Top 10 Notable Large Artillery Pieces
5. Great Gustaf
The Great Gustaf was a gargantuan railway siege gun built by the Nazis in the 1940s, it’s called a railway siege gun because it actually had to be mounted on a railway to keep it’s stability and structural integrity. It was one of two guns of it’s kind, it was built in preparation for the second world war. And almost in retaliation of France’s construction of the Maginot Line, that stretched across the Franco-German border. The barrel of the Great Gustaf was a formidable 32.48m in length and had a 800mm calibre, which made the Great Gustaf the largest calibre piece of artillery to ever see actual combat at the time.
It was eventually captured by American troops after being used in Operation Barbarossa, it was completely destroyed by the US troops, as a 1,350 tonne railway siege gun couldn’t be captured and transported back to US soil.
4. Pumhart von Steyr
The Pumhart von Steyr was created all the way back in the early 15th century and is truly a piece of archaic, annihilating artillery. It could fire a 690kg cannonball approximately 600m with the aid of 15kg of gunpowder. It is famous for having the largest calibre of any wrought iron cannon, it has an impressive 800m calibre.
The siege cannon is currently on display in the artillery halls of Heeresgeschichtliches Museum in Vienna.
3. Tsar Cannon
It might sound like the name of a rubbish pop band but it was actually a relatively ancient cannon commissioned by Tsar Feodor in 1586. It weighed an awesome 39 tonnes, despite being just 5.34 metres in length.
It had a 890 mm calibre, making it the largest cannon ever made for firing stone cannonballs. Even though it’s purely a decorative piece, modern research found gunpowder residue in the barrel which confirmed the cannon was fired at least once.
The cannon is covered in raised etchings, the most prominent being a relief of Tsar Feodor Ivanovich on horseback. The cannon is now within the walls of the Kremlin in Moscow.
2. Mallet’s Mortar
Designed by Robert Mallet, Mallet’s Mortar was a British mortar cannon intended for use during the Crimean War during the middle of the 19th century. The uniqueness of the mortar cannon came from it’s ability to be split into numerous sections, making transport easier.
The design was publicly released in 1954 by Robert Mallet and after contacting the then current Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, the construction of two mortar cannons was commissioned. Testing finally commenced in 1857 and finished in 1858, every test performed was prematurely brought to an end due to mortar damage. Mallet’s Mortar had an impressive 910 mm calibre, but had a dismal range of only 1.5 miles with a 2400 pound shell.
It was never used in the Crimean War, the testing model is now kept at the Royal Artillery Base in Woolwich and the the unfired gun is on display at the Royal Armouries Fort Nelson.
1. Little David
Americans truly love their irony, though in name Little David may sound diminutive, it is actually still one of the biggest mortar cannons ever made, with an impressive 914mm calibre. It was originally built by the Americans to test aviation bombs during the second world war but with the inevitable invasion of Japan looming. Little David was converted into a siege mortar for short range warfare. But we all know what course the Second World War took. Before Little David even had a chance to prepare shelling Japanese soil, the US army dropped two atomic bombs in Japan. This meant the end of the war and meant that Little David was only ever used in testing. A relatively short range of 9.7km and terrible accuracy meant the mortar cannon was retired before it saw any real action.
Whilst it holds the bragging rights of being one of the biggest pieces of artillery, it was never proven in combat and will always be a ‘what if’ weapon.