Canon de 274 modèle 87/93 Glissement

The Canon de 274 modèle 87/93 Glissement was originally a gun for French battleships, but during the First World War it was converted into a railway gun and used on the western front.

At the end of the 19th century, several Pre Dreadnought battleships were built in France, which were armed with the Canon de 274 modèle 1887/1893 guns. These guns were not yet made entirely of steel but had several layers of steel reinforcing tires. They also had an intermittent screw lock and fired separate charges and projectiles.



The French battleship Bouvet equipped with a Canon de 274 modèle 87/93


The French battleship Masséna equipped with a Canon de 274 modèle 87/93



After the First World War had begun and the war of positions became apparent on the western front in 1915, it became apparent that the French light field guns were not sufficient to damage or destroy the increasingly fortified German positions. Thus the High Command decided to withdraw the heavy guns from the fortresses and bring them to the front. This also affected the coastal defence guns and discarded warships.

After the successful tests of the former ship guns Canon de 274 modèle 93/96 Berceau after the reconstruction to railway guns in 1915, also the Canon de 274 modèle 87/93 were selected to be converted as railway guns. However, the Schneider company decided to omit the complete armouring for time and cost reasons.



Drawing of the Canon de 274 modèle 87/93 Glissement



In order to be able to pick up the gun, a steel scaffold was mounted between two railway wagons on which the gun was then placed. The 5-axle wagons had turntables so that the gun could also travel through tighter curves and the radius was thus reduced. Since the wagons did not have their own drive, they had to be pulled to the desired location by a locomotive. After the gun had been pulled to the appropriate position, 6 steel girders lowered in the middle onto the tracks and lifted the steel frame to relieve both the tracks and the turntables of the two wagons during firing. After firing, the entire gun slipped back a few meters and was stopped by the anchors embedded in the ground to be pulled back into position by a locomotive. Although this process, known as the glissement system, was more time-consuming than the installation of a recoil system, it was much cheaper and did not consume so many raw materials that were fundamentally lacking during the war.

In 1917 the first 4 guns were delivered by Schneider to the French army and used on the western front. Due to the high consumption the barrel of the guns had to be drilled several times, so that the caliber could be up to 288 mm until the end of the war. Of the guns used, 3 were lost until the armistice.



French soldiers prepare a Canon de 274 modèle 87/93 Glissement for the shot



After the First World War, a total of 16 additional railway guns were converted and delivered to the French army in 1919 and 1920. They had them stored in depots in the event of a new war.

These guns were reactivated at the beginning of the Second World War. How far they were used against the German Wehrmacht is not known. After the capitulation of France in 1940, the Wehrmacht captured 6 of the railway guns and put them into service under the designation 27,4 cm K (E) 591 (f), 27,4 cm K ( E) 592 (f) and 28,5 cm K (E) 605 (f).



A Canon de 274 modèle 87/93 Glissement captured by American troops on 10 April 1945 in Thuringia




Data sheet:

Designation: Canon de 274 modèle 87/93 Glissement
Manufacturing country: France
Introductory year: 1887
1917 Conversion to a railway gun
Number of pieces: 20 pieces
Calibers: 274 mm
Bored out to 288 mm in the course of the war
Tube length: 12,3 meters
Range: Max. 26.400 metres
Weight: 155 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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