The creeping barrage


First used in 1913 during the siege of Adrianople (Edirne) in the First Balkan War, the creeping barrage became synonymous with the First World War. This important tactic was developed in response to the static, trench-based warfare of the Western Front and the inadequacies of existing artillery barrages.

Perfected during the Battle of the Somme in 1916, it was used with considerable success during the British attacks on Messines and Gravenstafel Spur in 1917, but failed, with disastrous consequences, during the 12 October attack at Bellevue Spur. Not only was this barrage ragged, but the initial shells fell short in places, killing and injuring many New Zealand troops. These problems were caused by the waterlogged, muddy conditions, which stopped some guns from being brought into position and prevented others from achieving a stable platform.

As a tactic, the creeping barrage had a relatively short-lived usefulness. Although occasionally used in the Second World War, it was rendered largely obsolete by the transition from static trench warfare to mobile armoured operations and by the miniaturisation of radios. Once these could be carried by infantry, troops could request artillery support when they needed it.

See also: The creeping barrage infographic on Ngā Tapuwae

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