Do You Know What Made The Great Turkish Bombard So Deadly?

Key Point: The Great Turkish Bombard refers to a massive cannon used during the 15th century, particularly during the Ottoman Empire’s siege of Constantinople in 1453. It was a large-caliber cannon capable of launching heavy stone projectiles over long distances.

Today we are going to take a look at the great Turkish Bombard. It was a rather massive siege weapon used by the Ottomans. You will see why and how it was used and how effective it really was.

Now, before we continue forward. Let’s first establish what a Turkish Bombard was. So, what is a Great Turkish Bombard?

The Great Turkish Bombard was a massive cannon developed in the Ottoman Empire during the 15th century. It used stone balls as ammunition. And was much larger than other cannons of the time. The Bombard was primarily used by the Turks to break down fortifications during sieges due to its power and accuracy.

That was a short introduction to the Turkish Bombard. Now, let’s go into detail. Starting with its history and origins.

The History And Origin Of The Great Turkish Bombard

Turkish Bombard

The Great Turkish Bombard was developed in the Ottoman Empire during the 15th century. Its origins are somewhat unclear, but it is believed to have been designed by a Hungarian engineer named Orban, who offered his services to the Ottomans in exchange for their support in a military campaign against the Holy Roman Empire.

The Turkish Bombard was much larger than other cannons of the time, with some versions weighing up to 18 tons. It used stone balls as ammunition, which gave it a much greater range and impact than previous cannons.

The Turkish Bombard was primarily used in siege warfare, where it was used to break down fortifications such as walls, towers, and gates.

Famous Sieges Where It Was Used

Its power and accuracy were put to the test in several famous sieges throughout history, including the Siege of Constantinople in 1453, where it played a key role in the Ottoman conquest of the Byzantine capital. It was also used in the Siege of Rhodes in 1522, where it helped the Ottomans capture the island from the Knights Hospitaller.

When It Stopped Being Used

The Great Turkish Bombard fell out of use in the 16th century as improvements in gunpowder technology led to the development of more powerful and efficient artillery. By this time, smaller and more mobile cannons were preferred over large siege weapons like the Turkish Bombard.

Even though the Turkish Bombard did not have a lot of staying power, it was still a formidable siege weapon in its time. Used to break walls through Europe and end sieges quickly.

Now, let’s examine how it worked.

How The Great Turkish Bombard Worked

The Great Turkish Bombard was a massive cannon that used stone balls as ammunition. To load the cannon, a wooden beam known as a “loading lever” was used to lift the stone ball into the cannon’s barrel. Gunpowder was then packed into the chamber behind the ball, using a long metal rod called a “rammer.”

The cannon was then aimed using a system of ropes and pulleys, and the gunners would light the fuse using a long pole. The cannon would then fire, propelling the stone ball toward its target with incredible force.

Loading and firing the Turkish Bombard was a complex process that required a team of skilled gunners to operate. The cannon was massive, weighing several tons, and it was not physically possible to tilt it to a completely vertical position. Instead, it would have been elevated to a steep angle using a wooden or metal cradle.

Its Reloading Time

The actual reloading time for the Great Turkish Bombard is difficult to estimate with complete accuracy. The reason being there are many factors that could affect the time it takes to load and fire a cannon of this size. However, based on historical accounts and modern experiments with similar weapons, it is likely that the process of loading and firing the Great Turkish Bombard could take anywhere from several minutes to over an hour.

That’s a big reason it was impractical for use against infantry. It just took way too long to reload the cannon. Hence why the reloading time was not an issue if you are firing at a static fortification of a city.

Now, let’s see how big these monstrosities actually were.

The Dimensions Of The Great Turkish Bombard

The dimensions of the Great Turkish Bombard varied depending on the specific cannon in question. As you can imagine, the pre-industrial era did not have standardized industrial production of armaments.

However, historians agree that the Turkish Bombard would have been several meters long and weighed several tons. Making it one of the largest cannons ever built. The stone balls fired by the cannon would have been similarly massive, often weighing several hundred kilograms or more. The exact specifications of individual cannons would have varied depending on the preferences of the gunsmiths who built them and the needs of the armies that used them.

Now, let’s see what exactly these Bombards were firing.

The Projectiles Used

There were two types of projectiles used in the Turkish Bombard. Even though I mentioned stone cannonballs in earlier segments they were not always used. Sometimes iron cannonballs were used.

With ammunition, armies had to make a cost-benefit analysis. So, while the stone balls were mostly used, that wasn’t because they were more effective. They were just cheaper. Stone cannonballs had a tendency to shatter upon impact, while iron cannonballs did not. They had more piercing power due to their density.

So, iron cannonballs were much more effective. But making iron cannonballs that weighed many hundreds of kilos was expensive. While stone cannonballs were cheaper and much more plentiful. So, while iron cannonballs were used, stone was used much more often because it was cheaper to do so.

So, Was The Great Turkish Bombard Even Effective?

Yes. The Great Turkish Bombard was an effective siege weapon. Its massive size meant it could propel massive projectiles with speed against fortifications. This caused a lot of damage. Even the presence of 1 such cannon caused a significant psychological impact on the defenders before it even fired a shot. So yes, it was very effective.

Now, let’s take a look at the disadvantages of the Bombard.

Its Disadvantage

The main disadvantage of the Bombard is something that made it powerful. Its size. Moving and setting a Bombard up was a logistical nightmare. Not only did you have to move a massive cannon in place but the ammunition was also huge.

So, you have a cannon that weighs many tons and on top of that, you have to secure a steady supply of ammunition that weighs several hundred kilograms each.

And let’s not forget the gunpowder needed to fire those massive cannonballs. The main disadvantages of the Great Turkish Bombard are that it was difficult to move from one place to another and expensive to operate.

Now, to wrap things up, let’s examine some frequently asked questions people have when researching Ottoman cannons, more specifically the Bombard.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about Turkish Bombards and Bombards in general.

What Is The Largest Bombard Ever Made?

When it comes to the largest bombard ever made, the “Mons Meg” stands out as a notable example. Mons Meg was an enormous medieval bombard, originally crafted in the 15th century. This massive cannon was capable of firing projectiles weighing up to 330 pounds and was primarily utilized for siege warfare. It weighed over six tons and was known for its imposing size and tremendous firepower.

Mons Meg

How Big Was The Ottoman Bombard?

The largest Ottoman bombard ever made was known as the “Dardanelles Gun.” This impressive artillery piece had a length of approximately 5.18 meters (17 feet) and a bore diameter of around 635 millimeters (25 inches). It was forged from bronze and weighed an estimated 16.8 metric tons. The Dardanelles Gun holds historical significance and can be seen on display in the Istanbul Military Museum.

What Is The Largest Ottoman Cannon Ever Made?

The largest Ottoman cannon ever made was the “Basilica.” This colossal siege cannon was employed during the Ottoman Empire’s siege of Constantinople in 1453.

The Great Turkish Bombard played a pivotal role in the fall of Constantinople and demonstrated the Ottoman Empire’s technological advancements in siege warfare.

In Conclusion

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. I hope you learned a thing or two. If you want to continue learning about siege weapon history I suggest you take a look at this article where I discuss the “Mantle” a medieval portable shield used in siege warfare.

Or feel free to expand your knowledge on siege weapons with this basic yet surprising weapon by clicking right here.

Take care!

Source: “The Gunpowder Age: China, Military Innovation, and the Rise of the West in World History” by Tonio Andrade