38 cm SK L/45 Max Cartridge Casing
1916 dated 38cm cartridge casing for the Krupp 38 cm SK L/45 cannon. The 38 cm SK L/45 were Krupp naval cannons that armed the Kaiserliche-Marine (Imperial German Navy) battleships SMS Bayern and SMS Baden during the 1st World War. They were later mounted for land use and became the largest German cannon used on the Western Front; the legendary 38cm Max.

The 38 cm SK L/45 Max. SK = Schnelladekanone (quick loading cannon) L = Länge (calibre X length of barrel i.e. L/45 = 38cm X 45 = 17.10 meters).

To illustrate the size, the cartridge casing is photographed with a scarce original example of a Model 1918 Stahlhelm as would have been worn by Kaiserliche-Marine crew serving the Max in the last months of the war on the Western Front.

38 cm SK L/45 Max Cartridge Casing Data:
  • Height - 781mm (30.74 inches)
  • Actual Calibre - 426mm (16.77 inches)
  • Base Diameter - 465mm (18.30 inches)
  • Weight - 54.90 kg (121.00 lbs.)
  • Manufacturer - Polte Magdeburg
  • Date - November 1916
The 465mm (18.30 inches) base of the 38 cm SK L/45 Max cartridge casing.
A close up of the Crowned M = Kaiserliche Marine (Imperial German Navy) arsenal's acceptance stamp.

All 38 cm SK L/45 Max cartridge casings carry the Marine stamp as the projectiles, charges, and cartridge casings were all made for the Bayern-Klasse battleships.
A close up of the manufacturer's stamp and date. Marked: POLTE MAGDEBURG (cartridge factory) manufactured "XI 1916" (November 1916). Marine cartridge casings used Roman numerals for the month, while the Army used an abbreviation of the month. The "XI" in this case stands for November. Note that the primer has not been fired.
A close up of the primer which has not been fired.
The massive 465mm (18.30 inches) base of this 38cm cartridge casing shown with an original period Model 1918 Stahlhelm worn by Kaiserliche-Marine crew serving the Max in the last months of the war on the Western Front.
SMS Bayern-Klasse
The Bayern-Klasse (Bavaria class) was a class of four super-dreadnought battleships built for the German Kaiserliche-Marine (Imperial Navy). The class was planned to consist of SMS Bayern, Baden, Sachsen, and Württemberg. Construction started on the ships shortly before World War I; however, only Baden and Bayern were completed and work was never completed on SMS Sachsen, and Württemberg. As a result, the already manufactured 38 cm SK L/45 cannons were converted for land use.

38cm Krupp L/45 Cannon Data:

  • Weight - 80 metric tons (88.18 tons)
  • Range - 38.40 km (23.86 miles)
  • Manufacturer - Krupp
  • Barrel Length - 17.10 meters (56 ft 2 inches)
  • Projectile - 743 kg (1,640 lbs) High Explosive
38 cm SK L/45 Max
When work ceased on SMS Sachsen, and SMS Württemberg the two ship's 38 cm SK L/45 cannons were released as badly needed long-range heavy artillery on the Western Front. The 38 cm SK L/45 Max were transported and mounted in an Eisenbahn und Bettungsgerüst - (E. u. B. = railroad and firing platform) system which was designed to increase the cannon's mobility. One requirement for the Eisenbahn und Bettungsgerüst system was the mounting of a large counterweight just forward of the trunnions that folded for traveling to counteract the weight of the massive breech. Eight 38 cm SK L/45 are believed to have been built, with several being emplaced in the Pommern and Deutschland coastal defense batteries on the Flanders coast.
An Marine Unteroffiziere (Petty-Officer) checks the specification of projectiles while (no doubt) the shortest Kanonier in the Marine unit poses with a 743 kg (1,640 lbs) High Explosive 38 cm SK L/45 projectile conveniently standing upright.

Eight 38 cm SK L/45 Max were built. Only the Army's Sächsische Batterie 1015 (Saxon Fußartillerie Battery 1015) is believed to have manned a 38cm SK L/45 Max. The remaining seven 38cm Max were manned by sailors of the German Kaiserliche-Marine (Imperial Navy). These units were originally called Marine-Sonderkommandos. They came predominantly from the II. Matrosen artillery Abteilung ( II.M.A.A. ) from Kiel Naval Base. So in these period photos, you are looking at sailors manning the cannons; not soldiers.
Along the outer ring was a circular track to move the separate ammunition to the carriage which was pushed by hand on railway carts at no small effort to push 743 kg (1,640 lbs) of High Explosive. As the projectile and charges were being man-handled to the hoist, the cannon was being lowered to 0 degrees elevation for loading.

Note the tall sailor on the left leaning on the rail. He is visible is several photos in the same comfortable position.
With the barrel and breech at level, the loading crew inserted the 743 kg (1,640 lbs) projectile into the breech, then rammed it home with a large leather plunger on a wooden pole (visible on the right) so the copper driving bands on the projectile would bite into the barrel rifling and hold it in place, even after the barrel was elevated. Approximately eight men (counting helmets in the photo) were required to ram the shell home. This was followed by a large high explosive charge in a silk bag and then finally the brass cartridge casing which held the initial charge. Then the breech was closed.

Once again the tall sailor is leaning on the rail on the right. But not for long....
Now it was time to get the hell off!

You can see the crew scrambling to get off the Max as the carriage is traversed in azimuth by the boys at the bottom mount.
Then the Max was elevated to the desired elevation according to the firing tables and the charge that was inserted.

The heavy steel counterweights served to assist in balancing the massive barrel, however, the Germans had also cleverly reversed the trunnion mounts from the Bayern-Klasse battleships, which then allowed for greater elevation.

With the crew a safe distance away, one man remained on the carriage to pull the lanyard.

I would have done it!
The magic moment... FEUER!

743 kg (1,640 lbs) of high explosive hurls an incredible 38 km (24 miles) towards an Allied target.
And there is my (very hot) 38 cm SK L/45 Max Cartridge Casing 95 years ago, now sitting at Patronenfabrik Fredericton Kanada.
The sailors subordinated to the army wore the M10 Feldrock or (after 1915) the M15 Bluse of the infantry.

If shoulder straps were worn, they were Feldgrau, piped in white, with no unit number; however, the sailors normally wore M15 Bluse with no shoulder straps as shown in this photo.

A mix can be seen in several of the well-known photos above; some men have shoulder straps, some do not.

In this rare photo, a sailor from the Marine-Feldartillerie-Abteilung wears the M15 Bluse without shoulder straps. His Marine-Mütze is Feldgrau cotton-canvas unlike the Army Krätzchen which were made from Feldgrau wool.
All that remains
Located in the national forest near Coucy-Low located west of Laon on the road between Tergnier (north) and Soissons (south) north-northeast of Paris is the emplacement of a 38cm SK L/45 Max in the forest of Coucy-Basse.