270 mm mortar modèle 1889

The 270 mm mortar modèle 1889 was developed from the 270 mm mortar modèle 1885 and was intended for the coastal defence of France, but in the First World War the mortar also served on the western front.

In 1885, Colonel de Bange presented the 270 mm mortar modèle to the French Army High Command in 1885. 32 of these mortars were subsequently ordered.

Since the High Command also needed guns for the defence of the French coast, the 270 mm mortar of 1885 was adapted to the requirements of coastal defence. Unlike the other artillery guns, the mortar was not designed to penetrate the heavy side armor, but to penetrate the less armored deck of enemy ships through a steeper angle of impact of the fired shells.

A total of 86 of the modified mortars were ordered by the French army. After delivery, these were positioned at fixed locations on the coast. A concrete base was cast on which a steel ring was mounted. In order to secure the gun and the crew, a parapet was erected in front of the gun, also made of concrete.

Like the 270 mm mortar modèle 1885, the 270 mm mortar modèle 1889 was equipped with a de Bange breech and the same recoil system, which consisted of a U-shaped weapon holder in which the barrel cylinder was located and a slightly inclined firing platform with hydraulic buffers. The buffer significantly reduced the recoil during firing and the attached rails allowed the gun to slide back into its original position so that it did not have to be repositioned after each shot.



270 mm mortar modèle 1889 on a platform for coastal defence



With the outbreak of the First World War and the beginning of the Positional War in 1915, it became apparent that the light field guns used by the French army were insufficient to destroy the fortified German positions.

At that time, almost all the heavy guns were in the French fortresses and were not available in sufficient numbers. Thus the 86 270 mm mortars modèle 1889 were removed from coastal defence and used on the western front.

Just like the 270 mm mortar modèle 1885, the mortar could be dismantled and transported with 4 cars. Some of the mortars were also placed on wagons and moved on the narrow-gauge rails of the French army at the front.

The mortars were used on the western front until the end of the war.



270 mm mortar modèle 1889


270 mm mortar modèle 1889


A 270 mm mortar modèle 1889 in a position 1918 at the western front



After the First World War, most of the mortars were no longer used by the French army and were therefore scrapped. Only 24 mortars were stored as reserves in depots.

This mortar was captured by the German Wehrmacht in 1940 after France surrendered and was used again under the designation 27 cm coastal mortar 585 (f) for the defence of the coasts.



270 mm mortar captured by the Wehrmacht in the French camp of Mailly




Data sheet:

Designation: 270 mm mortar modèle 1889
Manufacturing country: France
Introductory year: 1889
Number of pieces: 86 pieces
Calibers: 270 mm
Tube length: 3,35 meters
Range: Max. 10.400 meters
Weight: 26,5 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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