Before 1914 Austria-Hungary had several potential war theatres that involved mountains or very hilly terrain, and consequently the Autro-Hungarian Army employed and/or tested a number of Mountain Gun types. They varied from the very old and virtually outdated 7cm M75 and M99, over the 7cm M8 (which used the same ammunition as the older types), some export guns, pressed in small numbers into service at the outset of the War (like the 7.5cm M13, a Krupp gun originally made for the Chinese Army, the 7.5cm M14, another export gun, this one made by Skoda) and a number of different mountain howitzers, like the 10cm M8, the 10cm M10 and the 10cm M16. (Note that in Austro-Hungarian guns the "M" stands for "Muster" meaning "pattern".)
The most numerous, important and also best mountain gun of the Austro-Hungarian Army was however the 7.5cm Gebirgskanone M15, made by Skoda. (Or, as the complete name of the maker was: Skodawerke Actien-Gesellschaft in Pilsen.)
The M15 was pretty standard in design: a steel barrel mounted on and above the recoil cradle, the recoil system being of the hydro-pneumatic type, with the return of the barrel being aided by springs (what in german was called "Federvorholer"). The length of the barrel was 1.15m, i.e. L/15. The breech was of the semi-automatic sliding wedge type, and it was fired using a standard percussion device (with a catch, preventing accidental misfiring before properly closing the breech).
The shield consisted of two parts, of which the lower one was foldable. Being a mountain gun, it could be disassembled into 5 units: carriage, inner barrel, outer barrel, cradle and shield. The disassembled carriage could be carried by 7 men, all the other units by 4 men each, the gun requiring a total of 23 men if manhandled in a disassembled state. It could also be pulled, either in a semi-disassembled state, it was divided into three packs, all pulled by one horse each, or in assembled state by two horses.
The M15 could fire HE grenades (type M14 or M14a, which weighed 6.3 kilos), Shrapnel and the hybrid type of HE Shrapnel (which weighed 6.5 kilos). It is believed that it also could fire Gas Grenades. The HE grenades had an explosive charge consisting of ekrasite. The propellant was divided into three part charges (Teilladungen), and also an additional charge (Zusatzladung). Because of the part charges, and the guns high elevation (+50°) it could be used as a sort of quasi-howitzer. And the additonal charge could extend the range with an additional 1000 meters, making the maximum range some 8 kilometers.
Note however that the gun was usually used for direct fire at the comparatively short range of 1000-2500 meters. The M15 needed a firing crew of some 6 men, who could fire some 20 rounds a minute.
The gun was used to equip the GAR (Gebirgs-Artillerie-Regimenter) of the Austro-Hungarian Army, of which there were (nominally) 14 in 1914, and 28 in 1917. All batteries had originally a (again nominal) strength of 6 guns each. A GAR usually had 6 batteries of M15s, and 3 batteries of mountain howitzers, meaning that a standard GAR should have some 36 M15s. Both the numbers of batteries and the number of guns varied considerably, however. (Making this even more confused, on static fronts the Austro-Hungarian Army also used to employ ad-hoc batteries, mixing small numbers of cannons and howitzers in panny-packets.)
The Gebirgs-Artillerie-Regimenter substituted the ordinary Field Artillery Regiments (that usually were attached to each Corps) in some Corps. They were also initially a bit slow in the making. (In the first half of 1915, only 76 M15s were delivered to the Army, during the second half of 1915 some 250 - 252 barrel assemblies, 248 carriages - the surplus barrels were probably spares, intended for damaged guns.)
The Austro-Hungarian were quite pleased with the M15. The soundness of the design is proved by the fact, that it was kept in production well into the 1930s, equipping not only the Armies of Austria and Hungary but also those of Czechoslovakia and Italy, and other countries as well. It was used in the early years of WW2 as well.
The German Army also aquired the M15 during WW1, using it as a Infantry Gun in close support, at times as substitutes for the 7.62cm Infanteriegeschütz L16.5 after they broke down. 14 Infanteriegeschütz-batallions were equiped with the M15, using the gun as it was, only supplying it with HE grenades with larger explosive charges and better fuses (E.K.Z.17 and K.Z.16. K.Z. = Kanonenzünder).
The Germans were, however, not pleased with their M15s. The main problem was that the German Army used the gun in a role that it was not intended for, i.e. the one as mobile close support gun. The M15 was designed in order to be disassembled, which meant that the main parts of the gun tended to become somewhat loose or disconnected after long, bumpy marches in a assembled state. (The Germans seldom disassembled it: there was not often need for that on the Western Front.)
Also, the diameter of the wheels and the track of the wheels themselves were thought to be too small, making the whole gun jumpy and unstable when on the march, and reducing the towing speed. Also, the velocity of the shell was considered to be a bit too slow. This was part of the explanation why it could be used as a sort of quasi-howitzer, but for the Germans, who also used it as a Anti-tank gun, this was a liability, as the penetration power of the shell was reduced.
These images below were taken by Giorgio Brigà, and show a gun on display at the Museo Militare della Cecchignola, in Rome.
|Weight of Gun (emplaced)||613.4 kg|
|Max. Range||7 km|
|Muzzle Velocity||350 m/sec|
|Shell Weight||5.5 - 6.5 kg|
Ostmodels produce a 1/76 kit of this gun. SHQ and Friend or Foe both make 1/72 scale offerings in white metal. (see Kit Reviews section)