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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Fort Bokar was built as a two-storey casemate fortress, standing in front of the medieval Walls of Dubrovnik in Croatia
Fort Bokar was built as a two-storey casemate fortress, standing in front of the medieval Walls of Dubrovnik in Croatia

A casemate is a fortified gun emplacement or armored structure from which guns are fired.[1] Originally, the term referred to a vaulted chamber in a fortress. In armoured fighting vehicles that do not have a turret for the main gun, the structure that accommodates the gun is termed the casemate.

Etymology

First recorded in French in the mid-16th century, from the Italian casamatta or Spanish casamata, perhaps meaning a slaughterhouse,[2] although it could derive from casa (in the sense of "hut"), and matta (Latin matta), "done with reeds and wickers", thus a low-roof hut without windows or other openings set in marshy place.[3] It could also come from casa matta with matta in the sense of "false".[4] However, it may have been ultimately derived from the Greek chásmata (χάσματα), a gap or aperture.[2]

Land fortification

Casemates of İbrahim Pasha were built by Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt, who was rebelling against the Ottomans, in Mersin Province, Turkey
Casemates of İbrahim Pasha were built by Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt, who was rebelling against the Ottomans, in Mersin Province, Turkey

Classical antiquity

An ancient casemate wall at Masada.
An ancient casemate wall at Masada.

The term casemate wall is used in the archaeology of Palestine and the wider Near East, having the meaning of double city wall, with transverse walls separating the space between the walls into chambers. These could be used as such, for storage or residential purposes, or could be filled with dirt, rubble and rocks during siege in order to raise the resistance of the outer wall against battering rams and projectiles. Originally thought to have been introduced to the region by the Philistines, this has been disproved by the discovery of examples predating their arrival, the earliest being at Ti'inik (Taanach) where such a wall has been dated to the 16th century BC. However, the construction of casemate walls had begun to be replaced by sturdier solid walls by the 9th century BC, probably due to more the development of more effective battering rams by the Neo-Assyrian Empire.[5]

Early modern period

In fortifications designed to resist artillery, a casemate was originally a vaulted chamber usually constructed underneath the rampart. It was intended to be impenetrable and could be used for sheltering troops or stores. With the addition of an embrasure through the scarp face of the rampart, it could be used as a protected gun position.[6] In bastion forts, artillery casemates were sometimes built into the flanks of bastions, but in action they quickly filled with smoke making them inoperable and for that reason, had fallen out of favour by the early 17th century.[7]

Late modern period

In the late 18th century, Marc René, marquis de Montalembert (1714–1800) experimented with improved casemates for artillery, with ventilation systems that overcame the problem of smoke dispersal found in earlier works. For coastal fortifications, he advocated multi-tiered batteries of guns in masonry casemates, that could bring concentrated fire to bear on passing warships. In 1778, he was commissioned to build a fort on the Île-d'Aix, defending the port of Rochefort, Charente-Maritime. The outbreak of the Anglo-French War forced him to hastily to build his casemated fort from wood but he was able to prove that his well-designed casemates were capable of operating without choking the gunners with smoke.[8] The defences of the new naval base at Cherbourg were later constructed according to his system.[9] After seeing Montalembert's coastal forts, American engineer Jonathan Williams acquired a translation of his book and took it to the United States, where it inspired the Second and Third Systems of coastal fortification; the first fully developed example being Castle Williams in New York Harbor which was started in 1807.[10][11] In the early 19th century, French military engineer Baron Haxo designed a free-standing casemate that could be built on the top of the rampart, to protect guns and gunners from the high-angle fire of mortars and howitzers.[12]

The advantages of casemated artillery were proved in the Crimean War (1853-1856) when attempts by the Royal Navy to subdue the casemated Russian forts at Kronstadt were unsuccessful, while a casemated gun tower at Sevastopol, the Malakoff Tower, could only be captured by a surprise French infantry attack while the garrison was being changed.[13] In the 1860s, the British, apprehensive about a possible French invasion, fortified the naval dockyards of southern England with curved batteries of large guns in casemates, fitted with armoured steel shields tested to withstand the latest projectiles.[14]

