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 BRITISH ARTILLERY IN WORLD WAR 2

    FIRE DISCIPLINE

Updated 14 June 2014

 

 

 

CONTENTS

 

INTRODUCTION

 

SEQUENCE OF ORDERS

 

       Initial Orders

 

       If Ranging

 

       Fire for Effect

 

SOME OTHER TERMS

 

COMMUNICATIONS PROCEDURES

 

EXAMPLES OF SHOOTS

 

 "Fire discipline - the language of fire control"

 INTRODUCTION

'Fire Discipline' was the term for the procedures (fire orders and reports) for controlling artillery fire.  It's a vocabulary of words and phrases with specified meanings and various conventions applied to gunnery and sufficiently flexible to orchestrate fire in infinite ways.  Its purpose was to eliminate ambiguity and confusion and maximize efficiency in the application and control of artillery fire.  It was the highest priority traffic in artillery communications.  It was used over wireless and line communication and by direct voice on the gun position.

To attack a target the guns have to be told where it is and what is to be done to it.  In an engagement or 'shoot' against any target there were up to three stages.  :

Initial orders were always required but an observer could go directly to fire for effect or end the engagement after ranging and registering the target.   Tactical information, notably a description of the target, could be sent at any convenient stage in the shoot since the observer was giving orders it was not required as part of the engagement process by tactical decision makers in the rear unless the observer required a regimental or larger concentration and was not authorised to order it.

The orders and reports flowed between several participants:

Fire discipline required that orders were always given in a particular sequence and that data was spoken in a particular way, in these examples the 1942 phonetic alphabet is used.  For example:

For elevations (ranges in yards):

For bearings and angles of sight (with either "elevation" or "depression" added) in degrees and minutes:

For switches from a Zero line:

Fuze lengths and correctors:

However, for switches from a previous switch (cumulative), more means add, less means subtract:

Pairs of elevations (optionally used in section ranging):

Observers always ordered corrections, if using distances (instead of angular switches):

Intervals between guns firing:

Recorded targets had the form:

Some of the important conventions of fire discipline were:

There were other conventions used with air observers, for example reporting the shell's time of flight.

SEQUENCE OF ORDERS

Orders were given by both Observers and GPOs in the following sequence, those in bold were always given by GPOs to the guns.  The same sequence was used during the process of ranging and when moving the fire during fire for effect:

and either, when ranging was to be used:

or, when an engagement started with fire for effect:

Initial orders

The observer decided the nature of the target, the ammunition, the location of the target and the method of fire.  He usually sent this in two 'packets', the first being the nature of the target and ammunition, this acted as a warning order while he determined the target location, which he then sent with the method of fire.

The nature of target had two elements, the number of guns and any special instructions, for example:

Guns were numbered 1 - 4 in each troop, and troops were Able, Baker (P battery), Charlie, Dog (Q battery), Easy, Fox (R battery).

The observer had a choice of four methods of ordering the target location.  These were:

This first option was ordered as two separate elements at their place in the sequence of orders, the following were ordered with or as soon as possible after the nature of the target.

A target letter and number was always allocated and ordered by the observer for regimental and higher targets (authorised observers were each given a 'block' of unique numbers to use) -"Target Mike 55" (regimental target), "Target Uncle 23" (divisional target).

 The observer could order any facet of ammunition, including shell type, fuze and fuze option, charge - "Charge two" - and propellant. For the observer to order the charge the engagement would be by a battery or less.  If other than the standard impact fuze was required with HE then the observer ordered it - "HE 119 cap on", "HE 231".  If non-standard ammunition was required and might require preparation the observer could order it "Troop target smoke screen, prepare 10 rounds per gun".  If he said nothing the GPO selected and ordered the charge, and propellant type if there was a choice on the gun position, and ordered "HE 117" (or whatever the standard fuze was).  When the GPO had received ammunition orders (as given in 'nature of target'), and if necessary made his own selections, he ordered "Load", unless times fuzes were ordered.  

Whichever method was used for target location the GPO had to have or produce line (eg by the GPOAs measuring it from the artillery board for a map reference or reading it from the target records) and order it to his troop in the form of a switch from zero lines "Zero, 350".  

