Georg Bruchmüller

Last updated
Georg Bruchmüller
Oberst Bruchmueller.jpg
Georg Bruchmüller
Born(1863-12-11)11 December 1863
Died 26 January 1948(1948-01-26) (aged 84)
AllegianceFlag of the German Empire.svg  German Empire
Service/branch Kaiserstandarte.svg Imperial German Army
Years of service 1885–1919
Rank Colonel

World War I

Awards Pour le Mérite with Oak Leaves
Iron Cross

Georg Bruchmüller (11 December 1863 – 26 January 1948), nicknamed Durchbruchmüller, was a German artillery officer who greatly influenced the development of modern artillery tactics. His nickname Durchbruchmüller is a combination of the German word Durchbruch (breakthrough) with his name.

Germany Federal parliamentary republic in central-western Europe

Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central and Western Europe, lying between the Baltic and North Seas to the north, and the Alps to the south. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, France to the southwest, and Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands to the west.

Artillery class of weapons which fires munitions beyond the range and power of personal weapons

Artillery is a class of heavy military weapons built to fire munitions far beyond the range and power of infantry's small arms. Early artillery development focused on the ability to breach defensive walls, and fortifications during sieges, and led to heavy, fairly immobile siege engines. As technology improved, lighter, more mobile field artillery cannons developed for battlefield use. This development continues today; modern self-propelled artillery vehicles are highly mobile weapons of great versatility providing the large share of an army's total firepower.


Early life

Bruchmüller was born in Berlin into a middle-class family. He studied physics at Berlin University; when he left in 1883 he became a three-year volunteer in the Imperial Army. [1] Two years later, he was commissioned into the Fußartillerie (foot artillery), the branch of the German army armed with heavier guns, howitzers and mortars, designed principally for siege warfare, which now was assuming a role in field operations.

Berlin Capital of Germany

Berlin is the capital and largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,748,148 (2018) inhabitants make it the second most populous city proper of the European Union after London. The city is one of Germany's 16 federal states. It is surrounded by the state of Brandenburg, and contiguous with its capital, Potsdam. The two cities are at the center of the Berlin-Brandenburg capital region, which is, with about six million inhabitants and an area of more than 30,000 km², Germany's third-largest metropolitan region after the Rhine-Ruhr and Rhine-Main regions.

In 1897 and 1898, Bruchmüller served as a battery commander in Fußartillerie-Regiment Nr. 3 in the Fortress of Mainz. [2] Next, he commanded a battery in the Lehr-Bataillon (Demonstration Battalion) of the Royal Prussian Fußartillerie-Schießschule (Foot Artillery Firing School) in Jüterbog from 1901–1902. During this time, he worked with one of the instructors at the Fußartillerie-Schießschule, Hauptmann Arthur Bilse, a heavy artillery specialist. (Bilse, when General der Fußartillerie 15, was killed in action on New Year's Day 1916, at Les Baraques France.) [3] In 1908, Bruchmüller was promoted to major and assigned to write the tactical manual for foot artillery. In 1913 he was thrown from his horse and subsequently had a nervous breakdown. He was medically discharged as a lieutenant colonel, but with major's pay. [4]

Fortress of Mainz fortress in Germany

The Fortress of Mainz was a fortressed garrison town between 1620 and 1918. At the end of the Napoleonic Wars, under the term of the 1815 Peace of Paris, the control of Mainz passed to the German Confederation and became part of a chain of strategic fortresses which protected the Confederation. With the dissolution of the Confederation and the Austro-Prussian War, control of the fortress first passed to Prussia, and, after the 1871 Unification of Germany, to the German Empire.

Jüterbog Place in Brandenburg, Germany

Jüterbog is a historic village in north-eastern Germany, in the Teltow-Fläming district of Brandenburg. It is on the Nuthe river at the northern slope of the Fläming hill range, about 65 km (40 mi) southwest of Berlin.

