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The Paris Gun

Discussions on other First and Second World War militaria and collecting in general.
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The Paris Gun

Postby Kaan Caglar on 14 Mar 2004 22:13

FirstWorldWar.com wrote:The Paris Gun - properly called the Kaiser Wilhelm Geschutz - was so-named for its sole purpose of shelling Paris from extreme distances starting from March 1918. A behemoth, the Paris Gun - regarded by many as the ancestor to the German V3 - was capable of firing shells into the stratosphere from locations as far as 131km from Paris.

Designed and operated by the German Navy and manufactured by the German munitions firm of Krupp, some seven 210mm guns were made using bored-out 380mm naval guns, each fitted with special 40 metre long inserted barrels. However with only two railway gun mountings actually available just three of the guns were ever in use at any one time, fired from the Forest of Coucy.

Such was the rapid wear and tear of firing its 120kg shells, each requiring a 180kg powder charge, towards Paris - the aim was often wild - that the gun's lining required reboring after approximately 20 shots. Indeed, after every firing the succeeding shell needed to be of slightly greater width.

An undoubted sensation when first deployed (at 07:18 on the morning of 21 March 1918) the appearance of heavy shells in Paris caused initial and widespread alarm among its inhabitants which nevertheless quickly subsided. Once fired a shell took 170 seconds to reach Paris, rising as high as 40 km above the earth.

For all its power the gun had little actual effect on the course of the war, with just 367 shells fired between March and August - a figure disputed by the French who cited 320, of which 183 landed within the city's boundaries.

Casualties of the gun's use ran to 256 deaths and 620 wounded, with 88 killed and 68 wounded on Good Friday 1918 alone when a shell landed on the church of St. Sepulchre, causing its collapse while a service was in progress.

The Paris Gun was nevertheless a notable propaganda success at home in Germany. The Allies searched in vain for the guns during the German retreat of August 1918 onwards and after the armistice, but in vain. No example of the Paris Gun has been located then or since although U.S. forces located one of the gun's spare mountings.



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Taken from Trenches on The Web

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Taken from here

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Taken from here, also note that the three images above are courtesy of C. Luzent, les Canons de l'Apocalypse.
Could you add additional info or images? There are many sites about this gun but I'm not comfortable with the info they give.. The yconfuse the nicknames with the other guns and give wrong Calibres etc.
Regards
Kaan
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Postby Peter H on 15 Mar 2004 10:13

A guideline on its trajectory:
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Postby Peter H on 15 Mar 2004 10:30

When in doubt its best to consult the late,great Ian Hogg The Guns 1914-18:

As Hogg relates:

(1)Seven barrels of 21cm calibre were manufactured from worn out 38cm naval guns.The 38cm was bored out and a 21cm inner tube was inserted.

(2)Each barrel was provided with 60 numbered 21cm shells,the diameter of which slightly increased as the numbers progressed..."This was to counteract the inevitable wear and tear...due to the shell's friction and,more especially,to the heat generated by the explosion of the 400lb powder charge".

(3)Sixty shells was considered the life of a barrel;then withdrawn and the mounting fitted with a new barrel.

(4)Three mountings were built(hence originally 3 guns).However a premature detonation is said to have occured on the 29th March in one of them which wrecked it,leaving 2 guns from April onwards;another platform moved near Chateau Thierry for future employment at a site closer to Paris was never used.

(5)Worn barrels were sent back to Krupp's for a refit and rerifled at 24cm,and provided with new projectiles...."the final series of shots,from 15th July to the end,were firing using the 24cm replacement barrels,and a plot of these later shots displays evidence of considerably less accuracy and greater dispersion than with the original calibre."

(6)Naval artillerymen manned the guns.
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Postby Gwynn Compton on 15 Mar 2004 11:09

So if the guns were never found by the Allies during the German retreats in late 1918, what do German records say about their fates?