The observer could also order concentrations (which meant the guns did not fire parallel but 'converged' their fire) and distributions (which 'undid' concentrations or increased the troop frontage.  Both were usually relative to the pivot gun, and for simplicity in the CP the observer could order the range at which the concentration angle was to apply.

The GPO would order a calculated or ordered an angular correction as applicable:

The observer could order the angle of sight "Angle of sight 2 20 elevation" including using zero, again an observer would usually only order this if engagement would be by a battery or less.  The GPO/CPO always ordered an angle of sight common to all guns.

 British practice was to fire with each troop aiming its guns roughly in a straight line at right angles to its line of fire.  This was achieved by 'position corrections', ordered to the nearest 25 yards in range and added to the ordered range by each gun.  If the guns were deployed in a fairly straight line then these corrections would start for the gun furthest from the pivot gun when the switch was about 20 or more from the zero line. The distances were tabulated in Range Tables Part 2.  The GPO ordered them "Position corrections No 4 plus 25" - No 4 gun added 25 yards to all subsequent elevations order during the engagement.

"Fire by Order" meant that the guns could not fire until given the executive order "Fire" originating from the person who initiated "Fire by Order".  The Observer had to order it for divisional and larger concentrations and the GPO always ordered it with air observers. When fire by order was in force "Ready" was reported upwards from the guns to the person who initiated it.  It remained in force until a new sequence of initial orders or "Cancel fire by order"

At this point the sequence of orders diverged depending on whether the engagement was going to start with ranging or fire for effect.  At this point the observer could also elect to control the moment guns fired, both for ranging and for fire for effect, by ordering "Fire by Order".  This meant that the guns had to report "Ready" and the observer order "Fire", althpough he could order fire withpout waiting for the report of "Ready".

If Ranging

The mechanics of ranging are explained on the 'Basics of Gunnery' page.  Method of ranging was always ordered by GPOs and usually by observers.  Since section ranging was standard practice the observer/GPO ordered "Right ranging" or "Left ranging".   If single gun ranging was used then a gun was ordered "No 1 ranging".  With section ranging the observer could order a pair of elevations so that the 2 guns in the section would each fire at a different one "Right ranging 99, 92", and the GPO ordered this to the guns.   The observer could also change the standard interval of 10 seconds for section ranging "Right ranging 10 seconds".

If time fuzed ammunition was being used then the GPO had to order a fuze length (guns didn't have fuze indicators) "Fuze 11.9" or corrector "Corrector 120" if they had indicators.  The observer could order corrector, if the observer did not order a corrector then it meant that ranging was to be with percussion fuzes.

The elevation, the range in yards for guns equipped with guns rules, was ordered by the observer if a switch from zero lines was being used. It was always ordered by the GPO, "7850" whatever the form of target location.

Finally "Fire" had to be ordered by the observer and by the GPO for the first ranging rounds but not for subsequent ones. For these the GPO always ordered an elevation, even if it hadn't changed, and this authorised the ranging guns to fire when laid.  This could be given at any time, but if "Fire by Order" was in force it would not be given until "Ready" was reported.  When the ranging guns fired the GPO reported "Shot" and the number of the first gun firing to the observer, and if the observer had not ordered the elevation (range) this was also reported "Shot 1, 7900".

Ranging continued with the observer ordering switches to move the fall of shot onto the target and, if airburst shells were being to used, to adjust the height of burst.  The normal ranging procedure was to move the fall of shot onto the Battery - Target (BT) line then bracket the target along the BT line. These orders applied to all guns unless particular guns, troops, batteries or regiments were specified.  Line and range corrections could be combined into one order.

After completion of ranging the observer could order "Record as target Queen 42" or whatever ever number was allotted to him. Letters Able to Fox were for troop targets of those troops in a regiment, Peter to Tare for battery targets for up to 5 batteries in a regiment.  If appropriate the observer could order a final correction to 'record at' without firing it.  Instead of recording the target at this stage the observer could order fire for effect.

