Some of the most beautiful work of this craftsman, and many others, are in this book “Liège Gunmakers through their Work. 1800 - 1950”.

For more detail see: LIEGE GUNMAKERS


Jehan Cambier


While gathering information about early artillery, I came across a text written in the 1970's by the American author H.L. Peterson about the Mons Meg bombard which is at Edimburg Castle in Scotland.

According to this author - who says he's not absolutely convinced by the story - king James II of Scotland had the bombard made by Molise Mc Kim, who was an hereditary smith of Threave (God knows where that is). In payment of his efforts, Mc Kin was supposedly given the estate of Mollance (pronounce "Mowans" or even "Mons"), he also met the nagging woman who would become his wife.

Thus the gun was named Mowans Meg or Mons Meg after his noisy wife.

Also in the 1970's, the British author Dudley Pope names not only Mons Meg but also the "Dulle Griet" of Ghent, Belgium, as examples of

the biggest guns and says both were "probably made in Flanders". The name Flanders used by this author is related to the whole area which would become Belgium some 4 centuries later, rather than to today's Flemish provinces.

Although smaller in size and caliber, Mons Meg is a close copy of the big gun which can be seen in the Belgian city of Ghent and is still called "Dulle Griet" (Mad Meg) or else " 't Groot Kanon" (the big gun) by the inhabitants. This more than 5 meter long gun is displayed at the crossing of two old small streets not far from the place called "Vrijdagmarkt"(Friday market).

The gun is painted red as it originally was. In the middle ages, this bombard was also given the name "den grooten rooden duyvelen", which is old Dutch for "the big red devil".

Noticeable is the fact that the Flemish name Griet and the English name Meg are both familiar forms of Margaret (or Margriet), which are equivalents of the French Marguerite.

King James II of Scotland (or someone else on his behalf) contracted the Walloon gunmaker Jehan Cambier, originally from the city of Mons in the future Belgium, but actually living in Tournay.

According to a detailed study by the Belgian historian C. Gaier, it was the Duke of Burgondy Philip the Good who ordered the manufacture of the bombards rather than the King of Scotland. Gaier also states that Jehan Cambier was the duke's official "artillery supplier" by that time.

Still according to the same source, King James II was offered Mons Meg in 1457 as a gift from Philip the Good.

Unfortunately, the study is limited to Mons Meg and does not say anything about Dulle Griet.

Either ordered by king James II or by the Duke of Burgundy or any other way, it appears that Cambier was never paid; so he simply cancelled the delivery of the second bombard Dulle Griet, which was later sold to the city of Audenaerde (today's Oudenaarde), about 40 km south of Ghent.

Dulle Griet stayed in that city until 1578 and was then moved to Ghent. Nobody knows wether the bombard was purchased or stolen by the Ghent militia. In that time there were frequent skirmishes and even wars between the feudal cities of Ghent and Audenaerde.

Anyhow, the Ghent archives report the delivery of the gun by a river boat at Ghent on "martius den 8e" (March the 8th) of the year 1578. It was discharged at a place called " 't Cuupgat bij die Freemineuren" (Market nearby the Fremineurs).

Both bombards are made according to the old method of iron bars forged together around a mandrel and strengthened by iron rings. The rings or hoops were first heaten and then wrapped around the staves and shrunk into position; after that they were brutally cooled down with cold water in order to tighten them. This method is also used by coopers for making wooden barrels.

Both guns have separate chambers, but were not designed for loading from the rear.

Dulle Griet weights 12.5 ton today and has a caliber of about 90 cm at the muzzle. Experts think it has losen about 100 kg during its 550 year of existence, due to surface rust.

The bombard could fire a 250 kg stone ball over 2.500 m, or a 400 kg iron ball over half that distance. It is 5 m long and is stamped with the Burgundy stand of arms, the St Andreas Cross and the Golden Spur's goedendag.

Mons Meg weights about 8 tons and is of a smaller caliber. After James II's death, it was neglected for about 150 years; but then it was cleaned up and taken into service at Edimburg Castles for salutes and ceremonies.

During the ceremony of entry of another king James in 1680, the charge used to fire the salute was too heavy, causing the piece to burst in the midst. It was never repaired but was kept at Edimburg Castle.

According to some unconfirmed sources, the city of Sluis (Holland) still holds a copy of the original manifest of the ship that carried Mons Meg to Scotland. Another document, now in the archives of the French city of Lille, proves the identity of Jehan Cambier as official "artillery supplier".

The way those big guns were made and the variations in the quality of the black powder - of which the components were often carried separately and mixed at the site - made them extremely unreliable. It may be said that those bombards were more dangerous for their crew than for those who were shot at. The psychological effect of the big flame and the big noise had probably better result that the big stone ball.

A huge amount of efforts and energy was required to move these huge pieces and get them in a proper place at the battle site. Once installed, they could not be moved, and there was no way to make aiming more accurate.

They could fire a dozen of times a day at the most.

The big stone balls could probably break through walls that were not too thick, but were practically ineffective against infantry or cavalry men, who could see them, fly and could easily avoid them.

Together with the enormous "Dardanelles Gun", a brass cast bombard of about 17 ton made in 1464 for the Turkish sultan Mohamed II and now displayed at the Tower of London, these bombards are amongst the biggest guns ever made.