"Tsar Cannon" from Britain. Mortira Malleta


Mortira Mallet and her bombs at Fort Nelson near Portsmouth


The Tsar Cannon, which you must have seen in the Moscow Kremlin or in photographs, is not the only weapon of its kind. In the UK in 1854, designer Robert Mallet proposed creating a monstrous power to the mortar. While Mallet struggled with the British bureaucracy, the Crimean War, at which the mortars were supposed to take place, came to an end. Despite this, the project was brought to an end, but the military did not please the result. But many tourists are grateful to Mallet today for the wonderful scenery for Instagram. Both mortars built have survived to this day, and they are still very photogenic.

How Robert Mallet came up with the idea of ​​creating a 914 mm mortar


The engineer of Great Britain of Irish descent, Robert Mallett, turned to the idea of ​​creating a super-powerful mortar back in the 1850s. The impulse to work in this area was given by the Crimean War of 1853-1856, in the UK it is better known as the Eastern War, while in Russia it entered history called Crimean, as the main hostilities really unfolded in the Crimea. The British needed a new powerful mortar to cope with the fortifications and forts of Sevastopol, which could not be taken. It was the fight against fortifications that was the main task of the most powerful mortar in history.

At the time of the outbreak of the Eastern War, Great Britain had siege mortars, but the most powerful of them had a caliber of 13 inches (330 mm), which is already a lot, but the military wantedweapons. Sensing where the wind was blowing, Mallet intensified his work in the field of creating a super-powerful mortar, presenting the first draft of the future gun in October 1854. It should be noted here that Mallet came to the development of the mortar for a reason, wanting to earn money on the military department. For this, he had all the necessary skills and knowledge.

Back in the 30s and 40s of the XNUMXth century, Robert Mallett conducted numerous studies of the propagation of seismic waves from explosions in the ground. It was these of his studies that led the engineer to the idea of ​​creating a huge mortar. In the future, Mallet wanted to achieve the same local effect in the explosion of a projectile that would be comparable to an earthquake. The specialist believed that such an approach is promising for the reason that the very need for accurate target hitting will disappear. A direct hit is actually quite rare luck, so he wanted to compensate for possible misses with the power of seismic vibrations, which would be enough to damage or completely destroy the fortification object. However, today many researchers believe that it was Robert Mallet who was one of the first engineers to seriously study the seismic effects of explosions.

"Tsar Cannon" from Britain. Mortira Malleta
Robert Mallett

In the middle of the XIX century, such an effect could be achieved only by combining two factors: the fall of a projectile from a very high height and giving it as much tangible mass as possible. The combination of these factors could provide a large penetration of the artillery shell into the ground with a subsequent explosion. This could be achieved by significantly increasing the caliber of the artillery mount and giving a large elevation angle to the gun. That is precisely the idea that was born to create a mortar with a trunk diameter of approximately 914 mm or 36 inches. At the same time, creating such a tool, the developer inevitably came across a problem of great weight, which also had to be solved somehow.

The difficulty of building a mortal of Mallet


The first draft of the mortars was completely ready by October 1854. The proposed option could not be called technological. Mallet suggested placing a 36-inch mortar without a standard base directly with emphasis on the platform. The platform, which was supposed to serve as a gun carriage, the designer proposed to build from three rows of roughly hewn logs laid crosswise. This design was to give the barrel an elevation angle of 45 degrees. The entire structure was planned to be placed on a site specially prepared and fortified during earthworks. During the design process, the mortar changed for the better. For example, Mallet was pointed out to consider the possibility of sea-based. Gradually, the designer expanded the capabilities of miracle weapons by providing the ability to move, using tools to change the angle of the gun, using large charges and increasing the volume of the chamber.

Robert Mallet held the first official presentation of the new mortar project on January 8, 1855. The engineer prepared the blueprints together with the accompanying notes for consideration by the Artillery Technical Upgrade Committee. Mallet did not receive the expected reaction. The committee reasonably doubted the prospects of such a mortar and was not ready for unconventional and untested projects, preferring more earthly models of artillery weapons. However, the inventor did not give up and decided to directly appeal to the most senior officials of the empire. Mallet did not trifle and at the end of March 1855 wrote a letter personally to the British Prime Minister. At that time, Lord Palmerston held the post.