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Postby Tony Williams on 16 Mar 2004 14:26

No-one knows; they were believed to have been cut up to keep them out of Allied hands.

If you're really interested in these things, look out for Gerald Bull's (yes, of Supergun fame) book on The Paris Guns and Project Harp. He analyses their performance in great detail.

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Postby Regulus 1 on 02 Feb 2005 12:29

Hi,

Actually the guns were never found. From the head : I think one US officer saw one of the guns at the Skoda factory and afterwards it has vanished, nobody ever has seen anyhting from one of these guns again. There are no German records on this matter, because of the secrecy in the whole project. If interested I can help with further information on the construction of these guns etc, as they were based on the Max 38 cm guns.

Best from Johan
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Postby G. Trifkovic on 02 Feb 2005 14:01

In June 2002 issue of Military Heritage there is a article on Paris gun and a good part of it is about calculations that needed to be done in order to ensure accuracy. So,the Germans digged out the works of one Gustave Gaspard Coriolis (1792-1843),who in 1835 published his Sur les Equations du Mouvement Relatif des Systemes de Corps ("On the equations of Relative Motion of System of Bodies"),in which he stated that ,due to spherical nature of the Earth and it's rotation,a moving object on a north-south vector would be affected by the relative rotational speeds of launch and impact points. Earlier german use of long-range guns (firing from Lugenboom on Dunkirk),didn't have to take into account Coriolis Effect,because the firing site and target were on east-west axis. Obscure mathematician von Eberhardt,at the time working for Krupp,understood the problems of firing on the north-south axis,so he based his research on Coriolis' works and made calculations accordingly.
Being advised on the site of the gun (Crepy-an-Laonnois),he estimated rotational speed of Paris at 567.126 mph on the 49th parallel and that of Laon at 555.55mph on the 48th parallel.So,an adjustment of 11.576mph had to be provided for the laying of the gun.Also,he calculated the estimated flight time at 176 second,and this called for easterly correction of 0.5659 miles to compensate for differing rotational speeds of gun and target.
I am not too keen on math :roll: but this article really captured me,showing how much hard work (apart from techincal aspects) was needed just to fire this gun.And all this was done without computer... 8O

Cheers,

GAius
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Postby brem's on 02 Feb 2005 14:42

You can see now in some street of Paris traces, conserved since the war, of the impact of the gun on some wall, with indication about the day and number of hurt.
In France, he was called "Max le long" !
I think that the most terrible impact was in the church Saint Germain l'Auxerrois, with 100 deaths.
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Paris Gun

Postby bob lembke on 02 Feb 2005 19:28

Guys;

My father told me that his father worked on the design of the very special ammo for this gun. (Where checkable, his oral history has proved to be very accurate, generally.) My grand-father was a Feuerwerk=Hauptmann and retired as a Zug=Major. After contracting malaria in Russia he was not able to serve at the front, and was attached to the staff of the Feuerwekk=Laboratorium Spandau, which is where earlier the ammo for the 42 cm "Dicke Berta" was designed, I think. He was allowed to become a Feuerwerk=Offizier in 1893 when he invented several artillery innovations when he was an Artillerie=Unteroffizier. The Germans were very secretive about the Paris Gun so I am sure I wiill never find more info on his work on this, if true.

Anyone have an idea why my grand-father, an active or reserve Feuerwerk=Offizier for 25 years, retired as a Zug=Major? His highest rank during the war was Feuerwerk=Hauptmann. I guess that he was made a Zug=Major since there were no Feuerwerk=Majore, as far as I can see in Ranglisten, usw. His name was Fuchs. I have a different name as my grand-father had two families in different towns (I come from the second), and when his wife found out about my Danish grand-mother and my father and his sister (her kids) she (the wife) poisoned him with Deadly Nightshade, paralyzing him and forcing him from active duty. He later recovered. He was quite a guy. Day One he knew that the Great War was a disaster and told my father that if he volunteered for the infantry he would break his neck. Pop got in the Pioniere, where his father thought he would be safer, while learning useful things, and planned to get him assigned to his Army Corps in Russia (he was the "Id" on the Generalkommando), where, as he wrote, he knew all the Pionier=Offiziere, and had trained most of them, but my hot-headed father volunteered for Gallipoli and then for the flame-throwers, getting malaria in Turkey and wounded four times at Verdun and Reims.

