21-cm Cannon L/162 (Paris gun)

Already in the autumn of 1914, the German army command demanded after the invasion of Belgium by the Navy guns, which should be able to bombard from the Belgian coast from the British coastal cities. This requirement was due to the fact that the German deep-sea fleet should be relieved on the one hand, on the other hand was already at the beginning of the war, the fear that the British Royal Navy would carry out a closure of the North Sea.

The naval leadership forwarded the contract to the Krupp company, which began immediately with the development of a long-range cannon and the appropriate ammunition. From July 1917, the first experiments with the newly developed cannon could be carried out. These were first carried out on the practice area near Meppen, but since the area was too small, the cannon was brought to the shooting range Altenwalde in Cuxhafen. There the cannon could shoot at the open North Sea.

In early 1918, two of the cannons were ready for use. Due to their experience with large guns, the operating crew consisted almost exclusively of naval soldiers. With the German spring offensive of 3 March 1918, these were used from their position in Saint-Gobain at Crépy -en-Laonnois for the first time. Due to the heavy weight of the guns had to be built on a previously cast with concrete foundation.


21-cm Cannon L/162


Model in the Military Technical Study Collection in Koblenz

Model in the Military Technical Study Collection in Koblenz



Due to the enormous launching energy and the high gas pressure, which were necessary for the firing of the heavy shells, the wear of the pipe was correspondingly high. The duration of use was sufficient for this reason only for about 65 rounds per tube. In total, 3 of the heavy guns were produced and 7 matching pipes, which had to be drilled out after about 65 rounds.

A mission on the Belgian coast was not carried out. Instead, the operation was limited to the bombardment of Paris. A total of 367 impacts were counted in the old town and the surrounding outskirts. The bombardment did not have a military value. Although the impact initially caused panic in the population, it was short-lived as it became apparent that the guns could not fire accurately enough.


Impact in the St. Gervais church in Paris of March 29, 1918



On 25 March 1918, one of the three cannons exploded, killing 17 men from the operating crew. At the end of the war, the other two guns were dismantled, brought to Germany and scrapped there. So that the construction plans do not fall into the hands of the victorious powers, they were either hidden or destroyed after the war.




Data sheet:

Designation: 21-cm Cannon L/162
Country of Origin: German Empire
Manufacturer Companies: Krupp
Year: 1918
Number of pieces: 3
Caliber: 209,3 to 232mm because the pipes had to be drilled several times
Tube length: 33.910mm
Rate of fire: 1 shot / 2 minutes
Mass: 1.490.000Kg






You can find the right literature here:


German Artillery: 1914-1918 (Fact File)

German Artillery: 1914-1918 (Fact File) Paperback – October 3, 2015

The importance of artillery in warfare grew more and more throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. New developments such as solid cannon barrels improved hit accuracy and the range of projectiles. This Fact File volume focuses on German Artillery during the Great War, when it could be argued that artillery was for the first time the dominant weapon on the battlefield. Wolfgang Fleischer discusses the diversity of artillery developed and used during the First World War by the Germans.

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42cm 'Big Bertha' and German Siege Artillery of World War I (New Vanguard)

42cm 'Big Bertha' and German Siege Artillery of World War I (New Vanguard) Paperback – January 21, 2014

Big Bertha, Germany's World War I top secret mobile artillery piece, easily destroyed French and Belgian forts, helping set the stage for trench warfare.

In the first days of World War I, Germany unveiled a new weapon - the mobile 42cm (16.5 inch) M-Gerät howitzer. At the time, it was the largest artillery piece of its kind in the world and a closely guarded secret. When war broke out, two of the howitzers were rushed directly from the factory to Liege where they quickly destroyed two forts and compelled the fortress to surrender. After repeat performances at Namur, Maubeuge and Antwerp, German soldiers christened the howitzers 'Grosse' or 'Dicke Berta' (Fat or Big Bertha) after Bertha von Krupp, owner of the Krupp armament works that built the howitzers. The nickname was soon picked up by German press which triumphed the 42cm howitzers as Wunderwaffe (wonder weapons), and the legend of Big Bertha was born. To the Allies, the existence of the howitzers came as a complete surprise and the sudden fall of the Belgian fortresses spawned rumors and misinformation, adding to the 42cm howitzer's mythology.

In reality, 'Big Bertha" was but the last in a series of large-caliber siege guns designed by the German Army for the purpose of destroying concrete fortifications. It was also only one of two types of 42cm calibre howitzers built for the army by Krupp and only a small part of the siege artillery available to the German Army at the outset of the war. Such were the successes of the German siege guns that both the French and British Armies decided to field their own heavy siege guns and, after the German guns handily destroyed Russian forts during the German offensives in the east in 1915, the French Army abandoned their forts. However, by 1916, as the war settled into a stalemate, the effectiveness of the siege guns diminished until, by war's end, 'Big Bertha' and the other siege guns were themselves outmoded.

This book details the design and development of German siege guns before and during World War I, to include four models of 30.5cm mortars, two versions of 28cm howitzers, and two types of 42cm howitzers (including 'Big Bertha'); in total, eight different types of siege guns. Accompanying the text are many rare, never before published, photographs of 'Big Bertha' and the other German siege guns. Colour illustrations depict the most important aspects of the German siege artillery.

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German Artillery of World War One

German Artillery of World War One Hardcover – September 14, 2001

World War I introduced the use of artillery on a hitherto unprecedented scale, changing the very nature of war from a series of set-piece battles to stalemates punctuated by attacks on frontlines. Starting with development of German artillery through 1914, this illustrated history describes in detail the light and heavy howitzers used by the Germans before going on to examine heavy mortars and long-range weapons. Specialist weapons for mountain, coastal and railway use are also covered, along with specialist engineer and infantry guns.

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Railway Guns: British and German Guns at War

Railway Guns: British and German Guns at War Hardcover – February 17, 2017

In the nineteenth century the War Office showed little interest in developing large heavy artillery for its land forces, preferring instead to equip its warships with the biggest guns. Private initiatives to mount a gun on a railway truck pulled by a steam engine were demonstrated before military chiefs in the Southern Counties, but not taken up. However, the development of longer-range guns, weighing up to 250 tons, to smash through the massive armies and trench systems on the Western Front in 1916, led to a rethink. The only way to move these monsters about quickly in countryside thick with mud was to mount them on specially built railway trucks towed by locomotives.

The railway guns were to be put on little-used country lines where they could fire on beaches, road junctions and harbors. The locations and cooperation given by the independent railway companies is explained, as are the difficulties of using the same lines for war and civilian traffic.

The First World War also saw the emergence of large training camps for railway men. When the war ended most railway guns were dismantled and lost in ordnance depots. The Army Council was uncertain about artillery needs in a future war, so training, and development stopped.

This book largely concentrates on the realities of the time, the type of gun, the locomotives, artillery targets, locations, and what it was like when firing took place. It is fully illustrated with pictures, maps and plans covering different aspects of railway guns their locomotives and equipment.

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