Book Review
German Super-Heavy Siege Guns
World War II German Super-Heavy Siege Guns
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by: Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]

Body of the Text

** As World War II approached, Germany ordered Krupp and Rheimetall-Borsig to build several super-heavy siege guns, vital to smash through the fortresses that stood in the way of the Blitzkrieg. These weapons – the 60cm and 54cm Karl-Great, the 80cm Gustav, and the 35.5cm Haubitze M1 – were much larger and more complex than the guns of World War I, and required years to build and test. So as war drew near, the German High Command hastily brought some World War I-era heavy artillery back into service and then acquired a large number of Czech Skoda mortars.

The advanced new siege guns began entering service in time for the invasion of Russia, most famously being used at Sevastopol, and later in the war they were employed sporadically on both the Eastern and Western fronts. Germany used some 50 siege guns during World War II, far more than the 35 it had during World War I. With Superbly detailed artwork of the guns, their components, and deployment, this is an essential guide to these super-weapons, exploring their history, development, and use in detail. **

** Quoted from the back cover of the book.

The Book

Osprey Publications has released World War II German Super-Heavy Siege Guns as Number 280 in their New Vanguard series. It is a soft cover book with 48 pages. Included with the text are black and white photographs, color illustrations, detailed captions, technical information and more. It has a 2020 copyright, a publication date of July 23, 2020 and the ISBN is 978-1-4728-3717-2. Providing insights into the design, development, operation and history of the super-heavy siege guns used by the German military during World War II.

The Contents

- Introduction
- The Return of Fortress Europe
- Design and Development
- 60cm and 54cm Karl- Gerät
- 80cm Railway Gun Gustav- Gerät
- 35.5cm Haubitze M1
- World War 1-Era Guns
- Skoda Siege Guns
- Ammunition
- Operational History
- Siege Gun Units
- 1939 – Poland
- 1940 – Campaign in the West
- 1941 - Eastern Front
- 1942 – Sevastopol and Leningrad
- 1943-45 – Decline of the Siege Guns
- Conclusion
- Bibliography
- Index
The Text

Authors Marc Romanych and Martin Rupp provide well detailed information on super-heavy siege guns used by the German military during World War II. Marc Romanych and Martin Rupp provide great details of the siege guns and go into specifics such as the numbers of guns produced and where they were manufactured, military units the guns were assigned to, the locations where they were used, specific targets assigned to them, the rate of fire of the weapons, their rate of accuracy and the number of hit, near hits and misses and the damage done, the guns strengths and shortcomings, the size of the crews for each weapon, the emplacement process and time required to do so and other such specific and important information. As well as specific information provided about the guns and their use during World War II the authors also provide the locations of museums that currently house some of the World War I versions of the Skoda siege guns in their collection. Another area detailed is information on certain weapons such as the 28cm Haubitze L/12 and 28cm Küstenhaubitze L/12 in regards to the number of them that were destroyed due to ruptures caused by rounds exploding in their barrels. Another section that I found interesting, as I had never heard of it before, was that when the Germans emplaced the 80cm “Dora” gun for the siege of Sevastopol they built a decoy gun emplacement position 4.6km away from the actual gun’s position complete with a cardboard dummy of the “Dora” gun. The ruse worked as the Soviets were unable to locate the actual “Dora, but did locate the dummy gun position and destroyed the cardboard “Dora” via air attack. The text in the book is nicely written and well detailed. As I read through the text, I did find a couple of errors. On Page 10 in the second paragraph there is a sentence that states “facing the in the general direction”. Obviously, there is some missing text. On page 20 at the top of the page there is a sentence that states “In 1943, a Röchling projectile (see below) was developed for the M1”. The problem with that sentence is that there is nothing to refer to when directed to “see below”. So, I am guessing that there is missing photograph or illustration that the text attempted to refer to. Grammar and spelling might not be an important factor to everyone however it is something that I take notice of and pass on my findings. I feel that if the text is well written then it shows that the author has taken the time to be a professional with their writing. Anyone wanting to add an excellent reference and history book on the super-heavy siege guns used by the German military during World War II to their personal library will be pleased with this very informative and interesting book.

