38 cm/45 (14.96") SK L/45
Updated 23 November 2012
The most powerful German naval gun of World War I.  Used on the Baden class battleships, which were completed too late to participate in the Battle of Jutland (Skagerrak) and saw little action during the rest of the war.

Those guns planned for the uncompleted battleships Sachsen and Württemberg were instead used on the Western Front where they were known as "Max" or "Lange Max" (Long Max).  Coast Defense Battery Deutschland was equipped with four of these guns and Battery Pommern had one more.  The Pommern battery, located at Leugenboom in Belgium, is perhaps best known for firing about 500 rounds between June 1917 and October 1918 at ranges of up to about 48,000 yards (44,000 m) including many at Allied positions in and around Dunkirk (Dunkerque).  One gun was greatly altered and became the long range "Paris Gun."

The naval mountings for these guns used electric pumps to drive hydraulic elevation gear while the training was all electric.  These guns also had hydraulically worked shell hoists, rammers and breeches.

Constructed from shrunk on tubes and hoops and used a Krupp horizontal sliding wedge breech block.


Bayern in 1916
This is an interesting photograph as it shows how the normal wave/hull interaction can expose the armored belt under the waterline even in mild seas
Click on this picture for a larger image
Photograph copyrighted by HDW

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Gun Characteristics
Designation 38 cm/45 (14.96") SK L/45
Ship Class Used On Ersatz Yorck and Baden Classes
Date Of Design 1913
Date In Service 1916
Gun Weight
(see Note)
about 176,370 lbs. (80,000 kg)
Gun Length oa 673 in (17.100 m)
Bore Length 634.3 in (16.112 m)
Rifling Length 544 in (13.816 m)
(see Note 4)
(100) 0.118 in deep x 0.236 in (3 mm x 6 mm)
Lands 0.236 in (6 mm)
Twist Uniform RH 1 in 30
Chamber Volume 16,482 in3 (270 dm3)
Rate Of Fire
(see Note 2)
2.5 rounds per minute

1) For an interesting comparison of British and German guns as seen by British ordnance personnel, see the extract from "Progress in Gunnery Material, 1921" ADM 186/251 on the British 15"/42 (38.1 cm) Mark I datapage.

2) Post-war loading tests by the British on Baden found that it took only 23 seconds from the time the guns fired until they were ready to fire again, compared to 36 seconds for the 15 inch (38.1 cm) guns on Queen Elizabeth.

3) Gun at Battery Pommern battery was Krupp No. 15 L.  The four guns at Battery Deutschland were Krupp No. 9 L, No. 35 L, No. 36 L and No. 41 L.

4) Rifling dimensions above from "The German Defenses on the Coast of Belgium" and appear to be actual measurements.  "Naval Weapons of World War One" gives different values as follows:
   Grooves - (100) 0.150 in D x 3.05 in W at start narrowing to 0.226 mm W at muzzle (3.80 mm D x 7.74 mm to 5.74 mm W)
   Lands - 0.165 in at start widening to 0.244 in at muzzle (4.20 mm to 6.20 mm)

Type Cartridge - Bag
Projectile Types and Weights APC L/3,1 - 1,653 lbs. (750 kg)
HE L/4,1 base fuze - 1,653 lbs. (750 kg)

Coastal HE L/5,4 - 1,653 lbs. (750 kg)
Coastal HE L/4,1 - 881 lbs. (400 kg)

Bursting Charge APC L/3,1 - about 55 lbs. (25 kg)
HE L/4,1 - about 110 lbs. (50 kg)

Coastal HE L/5,1 - N/A
Coastal HE L4,1 - N/A

Projectile Length APC L/3,1 - about 46.5 in (118 cm)
HE L/4,1 - about 61.5 in (156 cm)

Coastal HE L/5,1 - about 76.0 in (194 cm)
Coastal HE L/4,1 - about 61.0 in (156 cm)

Propellant Charge
(see Note 1)
610.7 lbs. (277 kg) RPC/12
Brass case for main charge:  140 lbs. (63.5 kg)
Muzzle Velocity APC L/3,1 - 2,625 fps (800 mps)
HE L/4,1 - 2,625 fps (800 mps)

