Thursday, March 7, 2019

WWI 14" Railroad Guns

Originally, I added this posting to the end of Naval Battlehip Guns. But after reading a naval-history provided by Howard Napier in a comment on Phila's post below, I decided it was worthy of its own posting.
Phila Corsairs posted
Baldwin Locomotive Works delivered five trains for the United States Navy during April and May 1918. A 14 in naval "rifle" mounted on a rail carriage with four 6-wheel bogies - built by Baldwin. Each train transported and supported a 14 in (356 mm) naval “rifle” mounted on a rail carriage with four 6-wheel bogies. These guns were the Mk 4 14"/50 caliber guns used on New Mexico and Tennessee class battleships. Baldwin constructed six similar gun carriages and two of an improved Mk II type designed to permit firing the gun at all elevation angles without transferring weight to a separate foundation.

AJ Grigg shared
Dave Ladislas Sr. AJ Grigg,awesome pic.I have some old pics my Dad took in France in WW2 of the German ones,there was a whole rr yard full.One pic even has a German POW standing on the barrel.LOL
Since April 28, 1915, Germany had land based guns that could shell Dunkirk, France from over 24 miles away. The Allies did not have anything comparable. The Navy had developed a 16" gun, so they were not interested in the 14" guns that had already been manufactured. And since the 14" gun had been the backbone of the battleship fleet, there was plenty of ammunition for it. On Dec 10, 1917, plans for a railroad mount for a 14" gun and for the train that would support that gun was sent to the Chief Of Naval Operations. "By January 25, 1918, 136 standard drawings and 11 sketches were ready for submission to bidders." [naval-history]
naval-history, p2
Gun in Proving-Ground Girder.

naval-history, p2Gun - showing counterrecoil arrangements.
Each train was to be self-supporting, so in addition to the gun car and ammunition cars, there were kitchen, berthing, headquarter, fuel, sand and log, construction, and workshop cars. Enough equipment was built for five trains. On February 13, 1918, bids were opened and Baldwin Locomotive Works got the contract for the locomotives and gun cars with a promise to have them done by about June 15. Standard Steel Car Co got the contract for the other cars with a promise of delivery between 100 and 120 days. The first mount was completed on April 25, 1918. [naval-history]
naval-history, p6

naval-history, p6
"During the construction period of all this equipment the contractors and all persons having to do with its building were spurred in their efforts by the repeated accounts of the German long-range guns firing into Paris, and the reports of the telling effect of the German long-range guns all along the front." The equipment, and almost 500 men to operate the trains, was shipped during late May and June. Assembly of the first gun commenced July 26 and was ready to leave St. Nazaire on Aug 11.[naval-history]
naval-history, p10

naval-history, p10
The trains traveled at 6mph. Sometimes they would set up on a siding with the support cars uncoupled and parked about a mile away to try to keep them out of harms way. Many times a special curved spur was built for the gun car. The first two trains were sent to the French Army to destroy the German long-range guns that were bombarding Paris. The first one went to the French proving ground at Nuisemont on Aug 28. "They gave this giant gun a target located about 18 miles distant. Four shots were fired and all landed almost within a stone’s throw of each other. The French general was so pleased with the result of the firing that he immediately went to Rear Admiral Plunkett and, after congratulating him, said: 'Waste no more ammunition, but go and fire it against the Germans.' " On Sep 6, train #2 fired the first shot at the enemy. It was "at Tergnier, an important German railroad center, which was being hard pressed by the Allies. After the first shot the Germans began to evacuate the city, and no more shots were fired." Since one round neutralized that target, #2 was moved to fire on "an enormous ammunition dump." That target took 32 rounds to "wipe out." All five guns were used against railroad yards and ammunition dumps that the Germans had considered to be a safe distance back from the war front. The guns would wait for hours after a battle begun to wait for the Germans to send trains of soldiers and ammunition to reinforce the battle front. Then, when a railyard was crowded with German resources, a gun would shell it. [naval-history]

Each train was equipped with 300 rounds because that was considered the lifetime of the accuracy of a gun. A total of 782 rounds were fired by the 5 trains before armistice on Nov 11, 1918. It took 1.5 minutes to cover the maximum range of 25 miles [naval-history]. That would be 25*60/1.5 = 1000mph, which is supersonic. And that is the average speed. It would have to come out of the barrel even faster than that!
naval-history, p50
naval-history, p58

naval-history, p58
As the first shot fired against the town of Tergnier demonstrated, the effectiveness of the big guns was not just the physical damage they caused, but the devastation of the enemy's morale to learn that their towns could now be hit. Only one shell was needed to empty the town. "In the way of concrete evidence regarding the punishment inflicted upon the Germans, Admiral Plunkett learned that one projectile had struck a German moving picture theater during a performance, killing 40 outright and severely mangling at least 60 others. Two other shells struck this same moving picture theater and it was completely demolished, together with several surrounding buildings. One freight train on a siding had been struck and one car was completely lifted from the track and thrown a distance of about 30 feet.

"It is easy to appreciate the effect on the morale of the enemy by an occurrence of this kind, when a whole audience, enjoying in apparently complete security a harmless picture show, is suddenly wiped out by a new and hitherto unsuspected engine of destruction." (Admiral Plunkett was the officer in charge of the railroad gun operation.) [naval-history]

naval-history, p13

naval-history, p14

No comments:

Post a Comment