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HeqvuArtillerg
oIllUo
To the sentty standing his pre-dawn duty in the trenches of
Heavy artillery of WorldWar I had
few mechanical aids for handling
theWestetnFront, the sightof ajaggedline of light onthe heavy ammunition. Particularly on
the older models, shelk weighing
opgnsite horizon cannot have been comforting, for behind over 1000 kg(2205 lb)wouldhaveto
szch aline lay the fire of the largest concentration of artillety be manhandled into the breech, as
happened with this French 400-mm
pieces in histoty. equipment.

World War I was an artillery war and, while large numbers of fieid gmns weapons such as the German 2l-cm (8 27-in) mortars have had to be left
were involved in.all the major battles of that conflict, lt was the heavy out for space reasons, Space has been found for some of the smaller
artillery that ultimately won or lost battles, It was only the heavy artillery examples of heavy artillery, such as the British l52-mm (6-in) howitzer
that had the shell power to destroy'the earth or concrete protection upon and the German tS-cm (5.9-in) Kanone 16, but the main emphasis is on
which each side.came to rely for survival in the front line, and it was only the really heavy weapons, for it is they that now attract the most attention
the heavy artillery that could smash a way through the lines of defences and interest.
behlnd which each side sheltered. The 'Great Wa/ was the heyday of heavy artillery. in the purely statlc
By 1914 most European powers had built up large gmn parks that conditions that exlsted along the Western Front the heavy gmns and
contained artiliery of increasingly heavy calibres and power. These howltzers could be carefully emplaced with few thoughts of dramatic or
were necessary to demolish the rings of fortifications that all the major rapid moves, and they could be fed with their heavy projectiles for as
powers used to protect their territories against the intrusions of others, long as the required logistic machinery remalned in being. They had
but once those fortresses had been bypassed by the events of the first plenty of targets as each side burrowed deep into the earth to survive
year of the war the same heavy artillery was equally usefirl in the strange the storm that daily flew over their heads. The only way to harm such
condrtions of the Western Front, where trench lines imposed thelr own burrows was by the use of heavy projectiles that could smash their way
peculiar method of warfare. through such protection as there was, and these healry projectiles could
This short suwey cannot include ali the many and various models of only be delivered by the heavy artillery.
heavy artillery that were used during World War I. What has been
attempted is a general indication of the many types involved, and
included here are some of the models that might be considered the most Once thewar had settled down to aface-to-face confrontation between deeply
entrenched forces, the howitzer came to the fore as the main offensive weafion
important. Thus the Paris Gun and 'Big Bertha' are included along with of the various artillery arms. The monstrous 42-cm M-Gerijt (known as'Bigi
the British 234-mm (9.2-in) gmns and 305-mm (12-in) howitzers, but B erth a' ) was us ed by the G erm ans at Liige and N amur.

'i
1 .:-:l i
:;{
GERI\,4ANY

lS-cm Kanone 16
The inclusion of a gn:n with a calibre of
only 150 mm (5.9 in) may seem out of
place in a description of heavy artil-
Iery, but the German lS-cm (5,9-in)
gn-lns were really in a class above that
of normal field artillery, Quite apart
from theu size and weight, they were
intended for use as corps arttllery cap-
able of long-range counterbattery and
'interdiction' employment, and thus
came into the heavy artillery category.
By i916 the long-range German
artillery in use on the Western Front
was mainly of a makeshift nature,
being derived ftom a policy ofplacing
coastal defence or naval gnrn barrels
on to improvisedfield carriages. While
this was adeguate as a stopgap mea-
sure, the gunners needed something
more suitable and manageable for
their longterm eqiripment, and conse-
quently the German general staff
made a special plea to its artillery de-
signers for a world-beater, Both Krupp Above : I n contr as t to most of the
and Rheinmetall took up the chal- artillery involved in World W ar I, the
lenge, and as things tumed out thelr German I 1-cm pieces were not
individual submissions were virh-rally howitzers. With their long range, the
identical. Both gn:ns were named 15- weapons were leared in the counter'
cm l(anone 16 or lS-cm K 16, but ln the batteryrole, and could onlY be
Iong term it was the Krupp lS-cm K 16 opposed by much larger and less
Kp submission that was produced in m6bile Alliedweapons.
the greater quantities, The Rheinme-
tall lS-cm K 16 Rh was produced in towed in two loads, the barrel and the
some numbers as the demands from carriage. The carriage was usually
the ftont were so gEeat, but never in towed on a special four-wheeled lim-
the numbers that Krupp was able to ber which also had some seating for
churn out, the crew members, who also oPerated After I91B numbers of 15-cm K 16s The l1-ctnKanone [6was
The 15-cm K 16 was along and large the brakes, were handed out to various nations as manufactured by both Krupp and
The overall design was entirely On the Westem Front the 15-cm K 16 war reparations (Belgnum was a major Rheinmetall, the latter ( as seen here)
Qnrn,
orthodox for the time apart from the became one of the most feared of all recipient) but the gtr-rn was one of the being made in smaller quantities'
fact that the barrel was extraordinarily the German counterbattery gnrns. The few allowed to rema-rn on the strengrth The equipments were sAil in limited
long (U42.7 in the Krupp design and Iong rangTe (22000rn/24,060 yards) of of the small post-Versailles German use during the early canpaigns of
U42.9 in the Rheinmetall offering) for the gun meant that it could reach well army, Thr.rs for nearly two decades it WorldWarII, itwas oneof thefew
as
the size ofthe wheeled carriage, The into the rear areas behind the Aliied acted as a traimng weapon for a new militaty items permitted to Gemany
carriage was a fairly simple box{rail [nes to destroy gnrn batteries, road and generation of gunners who, re- afterVersailles.
design fitted with a iarge shield for the rail junctions and generally to lay down equipped and with a new military phr-
gun crew, Heavy spoked wheels were harassing fire that could not be coun- losophy, went to war once again, Even
fitted as the gmn had to be towed by tered by anything other than the then the l5-cm K i6 was used during Weight: in actron 10870 kg (23,964 lb)
horse teams as motor traction was by heaviest and longest-rangqd Allied some of the early World War II cam- Elevation: -3'to +42"
that stage of the war (it was 1917 before gmrs (railway artillery or specially em- paigms. Traverse:8"
appreciable numbers of the guns placed weapors). ThiS entailed a gneat Muzzle velocity: 757 m (2,484 ft) per
achrally reached the front) at a pre- deal of effort on the part ofthe Allies, Specification second
mium and resewed mainly for the real- for despite its weight and bulk, the lS-cmK 16 Ma:rimum range: 22000 m (24,060
Iy heauy guns, The werghts involved lS-cm K 16 was still more mobile than Calibre: i49.3 mm (5.88 in) yards)
meant that the l5-cm K 16 had to be its potential opposition, Lengrthof barrel 6,41 m (21 ft 0.4 in) shellweisht: 5 1.4 ks (l 13,3 ]b)

German 28-cm howitzers


By 19 14 the growth of the German navy cradle mounted on a large and heavy
had ensured a corresPonding in- carriage which was in its h:rn located
crease in the number and power of the on a hmtable connected to a heavy
coastal batteries that were built to de- firing platform dug into the ground.
fend the various German dockYards Both howitzers had featr:res from an
and harborus, Coastal defence was the earlier age: at the rear was a crane for
responsilcility of the German navy, and raising ammunition to the level of the
as a general fule it adapted naval guns breech, while most of the recoll irrces
ro carry out tlTe coast defence role. But were absorbed by the barrel and cra-
iollowing the general fashion else- dle sliding along short rails when fired,
where it also adopted the hiqh- the rest of the forces being absorbed
tajectory howitzer, and for this it had by the mass and weight of the camage.
:c tum to the army for advice. Even by l9l4 standards the 28-cm
By the hrrn of the cenh:rY the Ger- (t 1.02-in) homtzers were obsolescent.
::al navy thus had an adaptation of an Their werght and bulk rendered them
a:ry 28-cm (11,02-in) howitzer knol,vn virtually immovabie, and the relatively
:he 28-cm Kiistenhaubitze (coast short ranqes possible (l 1400 rnl12,465
^"
riT;luer), weapon was the yards) made them somewhat unecono-
The army
e8-sn Haubitze Ul2, and both of these Continuedonpage ll04
:sa-,li r/eaponswere products of the
;::i,ic Krupp armament works at The 28-cm Kiistenhaubitze was an
:sse: the Ruhr. Both howitzers were extremely unwieldY weaPon, its
=
-:::iei mainly for the static role: the weight and buk fixing it to one spot
::; ::iTlEer had been desigrned Pri- and the relatively shortrange
-,=-; :c: forttication-smashing, in making ituneconomicalin terms oI
rr'' :' 1 -erqlhy emplacement period manpower and r.esources.In spite ot
r= :: :: :eal Lmportance. Thus the this, many served throughout the
l;;: -a:ei of the howitzer rested in a war.
ffimw&waffi ffkw ffiflg Gruax?s
Yorld War I wcs fouEjh f m the early years a{ mator transpart,
oftert using massire/y&eary.egu4Srnen t and. aver thernosf
d iffi c u I t ferrarn. Wk i tre i t w a s apprecl'a fed th a t th e n ewengines
c a a l d b e of the grea f esl cf u s e, s upB ly w as s fi// s/ow, an C ift e
old standby o/rnanpower and fiorlejro wer came inta play"

