Used on the famous Bismarck class battleships, this weapon is usually - but incorrectly - referred to as being 47 calibers long, but it was actually 51.66 calibers in length. It is also sometimes mistakenly described as being a carry over from the 38 cm L/45 guns used on the World War I-era Bayern class battleships. In reality, these guns were built to a completely new design having little in common with the older guns other than their caliber.
A modified version of these guns known as Siegfried was widely used as coastal artillery. The best-known of these was Battery Todt, named after Armaments Minister Dr. Fritz Todt who had been killed in a plane crash. This battery consisted of four guns located near Haringzelles about 3 km (1.8 miles) east of Cap Gris-Nez and which often fired across the Straits of Dover. Four more guns were used at Oxsby (Denmark), four at Hanstead (Denmark) and three at Kristiansand (Norway).
Besides the Bismarck and Tirpitz, it had been planned to rearm the small battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau with these weapons. No serious work ever started for Scharnhorst, but three turrets were under construction during the early 1940s to rearm Gneisenau. When Gneisenau was badly damaged in 1943, these three turrets plus an additional one originally intended for the Soviet Union were reallocated for use as coastal artillery. It was originally planned to install two of these at Cap de la Hague and the other two at Paimpol in France, but this plan was never implemented. Work on putting two of these turrets at Oxsby in Denmark was well advanced but incomplete by the end of the war.
The Soviet Union placed an order for sixteen of these guns which were intended for the battlecruisers Sevastopol and Kronstadt (Project 69), but no guns were ever delivered.
Constructed of loose liner, A tube with four rings shrunk over it for about two-thirds of the length from the breech, a jacket shrunk over about two-thirds of the ring layer and a breech end-piece, breech block supporting piece and a horizontal sliding breech block. Later guns had a loose liner that was removed from the breech end, but these were not universally interchangeable.
At least one gun still survives and is on display at Museumcenter Hanstholm.
|Designation||38 cm (14.96") SK C/34|
|Ship Class Used On||Bismarck and Schlachtschiff "O" Classes
Gneisenau as planned to be rebuilt
Soviet Kronstadt class
|Date Of Design||1934|
|Date In Service||1939|
|Gun Weight1||Including breech mechanism: 244,713 lbs. (111,000 kg)|
|Gun Length oa||772.8 in. (19.630 m)|
|Bore Length||724.6 in. (18.405 m)|
|Rifling Length||629.2 in. (15.982 m)|
|Number Of Grooves||(90) 0.177 in deep x 0.306 in (4.5 mm x 7.76 mm)|
|Lands||0.217 in (5.5 mm)|
|Twist||Increasing RH 1 in 36 to 1 in 30|
|Chamber Volume2||19,467 in3 (319 dm3)|
|Rate Of Fire3||2.3 to 3 rounds per minute|
- ^This weight figure was for early production weapons. Later weapons were 661 lbs. (300 kg) lighter.
- ^Siegfried guns built for coastal defense had a larger chamber volume of 22,072 in3 (361.7 dm3) and shorter rifling length of 620 in (15.748 m).
- ^Many references claim that this was the fastest firing large caliber gun ever built. The ROF figures listed above represent generally published data that would support that claim. However, Krupp official documents cite the ROF as being 26 seconds at a four degree elevation, not notably faster than that of other nations' large-caliber weapons. Note that at this elevation the range would be considerably less than 10,000 meters. It is possible that well trained gun crews would reduce this time to the 20 seconds necessary to meet a ROF of 3 times per minute. A May 1941 report by the German Artillerieversuchskommando - AVSK (Artillery Testing Command for Ships) stated that the turret ammunition hoists on Bismarck were capable of delivering between 23 and 25 rounds per minute (for all four turrets), the equivalent of 3 rounds per minute per gun. However, this same report stated that design faults in the hoists led to two significant breakdowns during the evaluation, both of which caused long interruptions in the ammunition supply. Finally, it should be noted that Bismarck fired a total of 91 rounds during her thirteen minutes of firing at the Denmark Strait battle, which is actually less than one round per gun per minute.
