login   |    register
Osprey Publishing [ MORE REVIEWS ] [ WEBSITE ] [ NEW STORIES ]

Book Review
42CM “Big Bertha”
42CM “Big Bertha” And German Siege Artillery Of World War I
  • move

by: Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]


** In the early days of World War I, Germany unveiled a new weapon – the mobile 42cm M- Gerät howitzer – soon to become known as the infamous “Big Bertha”. 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 the quickly destroyed two forts and forced the defenders to surrender. After several such performances, German soldiers christened the howitzers “Fat” or “Big Bertha” and Bertha von Krupp, owner of the firm that built them. Allied forces picked up on the nickname, applying it to other German siege guns as well as the original 42cm howitzers, and the legend of “Big Bertha” was born. **

** This book details the design and development of German siege guns, and the specialized equipment required to transport and operate them. It also includes a full order of battle for the German siege artillery batteries and many rare, never-before-published photographs of “Big Bertha” and the other German siege guns that shared the name.**

** Quoted from the back cover of the book.


Osprey Publications Ltd has released 42CM “Big Bertha” And German Siege Artillery Of World War I by authors Marc Romanych and Martin Rupp as Number 205 in their New Vanguard series. It is a paperback book with 48 pages. Included with the text are black and white photographs, full color artwork, cutaway artwork, informational charts, and detailed captions. It has a 2013 copyright and the ISBN is 978-1-78096-017-3. As the title states, the book discusses the design, development, operation and history of the German siege artillery of World War I.


  • Introduction
  • Fortifications Versus Artillery
  • Design And Development
  • 30.5cm Beta- Gerät – The First Siege Gun
  • 42cm Gamma- Gerät – More Firepower
  • 42cm M- Gerät – Greater Mobility
  • Munitions
  • Operational History
  • Battery Organization
  • Operation of the Siege Guns
  • 1914 – Belgium and France
  • 1915 – Eastern Front
  • 1916 – Verdun
  • 1917-18 – Decline
  • Aftermath of World War I
  • Bibliography
  • Index


The text in the book is well written and extremely detailed. Marc Romanych and Martin Rupp cover the 42CM “Big Bertha” and German siege artillery of World War I nicely and with great depth. Authors Marc Romanych and Martin Rupp go into great detail in all areas of the book as outlined in the introduction. As I read through the text it was easy to see that Romanych and Rupp spent a great deal of time painstakingly researching and collecting information on the titled area in regards to German siege artillery of World War I. Each subject mentioned in the introduction is well detailed down to the smallest detail. As one would expect the books discusses the various types of German siege artillery of used during World War I. After reading through the volume I could not think of any subject in regards to the 42CM “Big Bertha” and German siege artillery of World War I that was not covered in great detail in an easy to read, nicely flowing and understandable manner. I personally feel that anyone that reads this book will find themselves well informed in all areas of World War I German siege artillery. As I read through the text I didn’t notice any spelling or grammatical errors. 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.


There are a total of 40 black and white photographs featured in this volume. There are no color photographs featured. The majority of the photographs are clear and easily viewable, however there are a few that have an out of focus look to them and some appear to be too dark, and some appear too light, which is typical for photographs of that period of time. However this is typical for this period of history and consideration needs to be given to the fact that the majority of the photographs are 100 years old and the quality of the photographs is of no fault of the author and do not take anything away from the book and provide a visual guide for the actions described in the book. Authors Marc Romanych and Martin Rupp stuck to the title of the book and chose photographs that are specific to the 42CM “Big Bertha” and German Siege Artillery during the World War I time frame and did not include photographs that strayed from the main subject of the book. I haven’t seen a majority of the featured photographs before and I was pleased with this. I definitely consider that a bonus as it is nice to have a reference book that contains several lesser known photographs as opposed to the same old over used photographs that many books tend to contain. The included photographs will prove valuable to the artillery, military vehicle, figure and diorama modelers as well as anyone interested in World War I.

Some of the siege guns shown and other photographs that I found to particularly interesting.
  • 30.5cm Beta-Gerät mortar
  • 30.5cm Beta-Gerät 09 howitzer
  • 42cm Gamma-Gerät howitzer
  • Members of KMK Battery 1 in the process of attaching the barrel on a Gamma howitzer
  • 28cm L/12 i.R. howitzer
  • 30.5cm Beta i.R. howitzer
  • An 80-horsepower Podeus tractor towing a M-Gerät barrel wagon
  • A M-Gerät howitzer that has been disassembled and is being moved on a road march by several tractors
  • A German propaganda postcard showing the ruins of Fort Loncin that had been completely destroyed two hours earlier by shelling from KMK Battery 3
  • 30.5 Beta i.R. howitzer of SKM Battery 6 in action on the Eastern Front in August 1915
  • A dummy Gamma howitzer built to deceive Serbian artillery observers during the shelling of the Semendria fortress in October 1915
  • The remains of a M-Gerät howitzer that suffered a burst barrel at Verdun
  • A "Lastenverteilergerät" (Load Distribution Apparatus) carrying the barrel of a 30.5cm Beta mortar
  • Another Beta-M-Gerät howitzer which has suffered a burst barrel which is describe as being caused by the large propellant charges needed for long-range high-angle fire which created too much gas pressure in the barrel, resulting in premature projectile detonations


There are 7 color illustration plates by illustrator Henry Morshead that are very well done and nicely detailed.

