15th Field Artillery Brigade 5th Division Artillery, AIF

About This Unit

Big thumb 5th division artillery

The 15th Field Artillery Brigade was raised in February 1916 to support the newly raised 5th Division.  It was comprised as follows (February 1916 – 22 January 1917)

5th Division Artillery HQ

57th Field Artillery Battery

58th Field Artillery Battery

59th Field Artillery Battery

15th Brigade Ammunition Column

It took part in the 1916 campaigns but was disbanded on 22 January 1917.

Napoleon Bonaparte famously described Artillery as "the God of War" because of the effect that its fire can bring to bear on the battlefield.  In WW 1 on the Western Front, artillery dominated and defined the battlefield. In concert with the weather, it turned the terrain into the pulverised devastated quagmire that is so synonomous with that period and place. 

Artillery inflicted the most casualties and battle space damage and instilled the most fear among opposing forces. Its effect was both physical and psychological, with the term 'shell shock' coming into general use early in the war.  Artillery required a Herculean logistic effort to keep ammunition up to the guns from manufacture to the gun line. It was also a very dangerous occupation, attracting the attention of the enemy, the general result of which was 'counter battery fire' designed to neutralise and destroy gun positions and ammunition.

At the outbreak of the War, Australian Artillery was in short supply in both quantitative and qualitative terms.  

The standard field gun was the British 18 pounder (so-called because of the weight of the high explosive shell).  When the AIF embarked, its artillery was light-on indeed.  As it turned out the scope to use it at Gallipoli was extremely constrained anyway so it mattered less than had the AIF gone straight to Europe, where artillery was the definitive feature of the battlefield. 

At ANZAC, guns were deployed singly purely becasue of a lack of suitable fire positions.  The 18 pounders were the first into action but later an improvised heavy Battery was formed with two  6 inch (150mm) howitzers and a 4.7 inch (120mm) Naval Quick Firing gun.

Artillery units had arguably the least intuitive structure and organisation of any of the major Corps in the AIF. This in part reflected changing priority and availability of equipment.

The standard organisation of Field Artillery took on the form of the Field Artillery Brigade which were formed to support infantry Brigades. In 1914 and 1915 the First and Second Division each had three brigades (initially corresponding to the Brigade numeric designation) equipped with 12 x 18 pounder field guns.  On arrival in France, the artillery was reorganised with each field artillery brigade having 12 x 18 pounders and 4 x 4.5 inch howitzers. There was initially a lack of howitzers available to meet the establishment.

Each Brigade generally comprised three Batteries of four 18 Pounder Mk 1 or II guns. With a range of about 6,500 yards (almost 6km) they fired a range of ammuntion natures including High Explosive fragmentation, Shrapnel, Smoke, Gas, Star (illumination) and Armour Piercing projectiles.  For the record, most gas used in WW1was fired from specialised low velocity projectors operated by Engineers.

As the war progressed, concentration became the name of the game to facilitate command and control at the highest level.  Later a range of  independent Batteries equipped with specialised weapons like Siege Artillery, Heavy Howitzers and Medium and Heavy Mortars were added to the mix generally at Division level or higher.  The allocation of their fire support was managed accordingly.  See the entry for Divisional artillery for further information.

In March 1916 a fourth battery of four 18 pounder field guns was added. At the same time a Howitzer Brigade was raised for each division with 12 x 4.5 inch howitzers each.

In January 1917, batteries were increased in size to 6 guns each in order to economise on headquarters structures and the number of Field Artillery Brigades in each division was reduced to two.

 

Steve Larkins Nov 2014

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