Fire for Effect

The order for fire for effect was usually combined with the final ranging correction, and the key elements of the observer's orders were the number of rounds to be fired and the method of fire for effect.  The normal method of fire for effect was 'Gunfire', all methods of fire for effect were an order to fire unless 'fire by order' was in force.  The GPO always ordered the elevation with each fire for effect order, whether or not it had changed from the last ranging or fire for effect rounds.  During fire for effect the observer could order further corrections, 'concentrate' or 'distribute' as necessary at any time.  Orders by the observer and GPO were in the following form:

Normally guns fired for effect the instant they were ready (loaded, received an elevation, ammunition order and method, and completed laying) unless fire by order was in force. If this was the case then "Ready" was reported back to whoever had initiated "Fire by Order", and this person ordered "Fire"at their right moment.  However, "Salvo" could be ordered in which case the GPO signaled the moment to fire to the guns.  An open ended "Fire" order could be used which meant the guns kept firing Gunfire until ordered to "Stop".

The area covered by a shoot could be expanded by the use of "Sweep" and/or "Search".  Sweep spread the fire out laterally across the line of fire of each troop, search spread it out along the line for fire.  On the guns 'sweep' was achieved without altering the sights, merely standards numbers of turns of the traversing hand wheel.

Standard stonks were regimental linears 525 yards long, but aligned as necessary.  An 8 figure map reference defined the centre point, "Map reference 12345678" and  the alignment was at right angles to the axis ordered "Axis 50 degrees", "Apply correction of the moment" was also usually ordered.

Another widely used order was "Repeat", this could be used during ranging or fire for effect, but only by observers, and basically meant repeat what you've just done; the GPO(s) gave full orders to their guns.  The last order was 5 rounds Gunfire; "Repeat" meant the guns fire another 5 rounds gunfire, "North West 500 repeat" meant 5 rounds gunfire 500 yards NW of the previous fire for effect.

For concentrations of more than a battery it was often necessary to correct the fire of individual batteries or regiments, particularly if survey hadn't been completed.  This was done by prefixing the order with the code-sign (wireless callsign) of the unit to apply the correction.  These individual orders could be combined with orders to all guns by using the prefix "all".  Controlling concentrations, which could involve guns of different calibres and hence capabilities, could use other orders as well:

SOME OTHER TERMS

At the conclusion of ranging or fire for effect the observer could order the target recorded, either at the last firing data "Record as Target Mike 17" or at a correction from the last rounds "Record as target M17 at north 200".

Other terms used by observers and GPOs were:

Before moving it may have been necessary to empty the guns by firing them, and with some types of fuzes that could not be made safe these too had to be fired before moving.  The observer ordered "Empty guns" usually with an Add correction (the guns would be laid on either the last target or the DF(SOS)).  If the guns had to move and empty guns had not been ordered then the GPO would request it "Check empty guns".  The order to bring the guns out of action and move was give by the GPO or other officer in command of them and on the gun position "Cease firing".  When the guns were in action on a new position this was reported by the GPO to the observer "Troop ready".

There were also reports and orders for when things went wrong, eg a misfire, a mistake in transmitting orders or incorrect laying.  

Direct fire engagement of tanks had their own orders.  

COMMUNICATIONS PROCEDURES

Fire orders had to be transmitted almost always by telephone, R/T or W/T.  When W/T (or L/T) was used then the various fire discipline terms were converted to two and three letter groups using the Artillery Code and transmitted in Morse Code.  More information about artillery communications is on the 'Communications' page.

Simple shoots between an observer and CP were straightforward, the shoot was initiated by the observer (F troop in this example) saying "Fox troop target" and the troop CP repeating "Fox troop target" back.  The main difference between line and wireless was that with the latter each transmission had to be concluded with "Over".  This was important because the observer was probably using a remote unit from his wireless and an operator with the wireless had to listen to the transmissions and switch the remote function between send and receive as necessary. In these simple cases subsequent orders from and reports to the observer dropped the use of troop name or code-sign.  However, they were retained if a rotation shoot was being conducted by wireless, this was used when two observers from the same battery were both engaging their own troop targets.  Code-signs were also retained for concentrations.  However, code-signs were invariable abbreviated to their first letter so that the battery or regiment CP with the code-sign TNQ would be known as "Tare".

