The sFH 93 was the first heavy howitzer which could be deployed with field artillery. Previously 15cm howitzers were very heavy and relegated to siege artillery since their weight meant it required a major logistical effort to deploy. The genesis of the sFH 93 relied on two events. The findings of an evaluation of projectiles required to destroy field fortifications, such as covered dugouts, in 1889-90 by the German Army, showed that a projectile of at least 40kg was needed. The only suitable calibre was 15cm since the projectile would be too long, and therefore unstable, with smaller calibres. The second factor was the development of Krupp of high strength Nickel steel alloys1 which allowed gun barrels to be fabricated from much lighter castings.2
The design of the sFH 93 was in response to a German Army specification issued in 1891. Both Krupp and the Spandau submitted designs and after evaluation of prototypes a design using a combination of the Krupp barrel and the slightly lighter Spandau carriage was accepted for production as the 15cm schwere Feldhaubitze M1893. The emplaced weight of the howitzer was 2189 kg, within the capability of a six horse team to tow the howitzer and limber. The addition of a heavy howitzer to German field artillery added a significant capability to the German Army. Although it took some years to work out the correct doctrines for using this capability the presence of mobile heavy howitzers stood the German Army in good stead in the early months of WW1. Total production numbers for the sFH 93 are not known but it is believed about 600 howitzers were built.
The sFH 93 was a conventional design for the time, lacking recoil absorption with a flat plate breech block locked with a screw thread. The design of the obturator is not known (by the author) with certainty but it's believed it was a copper Broadwell ring which pushed onto a flat steel insert in the breech block - this was similar to other contemporary Krupp designs. The howitzer used bagged propellant with a separately loaded projectile. Firing was by friction tube inserted in a hole in the centre of the breech block. The sFH 93 could fire a range of projectiles including a number of HE types, incendiary and smoke rounds - these are detailed at 2 The howitzer was intended to be used for indirect fire only and had a simple arc sight similar to other German guns of the time. Details of the gun laying practice are explained in 3. The rate of fire was quite low, at most 2 - 3 rounds/min, since the howitzer had to be relayed after each shot. For extended firings the howitzer would be sited on cane mats with wooden recoil wedges to reduce the tendency to dig into ground. A hydraulic buffer tube was also used to absorb the recoil when firing from fixed platforms. This was fixed to the end of the trail and laid out under the gun and anchored into the ground or firing platform.
|Barrel Length||1616mm L/10.8|
|Weight of Gun (Emplaced)||2189 kg|
|Elevation||0° to +65°|
|Muzzle Velocity||280 m/sec|
|Max. Range||6.05 km|
|Shell Weight||41 kg|
Although the sFH 93 was obsolete at the start of WW1 it served throughout the war primarily in reserve and training units. A fair number of sFH 93 howitzers survived WW1 and were surrendered to the Allies.
Taki 5 notes that the Japanese Army acquired 18 sFH 93. These were used in the Siege of Port Arthur in 1904. The data Taki quotes for the sFH 93 suggests a lightened howitzer firing a 36 kg projectile. It's not known whether this was Japanese practice or a gun produced specifically for the Japanese.
Turkey acquired 36 sFH 93 in 1913. These seem to have been a "make up" batch of guns since Turkey had heavy losses of artillery in the Balkan War of 1912-13 and the Germans were unable to supply modern 15cm howitzers. Although it's recorded that the sFH 93s saw service at Gallipoli in 1915, nothing else is known about them and there seem to be no survivors.
The sFH 93 seems to have been built using 19th century engineering standards so these howitzers have generally survived well, unlike the later and lighter constructed guns. The following is a selection of surviving sFH 93s.
The following surviving sFH93s are at:
Virginia Museum, Newport News, VA
ANZAC Park, Nyah, Vic, Australia - now at Swan Hill, Vic for restoration
National WW1 Museum, Kansas City, MO.
This walkaround was done by Lieven de Coninck of the restored 15cm sFH 93 at the Artillerieschule at Idar Oberstein.