such as batteries, command posts, MG nests, barbed wire, lengths of trench etc.
    The use of different calibres depends on the type of target.
    For the destruction of barbed wire aprons, the 7.5 cm is suitable, but not ideal, with superquick fuze; more effective, however, are howitzers with high capacity shells as they tear up and bury the stakes. For the destruction of batteries, observation posts, MG nests, 7.5cm gund are sufficient, while if trenches, buildings, bridges, or roads are to be destroyed, one is forced to resort to larger calibres, of which the heavy howitzers are always the most effective.
    2. Fire for destruction is done with percussion or superquick fuze on the basis of exact adjustment.
    Our regulations also includes anti-tank shooting under fire for destruction, while others would like this to be the target of a particular kind of fire corresponding to the Italian “stopping fire”.
    Opinions about the use of the artillery in anti-tank defence are not yet in agreement.
    Before the current war, use of artillery against armoured vehicles was the exception; after the French campaign they would like this job to become primary.
    A general rule cannot be dictated because in my opinion the decisive point is the scale of issue of anti-tank weapons of the infantry employed in any given action.
    When this is numerically and technically insufficient, the artillery must make up for it. At this moment, however, it is fulfilling a tactical task that is not precisely its task, and for which it would not be convenient to create for this exceptional use a particular kind of fire; so the solution of including this kind of shooting as fire for destruction is at least practical.
    However, one thing is certain: when a commander uses his artillery pieces isolated as anti-tank guns he must know that he will no longer be able to have that artillery, and therefore gives up his best reserve!
    For anti-tank shooting, both the 7.5 cm and 10.5cm can be used. Shooting is by direct lay and at short distances (minimum 1,000 m.) as the total dispersion must be less than the target size.
    The term “Vernichtungsfeuer” used in the German edition of our regulations, which translates as “killing fire” is inaccurate. The “killing” fire refers to living targets while the concept of this shot according to our regulations is to destroy inanimate things for which the German edition should talk about “Zerstörungsfeuer” instead of “Vernichtungsfeuer” as do the Germans.
    4. Surprise fire is achieved by sudden and rapid fire against favourable targets, such as troops on the march or in assembly formation. These fire missions need quick-fire pieces and both superquick fuze and time fuze projectiles are used.
    The effect sought excludes the possibility of adjustment, so the data for fire for effect must be calculated or deduced from previous shoots.
    This fire mission is unknown in the regulations of other countries, probably because it is only a technical rather than a tactical concept and that is also applied in the execution of other kinds of shoot. In fact, the condition of surprise is one of the main elements for the success of every artillery shoot.
    All fires should be opened by surprise and the regulations provide in particular for a barrage to arrive as an intense mass impact, and neutralization fires are usually initiated by surprise, and their irregularity in intervals and duration represent a surprise factor.
    In order to improve clarity and understanding between infantry and artillery commanders, and perhaps between artillery commanders, article 468 R. A. XII 1, concerning artillery tactical fires, has been completed with the following clarifications:
    1) “Opening” or “executing” a shoot means opening effective fire in the shortest space of time, leaving the artillery commander, possibly the fire controller, to assess whether fire for effect should or should be preceded by registration or adjustment fire.
    If for a particular tactical or technical reason the infantry or artillery commander wants registration or adjustment fire to be omitted they must show it clearly in the statement of the fire mission.
    2) “To prepare” a shoot means to prepare with calculation, or registration fire according to the usual rules, or with adjustment fire, the data for fire for effect which will then be requested with a subsequent order.
    3) “Fixing” a shoot means determining, according to the provisions of the regulations, that is, through the fire itself, the data for fire for effect.
    4) “Controlling” a shot means trying by shooting one or more shots if the firing data that have been adjusted or calculated are matched to the target.
    Having shown the very clear picture presented by S. C. 1927 and R. A. XII/1 of “kinds of artillery fire”, and observing that our regulation is the simplest and most effective of current tactical doctrines, allow me to mention the need imposed by tactical practicality to limit names to a few necessarily rigid elements.
    Gen. Bianchi d’Espinosa, in a profound article on the terminology of artillery fire action, assumes that at a given moment in combat the officers of a command are all seized with complete amnesia as to the formal wordings, and the question arises whether this would result in reduced unity of understanding between unit commanders and subordinate elements of the artillery? He believes that nothing unusual would happen because for each of the targets to be engaged one would simply use the verbs “destroy” or “neutralize” as the physical effect of the projectile, which he calls poetically the “mute and docile tools with which the artillery develops the picture”, producing on the targets against which it is directed only the effect of neutralizing them or destroying them.
    I mention this tendency to simplification at the very end because, in war more than in the tranquillity of peace, the maxim “hors de simple rien de sublime” imposes its full authority.

    Avatar photoSteve Johnson

    Very interesting, so thanks for taking the time to research this and share with us:).

    Avatar photoMartinR

    Thanks John.

    "Mistakes in the initial deployment cannot be rectified" - Helmuth von Moltke

    Avatar photoGuy Farrish

    Thanks for posting that John.

    Tantalizing to leave the key phrase out!

    I am now convinced that the key to my tabletop failures is almost certainly due to my failure to deploy flanking chickens.

    (I regret I am clueless as to what gali. fianch. may be in context – sorry).

    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    Oops. Missed a bit. Edited to add a missing paragraph on fire for desruction.

    (I regret I am clueless as to what gali. fianch. may be in context

    My machine OCRed it as gali. fianch. too, but looking at it by eyeball it looks more like gall. fianch.

    Googling “words beginning with ‘gal’ in Italian” suggests that with one l there are quite a few words about gallantry or galeries or galleons, but with two ls it does seem to be mostly about chickens.

    All the best,


    Avatar photoWhirlwind

    Saw this on Twitter, so wondering if it means something like “flanking emplacement”.

    Really interesting passage, many thanks for posting


    Avatar photovtsaogames

    Thank you.

    It's never too late to have a happy childhood

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