However, in the American Civil War (1861-1865), the exposed masonry of casemate batteries was found to be vulnerable to modern rifled artillery; Fort Pulaski was quickly breached in a few hours by only ten of these guns. On the other hand, hastily constructed earthworks proved much more resilient.[15] This led to casemates for artillery again falling out of favour. In continental Europe, they were often replaced by rotating gun turrets, but elsewhere large coastal guns were mounted in less expensive concrete gun pits or barbettes, sometimes using disappearing carriages to conceal the gun except at the moment of firing.[16] Casemates for secure barrack accommodation and storage continued to be built; the 1880s French forts of the Séré de Rivières system for example, had a central structure consisting of two stories of casemates, buried under layers of earth, concrete and sand to a depth of 18 metres (59 ft), intended to defeat the new high explosive shells.[17]

20th century

Following experience in the First World War, designers began to design free-standing reinforced concrete shelters for guns, which were also known as casemates. These were intended to defend the artillery piece from counter-battery fire and attack by aircraft. The ultimate development of these were built by the German Organisation Todt for the Atlantic Wall.[18]

Naval

Casemate-mounted 5"/50 caliber gun on USS North Dakota
Casemate-mounted 5"/50 caliber gun on USS North Dakota
Casemates on the Japanese battleship Haruna, showing their vulnerability to flooding
Casemates on the Japanese battleship Haruna, showing their vulnerability to flooding

In warship design the term "casemate" has been used in a number of ways.

The American Civil War saw the use of casemate ironclads: armored steamboats with a very low freeboard and their guns on the main deck ('Casemate deck') protected by a sloped armoured casemate, which sat atop the hull. Although both sides of the Civil War used casemate ironclads, the ship is mostly associated with the southern Confederacy, as the north also employed turreted monitors, which the south was unable to produce. The most famous naval battle of the war was the duel at Hampton Roads between the Union turreted ironclad USS Monitor and the Confederate casemate ironclad CSS Virginia (built from the scuttled remains of USS Merrimack).[19]

"Casemate ship" was an alternative term for "central battery ship" (UK) or "center battery ship" (US).[20] The casemate (or central battery) was an armoured box that extended the full width of the ship protecting many guns. The armoured sides of the box were the sides of hull of the ship. There was an armoured bulkhead at the front and rear of the casemate, and a thick deck protecting the top. The lower edge of the casemate sat on top of ship's belt armour.[20] Some ships, such as HMS Alexandra (laid down 1873), had a two-storey casemate.[21]

A "casemate" was an armoured room in the side of a warship, from which a gun would fire. A typical casemate held a 6-inch gun, and had a 4-to-6-inch (100 to 150 mm) front plate (forming part of the side of the ship), with thinner armour plates on the sides and rear, with a protected top and floor,[22] and weighed about 20 tons (not including the gun and mounting).[23] Casemates were similar in size to turrets; ships carrying them had them in pairs, one on each side of the ship.

The first battleships to carry them were the British  Royal Sovereign class laid down in 1889. They were adopted as a result of live-firing trials against HMS Resistance in 1888.[24] Casemates were adopted because it was thought that the fixed armour plate at the front would provide better protection than a turret,[23] and because a turret mounting would require external power and could therefore be put out of action if power were lost – unlike a casemate gun, which could be worked by hand.[23] The use of casemates enabled the 6-inch guns to be dispersed, so that a single hit would not knock out all of them.[23] Casemates were also used in protected and armoured cruisers, starting with the 1889  Edgar class.[25] and retrofitted to the 1888  Blake class during construction.[25]