ln an age in which mass-produced mechanical transoort devices are common-


place, it comes as something of a surprise to realize how scarce such devices
were during the early days of this century. Before World War I a greai deal of
power was generated bv the simple application of manual labour assisied at
times by the power of the horse, and this has to be remembered in the context
of heavr,artillery. At that tirne mechanical traction and powered lifting devices
were unirsual. so r,vhen it came to mov ng and handling heavy art ller-y there was
o'lerr lrtie mcre Lnan orulc to-ce ava lable.
Throughout the centuries gunners have learned to handle even the heaviest
of their charges_ using onlir what is to hand. This has always involved a compli-
cated svstem oi timbers, joisis, pulleys, levers and hard work, and while this ian
on rts own move even the heaviest field gun and its carrrage, such methods can
have on11, a limtted ut I ry in the rnovemenl of large-calibre weapons. Fortunately
the monsters in service during \{/orld War I had generally been designed at a
iime when metaliurgy and mechanics were beginning t6 reach an Sdvanced
staTe,. so designers were often able to build into these weapons some form of
handling system that required only a m nimum of physical effort and also offered
a greater deg ree of saf ety to all concerned. The va i-tous systems usually invclved
built-in rails and ln;inches that enabled a howttzer or qun'barrel to be removed or
withdrar,,vn on to its transport carlage without the need fcr spectal iigs and The Holt tractarwas very successfulin the task othaulingheavyequipment
overhead .structures. Some heavy artillery had inbuilt cranes for the"same t\rgugh themud of theFront.lteventually gaverise to tie ca**piitii-triiiea
purpose, whrle some designers simply decicied ihat the best way to assembie fighting vehicle, otherwise known as the iank.
and disacsemole guns was by supo ving a moo le crane [.3r was'ssued as part
ol the weapon's srdirCard eqJipmenL. W rh tne molor tracrors tnings were dif erent, however. The moLor veh.c e ,.
f ,-
-
So by the time of World \.Alar I the emplacement of a heavy arlillery piece was still a relatively sirrple venrcle, and very orlen the power generated o1 .
clten not quite the probiem it might have been, but usuaily there was still a great eng nes was relat'vely iow. Tne onlv wav to qain the powei reouireo to r ,.=
deal of work to be done. Pits had io be dug to accornmodate the heavy iirrng heavy artillery was by 1ne enlargement ol engines to mdssive proport o^s I - ,
platform needed by most weapons of the peliod, and in some cases eartliboxeE in tutn ied Lo large and heavy wheels to carry the eng,nes and trans- r
nad to be filied to counteract the Jorces produced on firing Heavy subassemb- power, wtth the result that the specialist artillerv trictors of World Wa.
: =
lies still had to be manhandled on occaslon, ano this nece-ssity ofien ied to the resembled nothing more than huge bonnets carrieb on large wheeis. ln su_-
aiiocation of only the iargest men to heavy artillery units. examples tne dr ve' appeared to be a mere appendage to th6 vehicle. -yp ca ..
,, ['utt ng rhe weapons [ogether or taking them apait was only one aspect of the these monsters were lhe rrany designs produced in Austria and Germany s _ _ -
iabour nvolved in mo'yirrg heavy artillery. Once the weapon had been broken as the Austro-Dairnlers and thelr ilkl
down into a number o[ ]oads, each load had somehow to be oulled to where it But it should roL ce lorgorren tnat all too o,ten the motor tractor and lracr . -
was required. Before World War I thts usualiy tnvolved the horse or other eng,ne could rot be used'or tne simple reason tlrat even underwar orod_cr
di-aught animal, but the iargest weapons required so many teams of horses that
any real efficiency rvas impossible. Some of the less advanced nations had to
conditions lhere were rareiy enouqfi Lo rneet all tne demands made uoon i-i
numbers available. All too often the gunners had to rely on the horse ior tir,.,.
rely on ihe horse, but the more advanced nalrons canne to rely upcn powered tracLion oJrposes, and it horses were ava.labte thev nad to call uoon s__-
lfaction in ihe fofm of the internal combustion-engined trabtor, the steam beasls as draughl oxen Dr even camels."or Tne difficult es involved ,n usinc r_c=
traction engine and even railways. tearns Oi sucr anirars [O tow neavv and awkward art:llery loads acro"ss:]=
-l-raction
engines were very often ncrmal commercial models impressed into shattered terrain of World War I battlef ields can barely be imagined, but foi- tne
nrlrtary service, and they rarely requtred any modifications for their nerar;ole. gunners who had to carry out such tasks we can now only offel our admirat cr.

:.:cve: The field versian of the 42-cm Below: The 38-ern modei I6 from
: ::cia cauld be d$assem,b/edfor Skoda was aJso designed for road
e I, but with a weight o{ aver I 0A
: :-.' transpa{t, ta be towed by large
:-:-:es, mcye"tne.ntwas nat easy. wfi ee/ed fraclors rh secfi ons.

n4bove: Very often the assembly and


disassembly of these heavy pieces
requried specra I equipment. Here
the barcel af a 370-mm French
mor tar { howitzer ) is suspended
prior to fitting onto the firing
plattarm. Often ffi e crane was rssued
as part of the equipment.

Right: The terrain-crossing ability of


the tankwas put to good use during
the battle af Cambrai. This Gerrnan
I 5 -cm ( 5.9 - in) gun was captured and
towed back across the batUefield.
German 28-cm howitzers (continued)

mic in terms of manpower and travell-.


rng requirements. Moreover, each
lr,owiuer took three or four days to em-
place and as long to remove, and was
extraordinarily difficult to move, For
tansport the howitzers were broken
down into the usual loads: the army
version favelled in fow loads, while
the coastai version had to be virhrally
aismantled and reassembled each
time. The most unusual feature of these
bowiEers was that they used bagged-
charge propellantsl for many years the
German artillery desigmers had wed
some form of cartridge case allied to a
sliding-block breech mechanism, but
the 28-cm (IL02-in) howitzers used
bagged charges allied to a screw
breech.
During World War I these howitzers
were dragged up and down the length
of the German lines in France whenev-
er and wherever there appeared
worthwhile targets for their power.
Both the army and navy versions were
rsed at Verdun and dwing many of the
other major German artillery battles,
and most suwived the war to be hid-
den away in various secret stockpiles,
Thus both models were to hand when
1939 came around. They were once
more pressed into service, this time was a wonder that they iasted so long. Elevation:0'to +65' The massive foundation and
somewhat modified for traction bY Traverse: 360' on hrntable turntable necessary for the 28-cm
half-track vehicles, and they were Specification Muzzle velocity: 350-379 m (I, 148 to (I f -in) howitzersmademoving them
used during the siege of Sevastopol in 28-cmKiistenhaubitze 1,243 ft) persecond a considerable task, and yet the huge
i942 and later during the savage Calibre: 283 mm (i I. 14 in) Ma:rimum range: I 1400 m (12,465 weapons wete dragged up and
crushing of the Warsaw Rising of 1944. Lengrthof barrel 3.40 m (l i ft Lg in) yards) down theWestern front throughout
Thereafter they faded ftom view. It Weisht in action 63600 kg (I40,214 lb) Shellweight:350 ks (77L6 ks) thewar.

ffierit or'Big Bertha'


=
The Schlieffen Plan that was intended
to secure the German defeat of
Fraace, by wheeling armies through
name sh:ck. The crews belongred to a
special unit known as kurz Marine
Kanone 3, and initially only two howrt-
yet more were used on the Western
Front, Hcwever, it was soon ]earned
that the "type's accuracy fell off as the
Specification
M-Gerat
Calibre: 420 mm (16, 54 in)
Belstlum to take the French armies in zers went into action aqlainst the Bel- barrel became worn after even a li- Lengrth of barrel: 6.72 m (22 ft 0, 7 in)
the flank, was conceived during the gran forts, They moved on the roads in mrted period of firing and that, conse- Weight: in action 42600 kq (93,915 lb)
1890s, and honed almost to perfection a series of tractor-towed loads, five to quently, destructive impact was re- Elevation: 0'to +65'
durrnq the years up to 1914, It entailed each gnrn, The carriages had been de- duced. Although the 'Brg Berthas' had a Traverse:20o
the invasion of a neutral state (Belgium) sigmed to enable the howrtzers to be maximum rangre of 9300m (10,i70 Muzzle velocity: about 426 m ( I,400 ft)
and the rapid destruction ofthe forts at assembled with a mtnimum of labour yards), their best accuracy was per second
Liege and Namur, both of them among and time. Special armour-piercing obtained at around 8680m (9,490 Maximum range: 9300 m ( 10, 170 Yards)
the most powerful rn Europe. HeavY projectrles as well as the conventional yards). Another problem came pain- Shell weight: B l0 kq (I,786 ]b)
artillery was needed, so Krupp was high explosive types were avatlable. fully to light when it was discovered
ilvolved. The impact of these huge howrtzers that the projectiles were very prone to The m ighty 42 0 -mm howitzer know n
Throughout earlier years Krupp had has now passed into history, Within a detonating whrle stili inside the barrel as'Big Bertha'was used by the
been responsible for a long string of few days the mighty Lidge forts were the instant after flring, and many bar- German army to nullify the
super-heavy gnms and howitzers, but smashed and forced to capitulate, soon rels were destroyed in this fashion. threat oI the Belgianforts
to defeat the Belqian forts it had to to be foltowed by the Namur forts, The The 'Big Berthas' had their maximum at Liige and Namur. It
produce something speciai, It under- 420-mm (I6.54-in) shells were able to impact against the Belgian forts, was afearsome
took a series of trials with heavY- piunge deep into the earth before ex- Thereaiter their importance fell away, weapon,powertul
calibre weapons that ultimately ied to ploding and the resultant shock waves and a measure of thrs can be seen in and accurate (at
a 420-mm (16.54-in) howrtzer known as shook the forts to their foundations. the fact that although they were used leastwhilethe
Gamma, a prodigtious beast that They had a tremendous morale as well extensively during the Verdun battles barrelwasnew).
proved to be very accurate when as destructive effect, and alter a few French reports make vrhrally no men-
Ering a healry projectile capable of days of steady bombardment the tion oftheir effects, a sign that their day
destroying any fortification, But Gam- occupants of the fort had been re- was already past, None remained after
ma was a static weapon, desigmed to duced to a state of collapse, 1918, thouqh the Gamma howitzers,
be taken apart for moves and reassem- After deployment in Belgium the used rn the development of the towed
bled piece by piece after rail trans- battery moved to the Russian fuont, 'Big Berthas', did survrve, At least one
portation. While the German staffplan- where it repeated its successes, The saw action in 1942, when it was used in
ners appreciated the power of Gam- howitzers were soon joined by more the siege of Sevastopol.
na, they asked for a weapon that could examples from the Krupp works, and
be towed on roads and the obliging
Krupp desierners looked to their re-
earch and carne up with the answer,
Tris was an enlarged and modified
,';reeled carriaqe originally intended
:rr a 305-mm (12-in) hovntzer, Thus
ras born the M-G€ret (Gerdt mears
eqnpment).
AI this development took Place
::;h: at the last possible moment, and it
r"s not ultil Auqn-rst 1914 that the huge
',:-,{iuers moved off to war, The tYPe
;r:s soon knom as lhe dicke Bertha
Fa: Bertha, but more commonly trans-
-..:ed
Big Bertha') to its crews and the

-j
{
n

i
I
TheParis Gun
March I 9 I 8 saw the final major German offensive of the war, with an all-out assault
which caught the Allies by surprise. One of the aims of the German general staff was
to create as much confusion behind the lines aspossib le; to this end, a Krupp project
was put into effect, and one of the most unusual weapons of the war entered seruice.

