Sitting today in Shawnee Park at 77th St. and Shawnee Ave. in Kansas City, Kansas is an interesting artillery piece with a WW1 background. This howitzer has a curved shield, which means that it was made in France, used by American gunners in 1918, shipped to the U.S. in 1919 and later significantly modified. According to the plaque mounted on the front, it was declared scrap by the Army in 1942 and donated to the city by the Wyandotte County Salvage Committee.

The Canon de 155 C modèle 1917 Schneider, C-17S for short, was manufactured by Schneider et Cie., familiarly known as Schneider-Creusot, as their principal works were in the city of Le Creusot in France. Schneider was founded in 1836 by the Schneider brothers, Joseph Eugène (1805 – 1875) and Adolphe (1802 – 1845). Their business grew quickly, especially in the manufacture of steam engines and locomotives, and the firm diversified into artillery production in the 1880’s

During the First World War era the business was run by Adolphe’s grandson Jacques, who also established the popular Schneider Trophy air races, held between 1913 and 1931. In the post-war era he was vilified by the anti-war left in France as one of the ‘Merchants of Death’ who promoted and prolonged the war for personal gain.

Due to the huge supply of war surplus guns, the Schneider artillery business became unprofitable in the inter-war years and was discontinued altogether in 1935. Later, in the 1950’s, Schneider divested all of its iron and steel operations and concentrated on electrical devices, which it continues to produce today.

The C-17S was the third and last model in a series that began with an order from Russia in 1910. The C-17S differed from the earlier models primarily because it used bagged propellant rather than cased shells. Total war time production was 3,020.

M 1917 Schneider 155’s in action

In 1918 the U.S. Army purchased 1,503 C-17S guns from France, designating it as the 155 mm Howitzer Carriage, Model of 1917 (Schneider), to replace the M 1908 6 inch gun (of which there were only 42 on hand) as the standard howitzer.

Additionally, they paid $560,000 for non-exclusive rights to the design and working drawings, and 626 guns were manufactured in the US. These were designated as the M 1918, and they differed somewhat from the French guns, having a straight rather than curved shield, rubber tires rather than steel-rimmed wheels, a pivoting spade and a different breach mechanism. All of the US units in action in France in 1918 used the French-built C-17S guns. The first US regiment equipped with US-made M 1918 guns was about to embark for France when the war ended.

All 1,503 of the C-17S guns were brought to the United States in 1919 and upgraded to the M 1918 standard. Later many of the M 1918 guns were modernized with air brakes, new metal wheels and pneumatic tires to enable highway speed towing by trucks, but the Shawnee Park gun wasn’t one of these.  The M 1918 was the standard American heavy howitzer until replaced by the 155 mm Howitzer M1 beginning in late 1942.  

The French had over 2,000 C-17S guns in service in 1940 which fell into German hands and were used by them throughout WW2, along with several hundred others captured from other countries.

For the artillery buffs, here are some statistics on the gun:

Overall weight 9,120 lbs

Overall length 257 inches

Projectile weight 95 lbs

Maximum range 12,500 yards

Max./Min. elevation 42°/0°

Max. Sustained Rate of Fire 1 round per minute

 

James (“Jim”) Patton BS BA MPA is a retired state official living in Shawnee, Kansas and a frequent contributor to several WW1 e-publications, including “Roads to the Great War,” “St. Mihiel Tripwire,” “Over the Top” and “Medicine in the First World War.” He has spent many hours walking the WW1 battlefields, and is also an authority on British regiments and a collector of their badges.
An Army Engineer during the Vietnam War, he does work for the US World War 1 Centennial Commission and has memberships in the WW1 Historical Association, the Western Front Association, the Indian Military Historical Society and the Salonika Campaign Society.