Palmerston not only got acquainted with the received letter, but also admired the very idea that the engineer described. Later, he personally met with the designer and finally caught fire with the proposed idea. With such a patron, it seemed that things should go faster. However, the Committee for the Technical Re-equipment of Artillery continued to show its conservatism, deciding to make full use of all possible bureaucratic delays in order to slow down the consideration of the project and placing an order for the release of mortars. As subsequent events will show, in many respects the committee’s employees were right and simply didn’t want to let government money go down the drain. However, neither the prime minister nor the designer were going to give up. Mallett got a personal audience with the Prince Consort, making a trip to Windsor. A member of the royal family also decided that the project was worth trying to put it into practice. In turn, Palmerston put pressure on the lieutenant general of artillery, directly contacting Hugh Dalrymple Ross, the future British field marshal, on May 1, 1855.


Fragment of the panorama "Defense of Sevastopol", Franz Alekseevich Roubaud

It is important to understand here that the British army’s failures in Crimea most likely played a role in the promotion of the 914-mm mortars project. The assault on Sevastopol, which the troops of Great Britain, France and Turkey planned to complete within one week, resulted in a 349-day saga. This was the merit of the garrison of the city, the Black Sea sailors fleet, the population of Sevastopol, as well as skilled commanders: Kornilov, Nakhimov and Totleben. At the same time, the main merit of Count Eduard Ivanovich Totleben was that this talented military engineer in a short time managed to erect serious fortifications near the city, which the Allied armies stormed for 11 months. At the same time, the city and its defenders survived six large-scale bombings.

Under pressure from senior members of the government, the army, and the royal family, the Artillery Committee surrendered and began work by organizing a tender for the construction of Mullet’s mortar. On May 7, 1855, he was won by a Thames Iron Works company from Blackwell, which was ready to complete an order to build two mortars in 10 weeks. The announced price was approximately 4300 pounds per gun. Here the story repeated, which is familiar to many in the modern Russian system of public procurement. Most likely, the tender was won by the company that requested the lowest cost. However, already during the course of the work, it became clear that the company does not have all the necessary competencies and capabilities, the work was delayed, and the company itself went bankrupt in the process of work and began bankruptcy proceedings. As a result, the order was transferred to three other British firms.

The work was completed only 96 weeks after the receipt of the contract. Mortars were delivered in May 1857. At this point, not only the siege of Sevastopol ended, the Russian troops left the city on August 28, 1855, but also the Crimean War itself, a peace treaty was signed on March 18, 1856. Thus, Mallet’s mortars were late for the war, during which they could be used for their intended purpose.

The design of the 914-mm mortars


The project, developed by engineer Robert Mallet in the middle of the XIX century, provided for the creation of a mortar typical of that time, that is, a short-barreled gun, the barrel length was only 3,67 caliber. The gun was originally developed for firing at fortified positions and fortifications of the enemy along a steep hinged trajectory. The main feature of the project was a huge gun caliber for that time. At the same time, the Mallet project had a number of important interesting solutions. For example, Robert Mallet initially planned to make a mortar from several separate sections, which could be assembled already in place. Such a solution simplified the process of delivery and transportation of a huge heavy gun on the battlefield, especially in off-road conditions. The engineer also provided for the barrel’s engagement system. According to his idea, such a design was to increase the strength of a huge caliber gun due to shrinkage.


The barrel of Mallet’s 914-mm mortar consisted of a large number of parts, the weight of each of which made it possible to organize transportation in any way available at that time without significant difficulties. One of the features was that the charging chamber in Mallet’s mortar was substantially narrower than the main bore. The designer chose such a solution on the grounds that a small amount of powder charge would be enough to throw the ammunition at a distance of the alleged firing, which the mortars of those years were quite small.

Structurally, the mortar consisted of a cast base, the total weight of this cast-iron part was 7,5 tons. A trunnion, a flange and all the necessary devices for setting the required angle of inclination of the barrel were placed on the base. The chamber of the mortar was forged and made of wrought iron, the total weight of the element was 7 tons. The muzzle of the mortar consisted of three large composite rings of wrought iron. In this case, the three rings themselves were assembled from 21, 19 and 11 prefabricated rings. All of them were fastened with hoops, the largest of which had a diameter of 67 inches. Additionally, the construction was strengthened by six longitudinal rods of almost square cross section made of wrought iron. They combined the barrel ring and the cast base of the mortar. When assembled, Mallet’s 36-inch mortar weighed about 42 tons, while the heaviest part weighed no more than 12 tons.

