Modern weapons and modern war, being an abridgment of The war of the future in its technical, economic and political relations, with a prefatory conversation with the author online

. (page 6 of 31)
Online LibraryUnknownModern weapons and modern war, being an abridgment of The war of the future in its technical, economic and political relations, with a prefatory conversation with the author → online text (page 6 of 31)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

war will appear an immense proportion of officers
and men from the reserves, who for many years
have taken no part in military exercises. As a
consequence of this, in every state appear popular
compositions with the object of informing the
public of the technique of modern war, all, almost
without exception, neglecting the economic side
of the question. Some prejudge a future war
from the example of history. Such neglect, as a
rule, the improvement of weapons and the in-
creased complexity of strategy and tactics.
Others, well informed as to the improvement of
weapons, but neglecting inevitable conclusions,
assume that war will last but a short time, and
therefore pay no attention to the financial and
economic perturbation which it will cause or its
effects on the moral condition of the people.

The late General Fadeleff very justly pointed
out the danger arising from such a state of affairs.
" The opinion of the people of their strength has
immense influence on the course of politics ; this
opinion is often frivolous and unfounded, though


from it may depend the destiny of nations. Yet
it is generally agreed that even the elements of
military affairs constitute a speciality which must
remain unknown by the public. But when the
moment comes to express its opinion on war and
peace, to balance the chances of success, it may
be assumed that of ten military specialists whose
authority is accepted nine will adopt the opinions
of the social medium in which they live. Thus a
public, entirely ignorant of military questions,
often becomes the deciding factor in decision.
To free oneself from the influence of public
opinion in such matters is impossible." It was
with the object of making accessible in some
degree information accumulated on all matters
directly or indirectly connected with war that the
present work was undertaken, of which this
volume is but an abridgment.

It is but a slight service to diagnose an illness
and pronounce it incurable. The position of the
European world, the organic strength of which is
wasted, on the one hand, in the sacrifice of
millions on preparations for war, and, on the
other, in a destructive agitation which finds in
militarism its apology and a fit instrument for
acting on the minds of the people, must be ad-
mitted to be abnormal and even sickly. Is it
possible that there can be no recovery from this .■*


We are deeply persuaded that a means of
recovery exists if the European states would but
set themselves the question — in what will result
these armaments and this exhaustion, what will
be the nature of a future war, can resource be
had to war even now for the decision of questions
in dispute, and is it possible to conceive the
settlement of such questions by means of the
cataclysm which, with modern means of destruc-
tion, a war between five Great Powers with ten
millions of soldiers would cause ?

Delay in the practical settlement of this ques-
tion is impossible. And when a settlement is
arrived at it will be shown that for twenty, forty
years millions have been wasted yearly on fruit-
less armaments which cannot be employed, and
by means of which the decision of international
disputes is inconceivable. But then it will be too
late ; then such immense losses will have been
sustained that Europe generally will be in a
worse position than Italy to-day. Then, instead
of the dangers of international war, other threaten-
ing symptoms will have appeared.

That war will become impossible in time — this
is indicated by all. Its apparatus grows more
rapidly than the productiveness of European
states, and preparations will continue to swallow
more and more of the income of peoples. Mean-


time the relations of the nations become closer
and closer, their interdependence more plain, and
their solidarity in any great convulsion will con-
stantly grow.

That war will finally become impracticable is
apparent. The question is more apposite —
when will the recognition of this inevitable truth
be spread among European governments and
peoples .'* When the impossibility of resorting to
war for the decision of international quarrels is
apparent to all, other means will be devised.




In former times bullets, for a great part of their course,
flew over the heads of the combatants, and were effective
only for an insignificant distance. The modern bullet will
strike all it meets for a distance of 660 yards, and after
the introduction of the more perfect arms now in course of
preparation the effective distance will be as great as
1 2 10 yards. And as it is most improbable that on the
field of battle it will not meet with a single living being in
such a distance, we may conclude that every bullet will
find its victim.