At 07.30 on 23 March19 i8 there occurred in the land in a sporadic pattern, causing limited
Quai de Seine (in the north east of Paris) an damage and some casualties, but much worse
explosion for which no cause could be found. was to come. On Good Friday, 29 March, a shell
About 20 minutes later there was a similar ex- fell into the church of St Gewals on the Ile de
plosion in the crowded Boulevard de Stras- France right in the centre of the clty: 82 people
bourg and this time, when the crowds cleared, were killed and 68 more injured, The mystery
rt was found that eiqht unfortunates had been gn:nhad caused its biggest casualty toll to date.
killed and a further I3 injured. Again the cause But what was the gn:n that had caused all this
of the expiosion was not apparent but some carnage?
steel fragments were found, suggesting an ae- The answer was complicated, and began
rial bomb. But no aircraft had been seen, nor with German ballistic trials inwhichthe projec-
were any noticed when a third explosion tiies travelled much flrrther than anticipated.
occurred in the Rue de ChAteau-Landon, The cause was found in the fact that the projec-
where a building was partially demolished. By tiles had left the thicker strata of the Earth's
this time the Paris officials were deeply anxious atmosphere; as air friction was greatly reduced
to discover the actual cause of the explosions, for much of the trajectory, range was en-
and investrgators began to piece together such hanced, To take advantage of this eflect a spe-
evidence as there was. Almost as soon as they cial gmn was desigrned. A 380-mm (14,96-in)
began there was a fourth explosion, this trme in naval gnrn barrel wad relined with a new and
the Rue Charles-Cinq, and yet another person much longer 210-mm (8.27-in) barrel (about
was killed. 40m/13I.2 ft overall), for which special Toweringover theother products of theKrupp
It was not long before more fragments were charges and projectiles were deveioped. The works, the ParisWn nears completion.Thegan
found and this time there were enough to indi- new gmn was an oddity with its very long barrel was such achallenge to the technologly of the time
cate that they came from artillery shells. But that protruded some way out of the original that a fair proportion of even such a large firm's
where was the gmn that had fired them? More resources was taken up by the project.
naval gmn. It weighed no less than 142 tonnes,
mystery shells landed as the investigators but it had a range of 132 lcm (82 miles) and it
worked and a general alarm was sounded, could be made to work consistently, if only at a make a series of attacks along the Somme that
sending the people of Paris to their shelters, By price. Each time the grlln was fired the shell were intended to win the war and the new
the eighth explosion the investigators had passing along the barrel produced so much long-range gun was to play its part in harassing
already decided that the shells were from a wear that the internal calibre actually in- the Paris area and generally causing confusron
208-mm (8 19-in) gmn and even hinted at a creased, and successive shells had to be of and disruption, This is the reason for the popu-
possrble iocation for the gun lnvolved. Their larger diameter than the one before. The long Iar name 'Paris Gun'for what was officially de-
prediction was that the glln was somewhere in barrel tended to droop under its own weight so signated the lange 2l-cm Kanone in Schiess-
the Cr6py reglon, but Cr6py was I20 km (75 external bracing had to be provided, genist (long 2 I -cm gn:n in firing platform) . Later
miles) from Parisl As always, a Krupp desigmer was the man versions of the gnrn used a basic caiibre of
The Germans obviously had some sort of behrnd ali this advanced ballistic technologry, 232 mm (9. 13 in) when the original barrel was
long-range gmn of a kind hitherto only im- the same man in fact who was responsible for
agined, It was all too much for the citizens; as the 420-mm (16.54-in) 'Big Berthas'. The whole The banel of theParrs grun is fest-fired. Such were
more and more of these mystery shells fell ln project absorbed a great deal of Krupp's facili- the stresses of firing upon the metal of the barrel
and around Paris the population simply left the ties but there was a reason behind it all. In early that each discharge appreciably increased the
city. Over the next few days shells contined to I9l8 the German general staff intended to bore oftheweapon.

':ii;t:::i:::l:.}.ii!i :;

L 103
The Paris Gun

bcred out, but it must be stressed that each near-misses and even by one shell exploding
shell that was fired enlarged the barrel calibre, in the gun: the shell had apparently been
sc carefi:lly manufactured shells had to be fired loaded in the wrong sequence and did not fit
n the correct seguence, the barrel correctly.
The firing platform for the Paris Gun was of By this time the Parisians, or rather those
navat origin, with a twntable under the forward who were left, had begnrn to get used to the
end and racers runninq on tracks at the other. idea of being constantly shelled, Paris was a
The gn:a and its carriage were carefully em- big place and shells could not fall everywhere
piaced near Cr6py on a solid timber base and so a form olnormal life was resumed. On occa-
te surrounding area was carefirlly concealed sion one would iand in a vulnerable spot, such
ur the centre of a wood. So carefirl was the as a Metro station, but on many more occasions
concealment that the German qunners even they fell on open roads or empty buildings,
went to the trouble of planting extra trees and causing few casualties. The German advance
replacurg them if they wilted. on the Marne by the end of May caused much
more concern.
Frenchreaction The Paris gun was evenhrally moved to a
But as the drizzle of shells continued to fall on new position at Beaumont in order to escape
Paris the French reacted. They moved heavy the attentions of French railway quns, and from
rar-lway gn:ns into the area closest to Cr6py and there the third bombardment was started. This
began to fire into the area where they sus- was a very carefirlly prepared position with a
pected the gn:n might be located. This came at steel bed for the carriage turntable and rail
a time when the degree of barrel wear in the access for the ammunition on a lavish scale (the
German gnrn was so great that its accuracy was eariier gnrn positions had possessed ratl ac-
becoming extremely erratlc and range was cess, but not on the scale of the Beaumont site).
iallhg away. The barrel life was learned to be By this time the 232-mm (9. l3-in) barrel was tn
ofihe order ofonly 60 rounds, and a new barrel use and was shootrng very well, but already the
was fi.tted to the gn:n while it was still in its gnrn was having less and less effect, The mighty
location in the Cr6py woods, land battle that was takinq place to the north
Away to the north of the gnrn the advancing hadreached the stage where the main German
German armies were pushing forward with thrust had been contained, so the chances of
g'reat success. They had virtually eliminated the Germans having any major success before
one British army, and by 30 March had adv- the American armies arrived in force had pas-
anced as far as Montdidier. It had already been sed. The Paris gnrn could do little to remedy this
decrded that the Paris grr-rn should then be state of affairs, and could merely keep up the
moved to the Bois de Corbie, which is even harassing fire to create as much nuisance as
closer to the French capital than Cr6py. The possible, The ebb and flow of the battle led to a
gr:a then launched a second bombardment of new gun locatron at a site in the Bois de
Paris that was far more accurate than the first as Bruydres, and by 5 July it had resumed its
'Jre gunners were not firing at the extreme bombardment of Paris. But it was all to no avail,
hmits of its range. More and more barreis were By Augnrst the Allies were once more on the
changed, but once again the Paris gun move. The German attacks had finaIly come to
ailracted the attention of French army railway an end and in the process the German army
glns and airborne spotters to the extent that had exhausted its last reserves of men and
:fe on the new site became very unhealthy. enerQly. Al1 along the ]ine they fell back to-
Cazualtles were in{licted on the gnrn crew by wards Germany, abandoning all the gains they
had made in the early months of the year, As
they retreated they moved well out of range of
On the prafrng range the Paris gun is prepared Paris and the gnrns were dismantled and wlth-
for fuing. The external support was necessary to
ensute accuracy in the long and slender barrel. drawn. By that stage there was more than one An impression of the Paris gan (officially known as
The unprecedented rangewas purchased at the gnrn (perhaps as many as three) though only the'lange 2 l -cmKanone in Scfir'essgreriist'), on
expense of weight ot shell. one was used in actton at any one time, location in the f ores t of C rdpy.

lljiiil,:..,it. ....,._..,
'd*il

'e::-nt:!k,a:.: : - .
41.:Hj:!

\*
t
Heavy Artillery of World War I
Exactly what happened to the Paris gmns ln Special ammunitionhad to be developed to make
the aftermath of the war is still a mystery. None best use of the potential range of the weapon.
ever fell into Allied hands, although some firing Illustrated helow are two types of shell together
platforms were found and carefirlly recorded with twocharges (by varying the charge, range
for history. It seems safe to say thai they were could be altered without changing elevation) and
the case inwhich thecharges wereplaced.
cut up to prevent the Allies from learning their
secrets, but a great deal of ballistic data was
accrued and carefully hidden away ready for a
later generation of German artillery designers,
At least one German World War il weapon, the
21-cm Kanone (Eisenbahn), owed more than
passing influence to the Paris gnrn, and perhaps
others did as well.
But for all its brilliant technical success, the
Paris gmn was a fallure. It was intended to make
Parrs a dead city and render it useless to the
Allies as a cenke of industry and communica-
tions, but apart from a brief initial period of
panic this never happened, Paris was too large
a city for even a constant drizzle of. shells to
have anything more than local effect, and once
the Allied advance had placed the city out of *9;+
range the Paris gmn could have no other ap-
plication.

;-1: l'lt
'.&:;: ek:\

Above : The fu lly assemb,led Pans gun fir e s a t 4 5'


elevation. Eachfiringwidened thebore of the
With a barrel length of some 40 m ( 131 .25 ft), the barrel, and during the barrel life of some 60
Paris gun presented problems ofconstruction rounds, a serr'es of shells of successivelv
never encountered before. The 2I-cm barrel was increasingcalibrehadtobeused.'
i o used rhsrde a n old naval 38-cm barrel but, being
longer, a good deal protruded from the end. The
external bracing was essentr'a I to prcvent barrel
sag in such long equipment.

