In this article are presented some of the most bizarre cannons ever created. Lets take a look at some of these.
Archimedes' steam cannon
The steam cannon is a type of a cannon that launches projectiles with the power of steam instead of gunpowder. It was either invented by Archimedes or by Ctesibius of Alexandria. Ctesibius had also experimented with the properties of steam and long range weapons. Archimedes' steam cannon was used in antiquity against the Roman fleet during the siege of Syracuse (212 BC). Archimedes was indeed a great mathematician and engineer, he was a great inventor and had constructed various mechanisms. In order to defend his city from the Romans , the wise Archimedes created various war machines. One of these weapons was a steam cannon, which is also quoted centuries later by Leonardo Da Vinci who tried to recreate this weapon. Da Vinci made various designs of this weapon which he named it Architonnerre.
Since the attempt of Da Vinci to recreate this weapon various engineers have tried as well to create steam cannons or compressed air cannons. Bellow we see the designs of the Greek engineer Ioannis Sakas who recreated the weapon and successfully tested it. Recently the Mythbasters experimented on the effectiveness of Archimedes' steam cannon by using Ioannis Sakas' model.
Various authors such as Da vinci and Petrarch attribute the invention of steam cannons to Archimedes , even so Ctesibius had also studied and experimented the properties of steam combined with long ranged weapons. And it is said that Ctesibius had also constructed a steam cannon in Alexandria.
The wooden cannon
As we know most conventional cannons are made from iron. But no, these cannons were made from wood. These wooden cannons were made from wood and in order to withstand the blast , were usually reinforced with metal rings or with rope bindings. Due to the lack of the essential materials such as metal and the necessity, made various engineers to come up with the idea of making wooden cannons. They could fire shots like most conventional cannons , but were extremely flammable, thus making it weak in comparison with most conventional cannons made of metal. There are various reports of this weapon being deployed in battles of the 15th , till the 18th and 19th century.
Wooden Cannons are already being mentioned by Vannoccio Biringuccio (1480-1539). Wooden cannons were also used during the English civil war and made at Lambeth for Cromwell and were already in use by Henry VIII during the siege of Boulogne in 1544. Wooden cannons were deployed by armies throughout Europe and also around the world like in China, and the Turks also it is said to have constructed a cherry-wood gun.
The leather Cannon
Recently this type of Cannon was also tested by the "Mythbasters" who proved that the leather cannons are capable of firing but also proven to be very flammable.
The Ice cannon
Cannons made of ice? As strange as it may sounds it is true that there were such cannons. The first ice cannon was constructed in 1750's in the Russian empire. These first Ice cannons were made for the wedding ceremony of Empress Anna. The Russians had constructed a palace made of ice in the area of Saint's Petersburg. Inside the ice palace there were trees , birds and statues made of ice. There were also 6 cannons and 2 mortars made of ice. These ice cannons were only capable to make a blast but could not injure anybody. The Russian engineers loaded the ice cannons with the proper amount of gunpowder and then fired a blast. These were only used for entertainment and was a great and fascinating spectacle at that time.
Painting of 1878 by Valery Jacobi , depicting the wedding ceremony of empress Anna and the ice palace.
The Confederate revolving cannon
Louis-Guillaume Perreaux's multi charge cannon
Louis-Guillaume Perreaux was a French inventor and also one of the first creators of the multi charge type of cannon. The idea was to create a cannon shot with a greater acceleration. In order to boost the cannon shot this unique type of cannon was equipped with additional propellant charges along the barrel, that were triggered as the shell had passed them. The design and the concept itself makes this type of cannon one of the most bizarre types of weapons. Since Louis-Guillaume's cannon many have designed and experimented with the use of multi charge cannons.
Lyman's and Haskell's multi charge cannons
Azel Storrs Lyman and the American inventor James Richard Hasskell was one of the pioneers in the construction of multi charge cannons. Like Guillaume's multi charge gun, the goal was also to create a cannon that could fire a shot with greater acceleration than the usual type of cannon. Lyman and Haskell created various multi chamber guns back in the 1860s.
Lyman's and Haskell's multi charge gun (1883)
The Paris gun
The Paris gun (Wilhelmgeschutze) was a German super weapon in WWI. Its purpose was to bombard Paris itself from long distances. The most strange thing about this gun is the length of the barrel. The 35 meters long barrel made it extremely heavy and could easily break, due to the tensions when it fired. And for that reason the German engineers constructed a suspension bridge like truss which was equipped with screw-jacks to apply the tension of the barrel, giving it this unique appearance. The effectiveness of the weapon was not so great as its appearance, but it did had a psychological effect on the opposing force and especially on the citizens of Paris.
Photo of the Paris gun (also known as Wilhemkaiser Geschutz) deployed during WWI at the western front.
The V3 cannon
The V3 cannon is being considered one of the super guns of WWII. The length of this weapon was reaching 130 meters , making it into if not the longest, at least one of the longest cannons ever created. The German war machine experimented and developed various types of weapons, they even created the V1 and V2 rockets, making a significant research in the field of rocketry and not only. Undoubtedly they did make an important advance in the history of warfare.
The V3 cannon was designed by the German army in WWII and was basically a multi charge type of cannon in a much larger scale, actually the largest cannon of its type ever created. Its purpose was to bombard targets from long distances. The design of this weapon and its concept as well makes it surely one of the most unusual weapons in the history of modern warfare.
Humanity since antiquity is being experimenting and researching new ideas. The same case applies for the history of warfare. Sometimes armies have used unorthodox tactics in order to surprise and achieve victory over the enemy. Some of these weapons might not had been very effective but it is surely an example that the human mind knows no bounds. The human mind is capable of making something that may seem impossible into possible. These unconventional weapons may seem to be a paradox in the history of warfare, but is also a proof that our fantasy and ingenuity are limitless.
- A history of Greek fire and gunpowder by J. R. Partington, John Hopkins university press 1997
- The Origin of the artillery by Henry William Lovett Hime 1915