World's largest surviving military gun arrives at Royal Armouries Fort Nelson

By Culture24 Reporter | 06 September 2013

A 200-tonne military gun originally designed for the battlefields of the First World War has arrived at the Royal Armouries Fort Nelson in Hampshire following a long journey by ship and road from Holland.

a photo of a large howitzer on a rail track in a museum store house
The 18-inch Railway Howitzer.© John Paul de Winter, Utrecht
The mighty British 18-inch Railway Howitzer is the world’s largest surviving military gun and weighs about the same as 17 double-decker buses. It is so large that during its transit and delivery it had to be split into two sections, gun and carriage.

After weeks of careful planning and a journey that included negotiating the M25 Dartford Crossing, the gun is now sitting on a specially-installed railway track in preparation for it being loaded into the museum’s artillery hall. Here it will take centre stage for the centenary commemorations of the First World War between 2014 and 2018.

Developed during the First World War, the Howitzer was produced as part of the trend to build bigger calibre guns capable of firing heavier, more destructive shells in the battle to break the stalemate on the Western Front. Each 18-inch shell weighed about a ton.

The First World War ended before any 18-inch Howitzers were ready, but five were completed soon afterwards.

Some of them were used for testing purposes on artillery ranges and one had a new lease of life in the Second World War – serving on a railway line in Kent, in readiness to blast the beaches if a German invasion force landed. Luckily the Howitzer was never fired in anger as the feared invasion never occurred.

The Howitzer is on loan from the Royal Artillery Historical Trust and joins “historical heavyweights” at the Royal Armouries Museum, near Fareham – home to the big guns. It has previously formed the centrepiece of an exhibition at the Het Spoorwegmuseum (Dutch Railway Museum) in Utrecht.

More pictures:

a photo of a large gun being hoisted into place by a large crane
© Courtesy Royal Armouries
a photo of a large gun being hoisted into position using a large crane
© Courtesy Royal Armouries
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Latest comment: >Make a comment
I've got the shell for this gun ..( well I hope it is) it dates back to 1915 and its 18inchs wide..would luv a bit more information if anybody could help .. I know their was only 83 fired .many thanks
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