France'14 - a few historical errors found

Forum for the First World War Campaigns games series
Post Reply
User avatar
Verdun1916
Posts: 104
Joined: Sun Jul 10, 2022 8:42 am
Location: Hässleholm, Sweden

France'14 - a few historical errors found

Post by Verdun1916 »

Hi guys!

At the moment I'm playing the "A Dagger to the Heart" scenario and I noticed an issue when it comes to the armament of the French fort Liouville.

In game Fort de Liouville is armed with one single gun 155 mm gun turret. And the background image in it's unit box shows a Galopin 155R turret matching this. However in reality Liouville did not have such a gun turret at all. It was armed with an earlier turret, the model 1876 Tourelle Mougin with two 155 mm L guns. In comparison to the later 155R Galopin and 155L Bussière turrets, the Mougin was a rotating turret only. That is it could not be lowered into the superstructure of the fort like the others turret models. It was also not cast in one solid piece of steel like the Galopin turred, but consisted of four large curved and domed pieces of armoured plates welded together. It's roof consisted of a flat round piece of steel. This design was soon found out to be a weekpoint resulting in the development of the 155R Galopin and the 155L Bussière turrets. A weekness that showed itself at Fort de Liouville on 2 October 1914 as it's 155 mm Mougin turret was shattered by a direct hit from a 305 mm shell from one of the Austrian Skoda siege mortars attatched to Armee-Abteilung Strantz. In 1916-1918 the remains of the turret was converted into a concrete observation post. At the same time it's machine gun turret was dismounted and installed in the Citadelle de Verdun instead aswell.
In game Liouville also has a mixed gun battery of 30 guns. But in reality the fort had 44 artillery pieces in total, including it's two turret mounted 155 mm guns and the two turret mounted 75 mm guns aswell as the purely defensive guns in it's ditch defenses.

Fort des Paroches in game has 18 mixed guns, however in reality it only had 6 x 120 mm L guns and 2 x 90 mm guns in open gun positions on the parapet. The L stands for Longue, meaning long and referes to the length of the gun tube.

Fort de Troyon in game has 41 mixed guns. In reality it had only 28 guns: 4 x 120 mm L, 12 x 90 mm and for it's ditch defenses 6 x canons de 12-culasse and 6 x 40 mm Hotchkiss revolver cannons.

Fort de Genicourt in game has 36 mixed guns, while in reality it had 38 gun in total when the purely defensive guns of the ditch defenses are included.

This spurred me to check out the Revigny scenario aswell in the scenario editor to check the French forts surrounding Verdun. Since I've visited most of the forts and ouvrages around Verdun more than ones, aswell as Liouville and other four forts situated between it and Verdun, over the past 30+ years I love seeing them recreated in France'14. But this meant I also found a few issues with the armament of the forts in this scenario aswell.

Fort de Saint-Michel (misspelled Mihiel in game) has an 155 mm gun turret in game. However in reallity it had no gun turrets at all as it was one of the first generation of forts built around Verdun from 1874 and onwards and it was never modernized at all. And hence never recieved any gun turrets.

Fort de Souville in game on the other hand lacks it's 155 mm twin gun Bussière turret and has a 75 mm gun turret which it shouldn't have at all. Souville was a bit special as the fort itself was never modernized with any gun turrets whitin it's structure like Douaumont, Vaux and others was. Instead it was given an annexe structure next to it were a single 155L Bussière turret was installed. It was also the only fortification at Verdun, and in France as a whole, which got this type of turret. The Bussière turret was operated by a steam engine driving a hydraulic piston for raising and lowering the turret. Considering that the 155R Galopin turrets and the 75 mm gun turrets were far simpler for half the cost to produce because they were raised and lowered by a simple counter-weight system with could be operated by a single man, the Bussière turrets was never installed in any other fortification. It remained a one off thing. No wonder since this single gun turret at Souville cost the French state ONE MILLION gold francs in total manufacture and install. If you ever visit Verdun this gun turret is well worth a visit as it's the only part of Fort de Souville that is open to the public which you can actually go inside.

Fort de Marre in game has been given a machine gun turrets, something it never had in reality. It did have a 75 mm gun turret ys, but it was it's only turreted armament.

Fort de Vacherauville in game is missing it's 75 mm gun turret. Vacherauville was the final fort to be built and completed at Verdun. It was finshed in 1914. Alongside Ouvrage de la Falouse, Vacherauville was almost completely built from reinforced concrete. It was armed with one 75 mm gun turret, two 155R Galopin turrets and a single GF4 machine gun turret. It was without a doubt the most powerful fort at Verdun although not the largest if you count square metres. And with the Travaux 17 modification commenced in 1916 it was Vacherauville that became the inpiration for the Maginot-line fort design of the interwar years. Sadly the Germans dismantled and stole all of Vacherauville's gun turrets in 1943 to fill the needs within Germany's armament industry. Sadly it's a fort that often gets overlooked and forgotten as it never reached the fame of the French propaganda paper-tiger of Fort de Douaumont. Although it's 155 mm gun turrets gave the Germans a very hard time during the battle of Verdun in 1916 and again in 1917.

