Monster Mortar

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Monster mortar
Monster mortar - Liege - Antwerp 1832 - crop.jpg
Monster mortar employed during the siege of Antwerp Citadel in 1832
TypeHeavy mortar
Place of originBelgium
Service history
In service1832
Used byBelgium
WarsSiege of Antwerp (1832)
Production history
DesignerHenri-Joseph Paixhans
ManufacturerRoyal cannon foundry of Liège[1]
No. built2
Mass7,750 kg (17,090 lb) (without carriage) [2]
Barrel length22 feet (6.7 m)

Caliber24 inches (610 mm)[3]
Feed systemMuzzle loading
Filling weightMax. 14 kg (31 lb)[2]

The Monster Mortar (French: Mortier Monstre) was one of the largest mortars ever developed. Also called Leopold or the Liege mortar, the 24 inches (610 mm) caliber mortar was conceived by the French artillery officer Henri-Joseph Paixhans. The mortar was manufactured under the direction of the Belgian Minister of War Baron Louis Evain and cast at the Belgian royal foundry in Liège, Belgium in 1832. It saw action at the Battle of Antwerp in December 1832.


The Monster Mortar was ordered by the Belgian Minister of War Baron Empain. Conceived by the French artillery officer Henri-Joseph Paixhans, the 24 inches (610 mm)[4] caliber mortar was cast at the Belgian royal foundry of Cannons in 1832 in Liège, Belgium. Next to the Monster Mortar, the largest mortars ever developed were two 36 inches (914 mm) caliber mortars: Mallet's Mortar, designed by Robert Mallet and tested by the Woolwich Arsenal, London, in 1857; and "Little David" developed in the United States for use in World War II. These mortars never saw action.[5]


Belgian revolution[edit]

The Belgian Revolution that began in August 1830 led to the secession of the southern provinces from the United Kingdom of the Netherlands and established an independent Kingdom of Belgium. The Dutch king William I intended to suppress the Belgian Revolution[6] by invading Belgium on 2 August 1831. Over the course of the next few days Belgian forces were defeated several times in battle and Dutch troops advanced deep into Belgian territory until, on 8 August, the Belgian government appealed to France for support. Following the Ten Days' Campaign of the French Armée du Nord under Marshal Étienne Gérard, the Dutch troops started to withdraw. The King of the Netherlands ordered the Dutch General David Hendrik Chassé to hold the Citadel of Antwerp at all costs with 4500 men.[7].

Siege of Antwerp[edit]

From the citadel, Chassé bombarded the city of Antwerp, setting fire to hundreds of homes and causing many casualties among the civilian population. These events led to the second intervention by the French. On 15 November 1832, the French Armée du Nord and its siege specialist François Haxo began to lay the Dutch troops under siege, quickly occupying Fort Montebello situated to the east of the citadel and to the south of the city from which they started firing at the citadel.[8]

The "Monster Mortar" saw action on 21 December and 22 December 1832 but was abandoned in Fort Montebello soon after.[9] The mortar used during the Siege of Antwerp exploded during a test firing on 18 May 1833 in Brasschaat, near Antwerp.[10] A second monster mortar was manufactured in Liège in 1834[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Centre Liégeois d'Histoire et d'Archéologie Militaires (2 June 1983). "La Fonderie Royale de Canons à Liège". (in French). Archived from the original on 11 August 2014. Retrieved 8 February 2014.
  2. ^ a b Manceron, V. (January 1873). "Mortiers à âme lisse". Des bouches à feu rayées destinées à tirer sur des ouvrages horizontaux — obusiers et mortiers rayés. Revue d'Artillerie (in French). p. 322.
  3. ^ United Service Magazine 1833, p. 364.
  4. ^ French contemporary sources report that the Monster Mortar had a caliber of 22 inches. Before the adoption of the metric system, several European countries had customary units whose name translates into "inch". The French pouce measured 27.88 mm, at least when applied to describe the calibre of artillery pieces (see also: Units of measurement in France and Mesures usuelles). 22 French inches are equivalent to 24 English inches.
  5. ^ "Largest Mortar". Guinness World Records. Archived from the original on 2006-02-10. Retrieved 2006-04-04.
  6. ^ Pirenne 1948, p. 32.
  7. ^ Koninklijk Nederlands Legermuseum (2006). "Het beleg van de Citadel van Antwerpen in 1832" [The Siege of the Citadel of Antwerp in 1832] (PDF) (in Dutch). Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 July 2011.
  8. ^ "The siege of the citadel of Antwerp. The surrender". The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser: 3. 21 May 1833.
  9. ^ Martin de Brettes & Corréard 1856, p. 44.
  10. ^ "Faits curieux, variétés". Le Voleur illustré : cabinet de lecture universel (in French). 25 June 1833. p. 557. ISSN 2022-4966.
  11. ^ Bardin, B. (1849). "Mortier". Dictionnaire de l'armée de terre — Recherches historiques sur l'art et les usages militaires des anciens et des modernes (in French). 12. p. 3725.

Further reading[edit]