270 mm mortar modèle 1885

The 270 mm mortar modèle 1885 belonged to a series of heavy artillery demanded by the French army for future wars after the lost Franco-Prussian War.

After the Franco-Prussian War from 1870 to 1871 and the defeat against Germany, the French army had to rebuild and restructure itself.

The newly founded Artillery Commission therefore ordered heavy 120 mm, 155 mm and 240 mm calibre guns and 220 mm and 270 mm calibre mortars on 11 May 1874.

Colonel de Bange, who also developed other artillery guns, then began the construction of a heavy mortar with a calibre of 270 mm. Unlike its predecessors, the mortar was made entirely of steel to make the gun more stable and safe. The breech used was that developed by de Bange himself. The recoil system consisted of a U-shaped gun mount containing the barrel cylinder and a slightly inclined firing platform with hydraulic buffers. When firing the grenades, the recoil speed could thus be slowed down considerably by the buffer and the mortar slid back into its original position by the attached rails, so that the weapon did not have to be readjusted after each shot.

In 1885 the mortar was presented to the High Command of the French Army. Subsequently, an order was placed for the construction of 32 mortars which were used exclusively in the French fortresses.


After the outbreak of the First World War and the start of the Western Front Position War in 1915, it became apparent that the light field guns used by the French army were inadequate both in range and penetration power for the fortified German positions. It was therefore begun to bring the heavy guns from the fortresses to the front.

At this time, all of the 32 270 mm mortars produced were still available. These could be disassembled for transport and brought to the front with a total of 4 trolleys and horses. Some of the mortars were also mounted on wagons running along the French narrow-gauge rails along the front. In contrast to the fixed positions, the assembly did not take 8 hours but the mortars could simply be moved into the corresponding position. The transport of the required ammunition could also be carried out via the rails.

All 32 mortars remained on the western front until the end of the war. After the war these were no longer used by the French army due to their short range.



270 mm mortar modèle 1885




Data sheet:

Designation: 270 mm mortar modèle 1885
Manufacturing country: France
Introductory year: 1885
Number of pieces: 32 pieces
Calibers: 270 mm
Tube length: 3,35 meters
Range: Max. 8.000 meters
Weight: 16,5 tons






You can find the right literature here:


Flesh and Steel During the Great War: The Transformation of the French Army and the Invention of Modern Warfare

Flesh and Steel During the Great War: The Transformation of the French Army and the Invention of Modern Warfare Hardcover – October 30, 2018

Michel Goya’s Flesh and Steel during the Great War is one of the most thoughtful, stimulating and original studies of the conflict to have appeared in recent years. It is a major contribution towards a deeper understanding of the impact of the struggle on the Western Front on the theory and practice of warfare in the French army. In a series of incisive, closely argued chapters he explores the way in which the senior commanders and ordinary soldiers responded to the extraordinary challenges posed by the mass industrial warfare of the early twentieth century.

In 1914 the French army went to war with a flawed doctrine, brightly-colored uniforms and a dire shortage of modern, heavy artillery How then, over four years of relentless, attritional warfare, did it become the great, industrialized army that emerged victorious in 1918?

To show how this change occurred, the author examines the pre-war ethos and organization of the army and describes in telling detail how, through a process of analysis and innovation, the French army underwent the deepest and fastest transformation in its history.

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Breaking Point of the French Army: The Nivelle Offensive of 1917

Breaking Point of the French Army: The Nivelle Offensive of 1917 Hardcover – November 2, 2015

In December 1916 General Robert Nivelle was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the French armies fighting the Germans on the Western Front. He had enjoyed a meteoric rise to high command and public acclaim since the beginning of the war - he was a national hero. In return, he proclaimed he ‘had the formula’ that would ensure victory and end the conflict in 1917. But his offensive was a bloody and humiliating failure for France, one that could have opened the way for French defeat.

This is the subject of David Murphy’s penetrating, in-depth study of one of the key events in the history of the Great War. He describes how Nivelle, a highly intelligent and articulate officer, used his charm to win the support of French and British politicians, but also how he was vain and boastful and displayed no sense of operational security. By the opening of the campaign, his plan was an open secret and he had lost the ability to critically assess the operation as it developed. The result was disaster.

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They Shall Not Pass: The French Army on the Western Front 1914-1918

They Shall Not Pass: The French Army on the Western Front 1914-1918 Hardcover – May 19, 2012

This graphic collection of first-hand accounts sheds new light on the experiences of the French army during the Great War. It reveals in authentic detail the perceptions and emotions of soldiers and civilians who were caught up in the most destructive conflict the world had ever seen.
Their testimony gives a striking insight into the mentality of the troops and their experience of combat, their emotional ties to their relatives at home, their opinions about their commanders and their fellow soldiers, the appalling conditions and dangers they endured, and their attitude to their German enemy. In their own words, in diaries, letters, reports and memoirs - most of which have never been published in English before - they offer a fascinating inside view of the massive life-and-death struggle that took place on the Western Front.
Ian Sumner provides a concise narrative of the war in order to give a clear context to the eyewitness material. In effect the reader is carried through the experience of each phase of the war on the Western Front and sees events as soldiers and civilians saw them at the time. This emphasis on eyewitness accounts provides an approach to the subject that is completely new for an English-language publication.
The author’s pioneering work will appeal to readers who may know something about the British and German armies on the Western Front, but little about the French army which bore the brunt of the fighting on the allied side. His book represents a milestone in publishing on the Great War.

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Artillery in the Great War

Artillery in the Great War Hardcover – May 18, 2011

Artillery was the decisive weapon of the Great War - it dominated the battlefields. Yet the history of artillery during the conflict has been neglected, and its impact on the fighting is inadequately understood. Paul Strong and Sanders Marble, in this important and highly readable study, seek to balance the account.Their work shows that artillery was central to the tactics of the belligerent nations throughout the long course of the conflict, in attack and in defense. They describe, in vivid detail, how in theory and practice the use of artillery developed in different ways among the opposing armies, and they reveal how artillery men on all sides coped with the extraordinary challenges that confronted them on the battlefield. They also give graphic accounts of the role played by artillery in specific operations, including the battles of Le Cateau, the Somme and Valenciennes.Their work will be fascinating reading for anyone who is keen to understand the impact of artillery

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