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Author Topic: Boche Buster - 18" Howitzer  (Read 21817 times)

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Boche Buster - 18" Howitzer
« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2009, 12:06:07 »
Boche Buster was one of twelve built to take the 14-inch BL or 18-inch BL Howitzer. This mounting had seven axles in  rear and eight in front, and when fired at high angle had a pull of recoil of 420 tons. Consequently  it was to be fired along the line of rail and the whole mounting was to recoil.The service mounting was much larger than the proof mounting allowing greater elevation. Here is the drawing from the 1924 Treatise on Service Gun Carriages and Gun Mountings.

Ordered during WWI each mounting cost £250,00 to £300,000 to construct. In 1936 they were sold for scrap because the authorities refused to pay £50 each to maintain them - Gargantua was cut up at Shoeburyness whilst others met their end at Woolwich, however somehow four survived.

In November 1939 Lt Col Cleeve was tasked with forming a Super Heavy Railway Regiment and he searched Britain for railway mountings. He found three mountings rusting away in a shed at RAOC Depot Chilwell. They were Boche Buster, Scene Shifter and a third unfinished and not named later to become Gladiator, all empty of their barrels. later someone found Peacemaker and all were sent to be refurbished.

When Churchill looked the defences of the Dover area he ordered three 13.5inch barrels recently offered by the Navy - from the Duke class battleship reserves.  The 13.5-inch barrels were designed to be close enough to the dimensions of the 14inch BL to be fitted to the same carriages. They were  fitted to the 14-inch Mountings Gladiator, Scene-Shifter and Piecemaker. (Note the subtle change of name).

Here is Piecemaker outside Dover in March 1943

These were handed over to 1 RM Siege Battery. A small amount of traverse was provided by attaching cables to the front end of the mounting. winches then hauled it sideways across the bogie bolster giving two degrees of traverse on either side. The initial laying was achieved by having a stretch of track on a 750ft radius curve, along which the gun was pushed. The brakes were then set, fine laying was performed with the winches and the gun then fired a shell to a range of 32,500 yards. With a super charge it could achieve a range of 40,000 yards allowing cross channel firing.

Boche Buster was fitted with the 18-inch Howitzer barrel No.1 Mk 4 which had been constructed in 1918 and completed in 1919. The barrel and mounting were united at Darlington  North British Locomotive Works October 1940. The gun then travelled to Catterick Camp where a name plate was added.  It left in February 1941 with two trains-  an extra diesel engine, a shell wagon, various living wagons and brake vans. The Diesel was for use in action to avoid giving away the position. Cleeve drew up a War Establishment for the 18-inch Howitzer battery. It was suggested that the 11th Super Heavy Battery be given some special title to associate it with 471 Siege Battery which had manned the Boche-Buster in The Great War. Boche-Buster  was parked near Canterbury in an anti-invasion role. It was designed as a partner piece to the 14inch guns and was interchangeable with them on the same mountings. Four of  these barrels were built, mounted in turn on one of the carriages for test firing and then put into  store. In the 1920s the 14inch barrels were declared obsolete and two 18-inch barrels were mounted. Periodically one of these was brought out to be deployed on Salisbury Plain either on a siding near Bulford or on the terminus of the Larkhill military railway at Druid's Lodge. In 1938 one was taken to Shoeburyness  Proof Establishment and mounted on a proof mounting for testing amour plate. This meant that in 1939 there were four railway mountings, one with the 18-inch Howitzer (Boche-Buster) and three empty.

Here is Boche Buster in travelling mode.

Boche Buster spent its time on a railway siding at Bekesbourne near Canterbury. Its maximum range was 22,300 yards, half-way across the Channel. It was therefore given the task of bombarding landing beaches within its arc of fire and so it was never called upon.

Here it is firing from its cutting a Bekesbourne.

In 1943 there was a plan to assemble the three 13.5-inch mountings, now handed over by the RM to the Army with the 18-inch mounting at Catterick to form the Super Heavy Railway Regiment to follow the invasion to France. An Anti-Concrete shell was tested by Boche-Buster at Salisbury Plain but the idea was abandoned. The unit was disbanded and all the Railway mountings were  withdrawn from their coastal positions and placed in store. They remained until 1946 when they were scrapped.


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