• @Peter R
      Against the Liege’s fortifications system, it was not Skoda howitzers, but Krupp 420mm howitzers type M (Dicke Bertha

        • The Škoda 42cm howitzer was a very different design from the Krupp 42cm. The former was originally based on a coastal artillery design, but was later heavily modified to be more suitable for land use. The 42cm Dicke Bertha was designed as a siege artillery piece from the beginning. The Škoda one fired a 25% heavier projectile, but it was also more than twice as heavy in position.

  1. The shell looks longer than the barrel. I wonder if the propellant was inside the shell case or separate.

    • This gun is complete? – the barrel looks too short to me. I wonder how low was rate-of-fire and accuracy?
      During WW1 other countries also developed big-caliber artillery – Italy has Bombarda da 400 (it was pneumatic gun), France has Obusier de 520 modèle 1916 railway gun , Austria has 42 cm Haubitze M.14, Great Britain has BL 15-inch howitzer, Russia has 305 mm howitzer M1915.

    • The photo shows a seam in the projectile and some writing on the lower half ending in KG–presumably the kilograms of propellant, and the top and the bottom have the same Roman numeral written on them, so it was very likely the projectile and the charge together. But it does appear longer than the tube. Was the bottom a shell, or could it be a container with bags of propellant to be tossed in before the projectile was loaded? The bottom of the shell has what looks like a slightly crude tin-smithed joint with the base, really don’t think it would have sealed any gasses, and again the barrel just doesn’t look long enough if it was to be loaded as one unit.

      • The 25cm and apparently the 38/40cm Minenwerfers had a full size HE shell (or “bomb”) which was longer than the barrel. That was not a problem since the driving bands were at the bottom of the shell (as they usually are in artillery shells) and would engage the rifling and spin-stabilize the projectile when fired anyways.

        There were also 1/2 and 1/4 shells for the 25cm weapon, which were shorter and lighter. Probably they existed for the this big boy as well, but finding accurate information on it is very difficult, since it was quite rare.

        • Yeah, a driving band at the base would fill the rifling. The two pieces (presuming two pieces are shown together) seem to be the same diameter. Is the part of the shell within the lower casing the only part to enter the barrel? Does the barrel have a narrower diameter inside, or a shortened rifling groove for the thicker, upper part of the shell to fit and still have the narrower lower portion fit the rifling?

          It’s funny how questions like this could have been easily answered 80-90 years ago. Now we have to hunt for information or find someone familiar with the topic.

  2. With the level of recoil to be expected, that very substantial baseplate would have been absolutely necessary.

    • The newspaper pictures of the 320mm improvised mortar tubes

      (made from propane cylinders and used by the IRA to attack 10 downing Street, while John Major’s war mongers, sorry, I meant war cabinet were meeting there)

      show that the recoil pushed the floor out of the Ford Transit van used to transport them. According to Wikipedia the projectiles weighed up to around 140 pounds. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barrack_buster

      • Thanks for the link and the jog to the memory, Keith. Much appreciated, as usual. I get the distinct impression that a lot of designers and inventors of larger-caliber weapons have, throughout history, consistently underestimated the mechanical and structural effects of recoil and the attendant impacts on accuracy and longevity, choosing instead to focus on the more obvious and “glamorous” aspects, such as range, terminal effect, muzzle velocity, et al.

        • I’ve seen picture of where the PIRA was testing these types of weapons with the weapon attached to the 3-point hitch of a farm tractor. That told me that these things would be a one time only device because of weight and recoil. Given the lack of freedom of movement the PIRA had.

          • Thanks for the information about PIRA’s improvised “artillery”, Martin — very interesting!

      • Hello Keith and Earl! I happen to remember this short period of ‘terror’ in London’s streets and felt kind of mix of worry and admiration for IRA when this “blitz” took place. I thought they were cunning and courageous to point of nuts. I wonder how police had handled that and managed the scare to go away. The target laying must have been challenge; did you know something about that? There were so many ‘innocents’ all over the place.

