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42cm 'Big Bertha' and German Siege Artillery of World War I (New Vanguard)

42cm 'Big Bertha' and German Siege Artillery of World War I (New Vanguard) [Kindle Edition]

Marc Romanych , Martin Rupp , Henry Morshead
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Product Description


"This superb and long-needed book covers the siege that Germany used against fortresses in its World War I offensive campaigns ... This is a must-have book for anyone interested in this subject!" - "Coast Defense Journal .".".a fascinating book on a subject few have written. It is quite well done and I'd have to add this to the growing list of books that any enthusiast needs to have on their shelves." - Scott Van Aken,

Product Description

In the early days of World War I, Germany unveiled a new weapon - the mobile 42cm (16.5 inch) M-Geröt howitzer. At the time, it was the largest artillery piece of its kind in the world and a closely guarded secret. When war broke out, two of the howitzers were rushed directly from the factory to Liege where they quickly destroyed two forts and compelled the fortress to surrender. After repeat performances at Namur, Maubeuge and Antwerp, German soldiers christened the howitzers 'Grosse' or 'Dicke Berta' (Fat or Big Bertha) after Bertha von Krupp, owner of the Krupp armament works that built the howitzers. The nickname was soon picked up by German press which triumphed the 42cm howitzers as Wunderwaffe (wonder weapons), and the legend of Big Bertha was born. This book details the design and development of German siege guns before and during World War I. Accompanying the text are many rare, never-before-published photographs of 'Big Bertha' and the other German siege guns. Colour illustrations depict the most important aspects of the German siege artillery.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 11063 KB
  • Print Length: 48 pages
  • Publisher: Osprey Publishing (20 Jan 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00HYX8T9K
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #397,614 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars GOOD COVERAGE 18 Mar 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Within the limitations of being a small book, this manages to pack a lot of interesting detail into its 48 pages. Lots of good photos, informative text portraying a clear chronology of their development and combat, this little book will reward anyone interested in these infamous artillery pieces.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.9 out of 5 stars  19 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent coverage of a neglected but important aspect of World War I 31 Jan 2014
By W. D ONEIL - Published on
Everyone has heard of "Big Bertha," the super-size German siege artillery of the First World War--but scarcely anyone actually knows anything about them. Now Marc Romanych and Martin Rupp have produced an excellent corrective. They cover all of the German siege artillery in calibers 28cm to 42cm, describing (and providing images of) each type, explaining how it came about, and how it was used in the war. The Austro-Hungarian Škoda 30.5cm siege mortar is not covered or illustrated, but its service in support of the German Army is described.

The 42cm siege guns played a very prominent role in the initial months of the war--the whole initial advance would have been much less successful without them. Yet their importance faded very quickly and by the last phases of the war little was heard of them. This book explains this mystery very clearly. It's something of an object lesson in the importance and limitations of technological surprise in war.

The heavy siege artillery was developed as a secret weapon and it came a shock to the Allies at war's outset. As a result, a great deal of myth developed about it, traces of which are still to be found in English-language books about the war. This book tells the real story.

I found only a handful of very minor issues on peripheral points that don't affect the real subject--mistakes regarding the ranks of various chiefs of the General Staff, an erroneous identification of the owner of the Krupp empire (she was Bertha Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach, never von Krupp), and a somewhat misleading reference to benzine motor fuel. All in all this is an excellent and unique book on an important aspect of World War I history.

Note that there's also a Kindle edition that Amazon for some reason or another lists separately. See 42cm "Big Bertha" and German Siege Artillery of World War I (New Vanguard).
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent addition to Osprey's "New Vanguard" series 31 Jan 2014
By Yoda - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Despite this book's very short 48 page length, it is very encompassing. When this reviewer purchased it he was expecting just a detailed discussion and analysis of the physical characteristics of the weapon per se. Instead there was much more. Not only were technical details on the variations of the 42 Cm "Big Bertha" covered, but also details on all the major German siege guns. These included the 28 cm and 30 cm siege weapons as well as (fewer) details on the lower 20 cm range of guns.

