Jump to content
Free downloads from TNA ×
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Super-heavy artillery


Justin Moretti

Recommended Posts

I know the early 60 pdr and no doubt the 6" howitzers (which were lighter) could be horse-drawn. I understand that there was more than one artillery piece which could be lifted in two (or more) horse-drawn loads for assembly at site.

Who can tell me what the biggest artillery pieces were that were ever moved any reasonable distance by horse draught (and how)?

I asked this question (or a variant thereof) through the Western Front Association website, but some of the reading I have done since then seems to contradict that answer, and one of Ian Hogg's books (Allied Artillery of WW1) appears to have internal inconsistences. Particularly it describes the three subassemblies of the 9.2 inch howitzer being designed for horse draught, yet one of these components' weight is greater than that of the later marks of 60pdr which was described as being 'too heavy for horse draught'.

Can anyone resolve this paradox, please?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"...it describes the three subassemblies of the 9.2 inch howitzer being designed for horse draught, yet one of these components' weight is greater than that of the later marks of 60pdr which was described as being 'too heavy for horse draught'..."

Is it possible that the two lighter sections were moved by horse transport and the third (heavier) sub-assembly was moved by steam traction engine?

Tom

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The solution to this paradox lies in the way that different kinds of aritllery pieces were employed. A 9.2-inch howitzer, which was designed for use in formal sieges, could move into position slowly, with routes examined before hand, minor obstacles removed and positions improved. A 60-pounder, however, was designed as a weapon for mobile warfare. As such, it had to get in and out of firing positions quickly.

A team of horses that could pull a given weight over reasonably good roads might not be able to pull the same weight over bad roads, up steep inclines and cross-country. If the aritllery piece in question gets stuck or overturned, moreover, the horses might not be able to generate enough 'horsepower' to put things right.

A number of incidents during the retreat from Mons suggest that the horse-teams pulling the original 60-pounder had very little in the way of a margin for error. Even though the roads were pretty good, the terrain flat and the ground dry, the teams pulling 60-pounders had a rough time of it. There were even cases where 60-pounders had to be abandoned, not because the Germans had overrun a battery position, but because the pieces got stuck and could not be moved.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have read an interesting account of the German troops billeted in a village north of Verdun in about January 1916 being woken up at 2 AM by loud unusual sounds, and getting up to see 42 cm howitzers ( the Dicke Berta) being pulled down the main road thru the town in a snow-storm by steam tractors, with headlights piercing the billowing snow. My father served with these at Antwerp and in Russia, so I collect info about them, and I never heard of them being pulled by horses, but of course they were enormously heavy, and the size of a small house.

I also have never heard of the Austrian and German 30.5 cm mortars being pulled by horses. Many of the Austrian ones were of course the famous Moto-Moerser, with a specialized set of automotive transport equipment specifically designed to rapidly move the components of the disassembed gun, including a crane to assemble the gun. The traction equipment was designed by one Dr. Ferdinand Porsche, of later automotive fame, and I think could move the disassembled gun at something like 20-30 mph on a good road, with some cross-country capability.

I hope that this negative information is interesting, if not directly useful. I am sure that with the correct conditions these guns could have been moved very slowly with horse teams, but it would not have been practical, especially with the 42 cm guns.

Bob Lembke

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 year later...
My father served with these at Antwerp and in Russia, so I collect info about them, and I never heard of them being pulled by horses, but of course they were enormously heavy, and the size of a small house.

I am sure that with the correct conditions these guns could have been moved very slowly with horse teams, but it would not have been practical, especially with the 42 cm guns.

Incredibly late as this reply is, it may be of interest.

First, it's fascinating to read a post by someone whose father worked with Dicke Berta's! Did he leave any mementos, such as photos? The guns have always fascinated me.

Second, I know of at least one instance - maybe the only instance - when a horse team played a part in shifting a Bertha. Given the other photos that accompany it (in Axel Turra's Waffen-Arsenal Band 31), it looks like it took place at the Krupp factory or maybe at Meppen (or another range), and equally likely it was, as per your comments earlier, only for a short distance - I'm sure you're correct when you say that using horses would have been rare.

Anyway, it's the barrel-wagon:

Bertha6fromTurra-b.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I know the early 60 pdr and no doubt the 6" howitzers (which were lighter) could be horse-drawn. I understand that there was more than one artillery piece which could be lifted in two (or more) horse-drawn loads for assembly at site.

Who can tell me what the biggest artillery pieces were that were ever moved any reasonable distance by horse draught (and how)?

I asked this question (or a variant thereof) through the Western Front Association website, but some of the reading I have done since then seems to contradict that answer, and one of Ian Hogg's books (Allied Artillery of WW1) appears to have internal inconsistences. Particularly it describes the three subassemblies of the 9.2 inch howitzer being designed for horse draught, yet one of these components' weight is greater than that of the later marks of 60pdr which was described as being 'too heavy for horse draught'.

Can anyone resolve this paradox, please?

I think 'designed for' horse draught and actually using it are different things. Traction engines were used by the RGA to move the Skoda siege guns in the Boer War and I think in China, this tells me that this was the intention with 9.2. However, I'd be unsurprised if the need to be 'horse mobile' was there 'just in case'. It also depends on the size of the horse team. There's a painting in a gallery near me showing a team (non military) pulling a very large cart laden with wool bales thru very difficult conditions. IIRC the team is 10 or 12+ heavy horses, so a team doesn't have to be limited to 6 or 8.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...