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Skoda howitzers, the last mentioned weapon being of Austrian make. All these

guns were, however, of the same general

type as the celebrated 42-centimeter gun;

and, as these weapons were to prove one

of the sensations of the war, some description of them must be given here.

Certain features of these guns should

be particularly noted. In the first place,

they were not cannon, in the ordinary

sense of the word; that is, they were not

"direct-fire" guns, but were operated upon

the principle of the old style mortars.

With a comparatively small powder charge

-considering their bore, which was very

great, that of the 42-centimeter being

about 17 inches-they hurled a very heavy

shell high into the air, the expectation

being that it would fall upon the object

attacked and that the damage done should

result mostly from bursting of the charge

rather than from penetration. It was the

size of this charge in the shell and not the

power with which the shell was hurled

that was particularly notable. The truth

is that the great coast defense rifles in

use in the United States, or the long

15-inch guns of the Queen Elizabeth, had

much greater range and far greater penetration than did even the 42-centimeter


Another feature of these powerful howitzers was their mobility. Although their

barrels were short, the total weight of

even a complete 30.2-centimeter Skoda

howitzer was almost forty tons. To transport such a weapon would have required

an immense number of horses, but, in

reality, horses were not used, except now

and then at the last stage of a journey.

Instead the guns were carried in sections

by heavy tractors, having what were

known as "caterpillar" wheels, and, on

good roads, could move at a surprising

rate of speed. The heavier types had

to be mounted on specially prepared concrete beds, and it is said that some such

bases had been secretly constructed by

the Germans in the enemy's country long

before the war began. As a rule, the

guns were mounted behind a hill or perhaps in some quarry pit, completely out

of range of direct fire from the forts which

they were designed to attack.. .

The gunners of these monsters rarely

or perhaps never could see the object of

their aim. Their fire was directed by

observers upon some natural point of

vantage, or in Zeppelins, captive balloons,

or aeroplanes. The first shot might go

wide of the mark, but gradually the aim

would be corrected until the immense

shells would be hurled with astonishing

precision exactly upon the mark they were

designed to hit. In our account of the

siege of Port Arthur we have described

how the Japanese artillery men, after the

capture of 203-Meter Hill, which overlooked the harbor, were soon able, by using

this as a control station, to sink the remaining Russian warships. At that time

aeroplanes had not come into use in warfare.

It quickly became apparent that the

Liege forts, with their Gruson turrets,