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  © Michal Derela, 2013 Updated: 11. 02. 2024  

75 mm wz. 1897 field gun
in Polish service

75 mm wz.1897 gun. [artwork A. Jońca]
Polish wz. 97 gun on the move, before the war.
A battery of wz. 97 cannons of the 3rd Light Artillery Regiment during a regiment feast in Zamość, 1933.
Above and below: Polish wz. 97 cannon in 1920s, in a combat configuration, with a caissons on the left. The crews wear old issue French helmets (withdrawn from most units during the 1930s). Characteristic feature of wz. 97 cannon were a ramrod and a cleaning rod stowed in a gunbed, sticking out in front under a barrel.
Polish wz. 97 guns with rubber tires on manoeuvres in 1937. Note a three-colour camouflage of motorized artillery. French motorized guns had different spoked wheel discs. The crew wears standard issue wz. 1931 helmets.
Polish wz. 97 cannons abandoned in an unidentified village in September 1939. Two guns in a background are dismantled.
Polish wz. 97 gun captured by the Germans, towed by PzKpfw I A tank. Noteworthy are bullet marks on a shield.

French 75 mm field gun Mle 1897, designated in Poland as: 75 mm armata wz. 1897 (1897 Pattern cannon), or wz. 97 in short, was one of the most important artillery systems ever. Conceived by Major Deport and manufactured by different French arsenals, it is usually associated with Schneider firm, although it was not Schneider's design and its role in production was marginal. Most modern at a time of its design, it remained in a frontline service until World War II. During and after World War I it was commissioned by many countries, including the USA and Great Britain.

Note: this page is focused on the Polish service of the gun. You can read about its development and design in Wikipedia article. Links inside a text without an underline lead to other relevant Wikipedia articles.

Wz. 1897 cannons in Poland

Before World War II

The first Polish unit to use this gun was allied General Józef Haller's Blue Army, formed in France in 1917-1918. In 1919 it had 180 such guns, in light artillery regiments of five divisions (according to other sources, 171). After World War I, in April 1919 the army returned to Poland, with its equipment.

Thanks to further deliveries from France, on 1 October 1920 Poland had 783 cannons wz. 97, of which 501 were in 132 batteries and the rest in a reserve. Some additional guns were surely lost by that time. Therefore, it was by far the most numerous artillery piece at a time of the Polish-Soviet war (it was more than all other cannons of 75–80 mm caliber, of Russian, Austrian, German and Italian origin).

After 1922, the wz. 97 field gun was chosen as a standard cannon for light artillery, subsequently replacing other marks by mid-1930s. In 1924-1925, further guns were acquired from France (524, or 153 according to other version, plus spare barrels). In following years, 120 guns were received from Romania, in exchange for 76.2 mm wz. 02 cannons, 28 guns were acquired in a similar way from Latvia and 69 from Yugoslavia[6]. In 1931 there were already 1255 guns wz. 97 in inventory. It was planned in late 1930s, that they would be eventually replaced with 100 mm howitzers in light artillery regiments – which was only partly proceeded, and then they would replace wz. 02/26 cannons in infantry artillery platoons, which was not done.

Because of enough number of imported guns, 75 mm field guns were not produced in Poland, although Zakłady Starachowickie in Starachowice developed own similar prototypes of wz. 31St and wz. 38St guns (the second one with a split carriage). There were only carried refits of wz. 97 guns, and very limited modernization efforts. A small number of guns (apparently 12) were modified for motorized traction by fitting French rubber tires Michelin DS in 1937 and were used in the pre-war 1st Motorized Artillery Regiment (some authors call these guns: wz. 97/37, but apparently it was not an official designation). Earlier, a small number of guns were used in a motorized artillery on special "roller-skates" with four small rubber tires. Shortly before the war it was planned to buy wheels and tractors in France and convert another 60 guns of five detachments, but it was not realized.

According to one source, in 1939 there were also reported 7 guns wz. 97 converted to Russian 76.2 mm ammunition during World War I, and 23 converted back to 75 mm[6].

Similar guns, not being a subject of this page, were used as anti-aicraft, in a self-propelled version (12) or a stationery, with a limited area of fire. Naval guns of the same model on pedestal mounts were used until 1939 first of all on two gunboats, two minesweepers, an artillery training ship ORP Mazur and four river monitors. The only use in armoured weapons was a prototype motor armoured wagon wz. 28.