In the pre-dreadnought generation of warships, casemates were placed initially on the main deck, and later on the upper deck as well. Casemates on the main deck were very close to the waterline. In the Edgar-class cruisers, the guns in the casemates were only 10 feet (3.0 m) above the waterline.[26] Casemates that were too close to the waterline or too close to the bow (such as in the 1912 Iron Duke-class dreadnoughts) were prone to flooding, making the guns ineffective.[27]

Shipboard casemate guns were partially rendered obsolete by the arrival of "all-big gun" battleship, pioneered by HMS Dreadnought in 1906, but were reintroduced as the increasing torpedo threat from destroyers forced an increase in secondary armament calibre. Many battleships had their casemates plated over during modernization in the 1930s (or after the Attack on Pearl Harbor, in the case of US vessels) but some, like HMS Warspite carried them to the end of World War II. The last ships built with casemates as new construction were the American  Omaha-class cruisers of the early 1920s and the 1933 Swedish aircraft cruiser HSwMS Gotland. In both cases the casemates were built into the forward angles of the forward superstructure (and the aft superstructure as well, in the Omahas).

Armoured vehicles

A Jagdtiger, an example of a casemate armoured vehicle
A Jagdtiger, an example of a casemate armoured vehicle
The Swedish Strv 103 was used until the 1990s
The Swedish Strv 103 was used until the 1990s

In regards to armoured fighting vehicles, casemate design refers to vehicles that have their main gun mounted directly within the hull and lack the rotating turret commonly associated with tanks.[28] Such a design generally makes the vehicle mechanically simpler in design, less costly in construction, lighter in weight and lower in profile. The saved weight can be used to mount a heavier, more powerful gun or alternatively increase the vehicle's armour protection in comparison to regular, turreted tanks. However, in combat the crew has to rotate the entire vehicle if an enemy target presents itself outside of the vehicle's limited gun traverse arc. This can prove very disadvantageous in combat situations.

During World War II, casemate-type armoured fighting vehicles were heavily used by both the combined German Wehrmacht forces, and the Soviet Red Army. They were mainly employed as tank destroyers and assault guns. Tank destroyers, intended to operate mostly from defensive ambush operations, did not need a rotating turret as much as offensively used tanks, while assault guns were mainly used against fortified infantry positions and could afford a longer reaction time if a target presented itself outside the vehicle's gun traverse arc. Thus, the weight and complexity of a turret was thought to be unnecessary, and could be saved in favour of more capable guns and armour. In many cases, casemate vehicles would be used as both tank destroyers or assault guns, depending on the tactical situation. The Wehrmacht employed several casemate tank destroyers, initially with the still-Panzerjäger designation Elefant with an added, fully enclosed five-sided (including its armoured roof) casemate atop the hull, with later casemate-style tank destroyers bearing the Jagdpanzer (literally 'hunting tank') designation, with much more integration of the casemate's armour with the tank hull itself. Examples are the Jagdpanzer IV, the Jagdtiger and the Jagdpanther.[29][30] Assault guns were designated as 'Sturmgeschütz', like the Sturmgeschütz III and Sturmgeschütz IV. In the Red Army, casemate tank destroyers and self-propelled guns bore an "SU-" or "ISU-" prefix, with the "SU-" prefix an abbreviation for Samokhodnaya Ustanovka, or "self-propelled gun". Examples are the SU-100 or the ISU-152. Both Germany and the Soviet Union mainly built casemate AFVs by using the chassis of already existing turreted tanks, instead of designing them from scratch.

