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Canoncino da 37 Infanteria

Trench artillery

Contributor :
Luc Malchair      http://www.fortiff.be/
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Location :
Forte Bramafam
Coordinates : Lat : 45.07077 / Long : 6.71178
General comments on this surviving gun :

Identical items in the same location : 1
Items covered by this file : 1

Italian copy of the Austrian 37 M 15

Unreadable breech markings - on the carriage : 'Arsenale di Construzione d'Artiglieria - Nr167 - Torino'

Historic and technical information
Denomination :     Canoncino da 37 Infanteria Origin :       ( Skoda)             ( Italie )          

Historic context :

With the war first fights, the different armies infantry units soon felt the need to have weapons able to neutralize, with precision and without danger for the first line friendly units, machine guns nets protected by sandbags of light fortifications resisting to indirect shelling, by direct shooting through their embrasure. This mission was made even harder because of the difficulty to bring material and ammunition in the first lines, with narrow trenches, devastated grounds or mountain positions. Austro-Hungaria, whose armies were equipped and trained for mountain warfare, soon discovered that the light mountain artillery dismantable guns were not convenient for that specific mission, and that a ultra-light flat fire weapon was needed.

The intuition, perseverance, and perhaps the desobedience of the officer in charge of the Austro-Hungarian section I of the TMK allowed that nation to dispose of such a weapon early in war.. Indeed, as soon as 1911 the Oberst, then later FeldMarschalleutnant Pucherna proposed the development of ain infantry accompanying 37mm gun. This caliber made popular by Hotchkiss in the late XIXth century was already used mostly in the Navy and in fortress defense in numerous countries, and more particularly since october 1914 by the French army who improvised small trench guns with marine 37 TR Hotchkiss guns. Despite successive refusals of his hierarchy and the War Minister, Pucherma launched the study of such a small caliber ultra-light gun, so that the TMK only knew about it when a first batch of 204 guns was ordered ! 1000 other guns were lately ordered for a delivery in 1916.

This small gun prototype of the future '37 mm M15 InfantrieGeschütz' was rapidly tested in the Western Front in October and November 1915, and adopted. The 60 first detachments with 2 guns each arrived on the front as soon as February 1916. The guns based on a simple carriage, a very short (10 calibres) 37 mm barrel, a Skoda falling block breech mechanism and a hydro-spring recoil brake from the same company were weighing less than 100 kg in position and could be transported either on a small wheel axis or on mules, or disassembled into 3 separate parts of about 25 kg each that could be handled by men.

Their use soon revealed design issues whose some could be corrected later (possible rotation of the spade arm by 180 degrees, addition of a periscope to the aiming system, elevation mechanism modification, shield enlarged, ...). But the still too heavy weight of the elements for human transport, tvery small length of the barrel that was causing a small initial speed and a poor precision that was considerably limiting the efficient range (1000 m maximum), as well as the modest 37 mm caliber limiting the destructive power of the shells were only curable by restarting the design of a brand new weapon. Thses later studies made by the TMK and Skoda on various calibres including 37, 45 and 47 mm gave birth to systematically deceiving prototypes and even induced reconsidering the use of newly developed 7.5cm mountain guns for that mission, also with not entirely satisfying results.

Italy seized numbers of these 37 M15 in 1917, and created a copy named 'Canoncino da 37 Infanteria', produced by different companies including the FIAT and Fratelli Marzolli (Roma). It seems they could be recognized by their shield edges that were rounded forward instead of being flat.

Technical data :

  • Complete description : 37mm small infantry gun
  • Design year : 1917
  • Calibre : 37.00 mm
  • Weight in firing position : 85 kg (188 kg for some sources - with shield ?)
  • Weight for transportation : Dismantable in 3 different loads for transportation by men
  • Tube length in calibres : 10.00
  • Grooves : 12 to the left, constant angle
  • Projectile weight : 0,65 kg (explosif, shrapnel ou traceur)
  • Initial speed : 175 m/s
  • Fire rate : 10 rounds / minute
  • Range : 3000 m (2200 m in real conditions - 1000 m efficient)
  • Elevation range : -0 to +45 degrees
  • Direction range : 10 degrees total range

  • A gun for all nations - The 37 mm Gun and Ammunition - Volume II - 1914-1926           Robert A Mellichamp                     2012