EXAMPLES OF SHOOTS

Example 1 - Troop Target Using R/T

OPO

To

GPO

To

Guns

Dog troop target, over

>>

 

 

 

 

<<

Dog troop target, over

 

 

 

 

Troop target

>>

Troop takes post

Zero, 6 degrees, angle of sight zero, over

>>

 

 

 

 

<<

Zero, 6 degrees, angle of sight zero, over

 

 

 

 

HE 117, charge 3, zero, 6 degrees, angle of sight zero

>>

Troop loads

Right ranging, 8900, fire, over

>>

 

 

 

 

<<

Right ranging, 8900, fire, over

 

 

 

 

Right ranging, 8900, fire

>>

Nos 1 & 2 lay and fire

 

<<

Shot over

 

 

Shot over

>>

 

 

 

Hullo Dog troop, enemy position at 5793 firing MG, over

>>

 

 

 

 

<<

Dog troop roger over

 

 

 

 

Shoot by troop commander against enemy MG position

>>

 

Less 1 degree 20 minutes, over

>>

 

 

 

 

<<

Less 1 degree 20 minutes, over

 

 

 

 

Less 1 degree 20 minutes, 8900

>>

Nos 1 & 2 lay and fire

 

<<

Shot over

 

 

Shot over

>>

 

 

 

8500, over

>>

 

 

 

 

<<

8500, over

 

 

 

 

8500

>>

Nos 1 & 2 lay and fire

 

<<

Shot over

 

 

Shot over

>>

 

 

 

8700, over

>>

 

 

 

 

<<

8700, over

 

 

 

 

8700

>>

Nos 1 & 2 lay and fire

 

<<

Shot over

 

 

Shot over

>>

 

 

 

8800, over

>>

 

 

 

 

<<

8800, over

 

 

 

 

8800

>>

Nos 1 & 2 lay and fire

 

<<

Shot over

 

 

Shot over

>>

 

 

 

8750, 1 round gunfire, over

>>

 

 

 

 

<<

8750, 1 round gunfire, over

 

 

 

 

8750, 1 round gunfire

>>

Nos 1 & 2 load, troop lays and fires

 

<<

Shot over

 

 

Shot over

>>

 

 

 

5 rounds gunfire, over

>>

 

 

 

 

<<

5 rounds gunfire, over

 

 

 

 

5 rounds gunfire

>>

Troop loads, lays and fires

 

<<

Shot over

 

 

Shot over

>>

 

 

 

Stand easy, over

>>

 

 

 

 

<<

Stand easy, over

 

 

 

 

Stand easy

>>

Troop stands easy, guns remain laid on target

 Example 2 - Battery Target Using Linked Troop Procedure via the CP Line Between Troop CPs.  

This example uses a map reference and corrections by the OP in yards, but ranges and switches could be used as in the previous example.

OPO

To

GPO A Tp

To

GPO B Tp

To

Guns

Link shoot, Able control, over

>>

 

 

 

 

 

 

<<

Link shoot, Able control, over

 

 

 

 

 

 

Link shoot, Able control

>>

 

 

 

 

 

 

<<

Link shoot, Able control

 

 

 

 

Troop target

>>

 

 

A Tp takes post

 

 

 

 

Troop target

>>

B Tp takes post

Map reference 456123, height 200ft, right ranging, fire, over

>>

 

 

 

 

 

 

<<

Map reference 456123, height 200ft, right ranging, fire, over

 

 

 

 

 

 

HE 117 charge 3, zero 346 degrees, angle of sight 2 degrees

>>

 

 

A Tp loads

 

 

Right ranging, 7700, fire

>>

 

 

A Tp Nos 1 & 2 lay and fire

 

 

HE 117 charge 3, zero 346 degrees, angle of sight 2 degrees

>>

 

 

 

 

 

 

<<

HE 117 charge 3, zero 346 degrees, angle of sight 2 degrees

 