        • Don’t mean to sound flippant or anything but seeing as the IRA once blew up a crowded chippy on the off-chance that two of the UDA were meeting upstairs, I have a hard time believing that they gave a toss about “innocents” (for that matter I regard everyone killed by that organisation as innocent, police and soldiers didn’t deserve to die any more than the civilians did) If the bomb had killed anyone apart from major’s cabinet they probably would have just shrugged and given the same two bit line they used to justify disappearing housewives for “collaboration” or kneecapping kids for alleged thefts.
          Regarding the targeting, I don’t know the full specifics of how they did it but I thought you might find this helpful
          Apparently the attack was carried out by several groups, first two came to London with nothing incriminating on them, once they got into England an IRA source provided the explosives and mortar making materials. One of the terrorists had been received mortar training (I think Gadhafi was to thank for that but I can’t remember) so once they had identified a good point to fire from he did the necessary calculations and set the device up accordingly, after that they left for Ireland and there place was taken by another more expendable group whose job consisted of waiting until they heard cabinet was in session, driving the van to the firing point and starting the fuse on the mortar.

          • Hi, Kernowboy :

            Thanks for the additional information. While I can understand the feelings and viewpoints of the opposing sides, especially when one considers historical precedent, one thing that cannot be condoned nor excused is the violence visited upon innocent bystanders and non-combatants, regardless of who they are or which side they are supposed to be on.

            The antagonists in this, and any other age-old conflict, would do well to remember that in the long run little good will come from continued payback and the attendant loss of reason and humanity. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth will only leave everyone blind and incapacitated.

            P.S. : I sincerely hope that those people who were severely impacted by the flooding from the winter storm have been able to rebuild and restore some semblance of normalcy to their lives.

          • I understand, it is hard not to take sides especially if you were/are part of one by default. I do not intend to spread a talk on this, however just one detail I recall hearing from man who was in British military service at that terrible time.

            They (soldiers) were specifically instructed to shoot couple of meters ahead the crowd into the ground so that bullets bounced off ‘preformed’ to cause maximum damage. The said man eventually quit the service and moved to Canada. So much for ‘innocent’ soldiers.

          • for Earl: thru all those countless efforts to establish lasting piece in N.I., it eventually arrived. But, low and behold, the animosities are still there and time by time there is flare-up. One time I closely tracked the events, but for last couple of years I stopped paying attention.

          • On Gaddafi connection: it was a popular belief of the time that IRA was receiving Semtex from Lybia. I do not think one sane official from either side would admit to that. What was most fascinating though was how their arms procurement and (secret) armouries were organized. Supposedly they were dismounted…. let’s believe so.

          • Hi Earl Liew
            For some reason I can’t reply directly to your comment so I’ll put it here and hope you see it
            That’s a very good attitude to take regarding the troubles, if more people had thought like that at the time the whole thing probably would have ended far sooner.
            Just so there’s no confusion I’d like to make clear that I think the various unionist groups like the UDA were just as bad as the IRA and its splinter groups. The best way to describe the situation would be a series of tit for tat revenge killings combined with two communities each doing their best to drive the other out and then the army and police stuck in the middle trying to keep the peace.
            Thanks for the concern about those affected by the storm and flooding; like you said now the waters have receded there’s been a lot of focus on rebuilding. Workers did a sterling effort getting the rail link up and running again to give an example.
            The group facing the largest issues are the farmer’s unfortunately; the fields have been heavily waterlogged in the flooded regions and from what I’ve heard it will be a fair while before some are even suitable for grazing land let alone growing crops.