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Paris Gun II

Postby bob lembke on 02 Feb 2005 19:44

Guys;

When I wrote my typical long-winded post I had not seen all of the posts, for some reason.

General Henry Allen, USA, the CO of the US occupation forces in the Rhineland, wrote in his interesting book My Rhineland Journey (very interesting for the insight into all the mischief that the Frence were doing against the Germans in the Rhineland and elsewhere) that when first fired on a range in Germany they could not find the shell where they thought it would fall. Then they got an angry message from a farmer about 8 miles further; the shell landed on his land. They had not considered the additional range due to the flight of the shell above almost all of the athmosphere, reducing drag. Must have been the first (near) space flight!

I have the old Paris Gun book, but had not known that Bull also wrote a book about it. Does it have much history, or only calculations, etc? Good he wrote it before the Israelis bumped him off.

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Postby The Argus on 07 Feb 2005 02:26

The current theory is it was the Iraqi's who bumped of Bull not the Israelis.

shane :)
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Bull's Death

Postby bob lembke on 07 Feb 2005 06:39

I am no expert on this. However, wasn't Bull building a super-gun for the Iraqis that could hit Israel? Why on earth would Iraq kill this guy; I'm sure that if they wanted to stiff him on his fees they could simply stiff him? Killing him hardly would induce other arms dealers to work with them. On the other hand, Israel had lots of motivation to do so.

We must remember that at this time Israel had at least one killer team going about the world killing quite a few real or perceived enemies. I have an interesting book about the botched assassination that occurred in Norway, in that town where they had the Winter Olympics some years ago. (Trontheim?) Their first-line killer team needed a vacation, and instead of halting the assassination program for a while they pulled together a scratch team of Israeli and Norwegian mis-fits. Attempting to assassinate a PLO activist, they instead shot a blameless Palestinian immigrant waiter in front of his very pregnant Norwegian wife. They fled, and the Israeli government hid them in diplomatic properties in Norway. Arrested, they were astonished that the Norwegian government was cranky about all this. I think the assassins got three years in prison.

If they did this, it would hardly be surprising to kill someone building a giant cannon to shell Israel. On the other hand, it seems unlikely that the Iraqis did it. You probably are receiving a dose of spin, damage control, or disinformation.

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Postby Mad Zeppelin on 07 Feb 2005 09:55

Zug-Major:
This ought to be something else, a "Zug-Major" would either be a "train major" or a "platoon major" - both meanings don't make any sense.
Might it be "Zeug-Major"? - That would mean "ordnance-major" and fit to the function.
Anyhow, this is most remarkable.
Feuerwerker and Wallmeister (fortress engineers) were the two specialist functions where NCOs could become officers in the Pruissian/etc. armies. But that would definitely end with Feuerwerks-Hauptmann. Unthinkable that a former NCO could become staff officer!
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My Grandfather

Postby bob lembke on 07 Feb 2005 18:45

Mad Zeppelin;

You are right; he retired as a Zeug=Major, not Zug=Major.

You are also right, he had an unusual career. But you seem to doubt it. Let me lay out his career and my references. My collection of Ranglisten, Dienstalterslisten, usw. is spotty, and in some cases knowledgable forumites have looked these things up for me, other references are from my own books.

He was some sort of Unteroffizier in the Artillery. This is only from family oral history, but is reasonable. He seemed to have developed two advances in artillery technology, including a night-firing system.