The color illustrations are of:
This plate shows the 30.5CM Beta-Gerät Mortar emplaced with a figure and ammunition shown for scale purposes. Also shown are two different options for moving the mortar with a steam-powered tractor.

This plate shows the following:
- Components of the Gamma-Gerät
- Gamma-Gerät Howitzer on Rail cars

This plate shows the 28cm L/12, 28cm L/14 and 30.5cm Beta i.R. siege guns emplaced and ready for action. Each siege gun is shown with ammunition and a figure for scale purposes.

This plate shows the 42cm M- Gerät howitzer emplaced with keys features of the howitzer pointed out as well as a chart listing the specifications of the howitzer and a cut-away view of the howitzers spade.

This plate has two illustrations showing the 42cm M- Gerät howitzer emplaced and being loaded with a round of ammunition with keys features of the howitzer pointed out as well as a chart listing the components. Also shown are five illustrations of the howitzer broken down into its individual components and placed on wagons for movement. With these illustrations these is a chart telling what each of the illustrations represents.

This illustration shows the following:
- 80 PS (Pferdestärke or horsepower) Podeus Tractor
- 100 PS or 120 PS Lanz Tractor
- A "Lastenverteilergerät" (Load Distribution Apparatus)

This illustration shows the 30.5cm Beta-M- Gerät howitzer emplaced with two figures shown for scale purposes. A second illustration shows the 30.5cm Beta-M- Gerät howitzer’s barrel loaded on a wagon for transportation.

Please refer to the scans that I have provided so that you can judge the illustrations for yourself.


There are 10 informational charts provided in this volume. They are:
  • Basic Siege Gun Data
  • Weight (metric ton)
  • Weight of Heaviest Projectile (kilograms)
  • Rate of Fire (rds/hour)
  • Maximum Range (meters)
  • Time to Emplace (hours)
  • Formation of the Siege Artillery Batteries
  • Battery
  • Date of Formation
  • Assigned Guns


The captions are well written and are very detailed and explain the accompanying photographs in great detail eliminating any doubt as to what is shown and taking place in the accompanying photograph. The details themselves are basically miniature history lessons as they detail what is happening, or happened, in the photographs and give specific detail as to what was done afterword and by who. They cover things such as the units shown, the various types of artillery displayed as well as the vehicles and equipment used for artillery movement, dates, locations and other such pertinent information. As with the text I didn’t notice any spelling or grammatical errors as I read through the captions. As I stated before, 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.


All in all I am very impressed with the book. It details the 42CM “Big Bertha” And German Siege Artillery of World War I well and in depth. This volume will be of great use to the artillery, military vehicle and figure modeler as well as the World War I enthusiast and historian. I would have no hesitation to add other Osprey Publications Ltd titles to my personal library nor would I hesitate to recommend this book to others.

This book was provided by Osprey Publications Ltd. Please be sure to mention that you saw the book reviewed here when you make your purchase.


The American Heritage History of World War I
Brigadier General S.L.A. Marshall
American Heritage/Bonanza Books

History Through Sources
The Western Front
Rosemary Rees
Rigby Interactive Library

The Usborne Introduction To The First World War
Ruth Brocklehurst & Henry Brook
Scholastic Inc.

The World War One Source Book
Philip J. Haythornthwaite
Arms And Armour

Arms and Uniforms
The First World War Part 1
Liliane and Fred Funcken
Ward Lock Limited - London

Military Uniforms & Weaponry
The Poster Book Of World War I
90 Authentic Figures in Color
Illustrated by Pierre Turner
Introduction By Andrew Mollo
Military Press

Osprey web site Live links

Osprey Publishing also has 42CM “Big Bertha” And German Siege Artillery Of World War I available as a:
- PDF ebook
- ePub eBook
Amazon web site Live links
Highs: Meticulously researched, written, and detailed text and captions Excellent subject specific photographs and illustrations
Lows: Nothing to mention
Verdict: This is an excellent reference book that details the 42CM “Big Bertha” and German siege artillery of World War I well.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: ISBN 978-1-78096-017-3
  Suggested Retail: US $17.95 / UK £9.99
  PUBLISHED: Mar 24, 2014

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

View Vendor Homepage  |  More Reviews  

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 ©2020 text by Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]. All rights reserved.


As a big gun fan all I can say bout time! Thanks for the review I will pick this up asap!
APR 01, 2014 - 04:08 AM
You're welcome Alex. I am glad that my review was of some help to you. As a big fan of WWI subjects and titles I was happy to see this one as well. Thank you, Randy
APR 02, 2014 - 01:12 PM

What's Your Opinion?

Click image to enlarge
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move