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Mortier de 220 mm L modèle 1880
A mle 1880 being traversed.
Type Heavy mortar
Siege artillery
Place of origin France
Service history
In service 1880-1918
Used by France
Wars World War I
Production history
Designer Charles Ragon de Bange
Designed 1880
Produced 1880
Number built mle 1880: 330
mle 1880/91: 130
mle 1880 ACS: 100
Variants mle 1880/91
mle 1880 ACS
Weight mle 1880: 4.24 t (4 long tons)
mle 1880/91: 8.5 t (8 long tons)
mle 1880 ACS: 12 t (12 long tons)
Barrel length 1.98 m (6.5 ft) L/9

Shell Separate loading bagged charges and projectiles
Shell weight 98–118 kg (216–260 lb)
Caliber 240 mm (9.4 in)
Breech de Bange
Recoil mle 1880: None
mle 1880/1891: Hydro-gravity
mle 1880 ACS: Hydro-gravity
Carriage mle 1880: Fixed
mle 1880/91: Fixed
mle 1880 ACS: 6-wheeled
Elevation -5° to +60°
Traverse mle 1880: Manual
mle 1880/1891: 42°
mle 1880 ACS: 42°
Rate of fire 1 shot every three minutes
Muzzle velocity 300 m/s (980 ft/s)
Effective range 7 km (4 mi)

The Mortier de 220 mm L modèle 1880 was a French heavy mortar employed as siege artillery during the First world war.


The Mortier de 220 mm L mle 1880 was one of a series of heavy artillery pieces designed by Colonel Charles Ragon de Bange. On 11 May 1874 three de Bange heavy cannons (120 mm, 155 mm, 240 mm) and two mortars (220 mm, 270 mm) were ordered by the French Army. The mle 1880 was advanced for its time due to being built completely of steel instead of a steel liner and cast iron reinforcing hoops of the previous Canon de 240 mm C mle 1870-87.

Although the majority of combatants had heavy field artillery prior to the outbreak of the First World War, none had adequate numbers of heavy guns in service, nor had they foreseen the growing importance of heavy artillery once the Western Front stagnated and trench warfare set in. Fortresses, armories, coastal fortifications, and museums were scoured for heavy artillery and sent to the front. Suitable field and rail carriages were built for these guns in an effort to give their forces the heavy field artillery needed to overcome trenches and hardened concrete fortifications.[1]


mle 1880

The mle 1880 was a breech loaded mortar with a de Bange obturator and used separate loading bagged charges and projectiles. The mle 1880 was originally built without a recoil mechanism and in order to traverse the carriage needed to be levered into position before and after each shot. For transport, the mle 1880 could be broken down for transport into two wagon loads (barrel and carriage) for towing by two horse teams.[2] The mortars could also be transferred to 60 cm (24 in) narrow gauge rail wagons for the final leg to their firing positions. These narrow gauge tracks were also used to re-position the mortars and bring up their ammunition and supplies.[3] Site preparation included creating a firing platform made of wooden beams on soft ground. At the outbreak of the First World War, it is estimated there were 300 mle 1880's available.[2]

mle 1880/91

A modification program in 1891 gave the mle 1880 a carriage with a hydraulic recoil mechanism and limited traverse. The new carriage was similar to the one used on the Mortier de 270 mm modèle 1885. The 130 mortars modified were designated as the mle 1880/1891 and consisted of a U shaped gun cradle which held the trunnioned barrel and a slightly inclined firing platform with hydraulic buffers. When the gun fired the hydro-buffer slowed the recoil of the cradle which slid up a set of inclined rails on the firing platform and then returned to position by the combined action of the buffers and gravity.[2] For transport, it could be broken down into three loads for towing by horse teams or by artillery tractor. Site preparation consisted of creating a firing platform from wooden beams. However, a downside to the carriage modernization was the combined weight had doubled, which made transport and setup more difficult.[2]

mle 1880 A.C.S.

In an effort to improve the mobility of the mle 1880, 100 mortars were given six-wheeled carriages called Affût de Circonstance Schneider. The carriages were built from steel with a two-wheeled axle at the front and a four-wheeled axle at the rear.[1] The bed of the ACS formed the base of the mortar and it had the same recoil system as the earlier mle 1880/91.[4] Once in position, the wheels could be retracted and the mortar sat on its base.[2] The advantage of this system was its mobility and reduced setup time. The downside was excessive weight, it could only be towed by artillery tractors and it was unsuitable for use on soft ground.[4]

Weapons of comparable performance and era

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