A brief report by Allied observers on German artillery tactics in North Africa, from Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 31, August 12th, 1943.
A recently returned American officer reports that in North Africa the Germans frequently made a practice of firing a few salvoes from a battery; then, moving out, about the time the American forward observers had the position taped. Our own guns would plaster the observed position only to find that the enemy guns, apparently on self-propelled mounts, opened fire from some other point.
An extremely clever trick was reported to have been turned by a German tank unit upon which a British 25-pounder (88 mm) battery was attempting to adjust. After the first salvo hit at some distance from the tanks, a second was fired which apparently fell wide, and the third salvo went wider; the forward observer was frantic.
This is what had happened: the German tanks had timed the first salvo from the report to the instant of burst, which can be done with a low-velocity piece such as the 25-pounder, and fired a salvo from their own guns so that their own shells burst on the ground some distance away from the tanks at the same moment when the battery's shells struck. The forward observer was attempting to correct his own fire from German shell bursts.
The most dangerous German artillery fire was not from HE bursting on impact, but HE time fuze air bursts, and ricochet fire. In this latter type of shelling, the projectiles would strike the ground and ricochet upward, bursting over the heads of the troops.
A rather surprising percentage of the German shells were duds. Whether this was caused by defective fuzes, or for the reason that the projectiles were AP, used when the supply of HE had been exhausted, was not known.