38 cm SK C/34 naval gun

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38 cm SK C/34 naval gun
38 cm turret of Batterie Vara, Kristiansand, Norway
Type naval, railroad and coast defense gun
Place of origin Germany
Service history
In service 1941—45
Used by 23x15px Nazi Germany
Wars World War II
Production history
Designer Krupp
Designed 1936—39
Manufacturer Krupp
Weight 111 tonnes (109 long tons; 122 short tons)
Barrel length 18.405 metres (724.6 in) L/48.4

Shell separate-loading, case charge
Caliber 380 millimetres (15 in)
Breech horizontal sliding block
Recoil hydro-pneumatic
Elevation -4° to 60° (as coast defense gun)
Traverse up to 360° (per emplacement)
Rate of fire 2 rpm
Muzzle velocity 820–1,050 m/s (2,700–3,400 ft/s)
Effective range 35,500 m (38,800 yd) (DrhL. C/34 turret)
Maximum range 55,700 m (60,900 yd) (coast defense mount)

The 38 cm SK C/34 Naval gun (SK - Schiffskanone (ship's gun), C - Construktionsjahr (year of design)) was developed by Germany in the late 1930s. It armed the Bismarck-class battleships and was planned as the armament of the O class battlecruisers and the re-armed Scharnhorst-class warships. Six twin-gun mountings were also sold to the Soviet Union and it was planned to use them on the Kronshtadt-class battlecruisers, however they were never delivered. Spare guns were used as coastal artillery in Denmark, Norway and France. One gun is currently on display at Hanstholm.

Naval gun

The data given is for early built-up guns, later ones were 300 kilograms (660 lb) lighter. This gun was mounted in pairs in the Drh LC/34 turret which allowed elevation from -5° 30' to +30°.[1] Each gun had an individual cradle, spaced 3.5 metres (11 ft) apart, but they were normally coupled together. In general the turret was hydraulically-powered, but the training gear, auxiliary elevation, auxiliary hoists and some loading gear was electrically-powered. The turret weighed 1,064 tonnes (1,047 long tons; 1,173 short tons), rested on ball bearings on a 8.75 metres (28.7 ft) diameter track, could elevate 6° per second and traverse 5.4° per second. The guns were loaded at +2.5° and used a telescoping chain-operated rammer. German manuals quoted 26 seconds for the firing cycle, although Bismarck averaged less than one round per minute in her battle with HMS Hood and Prince of Wales.[2]

Turret armor

These turrets were less well-armored than those of its rivals, the British (King George V) and French (Richelieu) designs.[2]

location thickness location thickness
face 36 cm (14 in) front and rear sloping roof 18 cm (7.1 in)
sides 22 cm (8.7 in) side sloping roof 15 cm (5.9 in)
rear 32 cm (13 in) flat roof 13 cm (5.1 in)


Sixteen guns were used for the Bismarck and Tirpitz and six were ordered for the Gneisenau when it was to be re-armed in 1942. Six were intended for each of the O class battlecruisers, but it is uncertain how many of these last were actually delivered. Six mountings with twelve guns were sold to the Soviet Union who planned to use them on two Kronshtadt-class battlecruisers, but these were never delivered. Surplus guns were used as coast defense guns.

Coast defense gun

Model of the 38 cm SK C/34 emplacement at Hanstholm

These guns were modified with a larger chamber for coast defense duties to handle the increased amount of propellant used for the special long-range Siegfried shells.[3] Gander and Chamberlain quote a weight of only 105.3 tonnes (103.6 long tons; 116.1 short tons) for these guns, presumably accounting for the extra volume of the enlarged chamber.[4] An armored single mount, the Bettungsschiessgerüst (Firing platform) C/39 was used by these guns. It had a maximum elevation of 60° and could traverse up to 360°, depending on the emplacement. The C/39 mount had two compartments; the upper housed the guns and their loading equipment, while the lower contained the ammunition hoists, their motors, and the elevation and traverse motors. The mount was fully powered and had an underground magazine.[5] Normally these were placed in open concrete barbettes, relying on their armor, but Hitler thought that not enough protection for the guns (Battery Todt) emplaced on Cap-Gris-Nez in the Pas de Calais near Wimereux and ordered a concrete casemate 3.5 metres (11 ft) thick built over and around the mounts. This had the unfortunate effect of limiting their traverse to 120°.[6] Other C/39 mounts were installed at the Hanstholm fortress in Denmark, and the Vara fortress in Kristiansand, Norway.

