The guns of World War One: Was bigger always better?

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1. How big was too big?

As battle raged on the Western Front, the artillery on both sides pounded with deadly destruction. Its deafening cacophony could be heard not only on the south coast of England, but also in London and sometimes even Edinburgh.

These big guns did their job well. Around sixty percent of those wounded or killed in World War One were victims of artillery.

But how big was too big? Which guns were the best? Was bigger better?

2. Meet the guns

In common with their French and German counterparts, British gunners were confronted with a raft of problems in 1914.

They had to locate their opponents and fire at them. They had to be well defended or out of range of the enemy guns. They had to bring vast numbers of shells, fuses and charges forward quickly. Barrages had to be destructive enough to support the attacking infantry, but without destroying the ground that men were ordered to charge across.

Four guns, in ascending size, played bespoke roles in the theatre of war. They were the small Stokes Mortar, the larger 18 Pounder, the heavy 60 Pounder Howitzer and the monster Rail Gun.

3. Tactics, technology and terror

British gunners perfected their art over the course of World War One. They pulverised the enemy with concentrated fire, packed shells with lethal shrapnel and even used sound waves to pinpoint targets.

4. So which gun was Top Trumps?

The Royal Artillery needed an accurate, reliable gun that could keep up a withering rate of fire in all weathers.

It had to be positioned miles from the enemy, yet still be able to hit the target. In the chaos of battle, it had to be hauled rapidly by a small team of horses to a new location, getting to work again in double-quick time.

From the mud and the mayhem of the Western Front one winner emerged. Try your hand at being an artillery commander below to reveal which gun was the best defence against the advancing enemy and the backbone of the British Army in World War One.

5. Choose Your Weapon

The enemy infantry are advancing across no man's land towards your battalion. The artillery officer needs to work out which gun to use. What would you choose?

Stokes Mortar

Stokes 3 inch mortar

You selected

Stokes Mortar

Not a bad choice. But as the mortar bomb was so small, you would have to fire lots and lots to have an effect. There is a better answer.

60 Pounder

60 Pounder firing high explosives

You selected

60 Pounder

Not a bad choice as the HE shell would blow up the ground and make it very hard for the infantry to run across no man's land. But there is a better choice.

18 Pounder

18 Pounder firing shrapnel

You selected

18 Pounder

The best choice. The shrapnel shell contained 374 small spherical bullets that would devastate the enemy as they advanced towards you. It also had great range.

Rail Gun

British Rail Gun

You selected

Rail Gun

A poor choice. The rail gun was so inaccurate that if you fired between the trenches into no man's land you might actually hit your own soldiers. Try again.