The discussion and analysis contained in the book not only covers the physical characteristics of the weapons themselves but decent detail and analysis of transportation vehicles, transportation techniques (the guns had to be moved by rail to a very close position to their firing position and then moved to the final point by either short gauge rail or transport vehicle), what was involved in setting them up and how they were operationally used. In addition, all the guns and their transport vehicles are beautifully illustrated in color plates that not only show how these looked but detailed operational components (i.e., such as main elevation wheels as well as those used to fine tune aiming). These are definitely some of the best illustrations this author has seen in any Osprey book. For model and diorama builders, illustrators and the technically curious these are a God-send. The book also has many contemporaneous B&W photographs not only of the guns and transport vehicles and apparatus but also of the damage they caused, how they were transported and some interesting points such as the giant tell-tale plumes of smoke and circular shaped patterns, that resulted from firing, that so gave away the gun and its position to allied counter-battery guns.

As if all of the above was not enough, especially for a 48 page booklet, the history of the guns in combat and their contributions is examined in every year of the war. In short, the guns made a very impressive contribution to reducing allied forts in the opening of the war but, as the war progressed and fewer and fewer forts were available for targeting, the weapons lost their value. They were slowly utilized more and more as conventional artillery or targeting weapons that they could have little impact on (i.e., ports, etc.).

All and all an excellent introduction to German siege guns of WWI in general (not just the Bertha) in terms not only of physical characteristics but historical development, operational history and value to the German army. In addition it is beautifully illustrated. Five stars, especially considering its short length.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 42CM "BIG BERTHA" AND GERMAN SIEGE ARTILLERY OF WORLD WAR I 23 April 2014
By Robert A. Lynn - Published on

Perhaps the most dramatic demonstration of the increase in the sheer force that could be unleashed on the battlefield due to technological improvements of the early 20th Century can be seen in the development of the large-scale artillery pieces up to and during the time of World War I. The "big guns" of the time period were immensely heavy, needed to be transported in multiple parts (each part often occupying the equivalent of several train wagons) and time-consuming to assemble on the site of firing. Nevertheless, their range, far exceeding the extent of a human being's sight and reaching many miles past the enemy's front line, as well as the sheer impact wrought by their massive shells, was thought to compensate for their size and awkwardness.

The most famous of the big guns of World War I were employed by the German Army and manufactured by the Krupp family firm, the largest German weapons producer and one of the wealthiest families in the world at that time.The Krupp firm produced numerous models of howitzers or long-range, large caliber artillery capable of firing both at high and low trajectories.

The famous howitzer, Big Bertha, was designed in 1911 for the Krupp firm by the inventor Louis Gauthmann. The Big Bertha was a movable siege mortar capable of firing projectiles weighing 800 kilograms as far as 9,300 meters at a trajectory of 65 degrees (thus explaining the mortar designation). Four Big Berthas were manuafactured and used in the German offensive of 1914. Their most distinguished use, however, was in August, 1914, during the German assault on the twelve-ringed fortifications that protected Liege, Belgium. Over the course of three days (12-15 August), two Big Berthas were installed within firing range of the fortresses and inflicted such massive devastation as to bring about either the destruction or surrender of all the Belgian defensive positions in the area. By the war's end in November, 1918, Krupp had manufactured and delivered 12 M-Gerat "Big Bertha" howitzers.

42CM "BIG BERTHA" AND GERMAN SIEGE ARTILLERY OF WORLD WAR I is a well-written and organized book. The bulk of the book describes the organization of batteries, operational conditions, and the use of siege artillery during the battles of 1914, the Eastern Front in 1915, Verdun in 1916, and the last years of 1917 and 1918 as well as the aftermath of World War I. Only three of the siege guns survived World War I-two were captured by the U.S. and eventually scrapped while the third one was hidden by Krupp and used by Germany in early World War II. The book aptly describes the use of the guns in operation and while being transported by tractors and other transport vehicles. Complete with historic black and white photographs and color illustrations, this excellent account gives the reader a clear and concise representation of the siege guns used by the Imperial German Army.