He was made Feuerwerk=Leutnant in 18. 4. 93. This was looked up for me by a noted expert on the German Army. He was stationed as a Feuerwerkleutnant at the Artillerie Depot Rendsburg.

As I said, my father told me that his father had two families, and when his wife found out about his Danish "wife" and two children (my father and aunt), she poisoned him with Deadly Nightshade that she put in cakes and home-made dandillion wine that she mailed to him at his Kaserne. Besides the oral history, I have correspondence, my father's two last names (neither Fuchs; first his mother's name, Dryer, and then her later husband's name, Lembke.) I also have a lot of info from the Hamburg Staatarchive on this. Pop told me that grand-father was paralysed and had to leave active service. In 1896 he was listed "als Halbinvalid mit Pension ausgeschieden und zu den Feuerwerksoffiziere der Landwehr des Landswehrbezirks Frankfurt a. O." He is listed as there from 1896 thru 1902.

In my copy of the 1898 Rangliste he is on page 697, as a Feuerwerk=Leutnant in the I. Aufgebot of the Landwehrbezirk Frankfurt am Oder. He obviously had already left active duty. Our family farm was only a few km. SE of Frankfurt, and as a boy my father went to school in Frankfurt, I even have a tuition receipt.

He was promoted the Feuerwerk=Oberleutnant in 1901.

He was promoted to Feuerwerk=Hauptman in 1906.

In 1908 he moved to the Landwehrbez. IV. Berlin. About this time he became the director of the Berlin stockyards.

When the war began and the III. Reserve Armeekorps was called up, he was made the "Id" of the Oberkommando of the army corps and went into Belgium with them. I not only have a wonderful set of letters from him there, but also several photos of him with the rest of the Generalkommando. In one they are all standing on the steps of the city hall of Ghent, I think, my grand-father and about 18 others proudly wearing their new EK I and EK II, and in the middle Gen. von Beseler is wearing his new Pour le merite. Another photo shows him and other staff officers sitting on the ground by their big open staff cars, studying maps, on a Belgian roadside while long columns of infantry trudge to the west. I also have a letter in which he reported to his son that he had just spoken to "a gentleman in the know", Oberst (later Generalleutnant) von Tschischwitz, a General Staff officer who was the "Ia" or chief of staff of the Generalkommando of the III. RAK, and reported that they were all to get their EKs. Von Tschischwitz, who my grandfather reported directly to, later wrote the excellent Schlachten des Weltkrieges Band 3, Antwerpen 1914. It does not mention my grandfather by name, as it does not mention the other staff officers, but I can exactly match incidents and even staff meetings from the book and my grandfather's letters.

Later he went with the III. RAK into Russia, where he got malaria, and could not serve at the front any more, but carried out staff work and assignments in eastern Germany. I have a lot of letters with addresses, his rank, and so forth.

Page 652 of my Ehrenrangliste 1914-1918 lists him as "Fuchs Fw. Lab. Spandau ZM aD", meaning being attached to the Feuerwerk Laboratorium Spandau, and retiring as a Zeug=Major a. Dienst. In the family he was usually mentioned as a major, and as having been a staff officer. At one time I thought that that meant a General Staff officer, but now I know that that was impossible. No one said that, it was only an assumption on my part before I really knew anything about the German Army.

So I think I have documented his remarkable career rather well.

I am sorry that I have gone on at length, but I make frequent posts talking about my family in WK I, and I want you guys to know that I am not sitting here smoking funny plant material and making this stuff up. Just this morning I sent a letter to an Amt of the German government trying to get more military records from my family.

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Postby Mad Zeppelin on 07 Feb 2005 21:37

Quite extraordinary. - I didn't doubt your words, I was just dazzled to see another case of "not-in-the-books" behavior in the German army. I know they were wounderfully fexible in most ways, yet very rigid in few others - and this so far was including promotion to officer and staff officer. So, another axiom goes broke... I like it. Thank you very much for your detailed account.
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