Britain’s largest surviving artillery piece is due to make an historic journey to the Netherlands to mark the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Utrecht.
The Breach Loading 18-inch Rail Howitzer gun serial number L1 is one of just twelve railway guns left in the world. It was manufactured by the Elswick Ordnance Company set up in 1864.
The gun, which weighs 200 tons, has been on display at Larkhill, Wiltshire, since 2008 but today it began its 387-mile journey to the Dutch Railway museum.
Before airplanes, the only way to reach behind the enemy lines was artillery. Railway guns had a relatively short useful career. About the time the technology came into use, the airplane did too, so they were quickly rendered obsolete.
Quite a few were used in World War II, but it was very much in a niche role. The closest to a post war railway gun was the US Army 280mm atomic cannon, which was actually moved by truck, not railway.