12in Gun on Batignolles Railway Mount (35 calibre)

The 12in Gun on Batignolles Railway Mount combined American guns with a French designed firing platform that could be constructed from a purpose built railway car.

The guns used were US Army 12in L/35 guns, Model 1895 and Model 1895 MI. These had an interrupted thread breech and a mechanical firing mechanism.

The gun barrels were carried within a very heavy tubular cradle. Each gun had heavy splines added to the top and bottom, which slotted into groves in the top and bottom of the cradle. This prevented the barrel from rotating when fired, but also meant that all of its weight was taken by the splines. Three smaller tubes were built into the cradle to carry the recoil system.

The gun used a hydro-pneumatic recoil system, with two hydraulic recoil cylinders below the cradle and one pneumatic recuperator cylinder above the cradle. The gun recoil 900mm. The recoil system was similar to that used on the 12in Mortar on Railway Carriage Model 1918.

Elevation was controlled using a rack attached to each side of the cradle, and linked to hand wheels via a series of gears. One turn of the wheel raised or lowered the gun by 35 minutes.

A limited amount of traverse was provided on the carriage. The gun and cradle were held in a structural steel top carriage. This was pivoted at the front, and connected to a rack and pinion system at the rear that could be used to move the entire mount to 5 degrees of either side of the centre line.

The railway car was made up of two plate side girders, connected by transoms that ran between the sides. A fighting platform was built at the back of the carriage.

The Batignolles railway mount had been designed by the Societé des Batignolles late in 1914 and tested at the French Railway Artillery Camp in January-February 1915. The aim was to create a strong firing platform that would keep the gun carriage pinned in place. This consisted of six identical sections. Each of these was made up of three wooden ties, two and the front and one at the rear, with a large structural steel spade between them. The ties and the spade supported two running rails and two sections of supporting girder at the outside. 

In order to install the platform the existing track had to be removed. Pits were dug to take the spades, and lined with sand or fine stone. The special platform car was moved to one end of this gap and the first section lowered into place. The car then moved onto this new section of track, and the next section was loaded. Once all six sections were in place they were bolted together. Visually this produced a section of normal looking railway track, with a raised ridge alongside its sides formed from the supporting girders.

The gun carriage was then moved over the top of this until twelve sets of clips on the bottom of its side girders on each side were directly over a similar set of clips on top of the support girders. A total of 24 wedges (12 per side) were then placed between the car and the platform, until most of the weight of the gun carriage was taken by them. They were then bolted in place. With practise this could be done in two hours, but in US service three hours was more standard.

When the gun was fired, most of the recoil was taken up by the recoil system on the cradle, and the rest absorbed by the Batignolles platform. As a result the railway carriage didn’t move at all when fired, eliminating the need to move it back into place after each shot. However this also limited its range of traverse to the 10 degrees provided on the gun platform. In French service two platforms were built on a curving section of track, at different angles, producing a total range of traverse of 20 degrees.

The Americans had originally planned to mount 10in guns on the Batignolles mount, but this was never done. The 12in guns weren’t ready to serve in France during the First World War. After the war the railway guns went to the Coastal Artillery, where the sliding mount types were of little value, as they couldn’t easily be aimed at moving ships. The Batignolles mounted guns were soon scrapped.


12in Gun on Batignolles Railway Mount (35 calibre)



Barrel Length


Gun Length

11.242m (442.6in) Army M1895
11.2014m (441in) Navy Mk I and Mk II

Weight for transport


Weight in action

146,175kg/ 322,044lb


15 to 38 degrees


10 degrees

Shell Weight

485.67kg (1,070lb) long point naval shell, 8.8kg explosive
485.67kg (1,070lb) long point naval shell, 26.55kg explosive
408.51kg (900lb) naval shell, 20.24kg explosive
317kg (700lb) HE, 41.03 explosive

Muzzle Velocity

792m/s (2,600 ft/sec)

Maximum Range

26.50km (29,000lb) at 38 degrees

Rate of Fire

20 rounds/ hour


Books on the First World War | Subject Index: First World War

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (16 January 2019), 12in Gun on Batignolles Railway Mount (35 calibre) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_12in_gun_batignolles.html

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