World War I

At the beginning of World War I he was recalled to active duty, soon becoming artillery commander of the 86th Division on the Eastern Front. In 1915 he fought in thirteen actions, winning the Iron Cross First Class and Second Class. The Russians conducted the Lake Naroch Offensive from 18–30 March 1916. For the counter-attack, Bruchmüller persuaded the Tenth Army commander Generaloberst Hermann von Eichhorn, to centralize the artillery command. Bruchmüller planned to lead the infantry attack with a creeping barrage, which contributed to the German victory, for which he was awarded the Pour le Mérite, Germany's highest military award, in 1917 (one of only four senior artillery officers to receive this honor during the war).

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

The 86th Infantry Division was a formation of the Imperial German Army in World War I. The division was formed in November 1914 as the Wernitz Division, named after its commander General Theodor von Wernitz, and became the 86th Infantry Division in August 1915. The division was disbanded in 1919 during the demobilization of the German Army after World War I.

Eastern Front (World War I) part of World War I

The Eastern Front or Eastern Theater of World War I was a theatre of operations that encompassed at its greatest extent the entire frontier between the Russian Empire and Romania on one side and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Bulgaria, the Ottoman Empire and the German Empire on the other. It stretched from the Baltic Sea in the north to the Black Sea in the south, involved most of Eastern Europe and stretched deep into Central Europe as well. The term contrasts with "Western Front", which was being fought in Belgium and France.

The French and British used prolonged bombardments before an infantry assault, to try to destroy the defenders, like the seven-day barrage opening the Battle of the Somme, while the Germans favored short, intense bombardments, like the ten-hour opening the Battle of Verdun. Bruchmüller devised intricate, centrally-controlled firing plans for intense bombardments. His operations emphasized fire in depth throughout the enemy positions, switching rapidly from target to target and then back again, which required strict, detailed control of every gun, to cause maximum disruption of the defenders. Each battery of each type of weapon received fire missions on a timetable. The first stage hit headquarters, phone links, command posts, enemy batteries and infantry positions. The fire was sudden, concentrated and made extensive use of gas shells. In the second stage more guns engaged the enemy batteries. Many shots were required: for example 100 shells from 6 in (150 mm) howitzers were considered necessary to eliminate a gun pit. [5] The third stage directed fire for effect on targets, some batteries continued to shell infantry positions, while heavy pieces engaged long range targets to cut off reinforcements. The advancing infantry followed a precisely organized creeping barrage, the Feuerwalze  (de ). For some of the key counter-attacks during Russia’s Brusilov Offensive, he directed the 76 artillery batteries of Heeresgruppe von Linsingen . In July 1917, he commanded 134 batteries during the counter-attack that recovered Tarnopol from the Russians, after its loss during the Kerensky Offensive.

Battle of the Somme battle of the Western Front, World War I

The Battle of the Somme, also known as the Somme Offensive, was a battle of World War I fought by the armies of the British Empire and French Third Republic against the German Empire. It took place between 1 July and 18 November 1916 on both sides of the upper reaches of the River Somme in France. The battle was intended to hasten a victory for the Allies and was the largest battle of the First World War on the Western Front. More than three million men fought in the battle and one million men were wounded or killed, making it one of the bloodiest battles in human history. The Battle of the Somme was fought in the traditional style of World War I battles on the Western Front: trench warfare. The trench warfare gave the Germans an advantage because they dug their trenches deeper than the allied forces which gave them a better line of sight for warfare. The Battle of the Somme also has the distinction of being the first battle fought with tanks. However, the tanks were still in the early stages of development, and as a result, many broke down after maxing out at their top speed of 4 miles per hour.

Battle of Verdun battle on the Western Front during the First World War

The Battle of Verdun, fought from 21 February to 18 December 1916, the longest battle of the First World War was fought on the Western Front between the German and French armies. The battle took place on the hills north of Verdun-sur-Meuse in north-eastern France. The German 5th Army attacked the defences of the Fortified Region of Verdun and those of the French Second Army on the right bank of the Meuse. Inspired by the experience of the Second Battle of Champagne in 1915, the Germans planned to capture the Meuse Heights, an excellent defensive position with good observation for artillery-fire on Verdun. The Germans hoped that the French would commit their strategic reserve to recapture the position and suffer catastrophic losses in a battle of annihilation, at little cost to the Germans, dug in on tactically advantageous positions on the heights.