          • Hi Denny
            About the shooting the ground thing it might be possible you misheard because that sounds a lot like the operating procedure for the riot guns in particular the Federal Riot Gun. This was a American weapon designed in the 1930’s and purchased as a stopgap while a domestic model was created, the trouble was that it was too hard hitting, the rubber bullets could shatter jawbones and there was a risk of death if someone was hit around the heart.
            The solution was to aim at the ground just before the target; the rubber bullet would then lose some power before ricocheting up and smacking the target somewhere between the knees and the groin. Firing it directly was then reserved for people with Molotov’s or nail-bombs from what I’ve heard.
            Apparently it was standard practice to break up a rioting crowd by ricocheting rubber bullets into them, so that’s probably what he was talking about. There were no incidents of crowds being broken up by shooting at them aside from the odious exception of bloody Sunday; even there it seems to have been a series of genuine mistakes and the perceived presence of IRA gunmen that led to the paratroopers opening fire. That’s just my opinion though and it’s mainly based on the casualties compared to other incidents where a crowd was deliberately broken up by gunfire.

        • The subject of Ireland is hugely complicated.

          I grew up with the British lamestream reports of various attrocities, and Christmas shopping trips to town were sometimes interrupted by bomb scare evacuations. I guess the equivalent would be American kids born in the mid 1990s and coming to their awareness of the world with the post 9/11 propaganda, hype and scare mongering.

          I remember in my late teens, my then girlfriend took me to a party at an Irish friend of her’s house. Before we got there, I quietly and very niaively asked my girlfriend “who’s side” her friend was on…

          I began listening to Irish radio in the late 80s, it was still a state owned mainstream, but with a very different angle to the British one, and it was a strange revalation to find that there were people who were not on one side or the other, but who condemned both parties in the conflict.

          I was into my thirties before I set foot in Ireland, and almost a decade later before I moved there to live and work, until the “Celtic Tiger economy” turned out to be a just another PIIG.

          There were serious doubts being expressed, even in British lamestream papers, about how seperate the Shinners and IRA were from the British state. Among the allegations raised, were that British supplied agents had taught the bomb making skills.

          Certainly the “troubles” provided the pretext for draconian “temporary” restrictions in Britain (allong the lines of the “Patriot act”) which have been renewed every year for well over 40 years now.

          Two bombs conveniently exploded in Dublin on the morning of the day that the Dail was due to debate “anti terror” laws. The proposals had been generally expected to be rejected, they duly passed into law.

          Residents of the northern town of Omagh, which had escaped violence, claim that on the day of the town centre bomb, the cops, the army and the shinners were all conspicuous by their absence- a bit like the ATFE on the day of the Oklahoma bomb.

          The disidents claim that a warning was given in good time for the Omagh bomb, if one was, then it was not passed on.

          We know from history, that false flags, agent provocateur actions and other forms of street theatre are frequent componants of statecraft [e.g. Reichstaag fire, the shelling of Mainilla, Gleiwitz incident, Gulf of Tonkin incident], so much so, that I wonder how much of the “troubles” might have been staged.

          In any event, it is difficult to have any sympathy for a group of odious characters, conspiring to drop tons of explosives on other [Iraqi] people, getting all offended when someone tried to do the same to them.

          Which ever side complains, the appropriate answer is tu quoque [you too].

          • Denny,
            (and Leszek, Max and anyone else too, if you are reading, and grew up in the former Soviet area of influence).

            following on from that, as someone who grew up under a regime which has since collapsed and the archives have to a limited extent been made public…

            (Not that I think there were ever many true believers* in the soviet imposed system or there wouldn’t have been a Prague Spring).

            In general, do you find that the scepticism stays active for a majority of the people who experienced the collapse, or do the majority merely settle into unquestioning belief in the replacement regime?

            *a Slovak guy who I used to work with, claimed that when he was about 9 years old, his class at school had reduced their young teacher to tears by singing an opposition song; it seems that she was an idealistic true believer.

            ** a Polish guy I worked with after that, said that his father had worked several contracts in the Soviet Union, and had bought a large framed portrait of Lenin (presumably he was a believer), and had taken the scenic route home, through the Tatras mountains. He’d been detained all day at one frontier, as the border guards couldn’t believe that a Pole would have a portrait of Lennin – there must be something hidden in it.