As with any book of this type, there will be mistakes and they are listed below:

*Page 4-Her full name was Bertha Krupp von Bohler und Halbach.

*Page 4-This is a photograph of a 30.5cm Skoda not a 42cm M-Gerat "Big Bertha".

*Page 6-That is Generalfeldmarschall Helmuth von Moltke the Elder. He was appointed to Chief of the General Staff on 16 June 1871 and retired on 9 August 1888.

*Page 7-According to the chart, it took the 42cm Gamma-Gerat 24 working hours to emplace. That's wrong, it should read 36 working hours.

*Page 8-Generalfeldmarschall Helmuth von Moltke the Younger was appointed Chief of the General Staff on 2 January 1906 and resigned on 13 September 1914.

*Page 11-Gamma howitzers were disassembled into seven loads with the heaviest load at 26 metric tons not 20 and 25 metric tons. The 42cm Gamma-Great weighed 175 metric tons not about 150 metric tons.

*Page 18-The heaviest vehicle to transport the 42cm M-Gerat was 18 metric tons not between 16 and 20 metric tons.

*Pages 18 and 19-Prior to the 1950s, Benzene was added to gasoline in order to increase the octane rating and reduce engine knocking.

*Page 24-To be more specific, the firing was originally done precisely as with other guns; the shields protected the crew, so that they felt the blast less than others standing near. It wasn't until 1916, that orders were issued requiring that the piece be fired from cover by means of a long lanyard; and this wasn't on account of the blast, but because there had been several cases of bursts in the bore. Extraordinary accuracy was attributed to the big mortars. In deflection, this was to a certain extent justified; the guns responded accurately to changes of two minutes of arc. In range, they shared much the same dispersion as other guns, and this dispersion increased materially during the war by reason of the wear on the guns and the falling off in the quality of ammunition. It has been very commonly reported that the 42cm batteries each had a lighter gun for fire adjustment. This is false because adjustment was made with the heavy caliber gun.

*Page 26-The Skoda batteries requested used Austro-Hungarian crews to emplace and fire their guns. No German crews were used because none of them had been trained how to fire the Skoda guns.

*Page 35-An observation made by Imperial German officer Captain Becker was that the ruins of the fortifications made excellent machine gun nests. He stated further that if the enemy abandons the fortifications during the bombardment and then is given time to re-occupy it before the infantry assault; no amount of destruction would do any good.

*Page 36-In October, 1914, it was revealed to Captain Becker, a participant in the attack on the Belgium fortifications by an Imperial German Army pioneer officer that these forts were constructed using poor concrete upon inspection by German engineers. Further, he stated that the Belgium government had been shamefully defrauded by its own contractors.

Lt. Colonel Robert A. Lynn, Florida Guard
Orlando, Florida
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How the Germans overcame WW I fortifications 23 Mar 2014
By Chris Sterling - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'm a "fort fan"--from castles to modern fortifications, I find them fascinating, and visit and climb over as many as I can. This book takes the "other" side, detailing the huge German mortars and cannons used to reduce Allied fortifications of all types. For the German army to successfully invade France a century ago, numerous Belgian and French forts had to be reduced in a minimum amount of time and effort. These guns did the trick. They are carefully described and diagrammed (complete with a handy metric converter so we undereducated Americans can understand things like gun size), and a brief sense of how they were used--and to what effect--is included. Only one thing is missing--I can't imagine what these things sounded like in action!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars REALLY good discussion of the subject with lots of photographs 22 July 2014
By Bayard B. - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
REALLY good discussion of the subject with lots of photographs. I have studied German artillery of World Wars I and II for many years and in my opinion this is one of the best books I have seen on the subject. It focuses mainly on the development of the heavy guns in terms of engineering and technology and also gives some information on military deployment.
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