Canon de Montagne de 65mm Schneider Modèle 1906
by Charlie Clelland

65mm Mle 1906 1

The Mle 1906 mountain gun was designed by Col. Ducrest to replace the Canon de Montagne de 80mm De Bange Mle 18781 which lacked recoil absorption and had been rendered obsolete by the development of guns with full recoil absorption in the 1890s. The gun was designed to be broken into 4 parts for transport by mules. The trail was hinged to make a more compact package for transport. The fore part of the carriage was hinged around the trunnions and the two parts held in place by a spreader bar. The problem of keeping the weight of the gun as low as possible while retaining useful ballistic performance was addressed by the development of an unusual recoil mechanism. Recoil absorption was by a hydraulic cylinder with two flanking springs as recuperators. The gun was loaded with the barrel in the full recoil position, the receiver being held back with a catch. There was a ratchet to pull the barrel back but this was only used for the first shot, normally the barrel was captured at full recoil from the previous shot. When the gun was fired the barrel moved forward, driven by the recuperator springs, the cartridge was fired just before the barrel reached the battery position. Much of the recoil was absorbed by dissipating the momentum of the forward motion of the barrel. The recoil assembly could be made much lighter since it did not have to absorb all the recoil force. The emplaced weight of the Mle 1906 mountain gun was 400 kg which compares favourably with the 529kg of the 75mm Krupp M08 mountain gun of similar performance. To be fair the Mle 1906 gun did not have a gun shield whereas the Krupp gun did.

The initial order for the Mle 1906 mountain gun was for 120 guns2 which equipped the Regiments d'artillerie de Montagne supporting the Chasseurs Alpins. The Mle 1906 guns proved to be very effective on the Salonica front where mountainous terrain and terrible ground conditions meant the employment of field artillery was at best difficult and often impossible. The Mle 1906 was placed back in production in 1916 although the number of guns built is not known it was of the order of some hundreds of guns. A later modification applied to the gun was a castering wheel at the end of the trail presumably to improve the manouverability of the gun in battery.

Serbia4 was supplied with 65mm Mle 1906 guns by France after the defeat of the Serbian Army in 1915.

Data3 
Calibre65mm L/18.5
Weight of Gun (emplaced)400kg
Elevation-9° to +32°
Traverse
Max. Rangeat 330m/sec - 5500m
Rate of Fire15 rounds/min
CartridgesShrapnel (Mle 1908) 4.45kg with 138 balls
 HE (Mle 1910) 3.8kg with 0.5kg explosive
Rate of Fire15 rounds/min

65mm Mle 1906 2 65mm Mle 1906 3 65mm Mle 1906 4 65mm Mle 1906 5 65mm Mle 1906 6 65mm Mle 1906 7

Video of a battery of Canon de Montagne de 65mm Schneider firing courtesy of Landships forum user "PDA".


Postwar Service and Survivors

France

The French Army kept the Mle 1906 on strength as an infantry gun in the French colonies and although replaced as a mountain gun by the 75mm Mle 1919 Schneider it remained in service until WW2. Many Mle 1906 mountain guns were sold or donated after WW1 to a number of countries. After the French surrender in 1940, Germans used the captured guns as 6,5 cm GebK 221(f). The following image is a postcard of a battery of 65mm Mle 1906 guns between the wars.

65mm Mle 1906 8

Greece

Greece5 was donated Mle 1906 guns after WW1 and some of these were sent to support Greek forces in Turkey during the Turkish War of Independence 1919-22. At the outbreak of WW2 there were 110 Mle 1906 guns still in service. There are two Mle 1906 guns at the Naval Museum at Cannakale, Turkey. It's thought these were captured from Greek forces in the War of Independence. Images - Rob Langham.

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Poland

Poland6 received Mle 1906 guns from France in the 1920s, 24 of these were still in service at the start of WW2 with the 1st and 2nd Mountain Brigades.


China

China7 bought a number of Mle 1906 guns from France in the 1920s. They were likely employed by Long Yun, the warlord in Yunnan Province, who was supported by the French authorities in Indochina. There is a survivor in the Armed Forces Museum, Beijing - Images user "xingbake" Overvalwagen forum

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Israel

Israel8 acquired 35 Mle 1906 mountain guns in 1948. The first shipment of 5 guns was almost lost since it arrived just before the end of the British mandate in Palestine on a ship which had been intercepted by the British. The mandate ended before a thorough search of the ship could be conducted. The Mle 1906 was known as "Napoleonchik" as a comment on the gun's origin and age. The most famous action of the Mle 1906 guns was the defeat of the Syrian attack on Kibbutz Degania on 21 May 1948 - the Mle 1906s were used without the correct sights in this action. Some of the Mle 1906s were truck-mounted as improvised SPGs and a pair was used on the ex-HMCS disarmed corvette Beauharnois. A number of Mle 1906 guns have survived as memorials in Israel. Images - Wikipedia Commons

Yad Mordecai Museum

65mm Mle 1906 25

Beyt ha-Totchan Museum

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Batey ha-Osef (IDF History Museum), Tel Aviv

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Clandestine Immigration and Naval Museum, Haifa. (Missing Trail)

65mm Mle 1906 31

Notes
  1. Dr Jean-Marie Balliet "Canon de montagne de 65 mm Mle 1906" - www.artillerie.info.
  2. Franz Kosar, "Artillerie im 20. Jahrhundert",
  3. Data from François Vauvillier & Pierre Touzin, "Les Canons de la Victoire 1914-1918 Tome 1", p.10
  4. http://www.network54.com/Forum/330333/message/1255632468/Mountain+guns
  5. http://www.network54.com/Forum/330333/message/1205796072/Greek+artillery
  6. http://www.1939.pl/uzbrojenie/polskie/artyleria/a_gorska_65mm/index.html
  7. http://www.network54.com/Forum/330333/message/1263705380/2cd+part+of+Chinese+armaments
  8. Personal Communication - Curator, Yad Mordecai Museum, Irael