A Mettlach Artillery
By Mark Fiebrandt
is a beautiful antique
pottery beer tankard from Germany with pewter lid and thumb lift. This
early 1900's beer mug has a transfer and hand painted scene of a German
artillery howitzer known as Big Bertha. Shooting out of the cannon
are the words Gruss aus Essen which means, Greetings from
Essen. Also in the decoration are hops vines and the Essen city crest
with a double headed eagle and sword.
Essen Germany is the town of the German firm Krupp, famous for their
steel production and their manufacture of ammunition and armaments.
Krupp produced most of the artillery of the Imperial German Army,
including its big guns. The name "Big Bertha" (German: "Dicke Bertha";
literal translation "Fat Bertha") was commonly applied to a whole
variety of large-calibre German artillery guns. It started in the year
1900 where Krupp armaments factory at Essen built a 350-mm howitzer
that could fire an 800 lb shell over 10,000 yards. In 1902, Friedrich
Krupp died leaving the Krupp industrial empire to his elder child
Bertha Krupp, the sole proprietor. Although she maintained ownership
until 1943, it was impossible for a woman to exercise control over the
company. Therefore, Kaiser Wilhelm II arranged for Bertha to marry
Gustav von Bohlen und Halbach, a professional diplomat of a good family
and a familiar figure at the Kaiser's court. He added the name Krupp to
his surname and assumed executive control of the company.
The big guns most likely derived their nickname from Gustav's wife,
The first movable "Big Bertha" was a 42cm howitzer siege mortar, model
L/14 designed in the aftermath
of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904 on behalf of the German Army. In 1908
the German Army asked Gustav Krupp to build an improved version of this
gun with the capability of destroying the heaviest fortification. By
1912 Krupp had produced a 420mm weapon that fired a 2,100 lb shell over
16,000 yards. As it weighed 175 tons, it was designed to be transported
in five sections by rail and assembled at the firing site. This
concerned the German Army and they asked for it to be adapted to be
moved by road. By 1914
the company had produced a mobile howitzer also called Big Bertha. This
43 ton howitzer could fire a 2,200 lb shell over 9 miles. Transported
by Daimler-Benz tractors, it took its 200-man crew over six hours to
re-assemble it on the site.
On the outbreak of the First World War, two Big Berthas and several
Skoda 30.5 cm howitzers were erected outside the fortress of Liege in
Belgium. The first shells were fired on the 12th of August at the ring
of twelve forts around the city. By the 15th of August all the forts
had either been destroyed or had surrendered. News of the success of
this new weapon at Liege encouraged other countries involved in the
conflict to produce large mobile guns. Although the name "Big Bertha"
applied to several models of howitzers, it is commonly thought of as
the Langer Max (Long Max) and Paris Gun railway guns. In 1918, the
Paris Gun was able to shell Paris from 120 kilometers (75 mi) away.
This is an excellent piece of history commemorated on a Mettlach stein.
The stein is marked on the side as a 0.5 liter in capacity. The bottom
has the VB mark, mold number 1526,
the Roman numeral
liters), and 96 (made in 1896). Although the Mettlach abbey mark is
not there, these other marks are common for Mettlach as the mold number
1526 was made and decorated later as specialty pieces.
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