The canon de 75 modèle 1897 was a 75mm field gun used by the French Army during World War I. It was the first cannon in history equipped with a hydro-pneumatic recoil mechanism, which made it possible to keep the gun trained on the target after it has been fired. This innovative feature gave the gun both accuracy and a high rate of fire, with 20 rpm. During the first two years of WWI, it was used in direct fire mode against advancing infantry troops. From 1916 onwards, however, the canon de 75 would also be employed in indirect fire, especially to shoot mustard gas and fragmentation ammunition. After the war, in the 1920s, it would be upgraded into an anti-tank gun; the canon de 75 Mle 1897/33.
Designed by army engineers Albert Deport and Etienne Sainte-Claire Deville, the French 75mm was produced by the French government arsenals from 1897, and, by the time the Great War broke out in 1914, the French Army had thousands of them in their arsenals. The American Expeditionary Forces were also issued with the 75mm Mdle 1897. A battery of four 75mm guns was manned by a well-trained crew of 24 men commanded by 4 officers recruited among graduates of engineering schools. The contribution of the 75mm gun to the French Army was very important, especially during the the First Battle of the Marne and the Battle of Verdun. During the latter engagement, over 1,000 French 75mm guns were constantly in action, night and day, on the battlefield during a period of eight months. From February 21 to September 30, 1916, almost 17 millions 75mm shells had been fired on the German positions. This French gun fired two types of shells: a 5.3-kg high-explosive (HE) shell with a time delay fuze, and a 7.24-kg time-fuzed shrapnel shell that contained 290 lead balls.
Type: artillery field gun
Country of origin: France
Barrel length: 2,69 m (8ft 10in)
Recoil: hydro-pneumatic mechanism
Weight: 1,544 kg (3,400 lb)
Rate of fire: 15 rpm
Maximum range: 6.9 km
Muzzle velocity: 500 m/s
French 75mm M1897 field gun in action (footage)