Between March and July 1918, Paris came under bombardment. Now, the capital of a belligerent nation was not all that unusual a target, but this bombardment was unprecedented. Paris was something like 60 miles (roughly 95 kilometres) from the scene of the fighting. Originally, it was thought that these were attacks by a new, even bigger Zeppelin.
They weren't. Fragments found where the bombardment landed were not like the “bombs” of the time (which were basically over-sized hand-grenades), but showed more affinities to an artillery shell. It wasn't until these fragments were analysed that it was realised they were cannon shells. This, however, meant damn all to the Parisians (and the Parisiennes). They just wanted it stopped.
This cannon – the Wilhelmgeschü
tze - was a rail-mounted naval gun of 8.3” (21cms). It was firing from the forest of Coucy, approximately 80 miles (130 km) from Paris. It (the Wilhelmgeschü
tze) shouldn't be confused with either “Big Bertha” (the large howitzers which were used against the Liè
ge forts in 1914, nor should the fact that the French themselves called it “Big Bertha” - it wasn't, not any more than the “Langer Max” were. The Langer Max were long-range rail-mounted artillery, as were the Wilhelmgeschü
tze (yes – were – the “Paris Gun” was actually three guns). What they all had in common was that they were made by Krupps (well, not all
– they also had to fire shells in a strict numeric order as each firing ripped out much of the bore).
Being a naval weapon, it needed a naval crew. So, a naval crew it got. 80 sailors of the Imperial Navy, commanded by an admiral (like the saying about Texas Rangers – One gun, one admiral).
Apart from all that though, this weapon fired the first known projectiles to reach the stratosphere, projectiles which needed to utilise the coriolis effect in order to hit (or nearly hit) the target. It also out-ranged any conventional artillery piece before or since. By conventional I mean tubed artillery firing shells powered only by the charge loaded into the chamber.
This is where it gets even more interesting........
None of the Wilhelmgeschü
tze was ever captured or found in bits, the plans disappeared, all that was left was railway sidings and some shells.
What happened to the guns?
What happened to the plans?
How did the Germans manage to create this marvel when engaged in a war for survival?
For what reason did no other country attempt to emulate this feat? (I don't want to discuss the Iraqi “supergun” here).
Sources:- http://www.firstworldwar.com/atoz/parisgun.htm http://encyclopedia.farlex.com/Paris+Gun