Canon de 305 modèle 93/96 TAZ

The Canon de 305 modèle 93/96 TAZ was originally the main armament of French battleships, but some were converted into railway guns during the First World War and were to be used on the western front.

In 1893, the Canon de 305 mm Modèle 1893/96 was developed to serve as the main armament for the upcoming French battleships of the Charlemagne, République and Liberté classes. The guns were equipped, as usual, with a grooved barrel and several layers of steel. The interrupted Welin breech was able to fire separate charges and projectiles.



The French battleship Charlemagne


The French battleship Patrie which belonged to the République class


The French battleship Liberté



After the outbreak of the First World War and the outbreak of the Positional War on the western front in 1915, it became clear that the French light field guns were no longer sufficient to damage or destroy the increasingly fortified German positions. The High Command therefore ordered the heavy artillery to be withdrawn from the French fortresses and brought to the Western Front. Since the number of heavy artillery pieces was rather small and the economy could not cover the demand with the production, warships which had been decommissioned were demilitarised in addition to the coastal artillery and their guns were converted either into field guns or railway guns.

This arrangement also affected a total of 8 Canon de 305 mm Modèle 1893/96 guns which had been taken out of service. These were taken by the company St. Chamond to build railway guns.

In order to carry the high weight of the guns, two 6-axle railway wagons were taken and connected with a steel frame. A turntable was mounted on the wagons so that the gun could also travel through tighter curves.

In order to make the guns ready for use, wooden beams had to be laid next to and under the tracks before firing, on which supports could stand when the body was lowered. In order to absorb the recoil, ground anchors were attached to hold the gun in position.



Drawing of the Canon de 305 modèle 93/96 TAZ



Originally, the gun was supposed to rotate 360 degrees. After the first tests, however, it quickly became apparent that the gun was simply too heavy and could only rotate a little so that there were no problems with the balance. Also the alignment for shooting was very limited and the angle of fire had to be kept low so that the whole car didn't tip over after one shot.

From 1916 the delivery of the 8 converted railway guns began. Due to the serious defects these were quickly replaced by the much better Canon de 240 modèle 93/96 TAZ.



Canon de 305 modèle 93/96 TAZ


Canadian officers examine a French Canon de 305 modèle 93/96 TAZ




Data sheet:

Designation: Canon de 305 modèle 93/96 TAZ
Manufacturing country: France
Introductory year: 1893
1916 Conversion to a railway gun
Number of pieces: 8 pieces
Calibers: 305 mm
Tube length: 12,2 meters
Range: Max. 27.500 metres as ship gun
Weight: 175 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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