Mortira Malleta, like the vast majority of the heavy artillery of Great Britain and other countries of the world at that time, was muzzle-loading. Bombs weighing from 1067 to 1334 kg were fed to the barrel of a huge gun with a winch. The bombs themselves were spherical and hollow inside. At the same time, the cavity itself was eccentric so that the bomb would not tumble in the air when it took off from the barrel.

Tests of Mullet's Mortar


Both mortars did not have time for the Sevastopol siege and in fact were not needed by the military, but they decided to conduct miracle weapon tests anyway. To conduct firing tests, one mortar was allocated. In total, the British military managed to produce a total of 19 shots. At the same time, the tests passed in 4 stages: October 19 and December 18, 1857 and July 21 and 28, 1858. The tests were organized at the Plumstead marshes training ground.


Mortira Malleta exhibited in Woolwich

At the completion of the tests, the 914-mm Mallet’s mortars used military munitions weighing 1088 kg. The maximum firing range that was achieved in the field conditions was 2759 yards (2523 meters). When flying at such a range, the ammunition was in the air for 23 seconds. The maximum rate of fire that was achieved during the tests was approximately four rounds per hour. According to the results of the tests, the military came to the conclusion that the mortars have no prospects for real combat use.

The decision is well-founded, given that each time the shooting was interrupted by breakdowns and subsequent repair of the mortars. During the first firing, only 7 shots were fired, after which a crack formed on one of the outer rings of the barrel. The second time the tests were stopped after 6 shots, this time the cause was the rupture of the central hoop tightening the lower ring. In the future, malfunctions continued to occur, although for the third firing the military switched to lighter ammunition weighing 2400 pounds (1088 kg), with which the best result was achieved firing range. Despite the fact that the mortar remained maintainable, the military decided to abandon further tests, spending a total of 14 thousand pounds on the project.

In fairness, it is worth noting that a number of historians believe that the main reason for the frequent breakdowns of the mortar during the tests was not the unsuccessful design proposed by the engineer, but the poor quality of the metal used and the low level of production culture. It was not possible to improve the properties and qualities of the metal used in the manufacture of the barrel in the midth century and at the current level of development of metallurgy, science and technology.
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  1. NEXUS 16 February 2020 06: 41 New
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    Eka is unseen ... mortar, with nuclei. For me, a real miracle and mystery are rifled goat-loading cannons of the 17th century in Russia ... that is, they didn’t shoot with cores.
    1. tlauicol 16 February 2020 07: 31 New
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      Quote: NEXUS
      17th century goat-loading cannons in Russia ... that is, they didn’t shoot with cores.

      And what, Kozami or something?
      kernels. lead or copper. T.N. "Hungarian guns." Gun treatises were already known in Europe
    2. Saxahorse 16 February 2020 20: 02 New
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      Quote: NEXUS
      a real miracle and mystery are rifled goat-loading guns of the 17th century

      "goaty .." laughing In general, rifled trunks at that time were used to solve the problem of accumulation of powder deposits. Gunpowder is smoky and very dirty. Nagara is so much that a bullet (core) is hardly climbing into the barrel. Cutting by the way was direct.
  2. gorenina91 16 February 2020 07: 17 New
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    -And were these mortars used (used) by Britain during the WWII ???
    1. Freeman 16 February 2020 15: 55 New
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      Quote: gorenina91
      -And were these mortars used (used) by Britain during the WWII ???


      Britain, hardly. But the Turks, mortars firing nuclei, used.

