The Austro-Hungarian 42cm Howitzer was probably the most potent artillery piece used by any Army in WW1. Interestingly, it was not conceived as a land weapon, but was originally intended to be used against Naval targets. The first version of the gun was to be used by the coastal artillery of Austria-Hungary, to protect it’s naval bases in the Aegean. Therefore it was mounted in a armoured turret. The first of two was installed near the naval base at Pola. Pretty soon as the war started, the Austro-Hungarian High Command found out that the threat from the sea was less than the demand for heavy artillery on the land fronts. So Skoda was asked to make these coastal howitzers mobile, or at least transportable. Which they did. The result was the 42cm Haubitze M.14. (It is recognizable by the fact that parts of the original armoured turret was used in action.)
In January 1915 the M.14 version fired its first shots, at Tarnow in Poland, with great success. During the summer the gun (the other one was still at Pola was used) was shifted around, and used at the Serbian, Russian and Italian fronts. As more guns were produced (finally six), more batteries were formed, and put into action.
The M14 was, of course, an improvization, and although it was movable, it was thought to be still a bit too heavy. So a redesign was started in 1916, which, among other things, dispensed with the remains of the turret, and instead used a simple base box, of the same type that were used by the 30.5cm Mörser and 38cm Haubitze. The gun could now be moved, in a disassembled state of course, in six units, pulled by heavy tractors (type M.12 or M.17) This was the 42cm Autohaubitze M.16. (Autohaubitze means that this was a howitzer transported by automobiles.) In 1917 another redesign was ordered, resulting in an even smaller base-box, making the gun transportable in only four units. This was the 42cm Autohaubitze M.17. (The last type was manufactured, but never saw actual combat in WW1. The last type was, however, used first by the Czech Army, and then, after the occupation of Czechoslovakia, one M.17 was used by the German Army, first against France and the Maginot Line, and later in 1942, during the Siege of Sevastopol, task this heavy howitzer was perfect for.)
At the end of WW1 the Austro-Hungarian Army had 8 42cm Howitzers, M.14, M.16 and M.17, in service. They were used on all fronts, and with considerable success. They were surprisingly mobile, considering their weight. But it was no small thing, moving these monsters about: a battery of one gun, consisted of 210 men, 8 officers, 5 horses, 4 carts and 32 trucks and trailers.
The following images all show the later M.17 variant, in German service during WW2.
|Weight Emplaced||112,735 kg|
|Shell Weight (Type M.14/19)||1000 kg|
|Muzzle Velocity||415 m/sec|
|Time to assemble and set up||12 - 40 hours|
|Time to disassemble||12 - 26 hours|
|Rate of Fire||6 - 8 rounds per hour|
|Max. Range||12,700 m|
The Czech firm of Extratech makes an excellent kit of this gun - see Kit Reviews section. If you want to build the earlier WW1 version, the M.16, see the kit review.