Great War Paris Gun Find

Discussion in 'Prewar' started by idler, Feb 2, 2020.

  1. idler

    idler GeneralList

    Dave55, Chris C and CL1 like this.
  2. Robert-w

    Robert-w Well-Known Member

    The projectiles were numbered as the wear on the barrels was such that a slightly larger shell had to be loaded for each shot. However the article repeats a number of hoary old misunderstandings. see an item I wrote some time ago - the Paris Gun
    The Germans began what was to become an extended obsession with building super long range guns. In both World Wars vast amounts of time, effort and material were expended on developing systems that allowed relatively small amounts of explosive to be propelled over very long distances. The first of these was the Kaiser Wilhelm Geschuetz more commonly known as the Paris Gun or Lange Max. It has often been referred to erroneously as Big Bertha, confusing it with the big 420mm Gamma howitzer.

    The Paris Gun was basically a railway gun for travel but emplaced on a concrete base for firing.. Three guns appear to have been emplaced but only one was used at any one time, (barrels had to be periodically rebored so this would make sense). The gun was constructed using a bored-out 380mm naval gun fitted with a special 40 metre long inserted barrel. This brought the calibre down to 210mm (8.4 inch). The gun achieved its maximum range by firing on a very high trajectory to get the shell quickly up to the edge of space so that there would be very little air resistance. It achieved a range of 131 km (81.9 miles). The gun opened fire from the woods of Crepy on Paris in March 1918 and in the next six months shot 351 shells, killing 256 and wounding 620. The largest number of casualties came from a single shell that hit a church.
    Operating the Paris gun was fiendishly complex and expensive. Each gun had a naval crew of 60 men. With each shot erosion of both barrel liner and the breech chamber was considerable and to compensate every single shell was specifically tailored and numbered in the sequence in which they had to be fired. One set of barrels was destroyed when a shell was loaded and fired out of sequence. After 65 rounds the barrel in use had to be sent away to be rebored to 240mm. To avoid its detection by Allied sound locators the woods of Crepy, in which it was located, were filled by several hundred medium guns (30 batteries) all firing regularly (and presumably at no useful target). Numerous anti aircraft batteries and two crack fighter squadrons (including that which had been Von Richthofen’s last command) equipped with the latest fighters were deployed to avoid detection and bombing from the air. This was during the pivotal moments of the great German offensive of 1918 when Germany need every piece of artillery and every aircraft to be available to support the infantry attacks.

    Although there were many civilian casualties no meaningful military or economic damage was caused to Paris. There was no major adverse impact on morale. Although each shell fired weighed 120 kg it only contained 7 kg of explosive. To put this into perspective the standard German night bombers (the Gotha GV and the Friedrichsafen GIII) could carry a bomb load of up to 500 kg whilst the heavy night bomber (the Zeppelin Straken) could carry 2,000 kg. A single squadron of Gothas could have delivered in one single night raid more than the total amount of explosive fired by the Paris Gun in six months. Although a very impressive technical achievement the Paris Gun must have had a significant negative impact on the German war effort at a critical time. Surprisingly after the war had ended the Allied Armistice Commission never found a complete Paris Gun, only some spare components. Where the guns went is still a mystery.
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2020
  3. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    I suspect Gerald Bull tracked them down.
    timuk and canuck like this.
  4. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Bit odd to call Trinity Marine a 'scrapyard'.
    Pre-intensive-polishing, then more polishing, storage area, maybe...
  5. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    The most infamous native of my home town.
  6. Robert-w

    Robert-w Well-Known Member

    No had he been around he wouldn't have been interested. Bull's designs were based on the Hochdruckpumpe (High Pressure Pump) system also known as the V3 and the barrels of his Iraqi super gun were fabricated from steel oil pipeline sections.

    My guess is that the guns went back to Krupps who were adroit at running rings round the Allied inspectors and still maintained an interest in ultra long range guns

    There must have been people in Germany with a fixation on the development of supra long range artillery (probably allied with some in Krupps with a passion for making lots of money) for in the mid 1930s development was put in hand for a successor to the Paris Gun, learning many of the lessons of the former. The result was the K-12 railway gun with a range of 148 km (93 miles). Its shells may have been the first man made objects to enter space (albeit briefly). Two were built and were available for service in 1940 when it was found that there was nothing much for them to do. France had capitulated so there was no point in shelling Paris again. There were no big sieges in immediate prospect and in any case the Luftwaffe’s dive bombers had proved effective in demolishing fortifications. The current German military thinking was still on blitzkrieg with rapid movements of tanks and motorised infantry with close tactical air support. Gigantic railway guns didn’t really fit into this mind set. There was only one possible target, Britain, still holding out across the Channel. The K-12 was taken down to the coast and on two occasions unleashed its long range missiles of destruction on the unsuspecting British. Who remained unsuspecting
    Shells landed in Kentish fields but appear to have been taken for bombs dropped during the Battle of Britain. It was only later analysis of shell fragments that revealed that artillery had been involved. K-12 was not used for anything else. By the time the German army was back in the market for very long range heavy siege guns (1942 when the offensives were slowing down in the Soviet Union) other solutions were available. It appears a monstrous waste of resources to build such a large and complex weapon and the only time it is used nobody notices.

Share This Page