Big Bertha

How She Earned Her Wicked Reputation

The Krupp 420mm Howitzer

Big Bertha was the the 420mm (16.5-in.) howitzer used by German forces advancing through Belgium in 1914. They were nicknamed for the Krupp arms works matriarch Bertha Krupp von Bohlen. Transported in pieces, moved by rail and assembled in place, they proved devastating in destroying Belgian forts. They were somewhat less effective against French Forts of sturdier design. The howitzers were also used as siege weapons on the eastern front. By 1917, less accurate due to wear on the barrels and extremely vulnerable to counter battery fire once located, they were phased out of operation. The term "Big Bertha" is sometimes applied to the Krupp manufactured artillery piece of completely different design that shelled Paris in 1918 from the phenomenal range of 75 miles. This later weapon, however, is more commonly known as the "Paris Gun".

Technical Data

  • Calibre: 420mm (16.5 in)
  • Range: 12.5Km (7.7 miles)
  • Projectile Weight: 1763 lbs
  • Muzzle Velocity: 400 meters/second
  • Length: 6.72 meters
  • Crew: 285 men
  • Fire speed: 8 rounds per hour

Important Websites

Siege of Liege
by Correspondent Irwin Cobb
From Tony Langley's War in a Different Light
Siege of Maubeuge
by Correspondent Irwin Cobb
From Tony Langley's War in a Different Light
The Destruction of Fort Loncin
Contributed by WFA-USA President Len Shurtleff

Bertha's Photo Album

View of the Business End
The Troops Look British, Possibly a Post-Armistice Photo
Another View
Note Barrel Length
The Real Bertha with her husband Gustav von Bohlen
War Correspondent Irwin Cobb
Told the World of the Weapon's Devastating Effect
Damage from Big Bertha at Ft. Loncin, Liege

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Additions and comments on these pages may be directed to: Michael E. Hanlon ( regarding content, or to Mike Iavarone ( regarding form and function.
Original artwork & copy; © 1998-2004, TGWS.