The old powder was a mechanical mixture of nitre,
sulphur, and charcoal, upon the ignition of which were
liberated many elements which did not enter into new
combinations. The new powder is a chemical combina-
tion which gives scarcely any smoke and produces no
empyreuma in the barrel. At the same time the explosive
force of the new powder is much greater than that of the
old, and its quality of smokelessness or of giving little
smoke, in the first place, renders it impossible to judge of
the position and forces of an enemy by smoke, and, in the
second, frees the marksmen from the clouds of smoke
which formerly were an obstacle to aiming. And as in the
opinion of many authorities the last word concerning
explosives has not yet been said, in the war of the future,
especially if it should take place some years from now,
explosives of such strength will be employed that the
concentration of armies in the open field, or even under
the cover of fortifications, will be almost impossible, so


that the apparatus of war prepared at the present time
may prove itself useless.

The improvement of small arms goes forward with
incredible speed. By the almost unanimous testimony of
competent persons, the changes which took place in the
course of five centuries cannot be compared in importance
with those which have been made since the wars of 1870
and i^yj-j?,. The well-known specialist, Professor Gebler,
made a comparison, expressed in figures, between different
modern small arms, taking as his standard of effectiveness
at 100 degrees the Mauser rifle, 11 mil., of 1871. On this
basis he worked out the effectiveness of modern weapons
as follows :

The modern French rifle 433

The modern German rifle 474

The new rifles in use in Italy and Spain . . 580

The 6 -mil. rifle adopted by the United States . 1000

The 5-mil. rifle now undergoing test . . . 1337

Therefore, if in the war of 1870 the German and French
armies had been armed with weapons of modern type,
speaking theoretically, the losses in that war would have
been 4^ to 4f times greater than they actually were. Had
they been armed with the 6-mil. rific used in the United
States of America the losses would have been ten times

Nevertheless, specialists declare that the new weapons
adopted in European armies, and even the 6 mil. rifle, are
already obsolete, and that the future will see a self-loading
weapon made out of an alloy of aluminium, from which a
series of shots may be fired without taking the rifle from
the shoulder or losing time and energy in reloading.

Experiments made in Belgium with the new self-
charging rifles and pistols of the Mauser system show
that (firing only such a number of cartridges as will fit
into the magazine) a trained soldier can fire from six to
seven times a second ; upon shooting a greater number of
cartridges from a gun, which requires reloading, the
maximum number of shots with the 6-mil. gun is :


Without aiming ... 78 per minute.
Aiming 60 „

But the efforts to improve small arms do not stop there,
and governments will continue to strive to lessen calibres,
as is maintained by Professor Gebler, General Wille,
Professor Pototski, and other authorities, to 4 and, it may
be, even to 3 millimetres. It is true that there are great
difficulties in the utilisation of such small calibres, but the
successes already achieved by technical science may be
taken to guarantee that these also will be surmounted.

Such a weapon will excel the present in efficiency even
more than the present rifle excels the past. The diminution
of the calibre of rifles to 5 mil. makes it possible for a
soldier to carry 270 cartridges, instead of the 84 which he
carried in 1877; the reduction of the calibre to 4 mil.
would enable him to carry 380 cartridges ; while with the
reduction of the calibre to 3 mil. the number of cartridges
borne would increase to 575. In addition, the levelling of
the trajectory of the bullet would give to shooting such dead-
liness that it would be practically impossible to strengthen
the fighting line with reserves.

Professor Gebler declares that these improved weapons
will be forty times more effective than those used in 1870.
From this must result the complete re-armament of all
armies, if before that time limits be not placed upon the
rivalry of the nations in preparation for war. For the
re-armament of their infantry, Germany, France, Russia,
Austria, and Italy would, by our calculation, be com-
pelled to spend the immense sum of ;^ 150,800,000.

But, apart from future improvements in arms, it is
easy to see with existing improvements the following
consequences: (i) The opening of battles from much
greater distances than formerly ; (2) the necessity of loose
formation in attack ; (3) the strengthening of the defence ;
(4) the increase in the area of the battlefield ; and (5) the
increase in casualties.

