38 cm/45 (14.96") SK L/45
Updated 12 October 2007
The most powerful German naval gun of World War I.  Used on the Bayern 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 "Lange Max" or Long Max.  At least five guns were used in the coastal batteries Deutschland and Pommern along the Belgium coast.  The Pommern battery, located at Dunkerque, 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).

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.


SMS Bayern in 1916
This is an interesting photograph as it shows how the normal wave/hull interaction can expose the armored belt under the nominal waterline
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 Bayern 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)
Grooves 100
Lands N/A
Twist N/A
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 Queen Elizabeth.

Type Cartridge - Bag
Projectile Types and Weights AP - 1,653 lbs. (750 kg)
Special Coastal Projectile - 881 lbs. (400 kg)
Bursting Charge about 55 lbs. (25 kg)
Projectile Length
(see Note 3)
AP - about 49 in (124 cm)
Special Coastal Projectile - about 75 in (190.5 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 AP - 2,625 fps (800 mps)
Special Coastal Projectile - 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 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).

2) The Coastal Artillery Projectile used a long, streamlined nose for maximum range.

3) These length numbers were estimated by measuring the relative sizes of the 30.5 cm and 38 cm projectiles shown in photographs.

4) There was probably a 1,653 lbs. (750 kg) HE projectile developed for these guns, but I have no information on them.

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 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 Ersatz Yorck (4):  DRH LC/1913
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)
Elevation Baden (as completed):  -8 / +16.0 degrees
Bayern (as completed and possibly also Baden later in the war):  -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 N/A
Loading Angle N/A

1) Each gun had a combined shell and charge cage that ran on rails behind the breeches.  These could be used for either gun.

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) Projectile hoists ran directly from the handling room to the gunhouse.

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."

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" by Norman Friedman
"German Warships 1815-1945" by Erich Gröner
"The Big Gun:  Battleship Main Armament 1860-1945" by Peter Hodges
"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 (an incomplete copy is at HMS Hood Association Website)
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