Coastal HE L/5,1 - 2,625 fps (800 mps)
Coastal HE L/4,1 - 3,412 fps (1,040 mps)

Working Pressure 20.0 tons/in2 (3,150 kg/cm2)
Approximate Barrel Life 300 rounds
Ammunition stowage per gun
(see Note 3)
90 rounds

1) From ADM 186/251, it would appear that the main charge was about 360 lbs. (163 kg), which would imply that the fore charge was about 250 lbs. (114 kg).  "The German Defenses on the Coast of Belgium" says that there were three charges used for coastal guns, the "Hutzenkartasch" (Hauptkartusche or Main) cartridge case with 191.8 lbs. (87 kg) of propellant and two different "Vorkartasche" (Vorkartusche or Fore) charges with 211.6 lbs. (96 kg) and 260.1 lbs. (118 kg) of propellant.  This work states that there were two charges used, 191.8 + 260.1 lbs. = 451.9 lbs. (87 + 118 kg = 205 kg) or 191.8 + 211.6 + 260.1 lbs. = 663.5 lbs. (87 + 96 + 118 kg = 301 kg).

2) AP and HE were about 5crh.  Coastal HE L5.4 was 10crh.  The Coastal Artillery Projectile used a long, streamlined nose for maximum range.

3) Outfit for the Baden class was 60 APC and 30 HE per gun.

4) Actual Naval Projectile designations were as follows:
   APC L/3,1- Psgr. L/3,1 (mhb)
   HE L/4,1 base fuze - L/4,1 Bdz (mhb)

5) In "The German Defenses on the Coast of Belgium" the author notes another HE shell of 754 lbs. (342 kg) with a range of 52,000 yards (48,000 m).

Elevation With 1,653 lbs. (750 kg) AP Shell
Range @ 16 Degrees 22,310 yards (20,400 m)
Range @ 20 degrees 25,370 yards (23,200 m)
Range @ 45 degrees
Coastal Artillery
42,000 yards (38,400 m)
With Coastal Artillery Streamlined Shell of 754 lbs. (342 kg) 52,000 yards (47,550 m)
Armor Penetration with 1,653 lbs. (750 kg) AP Shell
Side Armor
Deck Armor
10,936 yards (10,000 m)
15.35 in (390 mm)
13,670 yards (12,500 m)
13.78 in (350 mm)
21,872 yards (20,000 m)
10.43 in (265 mm)
27,340 yards (25,000 m)
  8.66 in (220 mm)

1) The above information is from "German Capital Ships of World War Two" and is derived from trials conducted in 1938 when these guns were compared against the 38 cm guns intended for the Bismarck class battleships.

2) There is evidence to suggest that these guns achieved penetrations of 13.23 in (336 mm) at 21,872 yards (20,000 m) against World War I-era armor.

Mount / Turret Data
Designation Two-gun Turrets
   Baden (4) and Bayern (4):  DRH LC/1913
   Württemberg (4), Sachsen (4) and Ersatz Yorck (4):  DRH LC/1914
Weight This data is only for Bayern, other ships may be different.
   A:  853.7 tons (867,440 kg)
   B:  856.1 tons (869,880 kg)
   C:  853.3 tons (866,950 kg)
   D:  836.8 tons (850,240 kg)
(see Note 5)
Baden (as completed):  -8 / +16.0 degrees
Bayern (as completed ):  -5 / +20.0 degrees

Battery Deutschland reportedly had three BSG mountings capable of +45 degrees and one BSG mounting capable of +55 degrees

Elevation Rate 5 degrees per second
Train About +150 / -150 degrees
Train Rate 3 degrees per second
Gun recoil 49 in (125 cm)
Loading Angle 2.5 degrees

