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ianjonesncl

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Whilst reviewing the Fourth Army A & Q War Diary WO95- 445-2 I came across a Movement Order for a German 11inch gun and a detachment of 374 Siege Battery from Picquigny, 13km north west of Amiens to Paris. The entry sounded as if from Blackadder goes forth;

 

And might I suggest sir that having left the trenches, it might be a good idea to post our man to Paris

Source: Black Adder IV - Episode 1 - Captain Cook.

 

So why were a detachment of 374 Siege Battery taking a German 11 inch gun to Paris ?

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

A German 11 inch (280mm) gun nickname the 'Amiens Gun' was captured by the Australians on 8th August 1918.

 

The gun was a 28cm naval gun which was mounted on railway carriage. Built by Krupp of Essen it fired a 240kg (530 lbs) shell up to an range of 20,000 metres (21,875 yards). From June 1918 till it's capture on August 8th it was used against the City of Amiens targeting railways in order to disrupt the flow of men and materiel to the front lines.

 

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280 mm Rail Gun firing on Amiens

 

The gun was captured by the 31st Battalion Australian Imperial Force, at Harbonnieres 30km east of Amiens, in the opening phase of the Battle of Amiens.  During the action Australian Sapper Officer Lieutenant George Burrows, M.C. was awarded a Bar to his MC. General WR Birdwood, recalls Lt Burrows MC Bar action in a letter to the officer;

 

Dear Burrows,

I send you my very hearty congratulations on the award of a Bar to the Military Cross in recognition of your conspicuous bravery, initiative, and devotion to duty during our operations near Villers-Bretonneux on 8 August. You were in command of a section of sappers attached to one of the attacking battalions, and reached the final objective east of Harbonnieres. Some two hundred yards beyond your new line a long-range ll.5in. gun on railway mounting, a locomotive, and several ammunition waggons and coaches were standing on a siding. The latter vehicles were on fire. Without hesitation you rushed forward, with two sappers, and, despite heavy enemy machine-gun and artillery fire, raised steam on the locomotive, and shunted the burning coaches into another siding. You then coupled up with the gun and ammunition waggons, and brought them well back within our lines. Your action called for very great courage and determination, and I thank you so much for it.

 

With good wishes, yours sincerely,

W.R. Birdwood

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amiens_Gun

 

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Amiens Gun captured by 31st Battalion Australian Imperial Force 8th August 1918

 

The German gun was now under British Army administration and accounts tell of an Artillery Major from Headquarters signing for the gun.  The gun made its way to Picquigny, 13km north west of Amiens, where it was under Fourth Army control.

 

The gun was initially painted with an inscription that it had been captured by the Australians;

 

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Amiens Gun showing painted inscription 'captured by |Australians'

 

The inscription was changed when it passed to Fourth Army control as being captured by British Fourth Army.

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Amiens Gun showing pained inscription 'captured by British Fourth Army'

 

The Amiens Gun was to be displayed in Paris as tangible evidence that the war was turning in the Allies favour. Following  the German Spring Offensive and the targeting of Paris by a 308mm gun, the display of a captured trophy would have had good propaganda value. It may have been the British would have been keen to show it was them that captured the gun, taking the wider context of the British Fourth Army rather than the Australians. In order to display the gun in Paris a detachment would be required.

 

374 Siege Battery were equipped with 12 inch Rail Howitzers. During the German March Offensive the railway lines were broken preventing the guns of the 374th to be withdrawn. The battery destroyed their guns and the personnel retired.

Source: RGA railway gun; what unit ?

 

On 23rd August 1918 Fourth Army ordered a detachment of 374 Siege Battery to take the Amiens Gun to Paris, and would come under command of GOC Lines of Communication the following day.

 

                                            MOVEMENTS AND TRANSFERS

 

Date

 

Formation or Unit

 

From

 

To

Rail

 or Road

 

Admin by

 

From

Aug. 23rd

German 11" gun and Det.

  of No. 374 374 Siege Bty.

PICQUIGNY

PARIS

rail

G.O.C. ,

  1. OF C.

Aug 24th

Source: Fourth Army A&Q War Diary WO-95-445-2 Page 24

 

The place for the Amiens Gun display would be the Champ de Mars Station adjacent to the Eifel Tower.

 

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Paris - Gare du Champs de Mars 

 

The Amiens Gun and the men of the 374th Siege Battery made it to Paris where the gun went on display.

 

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Amiens Gun Paris Champs de Mar

 

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Amiens Gun Paris Champs de Mar with men of 374 Siege Battery

 

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Amiens Gun Paris Champs de Mar with men of 374 Siege Battery

 

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Amiens Gun Paris Champs de Mar with men of 374 Siege Battery

 

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Amiens Gun Paris Champs de Mar with men of 374 Siege Battery

 

It would seem the Battery Mascot was part of the detachment.

 

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Amiens Gun Paris Champs de Mars- 374 Siege Battery Mascot

 

Visitors included Marshal Foch  who personally inspected and was much interested in the British prize.

 

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Amiens Gun Paris Champs de Mars - inspection by Marshall Foche

 

The display of the Amiens Gun  was recorded on film. This shows large crowds viewing the gun and the gun being inspected. The ammunition car and hoist system together with a Gunner (presumably 372 Battery)  is shown. There is an interesting view from the breach along the barrel to the Eifel Tower.  The film finishes with people visiting a German U-Boat on the Seine.

 

Amiens Gun Paris Champs de Mar

 

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Amiens Gun Paris Champs de Mars

 

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Amiens Gun Paris Champs de Mars

Edited by ianjonesncl

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