The Adolf Guns – 40,6cm SK C/34

The official German name for the guns was 40.6cm Schnell loading gun C/34, 40.6cm SK C/34, developed by Krupp in 1934, where C represents the production year. They are often erroneously referred to as Schiffs guns SK C/34 because it was believed SK stood for Schiffs guns and not Schnell (Quick) loading guns, which is the correct interpretation of the abbreviation SK.

The guns were originally designed and built to be mounted on battleships. When the construction of battleships was stopped, Hitler decided they should be used in coastal defence. It is possible the guns were called Adolf Guns in connection with the development of long range shells, Adolf Shells. There are German pre-war documents, however, which describe the gun bore as Adolf- Rohr and it is most likely the main reason as to how the guns were named.

Gun number 1 at Trondenes, Battery Theo

The 38cm Schnell loading gun C/34 was developed the same year as the 40.6cm was constructed, most probably before or simultaneously with the 40.6cm gun. Both the battleships ‘Tirpitz’ and ‘Bismarck’ had 38cm guns. The 40.6cm guns were ordered by the German Navy, to be mounted on the new 56,000 ton Class H and J battleships.

The new battleships were a consequence of the comprehensive Plan Z, which was drawn up in 1937. The 40.6cm guns were ordered from Krupp in Essen the same year. The two battleships under construction were to be named ‘Friedrich der Große’ and ‘Groβdeutschland’ and they were the first of six battleships, all of which to be completed by 1944, according to Plan Z.

The construction of the battleships, however, was terminated in 1941 and therefore also the progression of Plan Z. The guns were to be used as coastal artillery and Hitler decided, when the construction of the Atlantic Wall commenced, that no less than eight of the 12 guns were to be used in the Narvik area in Northern Norway. Three guns were sent to Hel in Poland already in 1941 where they were a part of Batterie Schleswig-Holstein. There was test shooting at this battery in 1942 and it was almost completed, but the guns were moved to Sangatte near Calais as part of Batterie Lindemann. Both the Norwegian and the French batteries were completed in 1943, when test shooting took Place.

The operative role of the Norwegian batteries was to protect the shipping of Swedish iron ore from Narvik. The battery at Trondenes was to protect from all enemy intervention from the north, while the battery on Engeløya protected Ofotfjord from intervention from the west, along with a number of other batteries in Lofoten and further in Ofotfjord. There were also minefields and torpedo batteries. The iron ore was a very important resource for Germany and Narvik an important military town during the war. A large submarine base was established in Skjomen, several military headquarters, among them Führer der Unterseeboote Nordmeer, which held command over all the submarines that operated in the north. There was a maintenance and reparation base for submarines and surface vessels at Bogen.

The Norwegian Defence took over both 40.6cm batteries intact with guns and ammunition after the capitulation on 8. May 1945 but did not have the capacity to keep such batteries operative. It was decided that Batterie Dietl should be closed. The coastal artillery was established at Trondenes after the war and Batterie Theo became a part of the Norwegian defence until 1964. The guns were fired by Norwegian soldiers for the first time in 1951 and finally in 1957. All four guns are still at Trondenes but there is only one which has been maintained and is in good condition. This can be visited and a museum connected to the gun and bunker has been established.

There were many batteries with guns of the same size as the Adolf Guns, that is 16” or 40.6cm, on the east and west coasts of the USA. The Americans had over 100 guns of this size in their coastal defence during World War II but they were all destroyed after 1945.

In Europe and from the Atlantic Wall defensive works there were only 40.6cm guns in Norway which survived the war. They were at Trondenes, Batterie Theo, and in the battery on Engeløy in Steigen, Batterie Dietl. The guns on Engeløy were destroyed in 1956 but the battery at Trondenes remained a part of the Norwegian coastal defence until 1 July 1964. Trondenes is now the only place in the world where these enormous guns can be seen, all the others having been destroyed.

You can read more about the guns and the different batteries in the book “The Adolf Guns”.