:r!_1_ir:1 11.,r..._ - -rj;


>K 6-ir, 26 cvvt BL How itzer The 6-in 26-cwt BL Howitzer was a
T:e &in 26 cwt BL Howitzer is one of
-l:se weapons that just scrapes tnto very effective artillery piece, light
:j:e cateqory of heavy artillery, enough to serve at the front as field
alihough its 6-in (152.4-mm) calibre artillery, and firing a large enough
i'iculd seem to categorize it more as an sfieII tobepressed into seruice as
:rdilary field arti1lery piece, Howev- heavy artillery when necess ary.
er. ihe type was frequently used as
;earry arillery by the British during
l"brld War I for the simple reason that
ln many occasions there was nothing
else to hand. Thlrs the 6-in 26 cwt had
io fill a grap, though it must be admitted
uat it f,lled that gap very well,
When the Brrtsh army went to war in
i914 its Royal Artillery siege batteries
,';ere equipped with an eiderly piece
krowl as the 6-in 30 cwt BL Siege
Howitzer. This was very much a reltc of
earlier trnes, had a very limited range
and lacked such refinements as an
effective recoil mechanism. It was also Right: 6-in 26-cwt howitzers of the V
tco heavy for the conditions encoun- Brigade, Royal Garrison Artillery
tered r.n France, so a new piece was parked in the Grande Place,
demanded. This was produced in a Peronne, on I 7 March I I I L By this
remarkably short time, design begin- time, motor transportwas a
r:ing rn early 1915 and the first exam- relatively common teature of the
ples being ready soon after the middle BritishArmy.
of the same year. By the end of l9l5
rearly 700 were in the hands of the
troops.
The new howitzer was named the the war ended, and were retatned in
6-rn 26 cwt BL Howitzer to differentiate service until World War II. Some saw
it from its predecessor. It proved to be action during the early North African
a remarkably efficient weapon, and its battles, Exports were made to Bel-
employment was conflned aimost gium, Italy and the Netherlands, where
completely to the front hnes for the the weapon was designated Obusier
demolition of enemy earth works, tren- de 6", Obice da I52l13 and Houwitzer
ches and bunkers. It had a short stubby 6" respectively. Weapons taken over
barrel that could be elevated to pro- by the Germans from these sources in
vide the plunging fire that was re- World War II were thus the l5.2-cm
qurred in such tasks, such elevation sFH 410(b), 15.2-cm sFH 412(i) and
beingi made possible by the use of a 15.2-cm sFH 407(h), while pieces cap-
heavy box trail. The recoil mechanism twed from the Bntish were 15.2-cm
was particularly effective, so effective sFH 4I2(e),
in fact that it was used many Years Incidentally, the 6-in 26 cwt was the
aJterwards as the mechanism for the subject of one of the first attempts to
World War II 5.5-in (I39,7-mm) qun- produce a self-propelled alillery plat-
howrtzer. a piece still in use in many form. In late 1916 some Mk I tanks
places. A further measure of the suc- were converted to carry 6-in 26 cwt
cess ofthe design can be seen in the howitzers on two forward 'horns', but
iaci that once in semce the weapon despite the potenttal of this arrange-
remained virtually unchanged apart ment they were little used.
fuom some minor modifications, no de-
sigmation higher than Mk I berng re- Specification
qured. 6-in26 cwtBL HowitzerMk I
By 1916 the 6-in 26 cwt was one of Calibre: 152,4 mm (6 in)
ihe most important and numerous Length of barret:,Z.Z2 m (7 ft 3.55 in)
healry gnrns rn the British inventory, Weight: in action 3693,5 kg (8, 142 lb)
and its use spread to many other Allied Elevation:0'to +45"
and Commonwealth armies. Two Traverse: B"
types of projectile were fired, one Muzzlevelocity:429 m (1,407 ft) Per
'*-eishins 45.36 kg (I00 lb) and the second
olherweighing 39 kg (86 lb), The max- Maximum range: with light shell
lmrm range with the lighter shell was 10425 m ( l 1,400 yards) and with hearry
tC425m (11,400 yards), Millions of shell 8685 m (9,500 yards) 1J uly I 9 1 6, and the battle of the action around Albert. Note the cleats
:cirnds were flred foom these howit- Shell weight: 39 or 45.36 kg (86 or Somme is under way. This 6-in fitted to thewheels in an attemptto
zers but many were rn active use when 100 rb) howitzeris in actionduring the aid traction in the Flanders mud.

>K li-it Bl Howitzer


The first f -inch howitzers in action
:'.1hen the BEFwent to France in 1914 it
-,';as. like most combatants, ill- were re-bored naval 6-in weaPons
with cut-down barrels. The carriage
3q.rpped with heavy artlllery, It did
::o: take lonq for the British to realize was hastily built in railway
-:ar workshops, and the wheels were
'Jrey would need heavy artillery in originally produced for traction
lr-ii quantities and in a very short
engn'nes,
:I]e. but there were few sources for
s::: in'eapons. Unlike their German
French coimterparts, the milltary
=i
:-:r::ers were unwrlling to striP the
::as:al defences, and there were few
:.:-s lcm whuch to remove the arma-
al alternatle had to be Pro-
=e:: soqurckly.
l::e: The answer was the
-:2 {-nm (6-rr) naval gn:n, already in
;::'d:cacn for both Royal NavY and

-.-:
8-in BL Howitzer (continued) Heavy Artillery of World War I
coast-defence purposes, but a 152,4-
mm (6-in) projectile was not thought
heavy enough.
The answer was to obtarn a quantity
ol barrels from old 152.4-mm (6-in)
gn]ns from stockplles all over the coun-
fy, These barrels were generally well
wclrn, but thls did not matter for they
were consrderably shortened by cut-
ting off a lengrth from the muzzle and
boring out the barrel and chamber to a
new calibre of 203 mm (B in), The re-
sultant barel was then mounted on a
hastlly devised carriage produced at
numerous railway workshops through-
out the UK, and to complete the
makeshift nature of these gn:ns they
were mounred on traction engine
wheels for ease of movement.
The 8-in BL Howitzer was a ponder-
ous load and a bulky weapon, but it
was at least something to issue to the
troops in France, Initially 100 were
ordered, but these were soon followed
by more, the flrst entering service in
February 1915, These initial howitzers
ran to no fewer than five marks with as
many marks of carriage, all of them
differrng in some way or another from
the rest, These were soon followed by
an 8-in BL Howitzer Mk VI, whichwas a
purpose-burlt weapon with a longer
barrel than the earlier five marks for
improved range, In its tuln this was
replaced in late 1916 by the 8-in BL
Howitzer Mk VII, which had an even
longer barrel. A later 8-in BL Howitzer
lvlk VIII differed only in detarls.
The Mk VII and VIII howitzers were
excellent weapons that formed the the modern 203-mm (B-ln) gnrns have in France by the Germans during 1940 By May I 9 1 8, when this example was
basis for a family of 203-mm (B-in) gnrns been derived. were redesignated 20.3-cm sFH 501(e) in action at W agonlieu, the I -in BL
that are in service to this day. The later After 1918 the eariy Mks I-V were but saw littie use, howitzer had evolved through
marks had a much more sophisticated withdraum (if they had not been re- severalmarks; and had become an
carriage than the early marks, and tired already) but the Mks VII and VIiI Specification excellentweapon.
were thus easier to handle and to move were retained by the Bntish army and 8-in BL Howitzer Mk VII
to the extent that they can be consi- some others (includinq the US Army). Calihre:203 mm (B m) Muzzlevelocity:457 m (1,500 ft) per
dered as different enms. Some of these In 1939 they were still on hand for the Lengrthof barrel:3.I7 m(12 ft4,3 in) second
late howitzer marks were handed over early campaigms of the war and later Weight:in action90l7 kg (19,880 1b) Maximum range: I 1245 m ( 12,300
to the US Army when it arrived rn many were converted to a new calibre Elevation:0'to +45" yards) ,f
France in 1918, and it is via them that of i83 mm (7.2 in). Examples caph:red Traverse:8' Shellweisht:90.7 kq (200 lb)

ffi ii.e-ir, BL Siesre Howit zers


In l9l4 the Britrsh army was not entire- unpopular feature. This was a large
ly devoid of heavy artillery, for the steel box, open at the top to allow it to
Royai Artlllery had rn sewice a healry be filled with earth, The weight of the
weapon known as the 9.2-in BL Siege filled box provided more stability
Howitzer Mk L This had its origtns tn a when the weapon was fired at low
staffrequuement dated 1910, but it was anqles of elevation, for without it the
not until 1913 that the first examples entire howitzer and carrrage could
were produced, The type was cleared rear upwards and to the rear on firing.
icr sewice in 1914, As its designatron Filling thrs box wrth earth took time
rmplies, the 233.7-mm (9.2-in) hourtzer and labour, and before the howltzer
was intended as a siege weapon for could be moved it all had to be
the demolition of fortifications, andwas emptied out aqaln,
accordingly constructed as a purely The Mk I had only a limited range of
static weapon mounted on a large and 9200m (10,060 yards). It was not longl Productron of both marks of 233.7- The major heavy artillery pir'e in
heavy finng platform, On the road the therefore before the Royai Artillery mm (9.2-in) hou'rtzer ran to 812 by the British service in I I I 4 was the 9.2-in
howrtzer was carried in three loads. started to request a similar weapon time the war ended in 1918, and many Siege Howitzer. As its name
Emplaced, the Mk I appeared to be a with more rangre, and this duly of these were either stockpiled or pas- suggests, itwas desrgmed to be used
rather complex weapon, but closbr ex- appeared during late 1916, It was sed on to other nations, The US Army from a fixed position, and movenant
amination soon showed that it was real- known as the 9.2-in BL Siege Howitzer had been provided wrth some equip- involved bre aking the equipment
Iy very simple. Mk II, and differed mainly in that it had ments when it arived in France during down in to thr ee secdons.
The short howitzer barrel was a longer barrel provrding a range of 1918, but others went to Common-
mounted in a cradle that contained the 12740 m (13,935 yards), but for the gnrn- wealth armies and after 1918 others Specification
hydro-pneumatic recori system. This ners the main importance was that the ended up in such nations as Belgium, 9.2-in BL Siege Howitzer Mk tr
cradie was carried on huo large side- recoil system was enlarged to absorb the newly-formed Baltic States and Calibre: 233.7 mm (9.2 rn)
frames that in their twn sat on a seg- the recoil forces to such an extent that even the Soviet Union (via the White Lengthof barrel 4,33 m (I4 ft 2. 51'-'
ment-shaped firing platform supplied the unloved healry earth box was no Russian forces). In 1939 the weapon Weight: in action 16460 kgr (36,288 lbl
with platforms on which the crew longer necessary, Otherrmse the Mk II was still in Royal Artillery service, but Elevation: + 15'to +50'
cor:ld work. The entire unit was in tum followed the same general lines as the many were lost dudng the events of Traverse:60'
mounted on an emplaced firing base. Mk I in both general appearance and May and June 1940, which was just as Muzzle velocity: 488 m (I , 600 ft) per
The recoil mechanism was of fairly h- construction, As before, the Mk II was well as ammunition for these howrtzers second
mited efficiency, and thus there was carried in three loads, but there was an was in increasingly short supply and Ma:rimum ranqe: 12470 m (13.93d
=ctovision in front of the carriage for overall increase in weietht of each ]oad there were no facilities to manu-facture yards)
arhat must have been the 9.2's most by about I tonne, more. Shellweight: 131,5 kq(290 ]b)
,ie-ir,
>K BL Siese Howit zers
By l9l5 World War I was well under The 12-in BL Siege Howitzer Mk III
way, and the pattern of the battles that was another railway mounting, so it
were to ragJe for the next three years was not until the appearance of the
had already been set, Aiso established l2-in BL Siege Howitzer Mk IV in 1917
was the need for yet more and heavier that the field gunners got their re-
artillery, and the Elswick Ordnance quired range increase, which had
Company was reguested to Produce a been requested almost as soon as the
heavyweaponfor delivery into the line Mk i reaChedthe batteries. The Mk IV
as soon as possible. Elswick simply was a lengthened Mk II which Pro-
took the existing 233,?-mm (9.2-in) vided a range of 13120m (14,350
howitzer desigm and scaled it up to a yards), but other changes were In-
new 305-mm (I2-in) calibre, In general i:orporated at the same time. A new
the new howitzer resembled the ear- Asbury breech mechanism was intro-
lier weapon, but the recoil mechanrsm ducedand the carriage was beefed up
was much revised and bY earlY 1916 all round, but to the dismay of the gnrn-
the first examples were readY, ner the earthbox in front of the car-
The l2-in BL Siege Howitzer I\/Ik I riage was carried over, so the spade 1
** int"nJ.o toi aiailway mouriting, woik had to contnue. A Power ram-
but a version for road use was also mer was provided, which no doubt
regurred. Here Vickers became in- took away a considerable workload
volved, and it too took the 233,7-mm from the gn:n crews, and extra ammuni-
(9.2-in) weapon as a starting base and tion handlinq jibs were provided at the
enlarged rt accordingly, This resulted rear, The overall effect of all these
rn the l2-in BL Siege Howitzer Mk II, additiors was to provide an increase in
whrch in appearance ciosely resem- the rate of fire.
bled the 233.7-mm (9.2-in) equrvalent On the move the Mk lVwas origrinal-
right down to the retention of the mas- ly towed by steam traction engines-in
sive earth box, On the 305-mm (I2-in) six loads, as had been the case with the
versron this requlred no less than 20 Mk lL After 1918 heaw trucks were leavinq a tiny handful in the UK for The breech of a I Z-in howitzer,
tons ofearth to prevent the recoil over- introduced for towing, and this training purposes on1y, showing the cradle for the massive
coming the stability of the carriage at arrangement was still in sewice in The 12-in BL Sieqe Howitzer Mk V shell together with some of the shell-
low angles of elevation, Being larqer 1939 when the BEF took some Mk IVs was another railway mounting, handling equipment. Later modek
than the 233,7-mm (9.2-in) weapon, the over to France, There the weapons employed a mechanical r anzming
305-mm howitzer had to be trans- took up so much room on the road sYs- device to insert the shell into the
ported rn six loads (barrei, cradle, tem that they were known as '12-in Specification barrel.
bedplate, carriage, earthbox and Road Hogs', They did not last long, for 12-inBL Siege Howitzer lvlk [V
accessories), Assembiy was carefully when the Germans invaded France in Calibre:305 mm (12 in)
thought out and accomphshed bY a 1940 thelr tactical initiative rendered Lengrthof barrel 5,65 m (18 ft 6,5 in) Muzzlevelocity:447 ft (1,468 ft) Per
system of girder ramps, winches and the 305-mm (I2-in) howitzer's lack of Weight:in action 57915 kg (I27,680 lb) second
jacks, but it was a lengrthy process and mobility a major disadvantage, Events with earthbox loaded Maximum range: 13 120 m ( 14,350
simply'swept around them, and all Elevation: +2O"to +65' yards)
all for a maximum range of onlY Shell weisht: 340 ks (750 1b)
10370 m (1I,340 yards). wer-e either destroyed or captured, Traverse:60'

