Stuck Stuk van 6-velds

In the rush by modern armies in the late 19th century to move past the trappings of the Napoleonic wars and into the coming 20th-century way of thinking, the gold standard– besides bolt-action repeating rifles fed from magazines full of spitzer-pointed smokeless powder cartridges– was portable steel-barreled breechloading field artillery.

The Dutch, in an effort to keep up with the rest of Europe, in the 1890s ordered over 200 Veldgeschut 6 cm No.349 field guns. Typically just dubbed the Stuk 6-Veld, or “Field Piece, 6 ” these small 57mm/25caliber guns were constructed under contract by Krupp in Germany and Schneider & Cie in France (got to be neutral, after all) and were downright handy.

Just 1,300 pounds when ready for the field, they could be moved by just two horses in a pinch, crewed by only a four-man detail, and were still able to fire four of five 8.5-pound shells per minute out to a range of 3,500 meters.

Veldgeschut 6 cm 6 veld, gezien van linksachter, met uitgeklapte schep. AKL007358

Veldgeschut 6 cm 6 veld, gezien van linksachter, met uitgeklapte schep. AKL007353

Stuk van 6-veld

Stuk van 6-veld

Do you see why the weight was important to the Dutch? Here a Dutch Rijdende sectie van 6 cm veld in galop NIMH AKL000835

Each gun typically had 208 rounds ready, a larger stock of shells than in most period armies. “Oefening bij de Instructie-batterij. Het richten van een kanon 6 veld.” NIMH 2204-003-013

The Stuk van 6-veld, however, was kept in service well past its prime as the Dutch were not big fans of large military budgets. After all, a used gun, even if obsolete, is infinitely cheaper than a new gun.

By the late 1930s, the 57mm piece was relegated to anti-tank duty, which it could still pull off against most of the light armor of the day, especially with a new AP round.

Exercise during the mobilization 1939-1940. 6 Veld gun in the foreground. Note the combination of traditional Dutch M23/27/34 helmets and at least one British/American Brodie style, and the slung Geweer M. 95 Dutch Mannlicher (Hembrug) rifles.

Some were even trimmed down and equipped with rubber tires for use by the Dutch Lichte Brigade, towed by Ford trucks. However, this only happened to like 3 batteries worth of guns, and most would face off against the Germans still carried by wooden spokes. 

Dutch Motorbatterij rijdende artillerie met geschut 6 cm veld achter Ford TT trekkers. AKL000867 1935

During an exercise, soldiers, most likely from the 5th battery Korps Rijdende Artillerie, push a 6 Veld backward into a forest. The piece features a modified wheelset with solid wheels on pneumatic tires instead of the original wooden spoked wheels.

Headed into the defense from the German invasion, no less than 206 6-velds were in service in May 1940, where they tried to halt the Blitzkrieg where applicable.

While some successes were recorded, their ability to halt “medium-weight German tanks proved hopeless, even at close range.”

Dutch 6-Veld gun in the vicinity of Zuid-Willemsvaart, May 1940, as Germans move past. Wooden wheels and all…

Whereas the Germans typically took just about every artillery piece, vehicle, and rifle that fell into their hands and re-issued them later in the war, there is no evidence they recycled captured 6 Velds.

Still, a few of the old guns, saved from the crucible of WWII as they were safely overseas with colonial garrisons in Suriname and the Caribbean, were kept in service with the Cold War-era Dutch army as saluting pieces into the early 1980s.

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