42 CM "Big Bertha" and German Siege Artillery of World War I

Published on
Review Author(s)
Book Author(s)
Marc Romanych & Martin Rupp
Other Publication Information
Illustrated by Henry Morshead, soft cover, 48 pages plus covers, B&W photos, color illustrations.
Product / Stock #
New Vanguard 205
Company: Osprey Publishing - Website: Visit Site
Provided by: Osprey Publishing - Website: Visit Site
Cover Art


From Osprey’s website:

In the early days of World War I, Germany unveiled a new weapon – the mobile 42cm (16.5 inch) M-Gerät howitzer. At the time, it was the largest artillery piece of its kind in the world and a closely guarded secret. When war broke out, two of the howitzers were rushed directly from the factory to Liege where they quickly destroyed two forts and compelled the fortress to surrender. After repeat performances at Namur, Maubeuge and Antwerp, German soldiers christened the howitzers ‘Grosse’ or ‘Dicke Berta’ (Fat or Big Bertha) after Bertha von Krupp, owner of the Krupp armament works that built the howitzers. The nickname was soon picked up by German press, which triumphed the 42cm howitzers as Wunderwaffe (wonder weapons), and the legend of Big Bertha was born.

This book details the design and development of German siege guns before and during World War I. Accompanying the text are many historic photographs of ‘Big Bertha’ and the other German siege guns. Color illustrations depict the most important aspects of the German siege artillery.


  • Introduction
  • Fortifications versus Artillery – describes development of fortifications in the late 1800s and before WWI that created the need for large siege guns.
  • Design & Development – describes the progression of new guns developed by Germany in detail, with historic photos and new color illustrations:
    • 30.5cm Beta-Gerat – The first Siege Gun
    • 42cm Gamma-Gerat – More Firepower
    • 42cm M-Gerat – Greater Mobility
    • Munitions – Describes the types of projectiles produced for the siege artillery.
  • Operational History – The bulk of the book describes the organization of batteries, operation conditions, and use of siege artillery for battles in 1914, 1915 – Eastern Front, 1916 – Verdun, 1917 to 1918 – Decline, and The Aftermath of World War I. Only three of the siege guns survived WWI. Two were captured by the U.S. and eventually scraped. The third was hidden by Krupp, the manufacturer, and used by Germany in early WWII.This section describes the use of the guns in operation and while being transported, with historic B&W photos and color illustrations. Tractors and other transport vehicles are also illustrated. The photos are small but clear and give a good representation of the guns.
  • Bibliography – Lists other references available.
  • Index – Index of terms and topics and page references.


The book is an excellent compilation of information, photos, and illustrations. It provides a good historical perspective on the use of siege guns and is an easy read. This is a great book for history buffs and modelers alike.

Many thanks to Osprey for providing this review copy and for all their other great references.


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