 

 

<<

Shot 7700, over

 

 

 

 

Shot 7700, over

>>

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HE 117 charge 3, zero 345 degrees, angle of sight 1 degree 50 minutes, 7600

>>

B Tp loads

Right 50 add 200, over

>>

 

 

 

 

 

 

<<

Right 50 add 200, over

 

 

 

 

 

 

More 20 minutes, 7900

>>

 

 

A Tp Nos 1 & 2 lay and fire

 

 

More 20 minutes, 7900

>>

 

 

 

 

 

 

<<

More 20 minutes, 7900

 

 

 

 

 

 

More 20 minutes, 7800

>>

 

 

<<

Shot over

 

 

 

 

Shot over

>>

 

 

 

 

 

Ranging continues

7750, 1 round gunfire, over

>>

 

 

 

 

 

 

<<

7750, 1 round gunfire, over

 

 

 

 

 

 

7750, 1 round gunfire

>>

 

 

 

 

 

 

<<

7750, 1 round gunfire

 

 

 

 

7750, 1 round gunfire

>>

 

 

A Tp lays and fires

 

 

 

 

7650, 1 round gunfire

>>

B Tp lays and fires

 

<<

Shot over

 

 

 

 

Shot over

>>

 

 

 

 

 

Fire for effect continues

Battery Targets

The Battery CP (BCP) had only one wireless, which was on the regimental net.  Therefore if an OP decided to call a "Battery target", he did so on the battery wireless net by ordering the shoot to both Troop CPs and using a map reference.  The OP's own TCP repeated all orders and the other TCP acknowledged them, both sent their reports to the OP.

When the battery participated in formation (divisional, etc) targets initiated by CRA's representatives, etc, the BCP received the orders from RHQ.  For regimental targets from a CO's representative each BCP would receive the orders directly from the observer.  In these cases the BCP passed the target to its TCPs using the CP line.  For these targets the BCP calculated firing data for both troops and compared it to that calculated by each TCP.

Example 3 - Divisional Concentration by CRA's Representative

Showing communications traffic between regiments and batteries in one regiment (that is ready first and ranges).  Wireless code-signs:

 

OPO

 

Regiments

 

Batteries

Hullo Peter 12, message for Dog, Peter and Able.  Uncle target, Uncle target, Uncle target, over

>>

 

 

 

<<

DXT

Uncle target, Uncle target, Uncle target, over

 

 

<<

POP

Peter OK, over

 

 

<<

AYF

Able OK, over

 

 

 

POP

Uncle target, Uncle target, Uncle target, over

>>

 

 

POP

<<

TAN

Uncle target, Uncle target, Uncle target, over

 

POP

<<

EST

Easy OK , over

 

POP

<<

NJL

Nan OK, over

Target Uncle 21, map reference 543987, fire by order, right ranging, over

>>

 

 

 

<<

DXT

Target Uncle 21, map reference 543987, fire by order, right ranging, over

 

 

<<

POP

Peter OK, over

 

 

<<

AYF

Able OK, over

 

 

 

 

Target Uncle 21, map reference 543987, fire by order, right ranging, over

>>

 

 

POP

<<

TAN

Target Uncle 21, map reference 543987, fire by order, right ranging, over

 

POP

<<

EST

Easy OK , over

 

POP

<<

NJL

Nan OK, over

 

POP

<<

EST

Easy ready, over

 

POP

Easy ready, over

>>

 

<<

POP

Peter ready, over

 

 

Peter ready, Peter fire, All cancel fire by order, over

>>

 

 

 

<<

DXT

Peter fire, All cancel fire by order, over

 

 

<<

POP

Peter OK, over

 

 

<<

AYF

Able OK, over

 

 

 

POP

Easy fire, All cancel fire by order, over

>>

 

 

POP

<<

EST

Easy fire, All cancel fire by order, over

 

POP

<<

EST

Easy shot, over

 

POP

Easy shot, over

>>

 

<<

POP

Peter shot, over

 

 

Peter shot, over

>>

 

 

 

All South East 600, over

>>

 

 

