Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Weapons of War: Not Big Bertha

The really long one below is the 210mm "Paris Gun," a terror weapon impossible to aim precisely, which had a range of over 75 miles and was used to shell Paris in 1918. It is misidentified in countless works as "Big Bertha," and—in all fairness, was probably called by that name during the war.  The problem is that by its 1918 battlefield debut another interesting heavy artillery piece from the same manufacturer had already earned the appellation.  The insert shows it: the 420mm siege howitzer, nicknamed "Big Bertha" by the troops, when it was used to great effect in reducing forts, such as at Liege and Antwerp, early in the Great War. Both were designed and built at the Krupp Works in Essen, wholly owned during the war by Bertha Krupp, who inspired the nickname.

Click on Image to Expand

The two best books on super-sized weapons in the war.

Order Now

Order Now


  1. The reason the Paris Gun was so inaccurate was that each round went so high in the atmosphere; they actually scapped the lower end of the Startosphere. The Germans, or anyone else for that matter, did not know the wind speeds associated with ballistic freefall from that altitude. Still one hell of a weapon. Each round had to be fired in a numbered sequence as the barrel changed the rifiling charteristics with each round. One gun blew up because they fired a round out of sequence.

  2. The late Dr. Gerald Bull, a renowned long range artillery expert, wrote a 1988 book: "The Paris Guns and Project Harp". Dr. Bull had an untimely death in Brussells while working on a supergun for Saddan Hussein.