The Photographs

A total of 40 black and white photographs included in this volume. The photographs range from wide angle photographs to close-up detailed photographs. I would say that the photographs that were chosen for this book were for the most part lesser known photographs as opposed to photographs that are featured in many other titles that deal with the same subject matter. The majority of the photographs are clear and easily viewable, however a few have an out of focus look to them and some appear to be too dark, and others appear too light. This is typical for the discussed periods of history and consideration needs to be given to the fact that some of the photographs are over one seventy years old and the quality of the photographs is of no fault of the authors and do not take anything away from the book. Authors Marc Romanych and Martin Rupp stuck to the title of the book and chose subject specific photographs and did not include photographs that strayed from the main subject of the book. The majority, if not all, of the photographs will prove to be a wealth of information to anyone interested in super-heavy siege guns used by the German military during World War II due to the details they contain.

The Illustrations

There are 7 color illustrations by illustrators Adam Tooby and Andrea Ricciardi Di Gaudesi with accompanying well detailed captions. The illustrations are very well done, nicely detailed and are of:

Plate A (see attached scan)

Self-Propelled Siege Guns

Features three illustrations of three different self-propelled siege guns.

The three self-propelled siege guns featured are;
- Muzzle-Loading 60cm Mortar (Conceptual Design)
- Breech-Loading 60cm Mortar (Conceptual Design)
- 60cm Karl- Gerät (Production Model)
Plate B

Moving the 60cm Karl Mortar

This plate shows the assembled Karl Mortar and the disassembled Karl Mortar on road trailers.

Components of the Karl Mortar (assembled)
- Tracked carrier
- Cradle and carriage (with lower recoil mechanism)
- Barrel with breech block
- Upper recoil mechanism with loading tray
Karl Mortar on Road Trailers (broken down into the individual components)
- Tracked carrier
- Cradle and carriage (with lower recoil mechanism)
- Barrel and breech block
- Upper recoil mechanism with loading tray
- Crane
Plate C

Assembling the Super-Heavy Dora Railway Gun (a portion of one of the illustrations is on the front cover of the book)

- There are two full page illustration showing the Dora being assembled with the use of the gantry cranes and railway carriages and aa steam locomotive. These two illustrations do an excellent job of portraying the size of the Dora and the immense undertaking it took to assemble it.
Plate D

The 35.5cm M1 Howitzer

This plate shows an emplaced M1 howitzer with the gantry crane and crew members, the assembled M1 howitzer and the disassembled M1 howitzer on road trailers.

Components of the M1 (assembled)
- Front platform with turntable
- Bottom carriage and rear platform
- Top carriage with crew platform
- Cradle
- Barrel
- Breech block
- Rear platform
M1 howitzer on road trailers (broken down into the individual components)
- Crane
- Front platform with turntable
- Bottom carriage and rear platform
- Top carriage with crew platform
- Cradle
- Barrel
- Breech block
Plate E (see attached scan)

The 30.5cm Mortar in Action

- An illustration showing a 30.5cm mortar emplaced in its position with crew members performing their individual tasks such as preparing ammunition, moving a mortar round on a cart and elevating or depressing the mortar via handwheel.
Plate F

Concept and Prototype Guns

- Two individual illustrations showing:
- Rheinmetall Self-Propelled 35.5.cm Howitzer
- Skoda 30.5cm Heavy Mortar
Plate G

Emplacing the 42cm Skoda Howitzer

- Four separate illustrations showing various stages of emplacing a 42cm Skoda howitzer.
- Emplacing the foundation
- Attaching the carriage
- Installing the barrel
- Preparation for action

*Note: On the rear cover of the book one of the things listed as a feature of the book is cutaway artwork. This is incorrect as there are no cutaway illustrations of any kind provided in this volume.