Brusilov Offensive battle on the Eastern Front during World War I

The Brusilov Offensive, also known as the "June Advance", of June to September 1916 was the Russian Empire's greatest feat of arms during World War I, and among the most lethal offensives in world history. Historian Graydon Tunstall called the Brusilov Offensive the worst crisis of World War I for Austria-Hungary and the Triple Entente's greatest victory, but it came at a tremendous loss of life.

Surprise was essential for creating maximum disruption, so Bruchmüller adopted the Pulkowski Method, for bombardments without the customary registration fire. The position of each gun was surveyed. [6] Knowing the muzzle velocity of the gun and taking into account variables like air temperature, wind velocity and direction and using tables provided by mathematicians, it was possible to fire fairly accurately at targets on the gunnery maps. The Germans concealed their attack preparations but their initial target data had to be precise. (The British had fired from the map in their assault at Cambrai on 20 November 1917.) [7]

Muzzle velocity is the speed of a projectile at the moment it leaves the muzzle of a gun. Muzzle velocities range from approximately 120 m/s (390 ft/s) to 370 m/s (1,200 ft/s) in black powder muskets, to more than 1,200 m/s (3,900 ft/s) in modern rifles with high-performance cartridges such as the .220 Swift and .204 Ruger, all the way to 1,700 m/s (5,600 ft/s) for tank guns firing kinetic energy penetrator ammunition. To simulate orbital debris impacts on spacecraft, NASA launches projectiles through light-gas guns at speeds up to 8,500 m/s (28,000 ft/s).

Battle of Cambrai (1917) 1917 World War I battle

The Battle of Cambrai was a British attack followed by the biggest German counter-attack against the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) since 1914, in the First World War. The town of Cambrai, in the département of Nord, was an important supply point for the German Siegfriedstellung and capture of the town and the nearby Bourlon Ridge would threaten the rear of the German line to the north. Major General Henry Tudor, Commander, Royal Artillery (CRA) of the 9th (Scottish) Division, advocated the use of new artillery-infantry techniques on his sector of the front. During preparations, J. F. C. Fuller, a staff officer with the Tank Corps, looked for places to use tanks for raids. General Julian Byng, commander of the British Third Army, decided to combine both plans. The French and British armies had used tanks in mass earlier in 1917, although to considerably less effect.

Bruchmüller commanded the artillery of the 8th Army (General Oskar von Hutier) during the Victory at Riga in September 1917. The 8th Army moved west soon thereafter, where in the first months of 1918, Bruchmüller's techniques were taught to gunners at a special school in Belgium, before the German Spring Offensive of 1918. [8] Infantry officers were also taught his methods and there were joint infantry-artillery exercises with live ammunition, with advances shielded by the creeping barrage. The first attack, Operation Michael, began with a barrage of 3.5 million shells in five hours, almost 200 shells a second. Defying instructions, Bruchmüller eliminated preliminary registration by firing from the map and then directed the artillery during the next attack at the Battle of the Lys on Flanders, where the artillery had not yet been trained in the Pulkowski method. The guns were registered by observation during the first phase of the bombardment. Bruchmüller was awarded the oak leaves to his Pour le Mérite on March 26, 1918; one of just two higher artillery commanders decorated this way. [9] Still only a Lieutenant-Colonel and a retired officer on temporary recall, he commanded the artillery in Heeresgruppe Deutscher Kronprinz in the Third Battle of the Aisne and the Second Battle of the Marne. The artillery fired from the map in darkness and the infantry advanced at first light. [10] Ludendorff cited him as an example of "... the decisive influence of personality on the course of events in war ..." [11]


Bruchmüller was not eligible for the post-war Reichswehr , because the Versailles Treaty prohibited heavy artillery, and he was retired in 1919 as a full colonel. He wrote several books on artillery that were translated into English, French and Russian. In 1939, on the 25th anniversary of the Battle of Tannenberg, he was promoted to major-general on the retired list. [12] Bruchmüller died at Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 1948.