It is enough here to cite some statistics as to the action
of modern arms as compared with the arms of 1870-71
and 1877-78. Thus, the bullet of the Chassepot, the


Berdan, or the Prussian needle-gun fired from a distance
of 1760 yards could not penetrate a human skull, whereas
the bullet of modern low-calibre rifles at a distance of
3850 yards will penetrate the hard bones of an ox.

But many military writers declare that the improvement
in small arms will be neutralised by the fact that rapidity
of fire will deprive the soldier of coolness and capacity to
turn to account the superiority of the modern weapon.

Let us admit for the moment that modern long-range
rifles, even with their future improvements, will not prove
more deadly in battle than their predecessors. Such an
improbable and apparently unfounded proposition is
directly refuted by the experience of the Chilian war of
1 894. In that war the armies of the Congress were armed,
partly with old, partly with modern weapons, and it was
proven that each company of soldiers armed with rifles of
a modern type put out of action 82 men in the armies of
the President-Dictator, while a company of soldiers armed
with obsolete weapons, put out of action only 34 men.
The absence of smoke alone must increase immensely the
deadliness of modern arms. The history of past battles
relates that at a distance of sixty paces combatants often
could not see one another, and that their fire proved in-
eff"ective. And even if long-range rifles do not prove
more deadly than their predecessors, it will still be absurd
to deny that a certain number of projectiles will disable a
certain number of men. And as, in the wars of the present
century, the number of shots fired for every disablement
has fluctuated between 8;^ and 164, it is plain that the
supply of cartridges now carried by each soldier is sufli-
cient to disable at least one opponent ; while the supply of
380 cartridges with the 4-mil. rifle, and of 575 with the
3-mil. rifle, will be more than enough to disable two or
three of the enemy. In other words, even supposing the
effectiveness of modern arms to be in no way increased,
the fire of one rifle may disable two or three of the enemy.
From this it is plain that, even with tiic weapons now
adopted, the effectiveness of fire presents the possibility of
total mutual annihilation.


Such is the comparison when regard is had alone to
the increase in the supply of cartridges arising from the
reduction of the calibre of rifles.

But in addition we must take into account the rapidity
with which modern weapons may be fired. In a given time
twelve times as many shots may be fired as in 1867, while
the chances of missing fire and of injury to the powder by
damp have been removed. In addition to this must be
borne in mind the long range of modern weapons, the
absence of the accumulations in the barrel of the rifle, the
adoption by oflicers of instruments for precisely ascertain-
ing distances, the use by under-ofiicers of field-glasses, and
finally, the substitution of the old powder by smokeless
powder. All these conditions will undoubtedly increase
the number of losses, and if the operation of each were
considered as a factor in multiplying past losses, we
should attain almost incredible but technically and mathe-
matically trustworthy figures.

To this must be added the improvement, since 1870, in
the instruction of soldiers in firing. In the training of
soldiers every year an immense quantity of ammunition is
expended. In addition, mechanical means are employed
to show the direction of the barrel on aiming and firing.
These are new conditions entirely, or in a great degree,
unknown in the time of the last great wars. If we take
into account the fact that 500 cartridges are prepared for
every rifle, the expenditure of which, of course, is not
stinted, we are confronted with a direct denial of the pos-
sibility, even for armies of millions of men, in the event of
equal strength, to sustain such losses.

In addition to small arms the power of artillery has
increased in a measure incomparable with the past.

A glance backward at the development of field artillery
shows that from the date of the invention of powder im-
provements in arms took place very slowly. In imperfect
weapons, it would seem, it would have been much easier
to efiect improvements. Nevertheless, to within a recent
date, the effect of artillery fire remained very inconsiderable.

In 1 891 Professor Langlois estimated the increase of


the power of artillery fire since the war of 1870 in the
following manner : With an equal number of discharges,
modern artillery will be five times more cfTective than the
artillerj'^ of 1870. But as modern field guns arc capable of
discharging in a given time from two to two and a half
more projectiles than the old guns, it follows that the power
of artillery fire has multiplied since 1870 no less than from
twelve to fifteen times.

