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Artillery for the Levant (1925)
In 1925, in a long article proposing reforms to French infantry units stationed in the Mandate of Syria, Lieutenant Colonel Abel Clément-Grandcourt provided a brief sketch of the ideal artillery component of that force. The only sort of batteries to serve in Syria, he argued, should be mountain batteries.1 These, moreover, should be of two kinds: batteries of 105mm mountain howitzers and batteries armed with a combination of 75mm mountain guns and rifled mortars.
Of the three artillery pieces needed to realize the scheme laid out by Clément-Grandcourt, none were in service with the French Army of 1925. Two - the 75mm mountain guns and the mountain howitzers - could be found in the catalogues of private arms makers, such as Schneider and Skoda. One - a rifled mortar with a caliber in the vicinity of 90 to 95 millimeters - existed only in his imagination.
The model for the proposed mountain howitzer batteries came from analogous units of the old Austro-Hungarian armies. Armed with 105mm pieces that could either be pulled by a single horse or carried, in parts, on the backs of pack animals, these tackled tasks beyond the capability of batteries armed with mountain guns of the ordinary type. (Clément-Grandcourt would have preferred to employ mountain howitzers with a caliber of 120mm or so. Such weapons, however, did not yet exist.)
Inspiration for the mixed mountain batteries imagined by Clément-Grandcourt came from the field batteries that had served in the armies of Napoleon I. Just as the Napoleonic batteries had been armed with a pair of howitzers and four field guns, the mixed mountain batteries were to have two mortars and four mountain guns. Where the mountain guns were to fire 75mm shells comparable to those of the standard French field gun, the mortars were to deliver projectiles similar to those of the field guns introduced in the 1870s. (These were the 90mm piece designed by Charles Ragon de Bange and the 95mm field gun designed by Périer de Lahitolle.)2
Source: Lieutenant-Colonel Clément-Grandcourt, “La Tactique d’après guerre et ses applications au Levant (VII): Organisation, Armament, Outillage,” Revue d’Infanterie, Volume 66, Numero 397 (octobre 1925), pp. 575-577
For Further Reading:
While Clément-Grandcourt did not wish to maintain artillery units other than mountain batteries in Syria, he nonetheless advocated the prepositioning of matériel for a siege train that would be armed with trench mortars of the heavier sort and a few long-range guns.
Clément-Grandcourt had heard rumors of the 90mm mortars designed by Colonel de Bange in the 1880s. Indeed, he believed that one of the prototypes could be found in the arsenal at Bourges.