Thoughts on the military and military activities of a diverse nature. Free-ranging and eclectic.

Sunday, February 29, 2004


This is coolbert:

More on big guns. More on a big gun to be precise. Go to this web site to read about "Dora":

click here.

What amazes me is the crew required to man and operate this gun.

It would seem the unit required to man and service the gun was the size of a regiment [2,000 troops].

All for one gun!

And it would take six weeks to set up and put into operation.

You would have thought that by taking that unit of a regimental size and turning that unit into a conventional artillery unit would be much more satisfactory. And it probably would have been so. Having an artillery unit of 2,000 men would be about ten batteries [company sized units], firing about sixty guns of conventional artillery. Which would be much more flexible and useful in any military campaign.

However, the gun was put to good use. Destroyed the forts at Sebastopol in fine fashion. But then had to be retired as the wear and tear on the gun was so great from just the few shots it fired, that it needed refitting. Fancy that. Extracts and my comments [in bold], on the web site:

The largest gun ever built had an operational career of 13 days, during which a total of 48 shells were fired in anger. It took 25 trainloads of equipment, 2000 men and up to six weeks to assemble. It seem unlikely that such a weapon will ever be seen again.

Yeah, it will never be seen again. It is not efficient. No one could afford such a thing. [well, Saddam did have the Babylon Gun, but it never was put together and did not fire].

Well ahead of its progress a small army of laborers started to prepare the gun's chosen firing position at Bakhchisaray, a small village outside Sevastopol. Well over 1, 500 men under the control of a German army engineer unit dug through a small knoll to form a wide railway cutting on an arc of double track, and the sides of the cutting were raised to provide cover and protection for the gun.

It took a small army of laborers just to lay the track [double track], and create a usable site for the gun to be fired from.

25 separate loads that formed the gun and its carriage had to be assembled and pushed and pulled into the right position and order.

The gun came disassembled and had to be put together on site before it could fire.

Even using this small army of men it took between three and six weeks to assemble the gun, even using the two I 10-tonne cranes that had been designed specially for the task.

Even with specialized equipment, this was a major task. Just don't think the assemblers had a whole lot of experience putting this thing together and taking it down again. Too much time and money involved in "exercises".

By the time Sevastopol fell early in July 1942 it was calculated that no fewer than 562,944 artillery projectiles had fallen on the port, the bulk of them from heavy-calibre guns and howitzers, and this total does not include the noisy storms of artillery rockets and the extra weight of the infantry's own unit artillery.

This does not include the shells from "Dora". Even with this bombardment, the fortress had not fallen.

Its first targets were some coastal batteries that were engaged at a range of about 25000 m (27,340 yards), and all shots were observed by a special Luftwaffe flight of Fieseler Fi-156 Storchs assigned to the gun. Eight shots were all that were required to demolish these targets, and later the same day a further six shots were fired at the concrete work known as Fort Stalin.

Well, a real heavy weight this gun. No need to wear the opposition down. Just fire a few shots and it is all over.

'Schwere Gustav' was in action again on 6 June, initially against Fort Molotov. Seven shells demolished that structure and then it was the turn of a target known as the White Cliff, This was the aiming point for an underground ammunition magazine under Severnaya Bay and so placed by the Soviets as to be invulnerable to conventional weapons. It was not invulnerable to the 80-cm K (E) for nine projectiles bored the way down through the sea, through over 30 m (100 ft) of sea bottom and then exploded inside the magazine. By the time 'schwere Gustav' had fired its ninth shot the magazine was a wreck and to cap it all a small sailing ship had been sunk in the process.

Damn, this was one bad assed gun.

After seven shots the target was ready for the attentions of the infantry and the gun crews were then able to turn their attentions to some gun maintenance and a short period of relative rest until 11 June. On that day Fort Siberia was the recipient of a further five shells, and then came another lull for the gun crews until 17 June, when they fired their last five operational shells against Fort Maxim Gorky and its attendant coastal battery. Then it was all over for 'schwere Gustav'.

By all over they mean that the gun needed maintenance.

In addition, here is an interesting story about the "Dora" gun.

A science-fiction book was written not so many years ago where "Dora" played a role.

Seems a fleet of invading space aliens began an attack on the earth. Took them a long time to get here from where ever they came from, and had expected to fight a human army of the Crusader type.

That is what the scouts of the aliens had reported had existed when the aliens made their last visit. Well, the aliens arrived during WW2 and had to confront "Dora". Seems that "Dora" fired a shot at the alien space craft carrying all the atomic weaponry of the aliens , and the impact of the shell caused a sympathetic detonation [such a thing is not supposed to be able to happen] that wiped out the entire alien nuclear arsenal!

The story continues that this detonation destroyed much of Europe and that the aliens and humans then fought a war on WW2 style combat. Much of the story is centered in Chicago, where at the time a weapon was being created to stop the aliens, namely, the human a-bomb. So goes the sci-fi book.