The Captions

The captions are well written and explain the accompanying photographs and illustrations in great detail eliminating any doubt as to what is shown. The captions go into very specific detail as to the specific weapon shown, weapon specifications such as caliber and weapon dimensions, types of rounds (ammunition), aiming equipment such as an aiming circle (collimator), military units, actions being taken by the weapons crew members, dates and locations, vehicles used as artillery tractors, and other such pertinent information. I was very impressed by Marc Romanych and Martin Rupp’s captions as they are very helpful to the reader due to their detailed content as opposed to other captions that I have seen that are very brief and lacking in detail.

There is 1 note included in this volume and it is of:

- Authors’ Acknowledgements
Informational Charts
There is 1 informational chart included in this volume and it is of:

- The chart provides information on various siege guns. The information provide is on the gun’s nomenclature, type, manufacturer, year fielded, number (of each gun used by the Germans during WWII) and the maximum range (in meters) of each of the following:
German-Built Siege Guns:

28cm Haubitze L/12
28cm Küstenhaubitze L/12
35.5cm Haubitze M1
42cm Gamma-Gerät
54cm Gerät 041 ‘Karl-Gerät’
60cm Gerät 040 ‘Karl-Gerät’
80cm Kanoe (E) ‘Gustav-Gerät’

Foreign-Built Siege Guns:

30.5cm Mörser (t)
42cm Haubitz (t)

The Authors
Marc Romanych is a retired US Army combat arms officer. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from the University of Maryland and a Master of Arts degree in International Relations from St. Mary’s University. He has co-authored several books on World War I and II artillery and fortifications for Osprey Publishing.

Martin Rupp has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Applied Sciences, Saarbrücken. He specializes in fortification and artillery topics and has co-authored books about the battles for the Maginot Line in 1940 and World War I German siege artillery for Osprey Publishing.

The Illustrators
Adam Tooby is an internationally renowned digital aviation artist and illustrator. His work can be found in publications worldwide and as box art for model aircraft kits. He also runs a successful illustration studio and aviation prints business.

Andrea Riccardi di Gaudesi studied graphic arts at the Instituto d'Arte in Florence, graduating in 1986. He went on to specialize, under the direction of Leonardo Mattioli, in illustration at Il Bisonte, international school of graphic art. Beginning his professional career as a scientific illustrator with Paolo Donati's studio ILLIBIL, Andrea then honed his craft as a freelance artist. Specialized in high quality, traditional, and realistic illustration. With 20 years of experience and a concentration in historical, scientific, and illustration naturalistic, Andrea has produced a considerable body of work that boasts publication in multiple books and magazines in addition to advertisement campaigns.


As with the other Osprey Publishing titles I was impressed with this book. This is a very nice reference book that contains a well written informative text, many subject specific photographs and illustrations, well detailed captions and more, all detailing the super-heavy siege guns used by the German military during World War II. As with the other Osprey Publishing titles, I would have no hesitation to recommend this book to others as it will be a welcome addition to one’s personal reference library.
Highs: Well written and detailed text and captions Subject specific photographs and color illustrations
Lows: Some errors contained in the text. No cutaway artwork included as stated on the rear cover
Verdict: An excellent volume by Osprey Publishing. Definitely beneficial to the super-heavy siege guns used by the German military during World War II enthusiast and historian and the scale modeler.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: 978-1-4728-3716-5
  Suggested Retail: £11.99
  PUBLISHED: Nov 17, 2020

About Randy L Harvey (HARV)

I have been in the modeling hobby off and on since my youth. I build mostly 1/35 scale. However I work in other scales for aircraft, ships and the occasional civilian car kit. I also kit bash and scratch-build when the mood strikes. I mainly model WWI and WWII figures, armor, vehic...

Copyright ©2021 text by Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]. All rights reserved.


Jim already posted this review.
NOV 17, 2020 - 07:04 AM
That cover picture is amazing! I'm particularly interested in such a book as I enjoy gathering background info before building anything as in this case Trumpeter's amazing Karl-Gerat with rail carriers.
NOV 18, 2020 - 02:22 PM
Hi Darren. FYI, Fred Boucher already posted this review for me earlier. Thank you, Randy
NOV 28, 2020 - 03:47 PM

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