The calculations made by Professor Langlois in 1891
are already out of date. In France, in Germany, and in
Russia quick-firing guns arc being made, and from the
testimony of such authoritative writers as General Wille,
Professor Pototski, and Captain Moch, we find that the
fire of these new guns is at least twice as powerful as that
of the gun of 1 891, of which Langlois speaks in the fol-
lowing terms : " We have before us a whole series of
improvements of the greatest importance, and must admit
that munitions of war are entirely difTerent from those in
use in the past." So that in order to form some idea as
to the total losses in a future war it is necessary to com-
pare the action of the latest perfected arms with the action
of the old guns employed up to the present time. Such a
comparison only shows that, as in the case of quick-firing
rifles, the past can give no precise forecast as to the effect
of artillery in future wars.

With the introduction of smokeless powder and the
employment of nickel steel on the one hand, and the
strengthening by wire of the barrels of guns on the other,
arms of tremendous power are being made.

A comparison of the result of the firing of a thousand
rifle bullets by soldiers attacking in loose formation with
the action of shrapnel, shows that one round of shrapnel is
effective over a space double the length of that covered by
a thousand rifle bullets, and not less in width. Experi-
ment has also shown that the fragments of shrapnel dis-
perse themselves over a space 880 yards in length and
440 yards in breadth. Prince Hohenlohe, commander of
the German artillery in the war of 1870, in the most
emphatic manner declared that " a battery placed against


a road fifteen paces in width might annihilate a whole
mass of infantry on this road for a distance of 7700 yards,
so that no one would even think of standing there."

Not less are the successes attained in the improvement
of projectiles. The use of steel in their manufacture
permitted their being charged with a greater number
of bullets. The use of explosives four times more power-
ful than were formerly employed gave to each splinter
and bullet immense force. The flight of bullets and
splinters may be hkened to the action of a sieve from
which drops of water are driven. Imagine such a sieve
revolving at great speed, and some idea will be gained of
the manner in which the fragments of shells would be

In the war of the future, shell, which is much less effective
than shrapnel, will be employed less than formerly.
Shrapnel will be the chief ammunition of artillery, although
if we believe French reports, it is proved that all in the
vicinity of a bursting Brisant shell will be knocked down by
the agitation of the atmosphere and sustain serious internal
injuries, while in the case of the shell bursting in a covered
space every one there will be killed either by the action oi
mechanical forces, or by the poisonous gases liberated by
the explosion.

By a comparison of the effect of artillery ammunition
with the effect of that employed in 1870, it is shown that,
on the average, shells burst into 240 pieces instead 01
19-30 as was the case in 1870. The shrapnel employed
in 1870 burst into 37 pieces, now it gives as many as 340.
An iron bomb weighing 82 pounds, which, with the old
powder gave 42 fragments, filled with peroxylene gives
1204 pieces. With the increase in the number of bullets
and fragments, and in the forces which disperse them,
increases also the area which they affect. Splinters and
bullets bring death and destruction not only, as in 1870, to
those in the vicinity of the explosion, but at a distance of
220 yards away, and this though fired from a distance of
3300 yards.

With such improved ammunition the destruction pro-


duced in the ranks of armies will be immense. From
the statistics furnished by the Prussian General Rohne,
we have estimated the losses which would be sustained
by a body of 10,000 men attacking in loose formation
a fortified position. From this estimate it is shown that
before the attacking party succeeded in covering 2200
yards in the direction of the defenders' trenches every
individual composing it may be struck by bullets and
fragments of shells, as the defenders' artillery in that time
will have succeeded in firing 1450 rounds, scattering
275,000 bullets and fragments, of which 10,330 will
take effect in the attacking lines.

But artillery fire will be directed not only against the
attacking troops, which, when within range of the trenches
may be destroyed by rifle fire, but also, to a greater extent,
against supporting bodies which must follow in closer
order, and among which, therefore, the action of artillery
fire will be even more deadly.

