Big Bertha


How many times have you heard that phrase ” Big Bertha “? I’ll bet you remember it from cartoons. I was always hearing it in connection with WW1 but on a lot of the occasions what I was hearing was quite wrong. People had fastened upon the name and used in confusion with the Paris Cannon. Two entirely different pieces of German artillery used for two entirely different bombardments.

This model IS Big Bertha –  a 420mm Krupp howitzer designed to deliver very large projectiles at a steep angle into fortresses. A mobile piece, but only in relative terms. At least it seems to have been designed to be easier to haul and emplace than similar large siege weapons made by Skoda for the Austrians. Students of the times will recognise the pedrail wheels, axle shackles and solid trail that is geared left and right to train the gun.


It was used with devastating effect on Belgian and French fortresses: Liege, Namur, Antwerp, Maubeuge, and Vaux. They were towed about with Podeus motor ploughs and had to be broken into 5 loads when on the road.

This example is at the scale model show – and I’m grateful that the display designer put it close to the edge of the table so that I could get the camera down to a low angle beside it. Even in this small scale the bulk is impressive, and the company making the model has included enough of the details of elevation and training to make it a worthwhile study.


I have drawn a circle on the map of Perth based upon my front yard to see where I could lob the 820 Kg shell if I had one set to the optimum elevation. It appears that I would just about be able to reach the main part of the city from Bull Creek and all of Fremantle. It is a surprisingly short ranged weapon – 12.5 Km. I suppose, though, that anyone upon whom the shell drops will be unhappy. Indeed they would probably be dissatisfied if it rolled over their foot. But then some people always complain.


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