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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

155mm shell exploded near Verdun


SteveMarsdin

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A large proportion were the obsolescent De Bange 155mm originally designed in 1874. They had no recoil mechanism and had to be relaid for every shot but they were robust and are credited with making life difficult for the Germans once they arrived in sufficient numbers.

Pete.

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The article definitely refers to the shell as a WW1 relic. 155mm calibre was extensively used by the French throughout the war, even though at the outset they had a preponderance of 75mm pieces they still had significant numbers of old De Bange pieces (as Pete has illustrated) and also a lesser number of the more modern rimalhos.

The worrying thing is that article says it wasn't an accidental explosion but that someone had deliberately set it off !

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It would seem from the story that someone placed a gas burner next to the shell, lit it and then retired, or so one presumes in the absence of human remains.

Cheers Martin B

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Nothing to do with the thread really, but not knowing anything about French artillery, I was highly amused by the name of the makers of the 155mm piece. De Bange. How apposite.

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Nothing to do with the thread really, but not knowing anything about French artillery, I was highly amused by the name of the makers of the 155mm piece. De Bange. How apposite.

Paul, exactly the same thought crossed my mind to the extent that I thought about making sure it wasn't an elaborate joke on Wikipedia. Once you've seen one you'll be watching archive footage and spot them all the time. The wheels have flat rectangular shoes attached to them plus a couple of huge handles on the top. You like me can impress your friends with your heavy artillery spotting expertise (or maybe not).

Pete.

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Oh, I shall bang on about them at great length, now I know.

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Nothing to do with the thread really, but not knowing anything about French artillery, I was highly amused by the name of the makers of the 155mm piece. De Bange. How apposite.

One almost expects a German counterpart named "Ze Bumm".
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I seem to remember reading a comment somewhere that Krupp was destined to manufacture guns as the name sounded like a shell going off.

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France produced 9 different types of 155 mm gun and some of the later ones were quite modern. De Bange refers to the type of breach rather than the type of gun most of which were built by Schneider

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France produced 9 different types of 155 mm gun and some of the later ones were quite modern. De Bange refers to the type of breach rather than the type of gun most of which were built by Schneider

Thanks Cent, I wondered why I'd never heard of the name before despite reading a lot about the use of the guns. I think I read somewhere that the original gun resulted in the French standardising on 155mm.

Pete.

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Nothing to do with the thread really, but not knowing anything about French artillery, I was highly amused by the name of the makers of the 155mm piece. De Bange. How apposite.

It's pronounced BANJ, not Bangy

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After Colonel Charles Ragon de Bange (1833 1914) who in 1872 invented the obturator system, originally a greased asbestos O-ring but later an asbestos pad, filled with a form of inert porridge on the inside of the breech block which would spread by the force of the propellant charge and make the breech gas tight. Universally adopted and still used for guns not using metal cartridge cases (usually larger guns) Later models of French 155 mm guns did have a brass cartridge case (I have one dated 1917) and were therefore not using the de Bange system

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There are lots of 155mm shells lying about on the battlefield on both sides of the river. I've never heard of anyone setting one off deliberately although they are said sometimes to blow up on their own. I've never known whether that could be true or not. Some years ago I was walking in the Bezonvaux area and there was a huge bang in the forest some distance away but unlike the recently reported explosion was no sign of smoke. I never knew what had caused it.

Christina

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I don't know the exact mechanics of unexploded ordnance self detonating, but I presume any disturbance could cause an explosion, maybe wild boar digging around or maybe even the vibrations of heavy vehicles or trains could be enough. Perhaps the explosion you heard with no smoke may have been army bomb disposal at work?

khaki

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I don't know what it was but there was no sound of anyone else around either before or after the explosion. I think the army bomb disposal people take the stuff away rather than deal with it in situ. But it could have been them, I suppose. I was just surprised by the absolute silence after the bang.

Christina

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Some years back I lived near a wood where someone had installed a bird scarer - basically a device that automatically periodically fed and fired a blank 12 bore shot gun shell inside a big open ended metal drum. It was loud enough to sound like an artillery shell (and yes I have heard real ones) but no flash and no smoke.The landowner (rather like the late b'stard MP but with less of a social conscience) was eventually forced to remove it as people were threatening to stuff him inside it to deaden the noise. Could you have heard one of these?

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Again I am commenting on something that I have no real knowledge but I believe that in some cases that when a shell/ grenade appears too dangerous to move that the disposal people will sandbag around it and detonate it on site. I wouldn't have their job for any amount, they really are heroes.

khaki

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Hi Centurion,

I don't think so, although it's an interesting idea. I was in deep forest at the back of the destroyed village of Bezonvaux and there's no reason to have a bird scarer there. Also, it was just a single bang, not a repeated sound. As I say, it's the only time I've ever heard anything like it.

Christina

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Hi Centurion,

I don't think so, although it's an interesting idea. I was in deep forest at the back of the destroyed village of Bezonvaux and there's no reason to have a bird scarer there. Also, it was just a single bang, not a repeated sound. As I say, it's the only time I've ever heard anything like it.

Christina

Bird scarers are also used to scare other animals sometimes and they are sometimes set go off at long intervals

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Other animals in the forest include boars and deer, both of which are encouraged to stay there for hunting. As for long intervals, I was in the area all day without hearing it again. In fact, I've never heard any such thing on any other occasion in almost 20 years of prowling the deep woods.

Christina

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