1939 use

In June 1939, before World War II, there were 1374 guns wz. 1897 available (153 in reserve), according to a report of General Miller. According to other sources, there were 1230 guns in the Army in August 1939[1] (a difference probably comes mostly from not counting reserve guns). Average condition of barrels was estimated as 70% (7000 shots remaining).

75 mm wz. 97 guns were a mainstay of light artillery regiments in Infantry Divisions. 30 regular divisions had a full Light Artillery Regiment, existing during a peacetime, corresponding with a division's number (Nos. 1–30; Polish: Pułk Artylerii Lekkiej, pal). There was also the 31st Regiment in Artillery Training Center in Toruń, and two separate detachments in Rembertów and Vilnius (Nos. 32 and 33). Therefore, at least 668 cannons were used in light artillery before the outbreak of World War II[6]. Further 9 reserve divisions, mobilized during the war, could have incomplete artillery regiments due to problems with mobilization and transport of units (some detachments meant for artillery regiments of reserve divisions fought with other units eventually). Typical regiments had 24 cannons, in two detachments (battalions), and the third detachment with 100 mm howitzers. Only 10 regiments had newer organization, with 12 guns and 24 howitzers. Each detachment (Polish: dywizjon, not to confuse with a division – Polish: dywizja) had three four-gun batteries (Polish: bateria).

Wz. 97 guns were also an armament of 8 detachments of C-in-C reserve, mobilized in August-September 1939, with 12 guns each (Nos. 41, 48, 50, 58, 59, 64, 67, 81). 150 guns 75 mm (including some wz.02/26) remained in a general reserve[1], part of them supplemented combat units or were used in combat in improvised units.

From 1938, 30 wz. 97 guns were given to the KOP – Border Protection Corps, defending Poland's eastern border against the Soviet invasion after 17 September 1939. Several were used in fortifications, in eastern Poland (Sarny Fortified Area – 7 guns manned by KOP, replacing wz. 02 guns), but also in Silesia Fortified Area in southwestern Poland.

Guns with rubber tires were used in motorized batteries of Polish two motorized brigades – four guns in the 16th Motorized Artillery Detachment of the 10th Motorized Cavalry Brigade (along with four 100 mm howitzers) and eight guns in the 2nd Motorised Artillery Detachment of the Warsaw Armoured-Motorised Brigade. They were towed by C4P and Citroën-Kegresse P17 halftrack tractors respectively.

A separate story are guns of the Land Coastal Defence (Lądowa Obrona Wybrzeża, LOWyb), defending an area around Gdynia until 19 September 1939. Two platoons with two wz. 97 guns each were assigned in the 1930s to its two Naval Rifle Battalions (Nos. 1 and 2), enhanced to Naval Rifle Regiments during the mobilization. Seven guns wz. 97 were assigned in 1939 to the Naval Light Artillery Detachment, but their origin was different: they were former naval guns on pedestal mounts, from a Navy stock, fitted with standard land carriages and sights shortly before the war. Guns of the Naval Light Artillery Detachment (apart from these, four 105 mm cannons) had no dedicated caissons nor own means of transport, and were hauled by few Citroën-Kegresse P17 halftracks from a searchlight company, trucks or even by a requisitioned agricultural tractor. Two more 75 mm naval guns on pedestal mounts were used by the Land Coastal Defence as railway batteries, and nine were used on stationary coastal mounts in a defence of Hel. During the campaign, six more guns on naval mounts were dismounted from two Polish gunboats and two minesweepers[7]. It could be noted, that also two 76.2 mm wz. 02 guns were used by the LOWyb units.