  1. Zabecki, 1994, pp. 27–31
  2. PA, 1898, nopp
  3. PKM, 1902, nopp
  4. Zabecki, 1994, p. 28.
  5. Broad, 1922, pp. 222–241
  6. Zabecki, 1994, pp. 49–50
  7. Kloot, 2014, pp. 152–154
  8. Sulzbach, 1981, pp. 49–50
  9. Zabecki, 1994, p. 78.
  10. Zabecki, 2006, p. 216
  11. Ludendorff, 1919, p. 239.
  12. Zabecki, 1996, p. 144

Related Research Articles

Second Battle of the Marne last major German offensive on the Western Front during the First World War

The Second Battle of the Marne was the last major German offensive on the Western Front during the First World War. The attack failed when an Allied counterattack, supported by several hundred tanks, overwhelmed the Germans on their right flank, inflicting severe casualties. The German defeat marked the start of the relentless Allied advance which culminated in the Armistice with Germany about 100 days later.

Spring Offensive series of German attacks along the Western Front during the First World War

The 1918 Spring Offensive, or Kaiserschlacht, also known as the Ludendorff Offensive, was a series of German attacks along the Western Front during the First World War, beginning on 21 March 1918, which marked the deepest advances by either side since 1914. The Germans had realised that their only remaining chance of victory was to defeat the Allies before the overwhelming human and matériel resources of the United States could be fully deployed. They also had the temporary advantage in numbers afforded by the nearly 50 divisions which had been freed by the Russian withdrawal from the war by the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.

Infiltration tactics Military tactics

In warfare, infiltration tactics involve small independent light infantry forces advancing into enemy rear areas, bypassing enemy front-line strongpoints, possibly isolating them for attack by follow-up troops with heavier weapons. Soldiers take the initiative to identify enemy weak points and choose their own routes, targets, moments and methods of attack; this requires a high degree of skill and training, and can be supplemented by special equipment and weaponry to give them more local combat options.

Battle of Amiens (1918) A battle during the First World War

The Battle of Amiens, also known as the Third Battle of Picardy, was the opening phase of the Allied offensive which began on 8 August 1918, later known as the Hundred Days Offensive, that ultimately led to the end of the First World War. Allied forces advanced over 11 kilometres (7 mi) on the first day, one of the greatest advances of the war, with Gen Henry Rawlinson's British Fourth Army playing the decisive role. The battle is also notable for its effects on both sides' morale and the large number of surrendering German forces. This led Erich Ludendorff to describe the first day of the battle as "the black day of the German Army". Amiens was one of the first major battles involving armoured warfare.

Battle of Arras (1917) British offensive during the First World War

The Battle of Arras was a British offensive on the Western Front during World War I. From 9 April to 16 May 1917, British troops attacked German defences near the French city of Arras on the Western Front. The British achieved the longest advance since trench warfare had begun, surpassing the record set by the French Sixth Army on 1 July 1916. The British advance slowed in the next few days and the German defence recovered. The battle became a costly stalemate for both sides and by the end of the battle, the British Third and First Army had suffered about 160,000 and the German 6th Army about 125,000 casualties.

Battle of Messines (1917) offensive conducted by the British Second Army

The Battle of Messines(7–14 June 1917) was conducted by the British Second Army, on the Western Front near the village of Messines in West Flanders, Belgium, during the First World War. The Nivelle Offensive in April and May had failed to achieve its more ambitious aims, had led to the demoralisation of French troops and dislocated the Anglo-French strategy for 1917. The offensive at Messines forced the Germans to move reserves to Flanders from the Arras and Aisne fronts, which relieved pressure on the French. The tactical objective of the attack at Messines was to capture the German defences on the ridge, which ran from Ploegsteert (Plugstreet) Wood in the south, through Messines and Wytschaete to Mt. Sorrel, to deprive the German 4th Army of the high ground south of Ypres. The ridge gave commanding views the British defences and back areas further north, from which the British intended to conduct the Northern Operation, an advance to Passchendaele Ridge and then capture the Belgian coast up to the Dutch frontier.