While casemate AFVs played a very important role in World War II (the Sturmgeschütz III for example was the most numerous armored fighting vehicle of the German Army during the entire war), they became much less common in the post-war period. Heavy casemate tank destroyer designs such as the US T28 and the British Tortoise never went beyond prototype status, while casemate vehicles of a more regular weight, such as the Soviet SU-122-54, saw only very limited service. The general decline of casemate vehicles can be seen in the technological progress which resulted in the rise of universal main battle tanks, which unified in them the capability to take up the roles and tasks which in the past had to be diverted between several different classes of vehicles. However, vehicles such as the German Kanonenjagdpanzer of the 1960s still let the casemate concept live on, while the Swedish Army went as far as employing a casemate tank design, the Stridsvagn 103, or "S-Tank", as their main armoured fighting vehicle from the 1960s until the 1990s, favoring it over contemporary turreted designs. Other casemate design ideas, such as the projected German Versuchsträger 1–2 with two main guns, were developed even later.

See also

References

  1. ^ Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary
  2. ^ a b Weekley, Ernest (1921). An Etymological Dictionary of Modern English. London: John Murray. p. 259.
  3. ^ Battisti, Carlo; Alessio, Giovanni (1950–1957). Dizionario etimologico italiano [Italian Etymological Dictionary] (in Italian). 1. Florence: Barbera. pp. 788–89.
  4. ^ Devoto, Giacomo (1979). Avviamento all'etimologia italiana [An Introduction to Italian Etymology] (in Italian). Milan: Mondadori. p. 69.
  5. ^ Emswiler, Elizabeth Anne (2020). "THE CASEMATE WALL SYSTEM OF KHIRBAT SAFRA (pp. 4-15)". digitalcommons.andrews.edu. Andrews University. Retrieved 22 October 2021.
  6. ^ Civilwarfortifications.com Archived October 6, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Lloyd, Ernest Marsh (1887). Vauban, Montalembert, Carnot: Engineer Studies. London: Chapman and Hall. pp. 114–115.
  8. ^ Lloyd 1887, pp. 125–127
  9. ^ Lepage, Jean-Denis G. G. (2010). French Fortifications, 1715–1815: An Illustrated History. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company Inc. p. 96. ISBN 978-0-7864-4477-9.Lepage p. 96
  10. ^ Wade, Arthur P. (2011). Artillerists and Engineers. McLean VA: Coast Defense Study Group (CDSG) Press. p. 111. ISBN 978-0-9748167-2-2.
  11. ^ Hogg, Ian V. (1975). Fortress: A History of Military Defence. London: Macdonald and Jane's. p. 78. ISBN 0-356-08122-2.
  12. ^ Civilwarfortifications.com Archived April 17, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Hogg 1975, pp. 79–82
  14. ^ Hogg 1975. pp. 87-89
  15. ^ Hogg 1975, p. 101
  16. ^ Hogg 1975, p. 94-95
  17. ^ Hogg 1975. p. 104
  18. ^ Hogg 1975. p. 138-142
  19. ^ Civilwarhome.com
  20. ^ a b Hovgaard, William, Modern History of Warships, pp. 14–15.
  21. ^ Hovgaard, William, Modern History of Warships, p. 18.
  22. ^ Hovgaard, William, Modern History of Warships, pp. 78–79.
  23. ^ a b c d Brown, David K, Warrior to Dreadnought, p. 129.
  24. ^ Brown, David K, Warrior to Dreadnought, pp. 101–02, 129.
  25. ^ a b Brown, David K, Warrior to Dreadnought, pp. 134–35.
  26. ^ Brown, David K, Warrior to Dreadnought, p. 136.
  27. ^ Brown, David K, The Grand Fleet, Warship Design and Developments 1906–1922, p. 42.
  28. ^ Robert Bud; Philip Gummett; Science Museum (Great Britain) (1 January 1999). Cold War, Hot Science: Applied Research in Britain's Defence Laboratories, 1945–1990. Harwood Academic Publishers. p. 182. ISBN 978-90-5702-481-8.
  29. ^ These translate as 'Hunting Tiger' and 'Hunting Panther', respectively
  30. ^ Michael Green; James D. Brown (15 February 2008). Tiger Tanks at War. MBI Publishing Company. pp. 90–91. ISBN 978-1-61060-031-6.
This page was last edited on 22 October 2021, at 19:16
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