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Karl Gerät Self-Propelled Mortar

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The largest tracked vehicles to see service during the Second World War belonged to a series of self-propelled heavy mortars. The first vehicle, 60cm Mörser Karl, was built by Rheinmetall in 1939 following a High Command order and was intended to bombard the massive forts of the Maginot Line. It had a top speed of 6 mph and was supported on eight roadwheels each side. A second vehicle was built and designated 60cm Mörser Karl II. It had a new design of suspension with eleven roadwheel stations each side. Both designs of torsion bar suspension were adjustable to allow the vehicle chassis to be lowered to the ground for maximum rigidity when firing. The vehicles could move short distances under their own power (using their 580HP Daimler-Benz MB503 12 cylinder V fuel-injected engines) but travelled by rail over longer distances. They were then moved either slung between special rail bogies, when the combined weight rose to 180 tonnes, or loaded on large flat cars.
The two vehicles were delivered after the fall of France and instead saw service on the Eastern Front. The first vehicle was nicknamed “Eva” and the second “Thor” and they served with schwere Artillerie Abteilung 628. They were particularly successful during the siege of the Maxim Gorki forts at Sevastopol in 1942, and also at Brest-Litovsk. During 1943 and 1944 four further vehicles were ordered using the same chassis design as Karl II. In order to fulfil a requirement to extend the range of the mortar, an extra barrel was manufactured for each of the six vehicles. This was longer but had the calibre reduced to 54cm. The 60cm and 54cm barrels were used in the same vehicles at different times. Eva and Thor later served in the 1st Company of schwere Artillerie Abteilung 833, with vehicles 3 and 4, “Thor” and “Odin”, forming the 2nd Company. The last two vehicles were nicknamed “Loki” and “Ziu”.
Ammunition for the Karl series was carried on vehicles based on adapted PzKpfw IV Ausf F chassis. These were known as Munitionspanzer IV Ausf F (6/BW) fur Karlgerät and each mounted a 2.5 ton crane for manoeuvring the three mortar rounds they carried.

Model Id:460
Manufacture:Rheinmetall-Borsig AG, Dusseldorf, Germany (Sole manufacturer 1940-41)

1) Kubinka NIIBT Research Collection - Foreign Vehicles, Kubinka, Russia

Number of Photos: 3
Sample Photo from Album Number 226

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Unique ID: 226
Serial Number:
Other Identification:

This is the only surviving example of the Karl Gerät. It is a combination of two vehicles captured by the Russians (source: R. Fleming). Its chassis is of the second design, with eleven roadwheels per side, and it mounts the shorter 60cm mortar.