 

<<

DXT

All South East 600, over

 

 

<<

POP

Peter OK, over

 

 

<<

AYF

Able OK, over

 

 

 

POP

All South East 600, over

>>

 

 

POP

<<

TAN

All South East 600, over

 

POP

<<

EST

East OK, over

 

POP

<<

NJL

Nan OK, over

 

POP

<<

EST

Easy shot, over

 

POP

Easy shot, over

>>

 

<<

POP

Peter shot, over

 

 

Peter shot, over

>>

 

 

 

All North 200, over

>>

 

 

 

<<

DXT

All North 200, over

 

 

<<

POP

Peter OK, over

 

 

<<

AYF

Able OK, over

 

 

 

POP

All North 200, over

>>

 

 

POP

<<

TAN

All North 200, over

 

POP

<<

EST

Easy OK, over

 

POP

<<

NJL

Nan OK, over

 

POP

<<

EST

Easy shot, over

 

POP

Easy shot, over

>>

 

<<

POP

Peter shot, over

 

 

Peter shot, over

>>

 

 

 

All 5 rounds gunfire, over

>>

 

 

 

<<

DXT

All 5 rounds gunfire, over

 

 

<<

POP

Peter OK, over

 

 

<<

AYF

Able OK, over

 

 

 

POP

All 5 rounds gunfire, over

>>

 

 

POP

<<

TAN

All 5 rounds gunfire, over

 

POP

<<

EST

Easy OK, over

 

POP

<<

NJL

Nan OK, over

 

POP

<<

EST

Easy shot, over

 

POP

<<

NJL

Nan shot, over

 

POP

<<

TAN

Tare shot, over

 

POP

Easy, Tare, Nan shot, over

>>

 

<<

POP

Peter shot, over

 

 

<<

AYF

Able shot, over

 

 

<<

DXT

Dog shot, over

 

 

Peter, Able, Dog shot, over

>>

 

 

 

All East 100, repeat, over

>>

 

 

 

<<

DXT

All East 100, repeat, over

 

 

<<

POP

Peter OK, over

 

 

<<

AYF

Able OK, over

 

 

 

POP

All East 100, repeat, over

>>

 

 

POP

<<

TAN

All East 100, repeat, over

 

POP

<<

EST

Easy OK, over

 

POP

<<

NJL

Nan OK, over

 

POP

<<

EST

Easy shot, over

 

POP

<<

TAN

Tare shot, over

 

POP

<<

NJL

Nan shot, over

 

POP

Easy, Tare, Nan shot, over

>>

 

<<

POP

Peter shot, over

 

 

<<

DXT

Dog shot, over

 

 

<<

AYF

Able shot, over

 

 

Peter, Dog, Able shot, over

>>

 

 

 

Record as target Uncle 21 at North 200, over

>>

 

 

 

<<

DXT

Record as target Uncle 21 at North 200, over

 

 

<<

POP

Peter OK, over

 

 

<<

AYF

Able OK, over

 

 

 

POP

Record as target Uncle 21 at North 200, over

>>

 

 

POP

<<

TAN

Record as target Uncle 21 at North 200, over

 

POP

<<

EST

Easy OK, over

 

POP

<<

NJL

Nan OK, over

 For regimental and formation targets that were initiated by an observer who was not a CO's, etc, Representative, the relevant HQ had to approve the shoot.  Normally such targets would be initiated by an OP ordering "Mike target, Mike target, Mike target" (etc) to his TCP, who passed it by CP line to the BCP who sent it by wireless to RHQ and the other batteries.  If ranging was ordered the TCP would immediately start preparing to fire.  RHQ would approve the shoot by ordering all or some batteries and a target number "Target numbered Mike 17, All engage" or if less than the full regiment "Target numbered Mike 33, Easy and Nan engage".  The same process was followed for formation targets.  After approving the target, the HQ did not participate further but the orders and reports would continue to flow from and to the OP along the same path - battery net between OP and TCP, CP line to BCP, regimental net from OP's BCP to other BCPs.  If it was a divisional target then RHQs would be involved as in Example 3.

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