And as at the same time the quantity of artillery in all
armies has considerably increased, we may well ask the
question whether the nerves of short-service soldiers will
stand the terrible destructiveness of its fire.

The improvement, in all respects, of fire-arms, and
the high degree of perfection achieved in artillery and
artillery ammunition are by no means all that the
mind of man has contrived as weapons of destruc-
tion. The whole scries of auxiliary instruments
which in a future war may have immense importance
has, since the last war, been improved. Velocipedes,
carrier pigeons, field telegraphs and telephones, appa-
ratus for signalling by day and by night, and for illu-
minating the field of battle, photographic apparatus
for the survey of positions from great distances, means of
observing the movements of armies by tlie use of observa-
tion scaftblding, ladders, watch towers and balloons — all
in a great degree do away with that insufficiency of in-
formation which formerly prevented united and successful

As a necessary consequence of the increase in the


power of fire, we find the more frequent and more ex-
tended adoption of defences, and cover for protection in
attack and for hampering the enemy. Even in times of
peace, positions are prepared for the defence of certain
points of the railways and main roads and of water com-

In addition to this in the future war every body of men
appointed for defence, and even for attack — if it is not to
attack at once — must immediately entrench itself. It must
dig, so to speak, in the earth its line of battle, and, if time
permit, must raise a whole series of defensive points,
taking advantage of natural obstacles, and perfecting them
with defensive works. .Sheltered behind such works, and
in a position to devote all their energy to fire against the
enemy, the defenders will sustain losses comparatively
slight, only their heads and hands — that is, an eighth part
of their height — being exposed, while the attacking bodies
will be exposed to the uninterrupted fire of the defenders,
and deprived almost of all possibility of replying to their
fire. For the construction of such trenches and earth-
works, each division of an army is now furnished with
the requisite tools.

In the opinion of competent military writers the war of
the future will consist primarily of a series of battles for
the possession of fortified positions. In addition to field
fortifications of different kinds, the attacking army will
have to deal with auxiliary obstacles which will be met
with in the neighbourhood of fortifications, that is, in the
very position where they will be subjected to the greatest
danger from the enemy's fire — obstructions formed of
beams, networks of wire, and pit-falls. To overcome
these obstacles great sacrifices must be made.

The part of cavalry in a future war presents this primary
difference with its part in the past. At the very beginning
of war, and even before the attacking army has passed the
frontier, it will be sent to make irruptions on the territory
of the enemy, penetrating the country as far as possible,
destroying communications, depots, and telegraphs, seizing
government resources, and preventing the concentration of


troops. After this the cavalry which follows as part of
the constitution of the regular army will be employed in the
making of reconnaisances. In a future war such duties
will be undoubtedly more difficult than before, owing to
the adoption of smokeless powder. Even after having
determined the general position of an enemy, cavalry will
hardly be in a condition to acquire any precise information,
to determine his strength, and even the distance of his
advanced posts. The pickets of the enemy will not stand
in the open field, but under cover, behind eminences,
groups of trees, and hedges. From a distance of a quarter
of a mile the fire from the concealed pickets of the enemy
will be very effective, yet the pickets themselves will be
invisible. In all probability pickets will open fire at the
distance of half a mile, to prevent the closer approach of the
reconnoitring party, and as with modern arms horsemen
may be picked from the saddle from a great distance, the
patrol will be unable to determine the distance of the
enemy by the effect of his fire. With modern arms and
smokeless powder a single marksman in a sheltered posi-
tion may cause serious loss to a body of troops, as witness
the case cited in the " Military Album," when in an attack
by Bavarians on a French battalion sheltered behind a low
wall, a Bavarian soldier climbed into a tree, and picked off
the French at will, while no smoke betrayed him, and
several volleys failed to kill the daring marksman.

Thus scouting parties will be forced to move with great

Online LibraryUnknownModern weapons and modern war, being an abridgment of The war of the future in its technical, economic and political relations, with a prefatory conversation with the author → online text (page 6 of 31)