1) Turrets were powered as much as possible with electric motors directly, with electricaly powered hydraulics being used only for the elevating gear and for the hoists.  Each turret had a machinery room directly below the turret, followed by a handling room.  At the bottom of the stalk was a cartridge handling room which held 36 fore charges.  Main charges and additional fore charges were stored in the magazines.  Cartridges were loaded onto a central hoist below the handling room while projectiles were loaded on the next deck below.  Projectile hoists ran directly from the handling room to the gunhouse.  Once in the gunhouse, the projectiles and cartridges were power rammed towards the rear of the turret onto powered loading cars which ran on rails across the turret.  These cars could feed either gun, but normally the guns were loaded together.  As the breech mechanism did not extend past the end of the gun, the breeches could be opened before the cars were in place, thus speeding the loading cycle.  Shell and cartridges were loaded by a chain and telescoping rammer.  The projectile was rammed first and then both propellant charges were rammed as a unit.  The total length of both charges was 63 in (160 cm).

2) Typical of German designs, these turrets ran on ball races containing 144 steel ball bearings of about 6.5 inches (16.5 cm) in diameter.

3) British post-war analysis of the mountings on Baden criticized them for their lack of flash protection, but this seems overstated.  The German use of enclosing all charges in brass greatly reduced the risk of flash igniting the charges thus they did not need the elaborate anti-flash fittings found in British post-Jutland designs.  The analysis noted that the German turrets were less foolproof than British designs as there were places where mistakes could jam them.  The British report further stated that there was "a remarkable absence of precautions against sabotage" which seems more of a curious indictment against British sailors than a criticism of the German design.

4) ADM 186/251 notes that the shell grabs and the foot grip plating used in the shell rooms were both very efficient and should be copied in future British designs.  However, it also notes that the Auxiliary Loading Chamber was "both a poor and an elaborate arrangement."  The Auxiliary Loading Chamber allowed an "alternate supply of six projectiles per gun to be sent to the gun-house by means of an electrically driven hoist.  There is no ready means of replenishing the secondary loading compartment from the shell room."

5) Elevation in Baden was not increased during the war.  Any ship completed after Bayern would probably also have had an elevation range of -5 / +20 degrees.

6) Gun axes were 145.6 in (370 cm).

7) Armor thickness given in "Naval Weapons of World War One" by Norman Friedman:

    Baden class
      Face:  14.0 in (35 cm)
      Sides:  9.8 in (25 cm)
      Rear:  11.4 in (29 cm)
      Roof - Flat:  4.7 in (12 cm)
      Roof - Front:  7.9 in (20 cm)
      Roof - Sides:  4.7 in (12 cm)

    Ersatz Yorck class
      Face:  11.8 in (30 cm)
      Sides:  9.8 in (25 cm)
      Rear:  11.4 in (29 cm)
      Roof - Flat:  5.9 in (15 cm)
      Roof - Front:  9.8 in (25 cm)
      Roof - Sides:  4.7 in (12 cm)

Data from
"Big Gun Monitors:  The History of the Design, Construction and Operation of the Royal Navy's Monitors" by Ian Buxton
"Jutland:  An Analysis of the Fighting" by John Campbell
"Battleship Design and Development 1905-1945" and "Naval Weapons of World War One" both by Norman Friedman
"German Warships 1815-1945" by Erich Gröner
"The Big Gun:  Battleship Main Armament 1860-1945" by Peter Hodges
"The German Defenses on the Coast of Belgium" by Lt. Col. H.W. Miller USA in "The Journal of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers" Vol. 42, No. 6, June 1920
"The Baden Trials" article by William Schleihauf in "Warship 2007"
"Die Geschichte der deutschen Schiffsartillerie" by Paul Schmalenbach
"German Warships of World War I" by John C. Taylor
"German Capital Ships of World War Two" by M.J. Whitley
ADM 186/251 (a copy is at Royal Navy Flag Officers 1904-1945)
Special Help from Peter Lienau

Off-site Resources

Images of the Great War
Data for use on Land Mountings (in French): Les Canons de l'Apocalypse
HMS Hood Association Website

Page History

12 October 2007 - Benchmark
26 August 2011 - Added projectile information
19 May 2012 - Updated to latest template
23 November 2012 - Added rifling note, propellant note and additional mounting information