|Type||Cartridge - Bag|
|Projectile Types and Weights1a||Ship Projectiles
APC L/4,4 - 1,764 lbs. (800 kg)
HE L/4,5 base fuze - 1,764 lbs. (800 kg)
HE L/4,6 nose fuze - 1,764 lbs. (800 kg)
Special Coastal Artillery Projectiles
|Bursting Charge||APC L/4,4 - 41.4 lbs. (18.8 kg)
HE L/4,5 base fuze - 71.9 lbs. (32.6 kg)
HE L/4,6 nose fuze - 141.5 lbs. (64.2 kg)
|Projectile Length||APC L/4,4 - 65.8 in (167.2 cm)
HE L/4,5 base fuze - 67.3 in (171.0 cm)
HE L/4,6 nose fuze - 68.8 in (174.8 cm)
Siegfried HE L/4,5 - 67.3 in (171.0 cm)
|Propellant Charge2a||Fore: 219.4 lbs. (99.5 kg) RPC/38 (17/7)
Main: 248.0 lbs. (112.5 kg) RPC/38 (17/7)
Brass case for main charge: 154 lbs. (70 kg)
|Muzzle Velocity||For naval shells: 2,690 fps (820 mps)
For coastal artillery shells: 3,445 fps (1,050 mps)
|Working Pressure||20.3 tons/in2 (3,200 kg/cm2)|
|Approximate Barrel Life3a||180 - 210 rounds|
|Ammunition stowage per gun4a||108 rounds|
- ^Actual Projectile designations were as follows:
APC L/4,4 - Psgr. L/4,4 (mhb)
HE L/4,5 base fuze - Spr.gr. L/4,5 Bdz (mhb)
HE L/4,6 nose fuze - Spr.gr. L/4,6 Kz (mhb)
Siegfried HE L/4,5 - Si.gr. L/4,5 Bdz u. Kz (mhb)
CA SAP L/4,4 - Spr.gr. L/4,4 Bdz u. Kz (mhb)
- ^These guns, like most large caliber German guns, used a "fore charge" which was propellant in a silk bag, and a "main charge" which was propellant in a brass case. The brass case helped to seal the breech of the gun. Fore and Main charges were rammed together.
- ^With the lighter coastal artillery projectiles, barrel life increased to nearly 350 rounds.
- ^This is the design figure and probably reflects only shell room storage. "German Warships 1815-1945" says that the actual outfit ranged from 112 to 120 rounds while "German Capital Ships of World War Two" says the outfit was 130 rounds per gun. These latter figures most likely include the "ready rounds" stored in the handling rooms and gunhouses.
- APC and HE ballistic caps had a radius of 10 calibers.
- These ships did not carry WGr 4592 projectiles with shaped-charge warheads.
|Elevation||With APC||Striking Velocity||Angle of Fall|
|2.2 degrees||5,470 yards (5,000 m)||2,385 fps (727 mps)||2.4|
|4.9 degrees||10,940 yards (10,000 m)||2,103 fps (641 mps)||5.8|
|8.1 degrees||16,400 yards (15,000 m)||1,864 fps (568 mps)||10.4|
|12.1 degrees||21,870 yards (20,000 m)||1,677 fps (511 mps)||16.4|
|16.8 degrees||27,340 yards (25,000 m)||1,552 fps (473 mps)||23.8|
|22.4 degrees||32,810 yards (30,000 m)||1,499 fps (457 mps)||31.9|
|29.1 degrees||38,280 yards (35,000 m)||1,516 fps (462 mps)||40.3|
(maximum elevation of turret)
|39,589 yards (36,520 m)||---||---|
(as coastal artillery)
|45,932 yards (42,000 m)||---||---|
Time of flight for APC Shell with MV = 2,690 fps (820 mps)
10,940 yards (10,000 m): 13.9 seconds
21,870 yards (20,000 m): 32.0 seconds
32,810 yards (30,000 m): 55.5 seconds
38,280 yards (35,000 m): 69.9 seconds
|Elevation||With HE||Striking Velocity||Angle of Fall|
(as coastal artillery)
|60,000 yards (54,900 m)||---||---|
|Range||Side Armor||Deck Armor|
|0 yards (0 m)||29.23" (742 mm)||---|
|5,000 yards (4,572 m)||24.26" (616 mm)||0.76" (19.3 mm)|
|19,685 yards (18,000 m)||16.50" (419 mm)||2.96" (75.0 mm)|
|24,060 yards (22,000 m)||15.49" (393 mm)||4.15" (104 mm)|
|29,528 yards (27,000 m)||11.98" (304 mm)||5.02" (126 mm)|
The above information is from "Battleships: Axis and Neutral Battleships in World War II" for a muzzle velocity of 2,690 fps (820 mps) and is based upon the USN Empirical Formula for Armor Penetration.
|Range||Side Armor||Deck Armor|
|10,936 yards (10,000 m)||20.08" (510 mm)||---|
|21,872 yards (20,000 m)||14.33" (364 mm)||---|
|22,966 yards (21,000 m)||13.78" (350 mm)||---|
|27,340 yards (25,000 m)||12.13" (308 mm)||---|
|32,808 yards (30,000 m)||---||about 4.70" (120 mm)|
|38,276 yards (35,000 m)||---||about 6.69" (170 mm)|
The above information is from "German Capital Ships of World War Two" for a muzzle velocity of 2,690 fps (820 mps) and is based upon German face-hardened (side) and homogenous (deck) armor penetration curves.