Four Drh LC/34 turrets, three of which were originally intended to re-arm the Gneisenau and one completed to the Soviet order, modified for land service, were planned to be emplaced at Paimpol, Brittany and on the Cap de la Hague on the Cotentin Peninsula, but construction never actually began.[7] Construction for two of those turrets was well underway at Oxby, Denmark when the war ended.[8][9]

Railroad gun

Some guns also saw service as 38 cm Siegfried K (E) railroad guns, one of these being captured by American forces during the Rhône Valley campaign in 1944.[10]


It used the standard German naval system of ammunition where the base charge was held in a metallic cartridge case and supplemented by another charge in a silk bag which was rammed first. Four types of shells were used by the 38 cm SK C/34 although the Siegfried-Granate could only be used by the coast defense versions. This latter shell could be fired with a reduced charge at 920 metres per second (3,000 ft/s) to 40 kilometres (44,000 yd).[11]

Shell name Weight Filling Weight Muzzle velocity Range
nose-fused HE shell with ballistic cap (Sprenggranate L/4.6 m KZ m Hb) 800 kg (1,800 lb) Unknown 820 m/s (2,700 ft/s) 42 km (46,000 yd)
base-fused HE shell with ballistic cap (Sprenggranate L/4.4 m BdZ m Hb)) 800 kg (1,800 lb) Unknown 820 m/s (2,700 ft/s) 42 km (46,000 yd)
base-fused AP shell with a ballistic cap (Panzer- Sprenggranate L/4.4 m BdZ m Hb)) 800 kg (1,800 lb) Unknown 820 m/s (2,700 ft/s) 42 km (46,000 yd)
nose- and base-fused HE shell with ballistic cap (Siegfried-Granate L/4.5 m KZ u BdZ m Hb)) 495 kg (1,091 lb) 69 kg (152 lb) TNT 1,050 m/s (3,400 ft/s) 55.7 km (60,900 yd)


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See also


  • Campbell, John. Naval Weapons of World War Two. London: Conway Maritime Press, 2002 ISBN 0-87021-459-4
  • François, Guy. Eisenbahnartillerie: Histoire de l'artillerie lourd sur voie ferrée allemande des origines à 1945. Paris: Editions Histoire et Fortifications, 2006
  • Gander, Terry and Chamberlain, Peter. Weapons of the Third Reich: An Encyclopedic Survey of All Small Arms, Artillery and Special Weapons of the German Land Forces 1939-1945. New York: Doubleday, 1979 ISBN 0-385-15090-3
  • Gröner, Erich (1990). German Warships: 1815–1945. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-790-9. 
  • Hogg, Ian V. German Artillery of World War Two. 2nd corrected edition. Mechanicsville, PA: Stackpole Books, 1997 ISBN 1-85367-480-X

External links

  • Groener quotes -8° to +35°, p. 35
  • 2.0 2.1 Campbell, pp. 229-30
  • Campbell, p. 229
  • Gander and Chamberlain, p. 272
  • Hogg, p. 242
  • Gander and Chamberlain, p. 256
  • Gander and Chamberlain, p. 259
  • "Germany 38 cm/52 (14.96") SK C/34". 2 April 2009. Retrieved 27 April 2009. 
  • Rolf, Rudi (1998). Der Atlantikwall: Bauten der deutschen Küstenbefestigungen 1940-1945. Osnabrück: Biblio. p. 315. ISBN 3-7648-2469-7. 
  • François, p. 75
  • Hogg, pp. 242-3