The Battle of the Avre, part of the First Battle of Villers-Bretonneux, constituted the final German attack towards Amiens in World War I. It was the point at which the Germans got the closest to Amiens. It was fought between attacking German troops and defending Australian and British troops. The attack was an attempt to take Amiens, where other aspects of Operation Michael had failed. The Avre marked the beginning of the end for Ludendorf's Spring Offensive.

Barrage (artillery)

A barrage is massed artillery fire aimed at points, typically 20–30 yards (18–27 m) apart, along one or more lines that can be from a few hundred to several thousand yards long. The lines are usually 100 yards (91 m) apart and fire is lifted from one line to the next and one or several lines may be simultaneously engaged by different firing units. The artillery usually fires at a continuous steady rate, using high explosive or, historically, shrapnel shells. A barrage might be from a few or many batteries, or even (rarely) from a single gun.

Operation Michael military operation

Operation Michael was a major German military offensive during the First World War that began the Spring Offensive on 21 March 1918. It was launched from the Hindenburg Line, in the vicinity of Saint-Quentin, France. Its goal was to break through the Allied (Entente) lines and advance in a north-westerly direction to seize the Channel Ports, which supplied the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and to drive the BEF into the sea. Two days later General Ludendorff, the chief of the German General Staff, adjusted his plan and pushed for an offensive due west, along the whole of the British front north of the River Somme. This was designed to first separate the French and British Armies before continuing with the original concept of pushing the BEF into the sea. The offensive ended at Villers-Bretonneux, to the east of the Allied communications centre at Amiens, where the Allies managed to halt the German advance; the German Armies had suffered many casualties and were unable to maintain supplies to the advancing troops.

Eingreif division

Eingreif division is a term for a type of German Army formation of World War I, which developed in 1917, which was responsible for engaging in immediate counter-attacks (Gegenstoße) against enemy troops who broke through a defensive position being held by a front-holding division. Attacks by the French and British armies against the Westheer on the Western Front had been met in 1915 and 1916 by increasing the number and sophistication of trench networks, the original improvised defences of 1914 giving way to a centrally-planned system of trenches in a trench-position and then increasing numbers of trench-positions, to absorb the growing firepower and offensive sophistication of the Entente armies.

Battle of the Menin Road Ridge

The Battle of the Menin Road Ridge, sometimes called "Battle of the Menin Road", was the third British general attack of the Third Battle of Ypres in the First World War. The battle took place from 20–25 September 1917, in the Ypres Salient in Belgium on the Western Front. During the pause in British and French general attacks between late August and 20 September, the British changed some infantry tactics, adopting the leap-frog method of advance, where waves of infantry stopped once they reached their objective and consolidated the ground, while other waves passed through the objective to attack the next one and the earlier waves became the tactical reserve. General adoption of the method was made possible when more artillery was brought into the salient, by increasing the number of aircraft involved in close air support and by specialising the tasks of air defence, contact-patrol, counter-attack patrol, artillery observation and ground-attack.

Battle of Tabsor

The Battle of Tabsor was fought on 19–20 September 1918 beginning the Battle of Sharon, which along with the Battle of Nablus formed the set piece Battle of Megiddo fought between 19 and 25 September in the last months of the Sinai and Palestine Campaign of the First World War. During the infantry phase of the Battle of Sharon the British Empire 60th Division, XXI Corps attacked and captured the section of the front line nearest the Mediterranean coast under cover of an intense artillery barrage including a creeping barrage and naval gunfire. This Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF) victory over the entrenched Ottoman Eighth Army, composed of German and Ottoman soldiers, began the Final Offensive, ultimately resulting in the destruction of the equivalent of one Ottoman army, the retreat of what remained of two others, and the capture of many thousands of prisoners and many miles of territory from the Judean Hills to the border of modern-day Turkey. After the end of the battle of Megiddo, the Desert Mounted Corps pursued the retreating soldiers to Damascus, six days later. By the time the Armistice of Mudros was signed between the Allies and the Ottoman Empire five weeks later, Aleppo had been captured.

