10.5cm leFH 16 105mm Towed Field Howitzer
10.5cm leFH 16 series howitzers arrived in time to see action in World War 1 and survived the interwar years to see service in World War 2.
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When the once-fluid fronts of World War 1 degraded into trench warfare, all sides sought methods for dislodging the entrenched enemy. Artillery was one such weapon and it proved highly critical against all manner of targets - infantry, fortifications, tanks. As such, field guns and howitzers proliferated the various fronts that began to spring up by the time of early 1915. Field guns offered direct line-of-fire attack angles while howitzers dealt with target areas through indirect fire by lobbing their munitions loads. In 1916, the Imperial German Army took on the new "10.5cm leiche Feldhaubitze 16" (105mm light Field Howitzer Model of 1916) series guns. These guns would serve the German Empire until the end of the fighting in November of 1918. Manufacture was through Krupp.
Its design was highly classical, incorporating large, spoked wheels to either side of the box trail carriage arrangement. The gun and recoil mechanism was set atop the mounting hardware which provided an inherent elevation span of -10 to +40 degrees. Traverse was limited to 4-degrees from centerline. The weapon was chambered for a standard 105mm projectile and loaded through a horizontal sliding breech block. The shells were separate loading utilizing a cased charge element. Each projectile weighed 33lbs and were available in a HE (High-Explosive) or AP (Armor-Piercing) flavor. A typical gunnery crew numbered six personnel, each charged with a certain task during the firing and reloading phase and ammunition supplies were only limited to those on hand from artillery tractors or similar stores. The crew was only minimally protected through a curved gun shield ahead of the breech. A cutout along the left-hand side of the shield allowed for protected vision beyond the shield itself.
As a complete battlefield piece, the leFH 16 weighed 3,360lbs which required the services of mover vehicles or animals for transport. The crew could, with much effort, relocate the gun across short distances. A trained gunnery crew could fire off between four and five rounds per minute for sustained fire out to ranges reaching 10,100 yards. Muzzle velocity was 1,300 feet per second.
With the Armistice of 1918, the guns fell into Belgian Army hands as war reparations for the German invasion. These existed under this ownership until the second invasion of Belgium by Germany during the opening salvoes of World War 2. Once Belgium was again conquered, these guns then fell back into the German inventory and were redesignated as "10.5cm leFH 327(b)" - the lower-case "b" signifying their Belgian origins, this despite the fact that the guns were truly German in their origin. The weapons then went on to fight under the German flag once more until the end of World War 2 in 1945, usually deployed in areas where the base German Army howitzer stock was limited.