Gordon Angus Mackinlay
The gentleman wrote : "Does anyone know how long it typically took to set up
turntable use for German Railroad guns ?"
Its rather like asking how long is a piece of string!, as I wrote in a
previous posting, the Voegel turntable was a complex piece of ineffective
equipment. Many variables must be taken into consideration.
Firstly, this was not a piece of equipment designed for mobile warfare, it
was designed for use in fairly static locations, from which it was not
required to be move on a regular basis.
As with any engineering task, its only as good as its workforce. The German
Pioneer troops did not have specialised units for this task, so any form of
engineering unit would be allocated the task. So its installation would be
a case of trial and error.
Whilst I have seen a training film showing its installation, I have never
actually read a handbook of instruction.
Making an educated guess I would say it would need a pioneer troops platoon
(ie field engineers) tasked, some 45 men to level the ground, place ballast
down, install drainage, lay the turntable, and run a branch line onto the
table. Since they would have to be using hand tools and simple lifting
devices, and allowing that all component pieces fitted together in the
correct manner (ie. had not been damaged in previous use), ground structure
was perfect, and Mr Murphy did not turn up! Twenty to thirty hours would
be a reasonable estimate, of course then the gun and carriage would have to
be run across each setting of the table to bed in the table components. So
add another five to ten hours on. In total, between twenty five and forty
hours, in a European summer with long periods of daylight, three to four
This is in the case of a weapon capable of 360degree fire, if you just
wanted to put the turntable down for a training illustration ie. not to be
fired, and the gun just static, ten hours (plus) approximate would be
realistic. Also you must remember that these turntables were not mass
produced, but, individually manufactured items (unlike say the components of
the Bailey Bridge).
You could equate it with the US Army Coast Defence Corps Panama mount for
the 155mm gun (two variants, for the M1917 and the M1) - these in the main
were static gun positions and the gun came to the position, There was
however, a mobile Panama mount, this massive and complex (basically a piece
of junk) steel device would according to the handbook take some forty hours
to assemble (and if the gun had been fired from it, a unknown amount of time
When supplied to the Royal Australian Artillery in WWII, the M1917 155mm gun
(which was a very efficient weapon) was issued to semi-mobile coast defence
batteries (of two guns each), they needing mobile Panama mounts. Whilst a
couple of such arrived in 1942, the RAA coast defence personnel put their
think caps on and came up with a much more effective mount (using less
steel, and cheaper to manufacture in bulk). This was a very impressive
device, so much so that when examined by US CAC officers (and those from the
USMC Defense Battalions), they requested the same from the US. To no avail,
I am always totally bewildered by the US CAC. It took the best graduating
officers from West Point, all with engineering degrees (and science
degrees), but, was on the outbreak of WWII a truly inefficient arm of
service. The various volumes of The US Army in World War II (the Green
Books) are extremely critical of the corps in all aspects!
The Australian use of the 155mm and their Panama mount is described in KIDD
Reg, NEAL Ray. The 'Letter' Batteries the history of the 'letter' batteries
in world war II. Self published, Sydney, 1998. HB, xiv, 415p., photos, maps,
A fascinating military and technical history.