Ouvrage de Friodeterre in game has the correct 75 mm gun turret but lacks the two 75 mm mle.1897 mounted in it's casemate de Bourges. It also had three GF4 machinegun turrets so the crew number should be 45 rather than just 30 as in game.

Off course it's impossible to recreate the complexity and every historical detail correct when it comes to these fortifications in a game like France'14. In between each fort and ouvrage there were fortified artillery batteries, infantry firing positions and infantry shelters and much more.
But I feel that a few things could hopefully be improved on and those are the things I have mentioned above.

I also notized a few errors in the Order of Battle France'14 (late) pdf-file concerning the French forts in the Verdun garrison. It sais, amongst others that Douaumont had no guns which is wrong.
It is true that the French robbed many of it's forts of it's artillery in late 1915. However the guns removed were not the 155 mm and 75 mm guns mounted in the armoured turrets. These guns were specialized weapons manufactured for the specific placement in these turrets. You could not simply remove them and slap them onto a field mount since. What was removed were the conventional field artillery pieces positioned either in the open parapet gun positions or in the various casemates since these had either standard field mounts already or mounts that could work as conventional field mounts with little to no modifications. All 120 mm, 95 mm and 90 mm guns along with mortars of various calibres that were part of many a forts armament were such conventional field artilery pieces. These could simply be redeployed like any battery of the field artillery armed with the same type of guns. The 75 mm mle.1897 guns in the many Casemat de Burges in forts like Douaumont, Vaux, Froideterre etc. were the same guns as the famous "soixante-quinze" of the field artillery. The only difference was the mounts. So these 75 mm gun tubes could be swiftly removed from their fortress mounts and be given conventional field mounts. The same with the 8 mm Hotchkiss mle.1900 machine guns in the machine gun turrets.
The 40 mm Hotchkiss revolver cannons which were the standard armament for ditch defense in the French forts could be easily removed, and mny of them were, to be repurposed as anti-aircraft guns instead.
However the turret mounted 155 and 75 mm guns were never removed. Douaumont, for example kept it's 155 mm and 75 mm gun turret armament through out the war. And it's 155R Galopin turret was frequently used to harrass the Germans up until the very moment the fort fell into German hands on 25 February 1916.
So yes, garriosons were reduced dramaticly, and yes alot of artillery and machine guns were removed in 1915, but not all off it And certainly not the turret mounted artillery pieces. There simply was no practical use for the latter outside their turrets. It wasnt until 1942-1944 that some of these gun turrets and their guns started to be removed by the Germans. Many of the guns that survived the Germans were removed and many of them scrapped after the Second World War. Leaving only empty turret gun ports.

This is an error I think comes from a source issue due to language barriers. Sadly there is very little good sources material written in English to use when studying these forts. The best is probably Clayton Donnells "The Fortifications of Verdun" published by Osprey Publishing, ISBN: 978-1-84908-412-3. And it to has a few issues. However the VAST majority of books covering this subject that are written in English just do genaral and sweeping assumptions where it's all or nothing. German language books on the subject are usually better researched. But the only really good sources that covers French First World War era forts are French ones. Which is a problem if you don't read French.
Online good sources are even more difficult to find. The only really good one beeing Cederic Vaubourg's website: http://fortiffsere.fr/verdun/ .
Sadly it's only in French, but have great info, maps, scematics and photos of all the French First World War era forts and more.
Another great French source is Guy Le Hallé's "Verdun, Les forts de la Victoire, ISBN: 2-911920-10-4.

For anyone with the interest and the means to visit some of these forts I highy recommend you to due so, and not just the ones at Verdun.
Fort de Douaumont, Fort de Vaux and Ouvrage de La Falouse at Verdun are open to the public. I've been involved in the restoration of the latter along with my father. One of it's owners and the caretaker and guide at La Falouse, Frédéric Radet is probably one of the foremost experts on the Verdun fortifications. La Falouse is a good start before visiting the partially ruined Douaumont and Vaux as La Falouse is intact. Douaumont and Vaux has sadly become a bit of a tourist trap over the last years. The outside of both forts have been ruined by some modern touristy crap. The 155R Bussière gun turret next to Fort de Souville and Ouvrage de Froideterre are free to visit. And with a good flashlight and attention to were you are stepping they can be entered aswell.
Fort de Troyon aswell and Fort de Liouville are also open to the public in the summer time, however not on a daily basis.
Fort de Villey-le-Sec at Toul and Fort d'Uxegney at Epinal are also open to the public with guided tours and blank firing with some of the gun turrets.

Sorry for the long rant! I hope it might inspire future updates atleast. And if nothing else might be of historical interest o fellow First World War history buffs like myself.

Cheers!
User avatar
Volcano
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Oct 25, 2022 1:34 pm

Re: France'14 - a few historical errors found

Post by Volcano »

Hello! Thanks for the info. I wasn't even aware of this forum until about maybe 30 minutes ago, so I missed your post until now.

The short answer is: when it comes to historical errors, for the most part its a finished work (like a book that was published with typos). But certainly I will keep things in mind if I ever have a chance to go back and review and revise. No promises there, but the information is certainly welcome. Thanks! :)
Post Reply