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The Phantom Batteries of Plan XVII
The surviving archival records of the five heavy artillery regiments, which consist mostly of the war diaries (journaux de marches et operations) of individual batteries and groups of batteries, also provide a mixture of confirmation and confusion. They agree with the testimony of Plan XVII in respect to the organization of the three ‘standard’ heavy artillery regiments, as well as the ‘all-gun’ 4th Heavy Artillery Regiment. They provide a somewhat different structure, however, for the 2nd Heavy Artillery Regiment. In particular, they describe that unit as consisting of six batteries of Rimailho howitzers and three batteries of Baquet howitzers. That is to say, rather than being a hybrid organization that was armed with both guns and howitzers, the 2nd Heavy Artillery Regiment described in the war diaries was a smaller version of a standard heavy artillery regiment.
Though they do not resolve the issue of the 2nd Heavy Artillery Regiment, the war diaries of the heavy artillery regiments provide valuable information about the way that the other regiments were mobilized for war. In particular, the war diary of the 2nd Group (2ème Groupe) of the 4th Heavy Artillery Regiment explains how two peacetime batteries of 120mm guns (the 3rd and the 4th) were expanded into four wartime batteries (the 3rd, 4th, 23rd and 24th) This tale is identical to the one told by the published regimental history of the 1st Group of the 4th Heavy Artillery Regiment, which shows the ‘doubling’ (dédoublement) of two peacetime batteries (the 1st and 2nd) into four wartime batteries (the 1st, 2nd, 21st and 22nd).  (The assembly of the ‘doubled’ batteries of the 4th Heavy Artillery Regiment into four-battery groups is also consistent with the text of Plan XVII.)
Archives de Guerre, Carton 26N1076.
Archives de Guerre, Carton 26N1079.
Anonymous, Historique des 4ème, 81ème et 281ème Régiments d’Artillerie Lourde à Tracteurs Pendant la Guerre 1914-1918, (Paris: Berger-Levrault, no date provided), pp. 1-2.
In the French Army of the early twentieth century, a ‘group’ (groupe) was a field artillery unit that consisted of two, three or four batteries. Usually commanded by an officer with the rank of major (chef d’escadron), it was the rough equivalent of a British field artillery brigade, a German field artillery Abteilung or an American field artillery battalion.