The 1 Z-in BL siege howitzer M k IV


w as an improved vers ion of the
original model. The longer barrel
and improved shell handling
arfangementswere much
appreciatedby their grunners, but
the retention of the earthbox in front
of the equipment was not looked on
with any greatfavour. Itwas
desigmed to minimize the
destabilizing effect olrecoil at low
elevadons, and had to be fiLled with
up to 20 tons of earth.

k
- 2-in BL Sieqe Howitzers (continued) HeavyArtillery of World War I

't rt
5
I f d;;

ffi€
1

$"{**,

Above : M ay 1 9 1 8, and a I 2-in howitzer is firing somewhere near


Louez. Note that the blast has kicked up dustfrom an area several
yards around the equipment. The longer barrel gives the howitzer a
greatef range than earlier models.

Above:Atypical
artillery position o:
1917. From the nunLe:
of l2-in shells reac',':c:
use, itwould seen-. ::a:
apre-offensive
barrage is being
prep ar ed. p o s s :.b :.; : : :
dawn the next ia;. i:e
camouflagewa-s
necessary to pre:,'e.:
aerial obseryaic:
>K Ts-in BL Siege Howit zers
The Britrsh army at no time requested
a 38l-mm (15-in) howitzer, but was
presented v,rth such a weapon. Exact-
Iy how this came about rs an odd story,
but rt had its origins in the Coventry
Ordnance Works, which as a private
venture took the 233.7-mm (9.2-in)
howitzer as a starting point and en-
larged it, One of the directors of the
Coventry Ordnance Works was a re-
cently retired senior naval officer, who
contacted the Admiralty in order for
them to pass on the news of the exlst-
ence of the enlarged weapon to the
War Office, rather along the lines of the
'Old Pals Act', Instead the news fell
upon the ears of the then First Lord of
the Admiralty, Winston Churchl11,
whose ever-active mrnd soon thought
up a role for the big howitzer as part of
a Royal Navy presence on the bat-
tlefields of the Western Front, and a
single example of the Coventry gnrn
was obtained,
Thus arrived on the military scene
the lS-in BL Siege Howitzer, In a very
short time the howitzer was in France
in the hands of a Royai Marine Artillery
crew and in action, A further lI were
then ordered and delivered into Royal
Marine hands. The Royal Navy made
much of the howitzers' capabilities, but
experience soon showed that it had Above: Arising from a private
fathered something of a problem. venture, the I i-in BL siege howitzer
The main difficulty was that the 381- first saw actionin the hands ofthe
mm (I5-in) hor,'1tzer was a largte and RoyalNavy contingent on the
ponderous brute that lacked the ranqe Western F ront. M aximum range was
that would be expected from such a limited to less than I 0000 m ( I 0,936
large-calibre weapon. It was true that yards), but the projectile weighed
it could fire a projectile weighing no some635 kg(],400 lbs).
less than 635 kg (1,400 Ib) with dread-
ful effects on the receivingt end, but the battery work, so dispropodionate care
maximum range was a mere 9870 m and consideration was requrred for
(10,795 yards). The hormtzer required their siting in locations close to the
a crew of no less than 12 men on the front lines, But the weapons had to be
gnrn, and even more were involved in put to some form ofuse, so they saw the
the weighty task of ammunition supply. war out at odd times and locations
In 1916 the Royal Navy apparently whenever targets could be found in
tired of the whoie scheme and with- situations where the howitzers' dire
drew, presenting the 12 howitzers to lack of rangre was of little account, As
an unwanting Royal Artillery, which soon as the war ended theY were
had to accept them with good grace for quickly withdrawn from use and dis-
inter-service political reasons, But posed ol apparently to the White Rus-
once the Royal Artillery had time to sian forces during the Russian Civil
examine its new charges it lost no time War of the early 1920s.
in announcing that it was none too
pleased abqut performance, The Elevation: +25'to +45' The 1 5-in howitzers were all
Royal Artillery considered the howit- Specification Traverse:25' transferred to the RoyalArtillery,
zers to be too larqe and too heavy for lS-inBL Siege Howitzer Muzzle velocity: 340 m ( 1, I 17 ft) per who were not enthused with their
the results and range that could be Cdibre:38I mm(I5 in) second performance. Here a shell is being
obtained. And at the ranges tnvolved Lengthof barrel 4. 19 m (13 ft 9.OS in) Maximum range: 9870 m ( 10, 795 yards) Ioaded into the breech of a I i-in near
they were obvious targets for counter. Weight: in action not known Shell weight: 635 ks (I,400 lb) Ypres in September I I I 7.

AUSTRiA-HUNGARY

Skoda howitzers
During the years that led up to World portant deslgn in that it was one of the
War I the Skoda concern, based at first of such heavy howitzers to be de-
Pilsen in what is now Czechoslovakia, signed foom the stafi with motor trac-
waswellto the fore in the development tion in mind, Each ol the howitzers
and manufach-re of super-heavy artil- could be broken down into three main
lery. Like so many other natlons tn Ioads, the barrel, the firing platform
Europe during that era, Austrla- and the main carriage. The barrel and
Hungary faced the prospect of havtngt the main carriage could be towed by a
to smash through the rings of massle massive Ar.rstro-Daimler tractor along
rorn-ficatrors that protected the main roads at a ponderous but steady pace
centres of the emp[e's potential foes, over considerable dlstances, By 1911
and as the fortifications gEew heavrer such tractors were not unusual, though
sc did the weapons to defeat them. By the desigrning of a heavy howitzer for
,311 Skoda had already produced a such traction was novel and so
3'i3-mm (12-in) hormtzer that was the attracted much attention, The howit-
of any comparable weaPon in zers were organized into two-howltzer
=q:al
F'rope, batteiles vflth hvo qun-cariaqe tractor
aad thrs stubby howitzer fired
a 382- or 287-kg (842- or 633-lb) shell loads and another tractor pulling the
of penetratrng the heaviest two firinq platforms. On each towed TheSkodamodel l914was in northern ltaly the 4.2-cm piece was
=pable of any fod,
:l:.:ection Ioad sat crew members to operate the produced as a coast defence used as a forfress smasher. Rate of
l:-:s Skoda Model l9ll was an lm- brakes, while further tractors pulled howit zer, bu t dur ing the c am paigns fire was only two shells per hour.
Skoda howitzers (continued)
Heavy Artillery of World War I
::munttion, assembly cranes, tools TheSkodamodel I9l I 305-mm
-d even a special mobile workshop,
l"lore trucks carried such items as fire- howitzer was one of the first heavy
lcntrol instruments, the battery's ra- artillery pieces to be designed with
:ons and offices and so forth. Mobile motor traction in mind. The
batteries such as these were used in eguipment broke down into three
parts comprising barrel, gan
:e crushing of the Belgian forts in 19 14
carriage and firing platform.
'alcng with the Krupp 42-cml16,54-in
tsig Berthas') and were later used dur-
,::g the Verdun battles and the cam-
pa-rgn in Ita1y,
Once World War I was well under
',';ay the need for even
artillery
heavier
iecame apparent and Skoda went on
:: produce larger-calibre weapons,
lhe first of these was ready ln 1914,
alihough it was not a field hormtzer but
a coastal artillery piece intended for
':se inside armoured turrets, The
:a]ibre of this Skoda Model I9I4 was
=20 mm (16 54 rn) the same as that of
re Krupp howrtzers, but desplte the
l.fodei 19]4's intended employment
ie type was used on occasion as a
rieapon to demolish heaqr fortifica-
:ors during the campaigrns along the
corder with northern Italy, Some sur-
'"rved as coastal artrliery weapons until Model 1916 but designed so that the howitzer which was nicknamed 'Bar- Specification
,Vorld War IL Moving the massive 420- individual loads could be towed by bara', It too was designed for motor SkodaModel 19ll
nm (16,54-in) howitzer was a huge large wheeled tractors. The total traction, but few such weapons were Calibre:305 mm (12 in)
:ask, so in i916 Skoda introduced a weight of the emplaced Skoda Model actually built. lengrthof barret3.03 m(9 ft ]L3 Lnl
formal howitzer design lor use in I9l7 was well over 100 tonnes, and on
=ore
ield conditions, Even so this was still a the road the combined loads came to
A-fter 1918 the 305-mm (12-in) howit-
zers still around were distributed
Weight: in action 20830 kg (45,922 li'
Elevation: +40'to +70'
;ery hefty 420-mm (16.54-in) howitzer far more than that, The rate of fire was among the new nations that grrew out of Traverse: on carnage 16"
-rat took days to emplace or to move, only about one or two rounds per hour, the otd Austro-Hungarian Empire, Muzzle velocity: with heauy shelJ 34- :.
:-nd it was not until 1917 that a 420-mm but the heaviest shell weiqhed no less Most went to Hungary and Czeclioslo- (1, I I5 ft) per second
:i6.54-tn) design intended from the than 1000 kg (2,2051b) and the max- vakra, but Italy also received some Ma:rimum range: with light shell
--utset for relatively easy movement imum range was 14,600m (15,965 along rmth a few of the 420-mm (16,54- 11300 m (12,360 yards) andwith hea',r
:rd emplacement was ready, This was yards). in) coastal howitzers. shell 9600 m ( 10.500 yards)
'-re Skoda Model 1917, which was in Skoda also produced in 1916 a Sko- Shell weisht: 287 or 382 kq (633 or
nany ways the same piece as the da Model 1916 380-mm (14,96-in) 842 lb)

