The origins of the Skoda 15cm Autokanone M.15/16 gun can be traced back to well before 1914, when the old Austro-Hungarian army finally decided to replace the 15cm Belagerungskanone M.1888. When war broke out the gun was still a paper project, but development was hurried, and in 1915 the first prototype could be tested. Due to the pressing needs caused by the war, the testing was hurried as well, and the result was a not too perfect gun.
The gun emerged as a big, rather akward-looking, heavy thing that had to be broken down into two loads (barrel and carriage) to be transported, even though the gun from the outset was designed as a "Autokanone", that is, a gun that was to be towed by motorized tractors, like the Austro-Daimler Artilleriezugwagen M.17. The design of the gun was pretty standard, with a hydraulic recoil mechanism.
The pure artilleristic performace was no too bad, though. It could fire a 56kg heavy standard shell with a muzzle velocity of 700 m/sec up to a range of over 16km. After the first 28 copies were produced, the elevation mechanism was modified, which enabled to increase elevation from +30° to +45°, which, with a new type of shell with more streamlined outline, gave the gun a maximum range of some 21km. This slightly modified gun was given the designation M.15/16. The rate of fire was low: one shell per minute, and the on-carriage traverse was limited: 6° to either side. It weighed 11.9tons emplaced, 16.4 tons when in movement mode. Hardly surprising, it required a crew of 13. The true calibre was 152mm, and the length of the barrel was 5.1m. It came with a removable shield, to protect the crew against splinters.
Although unwieldy it was a potent gun, and after WW1 it was used by the armies of Austria (only two guns, though), Czechoslovakia and Italy &ndsh; who had aquired a number of these guns as war booty quite and war reparations, and used them under the designation of the Cannone da 152/37 – the "37" denoting the approximate length of the barrel. (During the 20-ies the Italian guns had been extensively refurbished by the firm of Vickers-Terni and provided with new barrel liners, chambers and revised wheels.) By June 1940 the Italians still had 29 of these guns in service, and they saw action in Albania, Greece and North Africa. By the end of 1940 only 21 serviceable guns were left, all but four of them based in Italy, and some of which were installed as coastal defence guns.
The German Army also came to use this gun. In 1939 the guns in Czech service had been put in reserve, but were deemed serviceable enough to be taken over by the Germans, who used them in the Atlantic Wall defences as the 15.2cm K 15/16(t). Later in 1943, some of the guns still in Italian service, were taken over by the Germans, under the designation of 15.2cm K 410(i). It is however doubtful if the German Army ever used them in action.
This very well preserved Autokanone M.15/16 below can be seen in the excellent Heeresgeschichtliches Museum in Vienna. The colour could very well be the original, but probably the one originating from the Austrian Army of the between war period.
The Italian firm of Il Principe Nero has issued an excellent 1/72 resin kit of this gun (see Kit Reviews section).