30.5cm Howitzer L/17 i.R. (beta unit)

The 30.5cm howitzer L/17 in Räderlafette or Beta i.R. was the first large calibre siege gun mounted on a wheeled carriage to be developed for the Germany army.

It was largely based on the smaller 28cm howitzer L/12 i.R and 28cm howitzer L/14 i.R, which were both wheeled howitzers capable of being dismantled into two parts for road transport. The Beta i.R. had a blast shield intended to protect the crew from the muzzle flash from their own weapon. It could be disassembled into three part s- barrel, carriage and shield, and it took three to four hours to assemble and emplace it. The Beta i.R. had a recoil system with two cylinders mounted above the barrels. There was a shell lift mounted on top of the carriage to make it easier to move the heavy shells to the breech.

It had a good range of 12,000m, but by the time it was completed the German army had already decided that 30.5cm guns weren't powerful enough to deal with modern fortifications. In 1911 work moved onto the much heavier 42cm M-Gerät.

At the start of the First World War the Beta i.R. was allocated to battery SKM 6.

In late August and early September the battery took part in the siege of Maubeuge, which surrendered on 8 September after the heavier siege guns had destroyed most of the forts.

At the end of September the gun moved to Antwerp, and on 28 September it opened fire on Fort Waelhem. The fort fell on 2 October. The gun then opened fire on Fort Breendonk, which was the last of the forts to surrender.

After the fall of Antwerp the battery was sent to support the Fourth Army's attack on the Channel ports, where it was used to attempt to attack targets such as Nieuport, Dixmude and Ypres, but with little effect.

At the start of 1915 the battery moved to the Eastern Front, where it took part in the unsuccessful bombardment of Osowiec in north-west Poland in February. It then took part in the siege of Novogeorgievsk, the key Russian fortress in Poland. In early August it took part in the operations that isolated the fort, and it then took part in the bombardment itself. Russia's largest fortress fell after only six days. The battery then moved to Grodno, but the Russians evacuated the place so quickly that the gun was never emplaced. In October the gun took part in the German invasion of Serbia, bombarding Serbian strong points on the far side of the Danube. In 1916 the battery took part in the siege of Verdun, firing on the smaller fortifications in the French chain. This time the siege artillery had little impact, and even the 42cm guns were unable to inflict critical damage on the modern fortifications. In June the battery was hit by French counter-battery fire and the 30.5cm Beta i.R. was temporarily knocked out of action. It was back in action by July 1918 when it took part in the final German offensive of the war, serving with the Seventh Army on the Marne. In the autumn of 1918 the battery exchanged its single siege gun for long range field howitzers and joined a Landwehr artillery battalion.


30.5cm howitzer L/17 in Räderlafette
Beta i.R



Barrel Length

5,180mm (L/17)

Weight for transport


Weight in action



30-75 degrees


10 degrees

Shell Weight


Muzzle Velocity

418 m/sec

Maximum Range


Rate of Fire

1 round every three minutes

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

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (10 November 2017), 30.5cm Howitzer L/17 i.R. (beta unit) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_30.5cm_howitzer_L17_iR.html

Help - F.A.Q. - Contact Us - Search - Recent - About Us - Privacy