re EXno" de 220 [ mle tgt? Schneider


Before 1914 the French military philo- ing and manufacturing new heavy
sophers who dictated the nah:re ofthe weapons tookyears and itwas not until
French army training and tactics de- I 9 i 7 that Schneider was abie to deliver
cided that as fast attack was to be the the first of its heavy offerings, a gn:n
mair strength of the Prench army there known as the Canon de 220 L mle I9l7
'nould be little needfor heavy artlllery, or the Can 220 IJ 17 S. It had a caiibre of
whose main purposes were defence or 220mm (8.66 in) and was a derivative
slow attack. The 75-mm (2,95-in) rnle of a navai gmn design. It had a long
1897 field qun was ail that would be slender barrel and was mounted on a
needed as massed French infantry long heavy carriage in such a way that
swept all before them, so scant atten- the barrel slid in its cradle back along
'iron was griven to the provision
of heavy the lenqth of the carriage when the gmn
weapons before the start of World War was flred, The L 17 S was a heavy
L The 1914 Battle of the Frontiers de- weapon that had to be towed in two
morstrated in a terrible fashion the fal- loads (the barrel and the carriage) but
lacies behind such thinking, and the it had a very good range of 2B,B00m
battered French army wrthdrew be- (24,935 yards) and fired a shell
hrnd the trench lines that were to be weishins 104.75 ks (231 Ib).
the virhral 'trade mark'of World War L In action the L 17 S proved to be an
Once in its trenches, the French excellent heavy weapon but it amved
anny soon discovered that heavy artil- ofFrance onlyjust ur
on the battlefields
1ery was sorely needed. The concen- time. By mid-1917 the French army
lration on the '75' as a weapon for all was in such a state following the lethal
tasks proved to be a major blunder, for maulings of the Verdun battles that
against protected earthworks field large sectors openly mutinied and re-
gnus such as the '75' were vtrhrally use- fused to fight further, For some reason
less, Heavier-calibre weapors were the Germans never got to hear ofthe
needed to destroy trench lines and mutinies, and for long periods were artillery gn:n park and it was retained TheSchneider Canon de 22A L r:r'Je
bunkers, and the French army had but held at bay only by the artillery, The until 1940 when the many examples I917 was derived from a naval
few, The only sourbes for such French Millery arm was relatively un- still around fell into the hinds ofthe weapon. The long-banelled EruJ.! r-6s
weapons were from the batteries situ- touched by the mutinies and fought on Germans, who used them as coastal the first new desigm to enter Frenck
ated all around the French coastline, using the L 17 S and other such heavy gnrns emplaced in the Atlantic Wall, army seruice inplace of the largeiy
and from the nation's ancient forts. weapons until the troubles were re- Some saw action again during the Nor- obsolete coastal artillery. which had
Heavy gn:rs were stripped ftom these solved and the French army once mandy landings of June 1944, beenastopgapin 1914.
sources and it was with these elderly more settled down to face the enemy.
weapons that the French army with- Thus the L 17 S may be regarded as the Specification
stood the rigrours of the dreadul Ver- gmn that helped to save France in the Can220L l7S
dun battles of 1916, desperate troubles of 1917, but went Calihre: 220 mm (8.66 in) Muzzlevelocity: 766 m (2.51: r, per
Better weapons were demanded, on to play its part during the battles of Llngnhof barrel 7,67 m (25 ft 2 in) second
but it took time for these to be pro- 1918, Weight: rn action 25880 kg (57,055 Ib) Ma:rimumrange:22800 m
duced for the French desioners had to By l9l8 the L I7 S was one of the Elevation: - l0o to f 37o (24,935 yards)
'rork virhrally from siratc"h. Develop- better of the many types in the French Traverse:20' Shell weight: I04,75 kq (23r lbl
Canon de 240 L mle 84/17 St Chamond
One of the early candidates consi
dered for stripping ftom the French
fortifications of an earlier era was a
heavy gn:n known as the mle lBB4. Thrs
was a St Chamond design with a
calibre of 240mm (9 45 in), but in the
early part of 1915 the weapon was
generally considered too heavy for
field use by conventional means and
was thus mounted on special railway
gn:n carriages, As such the weapors
were as successfirl as any of the other
extemporized French railway gnls of
the perlod, But railway gnrns have a
habit of not always being able to get to
the locations where they are most
needed, and this lesson was driven
home during the Verdun battles of Above : The Canon de 240 L mle 84/ I 7
1916,which settled down to a sloggnng St Chamond was originally a fortress
match between the opposing artillery, weapon dating from I I 84. First
and under such circumstances the attempts at making the weapon
heavier calibres were often of more mobile involved a railway mounting,
use than the longer-ranged gn:ns. Thus but by 1 9 1 7 a field mounting had
a call went out to mount the St Cha- beendeveloped.
mond 240-mm (9.45-in) qnrns on to
some form of field carriage,
The new carriage was delivered
during l9l7 and the gmn and carriage
combination became known as the Right: The barrel of the Canon de 240
Canon de 240 L mle 84/17 St Chamond L mle 84/ 1 7 was easily detachable
or Can 240 L 84/17 St Ch. By that time from the carriage. Movable in two
there were few of the original mle 1BB4 loads, the great length of the
guns available, so the guns were equipment made for an extemely
placed back in production (these were awl<ward load, and setting up a
known as Can 240 L mle l9l7 St Ch). position could take several days.
The best that could be said ofthe resul-
tant weapon was that it was a ponder- yards), but the ordnance fired a I6I-kg 1940, but in that year the Germans de- Specification
ous item. The qnm barrel had to be (355-lb) shell of considerable power, monstrated that the L 84/17 was a left- Can240LStCh
towed separately from the cariage, The numbers produced during I9l7 over from another era by destroying all Calibre:240 mm (9.45 in)
and on the road both were lonq and and after appear to have been limited, the remaining weapons with Stuka Lengrthof barrel mle 84/17 6,70 m
awkward loads. The usual towing veht- no doubt as a result of the time re- dlve-bombers, most of them while they (22 ft) andmle 1917 7.00 m (22 ft I I.6 tn)
cles appear to have been steam trac- quired to manufach:re the large barrel were still on their road carriages. Weight: in action 3 1000 ks (68,343 lb)
tors; these endowed the weaponwith a and carriage.Tthe new barrels pro- Elevation:0oto *38'
very limited cross-country capability duced in 1917 were slightly longer Traverse: l0'
unless special roads were iaid, and the than the originalbut had the same per- Muzzle velocity: 575 m ( I 886 ft) per
,

time to assemble or dismantle the snrn formance, so they were still relatively second
often had to be considered in days, unworn when the Armistice was Maximum range: 17300 m (18,920
Because olits age, the range ofthe l, sigmed in November 19 18. At least two yards)
BzVlT was limited to 17300m (18,920 or three batteries were retained up to Shellweight: 16I kg(355 Ib)

lI irilfni"t de 280 mle 14116 Schneider


The years up to 1914 were not entireiy
devoid ofheavy artiliery activrty for the
French armaments industry, The large
Schneider concern continued tvtth its
full range of artillery development,
mainly funded from internal sources in
order to keep abreast of desigm inIlu-
ences elsewhere and to remain ready
to seue upon any possible sales oppor-
tunities that might arise. Thus in 1914 it
had ready to hand a design for the
280-mm (I1.02-in) Obusier de 280 mle
1914 Schneider that was soon
accepted for sewice by a French army
eager to improve its heavy artillery
holdings,
It was two years before Schneider
could deliver the first examples,
however, By then the howitzer's de-
sigmation had been decrded as Mortier
de 280 mle 14116 Schneider, the term
mortier (mortar) in place of obusjer
(howitzer) belnq a typical piece of
Ewopean terminologry as on the Conti-
nent heavy howitzers were frequently

The Mortier de 280 mle 14/ 16 was a


ponderous piece designed fot siege
warfare. Rahge was limited, which
placed the howitzer wellwithin the
r ange of G erman long-r ange guns.
Indeed, many suffered Irom counter-
bombardment.
Mortier de 280 mle l#16 Schneider (continued) Heavy Artillery of World War I
called mortars. As the type was a pair of rails to the breech, Rammrngt of breakrng down the howitzer into bulk were no rlisadvantage. Thus ihe
ordered bffthe shelf', the French army the shell into the breech was carried four loads, and once on site pit had to
a mle 14116 ended up in the hands of --ae
had to take what they got and what out by a chain-driven rarnmer, be dug for the heavy steel platform, enemy it was orignna-lly procured ic
they got was a very ponderous Once the assembly lines for the mle together with a deeper pit to allow the defeat.
weapon. The original mle l9I4 as pro- l4li6 had been established the units barrel to recoil when the howitzer was
duced by Schneider had been de- were churned out in relatively large fired at high angles of elevation,
sigmed as a heavy artillery prece that numbers. Many suifered from enemy After 19lB the mle 14116 was one of Specification
would be used for siege warfare, in .counterbombardment as the range the types selected to remain in ser- Monier de 280 mle lzVl6 Schneider
wtuch plenty of time would be avail- was only 10950m (11,975 yards), put- vice. Thus some were strll around in Calit're:280 m (11.02 in)
able for the move to the battlefield and ting the type well within the reach of 1940. By then they belonged to a past Lengrth of barrel 3.35 m (1 I ft 0 rn)
more time for the empiacement. Thus many of the German long-range gmns, generation and had no chance for Weight: in action 16000 kq (35,274 lbl
the mle 14116 had to be broken down The mle 14116 was nonetheless a very effective use as the German Panzers Elevation: + l0'to +60'
rnto no less than four loads for travell- useful weapon for destroying trench rolled across France, Many mle 14ll6s Traverse:20'
hg and in position for firing rested on a systems and underground installa- were captured intact and were added Muzzlevelocity:418 m (1.37i ft) per
heavy metal firing platform, Ammum- tions, though rt cannot have been a to the German army 'siege train', being second
tion was delivered to the breech by very popular weapon with the French used once agrain during lhe siege of Maximumrange: 10.950 rn (l1 9?5
means of a little crane which lifted the enrnners. Every move, however short, Lenrngrad and later during the siege yarcts)
sheli on to a small trolley that ran along entailed the lengrthy and involved job of Sevastopol, where their weiqht and Shellweight:205 kq (452 lb)