  3. I have from a very good source that the official designation of this weapon was actually 40 cm sehr schwerer Minenwerfer. It was deployed only in small numbers and it was NOT developed from the smaller versions but more or less concurrently with them. The source is this:

    Die Entwicklung des Granatwerfers im Ersten Weltkrieg

    Die Entstehung eines neuartigen Waffentyps als Reaktion auf die Bedingungen des Stellungskrieges


    There’s an image and description on page 275.

    This paper will tell you almost anything you need to know about “mine throwers” and infantry mortars in WW1, but of course it is in German. Google translate works pretty well, though.

    • My interpretation of the German text is that “sehr schwerer Granatwerfer” is not the official designation of this weapon developed by Rheinmetall in 1909. It is simply the label of a factory photograph saying: “This is a very heavy mortar from the World War.”

      • And by the way of “sehr schwerer”, one might remember that in WW2 bomber wings in the Pacific flying the B-29s were designated with “(Very Heavy)” suffixed after the name (e.g. the 504th BG (Very Heavy)). The practice continued in the USAF after 1947 (509th BG (VH)).

      • Possibly, but he author also gives this citation: Heinrici, Das Ehrenbuch der Deutschen Pioniere, S. 484

        My interpretation is that could be the source of the designation. The author certainly treats it like it was the official one with no indication of uncertainty.

  4. @ Kernowboy / May 5th, 2014, 3;10 a.m. :

    Thanks for the reply. Good to hear that things are slowly but surely getting back to normal after those terrible floods. I hope the poor farmers will soon get their fields back and be on their feet once again, too. In the meantime, is there some form of proper aid available to help tide them over?

    Regarding our original topic of discussion centered around “The Troubles”, Don Henley of The Eagles wrote the lyrics for “The Last Resort” from their “Hotel California” album back in 1976 — and these lyrics comprised one of the most concise, appropriate and damning indictments of the price to be paid for the so-called benefits of civilization as driven by human greed, ambition and the quest for dominion. Although meant largely in the context of the over-development of modern America with the attendant destruction and disenfranchisement of the American Indian culture and wholesale, heedless destruction of the environment, I cannot help but feel that the words Henley wrote all those many years ago are equally telling in summarizing all the wars, civil wars and “troubles” of human history :

    “We satisfy our endless needs
    And justify our bloody deeds
    In the name of Destiny
    And in the name of God”.

    • Yeah there have been a number of measures put in place to help those affected, firstly there’s a five grand grant which people can claim if their home or business was damaged. The county council where I live discounted the council tax and offered a 100% business rate relief to everyone who suffered flood damage for three months after the flood. There’s also a fund set up by the government specifically for the farmers to claim from. Then there’s been a fair amount of charity work as well, for example the Welsh Farmers Union sent a large consignment of cattle feed to Somerset back when things were really bad.
      I think your pretty much spot on with that quote, sums up the situation back then perfectly
      Luckily it appears that apart from a few sporadic flare ups the situation has largely quietened down, there is still the odd bombing (seven letter bombs got sent to army recruitment offices in February) and shootings still occur but it’s a lot better than it once was.

  5. In the biggest WW1 Museum of Italy located in Rovereto, we still have a Skoda 305mm of former Austro-Czech property, despite the smaller (!) caliber it looks much more impressive having a bigger frame and shockers system; the look and maker make me believe it was anyway more durable than the german-made in this pic.

    • The Skoda 305mm mortars had much longer ranges, and to achieve that higher muzzle velocities, larger propellant charges, and consequent recoil forces. Therefore even with a smaller bore and lighter shell, their required design was much heavier. These German minenwurfers didn’t even have a range of a kilometer. They were literally front-line engineer equipment. I bet the shell could be easily seen in flight. Look at the difference between a 120mm mortar and a 120mm anti-aircraft gun. Hugely different velocities, hugely different mechanism sizes.

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