      In 1868, over 20 huge bombers still stood at the forts defending the Dardanelles. There is evidence that during the Dardanelles operation of 1915, a 400-kilogram stone core fell into the English battleship Agamemnon.
      / Alexander Shirokorad. "Miracle weapon of the Russian Empire" /
    2. Narak-zempo 16 February 2020 16: 18 New
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      Of course not. It was already hopelessly out of date by the 70s of the XNUMXth century.
  3. Lamata 16 February 2020 07: 22 New
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    Aglitskoy prodigy, it turns out the Angles were not alien to this.
    1. mat-vey 16 February 2020 10: 16 New
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      These wise even worse than the gloomy Teutonic ...
      1. Lamata 16 February 2020 12: 28 New
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        No, no one is wiser than the Teutons smile
        1. mat-vey 16 February 2020 13: 51 New
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          Well, yes, yes one of their adaptations for automatic shooting from Lee-Anfield is something with something ..
          1. Lamata 16 February 2020 15: 04 New
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            And how many Germans invented artillery systems? outlandish, or tank mouse
            1. mat-vey 16 February 2020 15: 07 New
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              If the Angles rummage around there will be even more ... there one of them offered to spray gas from balloons to fight Fau.
              And the tanks - "Males" and "Females"?
              1. Lamata 16 February 2020 19: 07 New
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                Well, females and males = this is the dawn of tank building, so it’s permissible.
            2. Alexey RA 16 February 2020 15: 54 New
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              Quote: Lamata
              And how many Germans invented artillery systems?

              Pfff ... the limes didn’t lag behind - only the Smith Gun, for which it was necessary to put on one side to put it into a fighting position, which was worth it. Or you can recall the anti-aircraft flamethrowers.
              Quote: Lamata
              or tank mouse

              Machine gun Self-propelled guns weighing over 30 tons, Churchill Gun Carrier and the entire series of self-propelled guns "AT", culminating in a "turtle," in terms of tenacity, covers the "mouse" like a bull sheep.
              And I still don’t remember about the “sausage” AKA TOG II *.

              Here it tested in April 1943. The Germans are already running ... well, they are running, the Tigers are crawling. The Russians are preparing to change “kvass” to IP (more precisely, for now on KV-85). And they think limes it heavy tank.
              1. mat-vey 16 February 2020 16: 14 New
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                Yes, the same “Churchill” with its chassis what a handsome man was ..
              2. Lamata 16 February 2020 19: 07 New
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                The British, such a feeling of roofing felts simply did not know where to move, roofing felts leaped with pride with their tanks.
                1. Romka47 20 February 2020 15: 40 New
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                  The concept of cruising / infantry with all the consequences did not justify itself, when we went along the path of the rest of the great tank powers, we get the start, well, let's say it’s nothing higher than 4.
              3. Romka47 20 February 2020 15: 38 New
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                Kvass, sausage, AT series ending with a turtle ..... something somewhere I saw or heard it ... but remembered everything? How many tanks lvl 10 in the hangar?) What percentage of victories? drinks
                1. Alexey RA 20 February 2020 15: 57 New
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                  Quote: Romka47
                  How many tanks lvl 10 in the hangar?) What percentage of victories?

                  I don’t remember already - for three years I have already tied up with WOT, reseeding on boats. But the jargon remained. smile When he left, the winrate seemed to be around 52-53%.

                  Ehhh ... but I remember the times. when the sky was red, the houses were gray, the hedgehogs were standing in Hummelsdoh, and the IS-3 was the top and imba.
                  1. Romka47 20 February 2020 19: 26 New
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                    There appeared a branch of heavy two (!!!) Soviet Soviet tanks, I myself didn’t rake for a long time, but after trying to give a 2x122mm doublet I couldn’t stop ... generally fun) for a long time I wanted to try the ships, but I don’t have enough time
  4. voyaka uh 16 February 2020 12: 05 New
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    "The maximum rate of fire that was achieved during the tests was approximately four rounds per hour." ///
    ----
    For siege weapons, this is normal.
    Do not rush during a siege. Check what destruction, and only then decide to attack or continue shelling.
  5. maidan.izrailovich 16 February 2020 13: 15 New
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    The Tsar Cannon, which you probably saw in the Moscow Kremlin or in photographs, is not the only weapon of its kind. In the UK in 1854 ...