E irfi[ni"r de 3?o Fillorur


Ihe Mortier de 370 Filloux had its ori-
giirs in a requirement for a coastal artil-
lery weapon capable of producing
plunging fire to pierce the relatively
ilun protection of warship decks. By
1913 a number of these short howitzers
fiat fired at high angles of elevation
had been produced, but in 19i3 the
I 370-mm (14,57-in) weapon was pro-
Cuced and this remained thereafter
'Jte largest ofall these French special-
st weapons.
In appearance the Mortier de 370
Filloux was a deceptively small
rveapon. In fact it was a brute. It had
crig.inally been designed for use in sta-
jc coastal emplacements where (in
-.ireory at least) it was to have been
Celivered, emplaced and thereafter
left. ltrIhat actually happened was that
in the perlod following the early car-
nage of 1914, the French army rushed
whatever it could find in the heavy
artillery line to the areas behind the
tenches in order to have some trench-
:n:shing capability, however limited.
Fodunateiy for the French, when the
Mortier de 370 was delivered it came
with special handling gear of two
kinds, One was for use on railway
irucks and the other for road transport
and both had handling gantries, Above: A French 370-mm howitzer in
:ranes and special rigs, The largest of position in the Ravin de laBaraquette
these rigs was for the barrel, which west ofFoucaucourt, seen in
was carried slung under a special September 1 9 1 6. The great batttes of
wheeled gantry; the other loads were thatyear saw artillery become the
carried slung in a similar fashion, In all great m ankiller of an alre ady
there were three main loads withmore murderouswar.
ior the ammunitron and the various
accessories, were two of these 1917 type projec-
If moving the Mortier de 370 was not tiles, the heavier welqhing 489 kg
enough, emplacinq the thing was (1,078 1b), But wrth this the range was
worse. The preparation began with only 8100 m (8,860 yards), which made
t}te diggnng of a largre pit into which all the labour involved rather a waste
was lowered the main firinq platform: of potential. But for a considerable
ihis had a series of vertical spades on period it was all that there was to hand
its underside whrch were intended to and the unfortunate French gnrnners
absorb some of the barrel recoil. More just had to put up rmth it all,
of the recoil was taken by the heavy After l91B the Mortiers de 370 Fil-
carriage, which was mounted on the loux were placed into storage to be
platform and featured a rudimentary dragged out again during the 'Phoney
recoil cylinder system coupled to the War' of 1939-40, There then appears to
runnions ofthe barrel, The emplace- have been some indecr.sion as to ex-
ment and assembly of all this took a actly where they were to be em-
considerable time and a gneat deal of piaced, and in the event most of them
labour, but it was a price the French were apparently destroyed by l,uft-
had to pay in order to put some form of waffe attacks. Traverse:6' Simp/e in appearance, the Mortier de
heavy artillery in the front line during Muzzle velocity: w-ith light shell 370 m 370Filloux was a brute to handle,
19 15. Specification ( 1, 2 14 ft) per second and with heavy andiLsfteavjest projectiles had a
Once rn the line the ammunitron for Mortier de 370 Filloux shell 316 m (1,037 ft) per second range of only 8 I 00 m (8858 yards). As
}te howitzer was gnadually changred Calibre:370 mm (14,57 in) Maximum range: with light shell was trueof somanyheavy artillety
zom the orignnal armour-pierbing pat- lengthof barrel 3,31 m (10 ft i0,3 in) 10400 m ( 11,375 yards) and with heavy pieces of the period, the370-mmwas
:em to a heavy blast-producing type; Weight: in action betureen 29000 and shell 8100 m (8,860yards) originally a coast defence weapn.
ie last of these projectiles was intro- 30000 ks (63,934 and 66, 139 ]b) Shell weight:413,5 or 4Bg kg (911,6 lb
Cuced into use during 1917. There Elevation: -6"to +65' or 1,078 lb)
Verdunl9l5 velocity was such that the projectiles arrived
The titanic struggles of 1916 have gonedown inhistory as perhaps the mostttagic
on target with no presaging sound signals. The
waste of human life the world has seen. Arr'srn g out of a need to overcome strong mine projectors were essentially short-range
defences by frontal assault, attrition was appalling, decimating a generation and weapons that fired huge canisters of explosives
looming large in the memories of those who survived. Of the campaigns ofWorld (packed with all manner of scrap metal to en-
War I , it is Verdun which probably casts the darkest shadow. hance their nastiness), while more short-range
support was supplied by the 105-mm (4, I3-in)
The Battte of Verdun lasted from February 1916 amongwhom,was the Kaiser's son. Additional- and 77-mm (3,03-in) field pieces of the fleid
until it finally petered out in the December of Iy, he and his staff regarded the attacks in this artillery. If all this was not enough there was
the same year. It can be regarded asone of the area asa matter of honour in that Verdunshould also the might of the massive 420-mm (16.54-in)
greatest battles of all time, for although other be taken. Thus as more French troops were Gamma howitzer hidden away with the 'Bigt
battles involved more men and equipment, or sucked into the flghting so too were more Ger- Berthas' behind the hills of Morimont and
produced greater resirlts for one side or the man troops, until the point was reached where Romagme.
other, the Battle of Verdu::r was a conflict that as many Germars were being fed into the Al] this massed firepower opened up on the
maintained its ferocity and scope through 'mincing machine' as there were French, and in morning of 17 February 1916. The 420-mm
this way the two armies slugged it out through (16.54-in) mortars were used to fire against the
many months to reach a pitch where it seemed
that the very vitality and honour of the two many dreadfi:l months. ring of forts that surrounded Verdun, and from
combatant nations was being put to the test. The Verdun battlefield was divided into two that day onward they worked their way over
The result was horrific in the extreme for the almost equal halves by the River Meuse, Fal- and around the individual forts, though with far
unfofimate soldiers sucked into the maelstrom kenhayn originally dictated that his 'limited less effect than they had obtained against the
of the area around the.old clty of Verdun: they attacks' should take place on the east bank Belgian forts in I9I4. The 380-mm (14.96-in)
existed and died in a hell on Earth where they only. The opening attacks were to be pre- naval gnrns opened up a harassing fire against
were rareiy able to catch a giimpse of their ceded by a barrage from the largest concen- the city of Verdun itself and its approach
prime adversaries, for these were the gurs. tration of artillery yet seen on the Western routes, at times managing 40 shelis per day
The Battle of Verdun had its origins in the Front, for Falkenhayn had gathered together from each gnrn, But it was the lesser calibres
mind of the German Chief of the General Staff, no less than I,220 artillery pieces to Iay dorim that were used against the hapless French
General Erich von Falkenhayn. By the end of flre on a front only 13 lcn (8 miles) iong. Of these lines, the 210-mm (8.27-in) howitzer batteries
1915 the German and the Allied armies faced there were 542 heauy pieces and 306 field guns being especially notable, In places they were
each other across the trench lines of the West- along the immediate front to be attacked, situated at intewals of one battery to every
ern Front with little immediate prospect of together with 152 heavy mine projectors. The 150 m (i65 yards) ofopposing trench, and they
either ever being able to break the stalemate, rest of the artillery force was assembled along wrought fearfr:l havoc. The French trench lines
thougrh neither side would admit it at the time. the flanks. in certain sectors simply ceased to exist, along
The vgar by then had already regressed into a Largest in calibre of all this massed artil1ery wrth their unJortunate defenders.
statebf attrition where the only way either side were 13 420-mm (16.54-in) 'Big Berthas'. Much At the same time as short-range fire fell upon
could win was by reducing the manpower and was expected of these weapons, but in the the trenches, the longer-range artillery began
equipment strength of the other by sheer event their accuracy was less than anticipated. to spray the recognized French artillery posi-
weiqht of repeated destruction. In effect this But this was to matter little, for hidden away ln dors with gas. fo meticulous had the German
meant the use of artillery, for infantry alone the covering branches of the Bois de Wapre- artiJlery preparation been that they even had
could make little impression against the mont were two of the massive 380-mm (14.96- reserve 150-mm (5.9-in) batteries standing by
powerfiri defences of the other side. But Ger- in) quns taken from coastal defences away !n to open fire on any French battery that miqht
many was not in a position to win such a war, the Baltic. Fwther forward were 17 of the 305- not have been spotted or that somehow evaded
mainiy as a result of the Ailied blockade of raw mm (I2-in) Skoda howitzers that had done so the initial gas sahrration. They had little enough
materials, so Germany had to make some sort well against the Belgian forts in 1914. When it to do. At that stage of the war the use of gas was
of move to destroy a major part of the Allied came to the smaller calibres the numbers of stili a relative novelty and the Prench were
strengrth during 1916 or face the prospect of a artillery pieces began to grow. Next down from ill-equrpped to deal with its effects.
possible defeat. the 305-mm (12-in) howitzerswere the 210-mm The overall effect of the initial bombardment
Falkenhayn devised the notion of a gigantic (8.27-in) Mdrser (mortars or howitzers) that was dramatic: iarge holes were punched
'mincing machine' battle that would destroy the were to become one of the most widely used through the French iines through which the
French army. His idea was simple in the ex- German weapons of the Verdun battles. They advancing infantry could pass, but here and
freme but horrific in its execution: the German were greatly feared by the French soldiers, there some French positions had somehow sur-
forces would make limited attacks against the who had an equal dislike for the i30-mm (5. i2- vived the hail ofsteel and put up a fierce resist-
mlient around Verdun to suck in more and in) heavy gnrns that were really navai pieces ance. It was a harbinger of what was to come.
more of the French army, which would then be monnted on field carriages. Their higth mtvzle No matter how fiercely the artillery fired there
gradually destroyed by the German artillery were always some positions left undamaged,
A battery of German 2 l0-mm howitzers. Once and from these the occupants couid crawl to
on a chosen killing gnound. Falkenhayn's con- troops beganburrowing into the ground on the
cept was logically sound in a terrible way, but open fire on the attackers, as happened time
westernfront, the howitzer carne intoits own.lts
as things hrmed out the concept of his ourn high angle of fire enabled it to drop shells right and again in the long days, weeks and months
army's iimited attacks were somehow never inio a trench or bunker, with even a near miss able that lay ahead. But t7 Februarywas a foretaste
imparted to his subordinate commanders, tocollapse aposition. of what was to come, for the artillery that had
been so carefiilly amassed by Faikenhayn was
to remain in place almostthroughout the battle.
By 23 February the Germans had made their
breakthrough, although at that stage reinforce-
ments were carefuliy husbanded and fed into
the battle at a limited rate in order to lure the
French into the 'kiliinq ground. But it was not
long before this carefr:lly plarured sequence
began to run out of control. By the end of the
month the mighty Fo4t Douaumont had fallen
into German hands almost by default, and as
Douaumont was one of the king pins of the
armoured ring around Verdun this was
heralded as a major victory. Thereafter things
began to increase in intersity, if such a thinq
were possibl,e, for a breakthrough to Verdun
itself seemed increasingly likely.
This impression was enhanced by the close
investment of Fort Vaux, which in the event

