10.5cm leichte Feldhaubitze 98/09 (1)

The 10.5cm Field Howitzer 98/09 was one of the most numerous and important guns in the arsenal of the German artillery during WW1, but is paradoxically unknown, at least if compared to its brother, the 7.7cm FK 96 n.A. Field Gun.

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In the organization of 1914 the Artillery Regiments consisted of two battalions, most of which were equipped with the 7.7cm Field Gun. (And each having 18 pieces.) In some Regiments, however, the second battalion was equipped with the 98/09 (again 18 pieces) and the idea was that each Army Corps should dispose one of these "mixed" regiments as an extra resource. At the outset of the war, the German Army was equipped with 1.260 of these Light Field Howitzers.

Like the 7.7cm Field Gun, the 10.5cm Field Howitzer 98/09 started out as an old type of gun with rigid carriage. It has been proposed that the lFH 98/09 followed the same modernisation as the FK96, that is, mating the old tube to a modern type of recoil mechanism and carriage. However, the barrel of the lFH Model 1898 was a much older design than the "ringkanone" type of the newer gun. Fortunately a few examples of the older gun still survive (see below). In any case in 1902 work started on modernizing the howitzer and was completed in 1904, but it was not recommended to be accepted until 1909, thus the 98/09 designation.

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The design was pretty standard. The barrel was short - partly to keep the weight down. The recoil mechanism was based on a combination of springs and fluid (glycerin). The breech was of the single motion wedge block type. The aiming instruments were also standard, with an elevation drum, marked both in degrees, and with three different meter scales (for the three different types of ammunition: HE, Shrapnel and HE/Shrapnel) and a dial sight both for direct and indirect fire. The lavette alone weighed some 825 kilos, and was equipped with a earth spade that could be set in different angles, depending on the ground. The shield was slightly curved, and had a foldable lower part. It was also equipped with two seats on the front.

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In action, the gun functioned very well, delivering grenades at a high rate with much more destructive power than the Field Gun was ever capable. And when the trench warfare started, it became pretty well indispensable (and much more useful than the Field Gun) as it was a howitzer and as such capable of delivering devastating plunging fire over obstacles or right into trenches. (At the same time, the main opponents lacked a similar weapon. Especially the French soon found this out the hard way.) And in contrast with the Field Gun, the grenades were very effective. The only problem with the gun was that the range was a bit short. In an effort to increase it, the number of charges was increased from 7 to 8.

The importance of the gun was showed, when the German artillery was reorganized in 1916, many battallions became mixed, the number of Field Howitzer batteries being increased to 1/3 of the total.

Two new models in the same calibre was introduced during the war, but never replaced the 10.5cm Field Howitzer 98/09, which was used all through the war, and with great effect. It was also used during the War by the Ottoman Army, and after the war by the Romanians.

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The gun below belongs to the Royal British Legion (Cranbrook Branch). It was accepted by Cranbrook Parish Council in 1920 as a war trophy, and recently recovered. The 36 Engineer Regiment Workshop REME at Maidstone have now restored this piece.

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The photos below were taken by Mark Hansen, at the Australian War Museum in Canberra, whose WW1 collection is among the best in the world, and that contains a number of unique items:

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Calibre105 mm
Barrel length1625 mm
No. of Barrel Grooves32
Barrel weight365 kg
Axle width1530mm
Width of wheels80mm
Min./Max. Elevation-10°/+40°
Weight limbered2260 kg
Weight emplaced1225 kg
Weight of grenade15.8kg (F.H>Gr.05)
15.7kg (F.H.Gr.98)
12.8kg (F.H.Schr.98)
Number of Charges7, later 8
Muzzle Velocity302m/sec
Max. Range6,300 m