    The Russian Tsar Cannon was created three centuries earlier. In the year 1586. And such a gun at that time was relevant. And in English miracle weapons there is little sense. In the leading countries of that time, rearmament began on new artillery systems.
    1. mat-vey 16 February 2020 13: 53 New
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      So Tsar Cannon is a "shotgun", and this is a siege - different "systems".
      1. Lamata 16 February 2020 15: 02 New
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        I agree, our gun is a hefty fool for throwing with the help of a powder charge of a stone shot.
        1. mat-vey 16 February 2020 15: 03 New
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          Well, something like a card case - to beat the accumulations of manpower, and not to destroy the fortress ...
      2. Magog 16 February 2020 18: 06 New
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        However, no one here "bought" a duck about the "toy" of the unreality of the famous "Tsar Cannon". The huge cores stacked together, as it were, tell the layman what this miracle fired ... And an ingenious tourist laughs merrily: "What stupid Russians - they found something to frighten!" It is believed that this tool was not yet the largest of its kind. It was used to defend fortresses, shooting at clusters of manpower attacking stone buckshot. You can call this the first example of the use of multiple launch rocket systems in medieval performance by the genius of Russian military thought.
        1. mat-vey 16 February 2020 18: 13 New
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          Quote: Magog
          You can call this the first example of the application of multiple launch rocket systems in medieval execution

          But what about all these "organs"?
          1. Magog 16 February 2020 18: 19 New
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            Organs are rocket examples of such systems. In terms of the effect on the enemy, the Tsar Cannon is no different from volley systems: it hits in areas. By the way, if you have something to tell about the "organs", you are welcome. It will be interesting.
            1. mat-vey 16 February 2020 18: 24 New
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              Quote: Magog
              Organs "are missile examples of such systems.

              Are you sure about this? Yes, on the Internet with half a kick a lot of information ..
              1. Magog 16 February 2020 18: 24 New
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                Not sure, therefore, I ask.
                1. mat-vey 16 February 2020 18: 26 New
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                  Look for "burn", "organ weapons", "ribadekin" ...
                  1. Magog 16 February 2020 18: 38 New
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                    "Stalin's organs" called our "Katyusha" (BM-13 and the like). This is where my "analogy" comes from ... I thought that something similar could have been offered before the Second World War. Thank you for the tip!
          2. Magog 16 February 2020 18: 46 New
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            But what about all these "organs"?
            Read. Large-caliber guns, as it turned out, were more convenient. The large diameter of the barrel allowed bags with a charge of gunpowder and stones to quickly and conveniently be pulled inside. Recharging took minutes. I believe that the firing accuracy (albeit areal) was higher than what could be used at that time for such a purpose. Therefore, and you helped me, the Tsar Cannon is a multiple launch rocket system.
            1. mat-vey 16 February 2020 18: 49 New
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              Quote: Magog
              Read. Large-caliber guns, as it turned out, were more convenient.

              This is if mobility is not taken into account - the difference in weight is significant ..
              1. Magog 16 February 2020 18: 56 New
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                In the fortress mobility is solved easier than in the field. Swivel special platform, paved area inside, etc. The defense of the fortress is thought out in advance. The gun was hidden for the time being, masked. You never know what other tricks could be! Serious weapons must strike on time.
        2. Romka47 20 February 2020 15: 45 New
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          You can call this the first example of the use of multiple launch rocket systems in medieval performance by the genius of Russian military thought.-if the first Russian "SZO" is right, you can stretch it, but if you are talking about the first in the world, you have to admit that in China there were earlier multiple launch rocket systems, and it’s precisely reactive.
  6. Saxahorse 16 February 2020 20: 10 New
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    The history of this mortar strongly resembles the history of the Lebedinsky tank. The mad inventor came to military specialists, they twisted a finger at the temple and sent him away. Then the stubborn inventor comes from above. There, at the top, there is less mind and experience, you can part with beautiful words and displays of models. So they made another, useless monster .. laughing
  7. Alexey RA 17 February 2020 10: 48 New
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    Most interestingly, the idea of ​​defeating enemy structures with seismic waves was revived in WWII. And again in Britain. But at a new technical level:

    And this time, the embodiment of the idea was quite effective. The Tallboys and the Grand Slams of Barnes Wallace easily blocked tunnels and collapsed viaducts. However, due to the great strength of the hull, they were often used for other purposes - as concrete-piercing and even armor-piercing bombs.