t 116
HeavyArtillery of Yflorid 'trlar i

-.=iiaged to hold out for weeks until 7 June. 377,231, although the true total was probably Despite the enormousweightof tire dtected at
, :cm Fort Vaux the suburbs of Verdun much higher at 542,000 On the German side Vaux, the fort's strqcture survived, the garrison
most references seem to agree on a figmre only surrenderingwhentheirwater ran ouL The
=:oeared to be almost within reach but it was French concluded that if a fort was well
=::und this stage that the battle took on a tempo around 434,000 the combined total of casual- provisioned it could hold out indefinitely, lea&tg
:- rls ovm, In order to turn the conllict into a ties being around 976 000 Many of these were to the philosophy of the Maginot Line.
:.ajor German victory more and more units caused by the artillery alone, for thousands
',':re thrown into the attack and the figrhting died wrthout even seeing the enemy they A border fortress fior centuries, Verdun was no
,.;read to the west bank of the Meuse following sought so desperately to fight. Ard they did stranger to attack. The increasing power of
= combardment similar to that which opened
want desperateiy to fight, for by mid-1916 the artillery Iorced the French to build a chain of for',s
:-e battle, This attack also came to a halt on the battle of Verdun had assumed the nature of a to keep enemy gans out of reach of the aty, bur b:'
.-:pes of the aptly named hlil called Le Mort gigantic struggle between two ancient foes, in 1 9 I 6 artillery ranges had increased aga:r a.n c

---:mme and C0te 304, which the outcome became a matterof national Verdun was shelled heavily.
But they got little further as the battle raged
::-, absorbing ever more men while at the
:rme time producing increasingly less in the
'','ay of gains, As the German infantry attempted
:: edge further forward across ground churned
j-:o a morass by the rain of incessant shelling
::ey found advances more difficult to obtain,
:stead, the qnrns continued their constant bar-
::ge from both sides, for soon after the initiai
ierman attacks the French had brought up
::ore of their own artrllery, rn places denuding
:eir front in order to supply weapons, The
--:ench had few really heavy weapons to em-
:-ace, Instead they relied on huge volumes of
1e from their famous '75' field gnrns backed up
:y numbers of I05-mm (4 I3-in) field gmns and
-:S-mm (6 l-in) gmns and howltzers, Only later
.'-ere they able to bring up railway gnrns and
.--eavler pleces,

Amatterof honour
Ammunition for all these French batteries
a constant headache for the French sta-fi
'..as
:acers, for they had only one logistlc road as
:-e Germans commanded the others, Thls road
.'.'as the famous Voie Sacr6e to Souilly and Bar-
,:-Duc, and along it had to pass all the supplies
=rd reinforcements for the French front. It was
= road that many French soldiers took only
- rce, for vast numbers died at Verdun: French
::icial figures iater put the casualties at
Verdun 1916

pride and honow. Throughout it the artillery


fired almost without cease, all the time powing
shells on to the forward and rear areas alike.
The soldiers went underground whenever
they could, taking shelter in such locations as
railway tr.:nnels and the basements and cellars
oithe villages like Douaumont and Fleury, vil-
iages that were simply wiped off the map by
the artlllery from both sides, The infantry
emerged on occasion only to fight oflthe infan-
try attacks from the other side, and ihen went
back to eround to attempt to avoid the shells
they knew would come.
By June the battle was in a state of crisis. By
sending in yet more men the Germans had
':advanc,ed to Fleury after further artillery
satwations of hiqh explosive and gas. But this
"r, was the high point of their advance. During the
rconflict the original concept of the 'mincing
machine' had been lost as events, rather than
Falkenhayn, dictated the battle, and thereafter

in acapturedGerman
nt.Theafienlandscape
of shellsfkedatVerdun
in itsef , liquid mud made movement
and shell holes often contained
picketsolgas.

The
testimoryrtothddread
ar tillery. Positidns ]lke
depicted rained high explgsivEtjttfte.ene
estimated 37 milIion rounds beiig fited in
monthstruggle.
:e Germans were forced to fali back, By mid-
:ly the Frenchhad somehowmanagedto push
re Germans back to a line that was to remain
:ntil almost the end of the war, Fort Douaumont
,",'as retaken by 24 October, with the support-
:g fire of two 400-mm (15.75-in) railway gmns
ind sporadic local attacks continued until De-
:ember,
It had been a hoiocaust, dominated through-
:ut by the artillery, Later references state that
rroughout it all the German gnrns fired off
:round 22 million rounds while the French re-
:.:rned about l5 million rounds, The result was
a battle that haunted the minds of a whole
generation of French and German people,
:aused the deaths of hundreds of thousands
FortVaux under bombardment. The defenders of Douaumont,February 19l6.Down below, a series
-nd has a dreadful effect on the minds of many Vaux were subjected to some of the most intensive of undergiround levels were the scenes of som e o/
:r this day. The immediate result was that a few shelling of the war. They sheltered underground, the mostferocious tighting in French history.
square kilometres of French soil changred protected by the massive concrete casematet buf During an attempt to retake the fort, hundreds of
:rands, but the final results may never be fuIly the sheer volume of noke in the darkened tunnels Germanswereentombed by an explosion caused
-sessed. was appalling. by leaking flamethrower s.
*,..*.-?:

i
f

a
rtt'
I
reffi iiE""rt self-propelled heavy sruns
By 1917 one of the main problems suf- Based on a large chassis developed
fered by the gunners of all nations en- by Schneider, the M 280 sur chenilles
gaged in the artillery war that by then carried a derivative of the mle I 4/ I 6
prevarled, was the lack of mobility im- S chneider howitzer. Few of these
posed upon them by the nature of the 280-mm models were produced.
terrain and the ponderous weight of
their charges. Whenever any sort of
advaace seemed llkely opporh:nitles
were missed simply because the gnrns
could not be movedup rapidly enough
to positions foom which they could pro-
vide the necessary support. All man-
ner of experiments were conducted in
efforts to remedy this state of affairs,
but the only answer was soon seen to
be caterpillar tracks,'and rf any emph-
asis were required it was provided by
the advent of the tank.
Once the potential of the. tracked
carriage had been appreciated it was
not long before the French were in-
volved in a series of experiments to
mount heavy gnrn barrels on to self-
propelled tracked chassis. These ex-
penments were carried out quite
separately from the French tank prog-
ramme, and involved a largie tracked
chassis developed by Schneider at its
Ire Creusot works, Early trials involved
a 155-mm (6.l-in) qun, but this was la-
ter chanqed on production models to a
long grun knovrrn as the Canon de 194
mle GPF (Grand Puissance Filloux, or
High-Power Filloux). Another weapon
carried by some of these carriages
was the Mortier de 280, a derivative of
the mle 14116 Schneider, and this was
also known as the M 280 sur chenilles,
These hvo weapons shared a com-
mon carriage driven by a petrol en-
gine installed at the rear ofthe chassis.
The driversat at the extreme ftontwith
the barrel cradle almost immediately
behind him, A small crane was pro-
vided to raise ammunition to the level
of the crew platform behind the
breech. The desigm had one draw-
back, the installatron so arranged that
ordnance elevation was somewhat ii-
mited (preventing the fi:ll range of the
piece from being reached), but the
mobility that the carriage provided
more than made up for this. Later mod-
els were redesigmed to achieve in-
creased elevations,
Not many of the 280-mm (1l.02-in)
models appear to have been made,
Production was apparently concen-
trated on the 194-mm (7.64-in) model,
but even so the main problem during there were never enough of them, De- records of any remaininq in service. TheCanon de 194 mle GPF used the
the latter part of World War I was that spite their bulk and weight they were The 194-mm (7,64-in) model was still in same c/rassr's a s the 280-mm model.
able to cross terrain that no equivalent use, and was fired in anger dwing the While elevationwas limited, the
towed weapon could negotrate without 1940 campaigms until overrun by the vastly increased mobility was more
drfficulty, and the gn:n itself had a good German Panzers. The suwivors then than adequ ate compens ation.
range and a useful projectile weight. joined the German ranks and were
After I9lB the 280-mm (I1.02-in) car- used for a while by garrison units of the
riages were either withdravrn from use German occupation forces based in artillery platform to be used oper-
or converted to take the 194-mm (7.64- France, ationally in any numbers, and it cer-
in) gmns, and by 1939 there are few For its day the French self- tainly had many featues that were car-
propelled carriage was a remarkable ried over to later desigms, Apad from
achievement, It now seerns safe to say theu caterpiliar tracks these camages
that it was the first true self-propelled had automatically-adjusting recoil
mechamsms to suit al1 angles of eleva-
tion. hydrar:lic brakes and pneumatic
recuperators.

Specification
Canonde l94mleGPF
Calibre: 194 mm(7.64 in)
Lengrthof barrel 6,50 m (2i ft 3,9 in)
Weight: in action 29600 kq (65,257 lb)
Elevation:0'to *37"
The driver oI the carilage sat at the Traverse:55o
front of the equipment, with the Muzzle velocity: 725 m (2,379 ft) per
working area and reatward-facing second
ordnance behind him. The petrol Maximum range: 20900 rn (22,855
engine was at the rear of the yards)
carriage, below the elevating gfear. Shellweight: 78.83 ks (U3 8 Ib)

I 120