Bismarck (4), Gneisenau (3) and "O" (3): Drh LC/34
Kronstadt (3): Drh LC/34
|Weight||2,319,253 lbs. (1,052,000 kg)|
|Elevation||-5.5 / +30 degrees
Coastal artillery: -3 / +55 or more degrees
|Elevation Rate||6 degrees per second|
|Train||-145 / +145 degrees|
|Train Rate||5 degrees per second|
|Gun recoil||41.3 in (1.050 m)|
|Loading Angle||+2.5 degrees|
- These turrets were electrically powered for main training, auxiliary training, auxiliary elevation, auxiliary hoists and reserve power for some of the loading gear, otherwise they were hydraulically powered by two electrically driven pumps in each turret. Run out was pneumatic. Emergency hand elevation equipment was provided.
- As in all large German mountings, these turrets were supported by ball bearings, not the tapered rollers preferred by other nations. Shell rooms were below the magazines. All four turrets originally had 10.5 m (34 feet 5 inches) rangefinders, but the one on turret Anton was removed following water damage inflicted during the winter of 1940/1941.
- Distance between gun axes was 147.6 in (375 cm).
- Each gun was served by a shell cage driven by hydraulic cylinders with rack and pinion drive of a wire drum. The shell cage picked up the charge cage on its way to the gunhouse. The shell cage carried the main and fore charges end to end on a single tray. The hoists came up between the guns and the shells were transferred to the loading tray by rammers. As the shell was transferred, the charges were moved to a waiting cage. After the shell was loaded, the waiting cage moved down to the level of the loading tray. The space between them was bridged by a ramp and the charges were then rolled into the loading tray. Both charges were rammed together. The auxiliary hoists lifted shells and propellant one after the other in a vertical position and came up to the rear of each gun. These were transferred to a tiltable cage and could be then loaded by the main rammer. A manual rammer which required between ten to fourteen crewmen to operate was provided as a backup.
- There were at least five and perhaps as many as ten ready rounds stored in the back of each turret.
- RPC was fitted for elevation but not for training. This elevation control was considered to be unsatisfactory in Bismarck.
- Turret Anton had a unique rotary cartridge ejection system, an improvement to water tightness over the simpler flap-cover used on previous ships and on Bismarck's other three turrets. The flap-cover designs had proved inadequate on the bow turrets of Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, allowing water ingress during their engagement in heavy seas with the British battlecruiser Renown on 9 April 1940.
- Armor thickness for the Bismarck class as given in "Anatomy of the Ship: The Battleship Bismarck" by Jack Brower:
Lower Face: 14.2 in (36 cm) KC
Upper Face: 7.1 in (18 cm) KC
Lower Sides: 8.7 in (22 cm) KC
Upper Sides: 5.9 in (15 cm) KC
Lower Rear: 12.6 in (32 cm) KC
Upper Rear: 7.1 in (18 cm) KC
Roof: 5.1 in (13 cm) KC
"Schlachtschiff Tirpitz" by Jochen Brennecke
"Anatomy of the Ship: The Battleship Bismarck" by Jack Brower
"Naval Weapons of World War Two" by John Campbell
"Battleships: Axis and Neutral Battleships in World War II" by W.H. Garzke, Jr. and R.O. Dulin, Jr.
"German Warships 1815-1945" by Erich Gröner
"German Naval Guns: 1939 - 1945" by Miroslaw Skwiot
"Naval Guns: 500 years of Ship and Coastal Artillery" by Hans Mehl
"German Capital Ships of World War Two" by M.J. Whitley
AVKS Tests aboard Battleship Bismarck at The Battleship Bismarck
11 February 2007 - Benchmark
02 April 2009 - Added comment regarding existing weapon
29 March 2010 - Added picture of Battery Todt gun
09 September 2010 - Fixed broken link
04 April 2011 - Additional information about coastal emplacements
16 April 2012 - Corrected typographical errors, added details on the Soviet Kronshtadt class
15 December 2013 - Redid photograph of gun being hoisted aboard Tirpitz
24 August 2014 - Added Turret Armor note
10 June 2016 - Converted to HTML 5 format
05 March 2018 - Reorganized notes