Top 10 Notable Large Artillery Pieces

If you look at the modern artillery that contemporary armies use today, you wouldn’t believe how far they’ve truly come. Large artillery has existed in some shape or size for centuries. If you looked back to the medieval times, the heavy mortar cannons of their day were huge wooden catapults and trebuchets launching gigantic boulders or flaming tar barrels. With the discovery of gunpowder and the progress of military weaponry, the destructive force has become more menacing, but the devices have gotten gradually smaller. Here we look back at the iconic and infamous milestones in the history of large artillery, there are a few surprises too.

10. Atomic Annie



Atomic Annie was an artillery piece built by US that had the capability to fire nuclear ammunition. It was designed and developed during the early 1950s and was used in active service by 1953 in Europe and Korea. The first and only ever test of Atomic Annie was performed at the Nevada Test Site in 1953, it ended with a 15 kt shell being launched 7 miles into the Nevada desert. The launch proved to be the only nuclear shell ever fired with Atomic Annie.

As a result of the successful test, 20 more cannons were commissioned to be built at the cost of $800,000 each. After they were all built, more effective weapons had been developed and were being used, rendering the Atomic Annie obsolete.

9. 2B1 Oka



2B1 Oka is a self-propelled gun produced during the mid 20th century by the Kirov Plant for the Soviet Union. It had a 420 mm calibre gun with an incredible 20 meter barrel, that allowed the 2B1 Oka to fire a 750kg shell up to 45 km. Whilst it was an extremely powerful weapon, the intricate reloading mechanisms meant it could only be reloaded once every five minutes.

It was constantly being developed until 1960, as the Soviet Union decided to swap the idea of overpowered weapons for tactical and accurate weaponry.

8. Big Bertha



Big Bertha was a heavy siege gun that was used during the First World War, it was created by the famous German armaments manufacturer Krupp. Whilst there were only two Big Bertha models in use at the beginning of World War I, it built a fierce reputation. It was used to destroy various Belgian and French forts, destroying several in just a few days. Big Bertha gained a formidable reputation, even though the forts it destroyed were built in the 1880s and were poorly constructed. Later assaults proved Big Bertha to be fairly ineffective against modern fortifications.

During the course of the war, a total of 12 Big Berthas were eventually built. Several were self destroyed due to faulty ammunition bursting the barrels. At the end of the First World War, two were captured, one was captured by the US and the fate of the other is unknown.

7. Mons Meg



Mons meg has an enigmatic history, the actual origin of the medieval gun is unknown but it is widely thought that it was commissioned by the Duke of Burgundy, who sent it to King James II of Scotland as a gift in 1457.

The cannon had a 510 mm calibre and was apparently one of the many armaments on James IV’s The Great Michael, this would’ve made it the ship with the largest calibre gun in history.

It could only ever be fired between eight and ten times a day due to the heat generated by the powder charge. Mons Meg has been officially retired from active service since the 1540s and has only ever been fired on ceremonial occasions.

6. Thor



The emphatically named Thor was a self propelled siege mortar created by the Germans during the Second World War, as a self propelled mortar it could move around without the use of an additional vehicle. Thor was once the largest ever self-propelled weapon to see service. The ammunition was so colossal that an accompanying crane, a heavy transport trailer and several modified tanks were needed to carry its shells.

Thor was one of the 7 commissioned mortars labelled Gerät 040th by the manufacturer Rheinmetall Borsi. The others were Adam (later named Baldur), Eva (later named Wotan), Odin, Loki, Ziu and Fenrir. The final fate of Thor is not fully known. It is thought that it was captured by Russian forces.

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