Western Front tactics, 1917

In 1917, during World War I, the armies on the Western Front continued to change their fighting methods, due to the consequences of increased firepower, more automatic weapons, decentralisation of authority and the integration of specialised branches, equipment and techniques into the traditional structures of infantry, artillery and cavalry. Tanks, railways, aircraft, lorries, chemicals, concrete and steel, photography, wireless and advances in medical science increased in importance in all of the armies, as did the influence of the material constraints of geography, climate, demography and economics. The armies encountered growing manpower shortages, caused by the need to replace the losses of 1916 and by the competing demands for labour by civilian industry and agriculture. Dwindling manpower was particularly marked in the French and German armies, which made considerable changes in their methods during the year, simultaneously to pursue military-strategic objectives and limit casualties.

Capture of Martinpuich

Martinpuich is situated 18 miles (29 km) south of Arras, near the junction of the D 929 and D 6 roads, opposite Courcelette. The village lies south of Le Sars, west of Flers and north-west of High Wood. In September 1914, during the Race to the Sea, the divisions of the XIV Corps advanced westwards, on the north bank of the Somme towards Albert and Amiens, passing through Martinpuich. The village became a backwater until 1916, when the British and French began the Battle of the Somme (1 July – 13 November) and was the site of several air operations by the Royal Flying Corps (RFC), which attacked German supply dumps in the vicinity.

Actions of 30 September – 4 October 1917

The Actions of 30 September – 4 October 1917 were German methodical counter-attacks (Gegenangriffe) during the Third Battle of Ypres in Flanders, during the First World War. Hasty counter-attacks by the German 4th Army during the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge on 20 September and the Battle of Polygon Wood on 26 September, had been costly failures. On 29 September, a review was held at Roulers by Erich Ludendorff the Generalquartiermeister with the commanders of Heeresgruppe Kronprinz Rupprecht von Bayern and the 4th Army staffs.

Action on the Polderhoek Spur

The Action on the Polderhoek Spur, was a local operation in the Ypres Salient, by the British Fourth Army against the German 4th Army during the Third Battle of Ypres in Belgium during the First World War. Two battalions of the 2nd New Zealand Brigade of the New Zealand Division attacked the low ridge, from which German observers could view the area from Cameron Covert to the north and the Menin road to the south-west. A New Zealand advance of 600 yd (550 m) on a 400 yd (370 m) front, would shield the area north of the Reutelbeek stream from German observers on the Gheluvelt spur further south.

3rd West Lancashire Artillery

The 3rd West Lancashire Artillery was a volunteer unit of Britain's Territorial Force recruited from Liverpool that saw action during World War I, distinguishing itself at the Battle of the Avre. During World War II it served in the air defence and medium artillery roles at home and in the Far East. Its successor unit continues to serve as a battery in the modern Army Reserve.

110th Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery

110th Siege Battery was a heavy howitzer unit of the Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA) formed during World War I. It saw active service on the Western Front at the Somme and Cambrai, against the German Spring Offensive, and in the final Hundred Days Offensive.

123rd Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery

123rd Siege Battery was a unit of Britain's Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA) formed during World War I. It served on the Western Front, including the Battles of Arras, Passchendaele, Cambrai and the crushing victories of the Allied Hundred Days Offensive in 1918.

173rd Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery

173rd Siege Battery was a unit of Britain's Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA) formed during World War I. It served on the Western Front, including the Battles of Vimy Ridge, Third Ypres and Cambrai, and the crushing victories of the Allied Hundred Days Offensive in 1918.


Further reading