August 5, 1914

On this day Austria-Hungary declared war on Russia. It would not launch a ground attack against Serbia (the flash point of the conflict) until August 12.

Belgian resistance continued around Leige. On August 7th, the citadel at the center of the city was taken by a daring German probe, and artillery was set up in the city itself, bringing fire to bear on the forts’ rears.


Still, this firepower was not sufficient to silence the forts, and the Germans had to wait until their heavy guns arrived and were set up: two 305 mm Skoda siege mortars and an enormous 420 mm rail-mounted howitzer. The guns arrived on August 10, but were not set up and ready until August 12.


Skoda 305 mm siege mortar.


Krupp 420 mm railroad howitzer, “Big Bertha” (German: “Dicke Bertha”).

This gun

weighted seventy-five tons and had to be transported by rail in five sections and set in concrete before going into action. It could fire up to ten 2,200-pound projectiles per hour …. It had a range of nine miles …. It had to be fired electrically so that the two-hundred-man crew operating it, their heads covered with protective padding, could move three hundred yards away and lie down on the ground before detonation.

G.J. Meyer, A World Undone: The Story of the Great War 1914 to 1918.


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