Artillery firepower still reigned supreme over the battlefields of World War 1 despite the arrival of the aircraft and the "tank" as viable weapons of war. There was considerable pressure put on war time industries to continually output all manner of guns in various useful calibers to coincide with available ammunition types of each army. The Imperial German Army fielded several field gun types during the conflict and one such device became the 7.7cm Feldkanone 96 ("77mm Field Cannon Model of 1896"). as its designation would suggest, the type was first adopted in 1896 and saw use throughout World War 1 into the Armistice of November 1918. A modernized form then appeared in 1904 (7.7cm FK 96 n.A.) and an all-new improved gun replaced the line in 1916 (7.7cm FK 16).
Field guns provided war planners with a long range reach in which apply direct or indirect fire against concentrations of enemy troops or fortifications. As such, they could fire a variety of projectiles ranging from high-explosive to shrapnel. By the time of World War 1, such artillery pieces were breech-loading implements (as opposed to muzzle-loading) with integrated recoil mechanisms which allowed the gun unit to stay in place after firing (the recoil force being absorbed through various means). In this way, the weapon could consistently be training in on the target area without realignment.
However, the FK 96 retained an origination in 1896 in which a viable recoil mechanism was yet to be produced. This was finally brought about by the French through their excellent "Canon de 75 modele 1897" in 1897 - just one year after the German adoption of the FK 96 - which rendered non-recoiled systems essentially obsolete. The FK 96 instead used a crude spade brake on its trail to handle the violent recoil but it was never truly enough - guns would literally "stand up" on their rears when fired which limited how much traverse could be applied. Overall, the design of the system was conventional for the period and included the gun barrel of 77mm, a mounting system with elevation handles and multi-spoked solid wheels. The weapon was transported by animal and required a crew of five personnel to manage efficiently - from command to ammunition handlers to gunner. The storied German concern of Krupp managed the design and development of the FK 96 and many other guns of the German Army through two World Wars.
Prior to World War 1 in 1904, the German Army was pressed to update its stock of FK 96 guns to keep pace with French firepower. This involved rebuilding existing systems to a more modern standard with only the barrels of the original units being retained in the program. This initiative produced the new designation of "7.7cm FK 96 n.A." with "n.A." signifying its position as "new model" ("neuer Art" in the German). A prominent recoil mechanism was added under the barrel as in the French design and a pole trail facilitated transport at the carriage rear. A squat gun shield rounded out the list of improvements and provided some protection for the crew behind. Not all guns in stock were updated as such and older, untouched FK 96 guns were assigned the designation of "7.7cm FK 96 a.A." to signify their "Old Model" status.
FK 96 guns relied on separate ammunition components made up of the projectile and a cased charge section. Shells were in the 77mm chambering (3") and fed through a horizontal sliding wedge breech mechanism. The recoil action of modernized units was controlled through a hydro-spring system. Elevation ranged from -12 to + 15 degrees while traverse was limited to 4-degrees in either direction. Beyond that, the gunnery crew would need to use its strength to turn the weapon on its wheels. A trained gunnery crew could supply a rate-of-fire of 10 rounds per minute. Muzzle velocity of each exiting round was 1,525 feet per second and effective range was out to 6,000 yards with a maximum engagement range out to 9,200 yards. Each FK 96 system weighed in at 2,200lbs which necessitated its crew of five (two were afforded crude metal seats behind the gun shield). Laying was accomplished through a tangent sight. The weapon measured a length of nearly 7 feet and a width of 5 feet.
The FK 96 system was cleared to fire a 15lb High-Explosive (HE) shell, a 15lb Shrapnel Shell with HE detonation, a 15lb Shrapnel projectile, an anti-tank projectile, a standard smoke-producing shell, an illumination shell for night and low-level light operations and a poison gas shell. As such, the weapon could be called upon to produce a variety of effects on the battlefield including general attack, defense, gas attack, illumination for night time attacks and smoke screens prior to major offensives. With the arrival of British tanks, the weapon could then be trained on the slow moving targets and utilized as a direct line of sight anti-tank gun. It is noteworthy that many Allied tanks of the war were lost to artillery and mechanical unreliability than to any other battlefield weapon.
Both versions of the FK 96 field gun were utilized throughout World War 1. In time, however, the decades-old development showcased its limited use (primarily range) in the presence of deeper battlefields brought about by the stalemate of trench warfare. This then resulted in the design, development and subsequent introduction of the much improved "7.7cm FK 16 of 1916" which increased effective engagement ranges out to 10,000 yards.
The FK 96 saw use beyond the German Army in World War 1. Operators went on to include the Kingdom of Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and German allies the Ottoman Empire. Boer forces in South African procured the type and used them against British and Commonwealth forces in the 1899-1902 Second Boer War.
FK 96 series guns were used up until 1918. A British-captured example is on display at the Bovington Tank Museum in the UK, the gun having participated in combat against the 7th Battalion Tank Corps near Graincourt and afforded the nickname of "The Graincourt Gun".
The "Military Factory" name and MilitaryFactory.com logo are registered ® U.S. trademarks protected by all applicable domestic and international intellectual property laws. All written content, illustrations, and photography are unique to this website (unless where indicated) and not for reuse/reproduction in any form. Material presented throughout this website is for historical and entertainment value only and should not to be construed as usable for hardware restoration, maintenance, or general operation. We do not sell any of the items showcased on this site. Please direct all other inquiries to militaryfactory AT gmail.com.
Part of a network of sites that includes GlobalFirepower, a data-driven property used in ranking the top military powers of the world, WDMMA.org, the World Directory of Modern Military Aircraft, and SR71blackbird.org, detailing the history of the world's most iconic spyplane.