Caliber: 75 mm
Maximum range: 11 200 m
Elevation:-11 +18°
Horizontal arc of fire:
Muzzle velocity: 542 m/s
Shell weight: 5.1 - 7.2 kg
Max. rate of fire: 12 rds/min
Crew: 6 (other source: 7)
Length (combat position): 4500 mm
Length with a limber: 8400 mm
Barrel length: 2721 mm (L/36)
Width: 1820 mm
Height: 1470 mm
Height of a line of fire: 930 mm
Wheel diameter: 1334 mm (wooden)
Combat weight: 1190 kg
Transport weight with a limber and ammo: 1938 kg
Barrel weight: 434 kg (without a breech)

A protective shield of the gun was 8 mm thick. The gun was towed by a team of six horses, using a limber. Another team of six horses towed a caisson with a limber. The crew travelled on limbers (three upon each), a gun's commander had own horse, and there was a horseman on one horse in each pair. The gun crew was six (not including the commander and horsemen). There were 24 rounds carried in each limber and 72 in the caisson (all wz. 1897 model). Limbers and caissons wz. 1910 of an ammunition supply column had 40 and 100 rounds respectively.

Ammunition used in Poland (without tracer, indicating and other special purpose rounds):

  Round weightexplosive weight
HE grenade wz.1910 (steel)similar to wz.1915? kg
HE grenade wz.1915 (steel)5.225 kg (without fuze)0.78 kg
HE grenade wz.1917 (steel)5.970 kg (without fuze)0.66 kg
HE grenade wz.1918 (cast steel)6.375 kg (without fuze)0.435 kg
Shrapnell wz.1897 (steel)7.250 kg0.11 kg of black powder, 261 of 12-gram balls
AP grenade wz.1910 (steel)6.400 kg0.09 kg
Semi-AP grenade A.L. R/2 (steel)7.980 kg 0.435 kg

The ammunition was manufactured in France or Poland. In June 1939, Polish 75 mm ammunition stock was 1376 rounds per gun (including wz.02/26 guns, but without reserve guns), i.e. 23 calculated units of fire (60).

In 1937 it was suggested to modify 75 mm guns by fitting optical sights of 37 mm wz. 36 Bofors AT guns to improve their ability of fighting tanks, but it was ordered to modify 10 guns only, which were used for trials. The other change was fitting a directional handle at a tail to enable quicker change of direction. Tests came out well, and an average hit probability against moving targets improved twice (from 20% to 37%), but a decision to start a modification of all of guns was taken only in summer 1939, when it was too late. A price would have been 1425 zloty per a gun (an equivalent of an LMG). Also a bottleneck would have been a limited production of optical sights, needed also for anti-tank guns and tanks. Therefore, in September 1939 the cannons could only fight tanks with less precise direct artillery fire. Some guns might have been fitted with directional handles by then. There were available AP grenades, penetrating 68 mm armour at 500 m, but in a very limited quantity: 3 per a calculated unit of fire (60) in 1938, increased to 5 in May and 8 in July 1939; however it is not known if all batteries got a prescribed number. In June 1939 there were only 41,000 AP and SAP grenades in stock, per 2,250,000 rounds for 75 mm cannons in total. On the other hand, HE grenades were usually enough to destroy or damage lightly armoured tanks of 1939 (in case of a direct hit, ordinary grenades could break 15 mm armour at 1200 m according to Polish tests).

75 mm wz. 97 gun from behind, with braked wheels in a combat position (drawings from a manual)[5]
A limber with a caisson and an open caisson.

1. Andrzej Konstankiewicz: Broń strzelecka i sprzęt artyleryjski formacji polskich i Wojska Polskiego w latach 1914-1939, Lublin, 2003, ISBN 83-227-1944-2
2. Konrad Nowicki: Artyleria polska oczami jej dowódcy, "Poligon" Nr. 2(37)/2013
3. Mariusz Skotnicki: 75 mm armata / cannon wz.1897, series Model Detail Photo Monograph No.26, Rossagraph 2005
4. Krzysztof Szczegłow: 75 mm armata wz. 1897, series Typy Broni i Uzbrojenia Nr. 123, Warsaw, 1988
5. Regulamin artylerji lekkiej. Część IIa. Opis i utrzymywanie sprzętu i amunicji 75 mm armaty wz. 1897, Warsaw, 1936 (military manual)
6. Paweł Janicki: Armata wz. 1897 kal. 75 mm (Schneider), series: Wielki Leksykon Uzbrojenia Wrzesień 1939, Nr. 26, Warsaw, 2014
7. Waldemar Nadolny: Artyleria nadbrzeżna, series: Wielki Leksykon Uzbrojenia Wrzesień 1939, Nr. 69, Warsaw, 2015


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