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1915 - Timeline

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Lee - Enfield .303


      Short Magazine Lee-Enfield Mk I (1903)

Designer James Paris Lee, RSAF Enfield Weight 4Kg (8.8 lb) Rate of Fire 20 - 30 aimed shots per min
Produced MLE: 1895 - 1907 SMLE:1907 - Present Barrel Length MLE: 767mm (30.2 in) SMLE: 640mm (25.2 in) Muzzle Velocity 2,441 ft/s 744 m/s
Number Built 17,000,000+ Length SMLE: 1,118mm (44 in) Effective firing Range
Maximum firing Range

550 yds (503m)

3,000yds (2,743m)
Cartridge .303 Mk VII SAA Ball Action Bolt-Action Feed System 10 - Rnd Mag, loaded with 5 - Rnd Charger Clips
Sights Sliding ramp rear sights, "dial" long-range volley sights; telescopic sights on sniper models.
                        Ball Mk VII round                           SMLE Action            .303 British FNB Case  .303 British Commonwealth Projectile

In 1898, APX (Atelier de Puteaux), with their "Balle D" design for the 8mm Lebel cartridge, revolutionised bullet design with the introduction of pointed "spitzer" rounds. In addition to being pointed, the round was also much lighter in order to deliver a higher muzzle velocity. It was found that as velocity increased the bullets suddenly became much more deadly.

In 1910, the British took the opportunity to replace their Mk VI cartridge with a more modern design. The Mark VII loading used a 174 grains (11.3 g) pointed bullet with a flat-base and a ballistic coefficient (G1) of .467. The .303 British Mark VII cartridge had a muzzle velocity of 2,440 ft/s (744 m/s) and a maximum range of approximately 3,000 yd (2,700 m). The Mk VII was different from earlier .303 bullet designs or spitzer projectiles in general. Although it appears to be a conventional spitzer-shape full metal jacket bullet, this appearance is deceptive: its designers made the front third of the interior of the Mk 7 bullet out of aluminium (from Canada) or tenite (cellulosic plastic), wood pulp or compressed paper, instead of lead and were autoclaved to prevent wound infection. This lighter nose shifted the centre of gravity of the bullet towards the rear, making it tail heavy. Although the bullet was stable in flight due to the gyroscopic forces imposed on it by the rifling of the barrel, it behaved very differently upon hitting the target. As soon as the bullet hit the target and decelerated, its heavier lead base caused it to pitch violently and deform, thereby inflicting more severe gunshot wounds than a standard single-core spitzer design. In spite of this, the Mk VII bullet was legal due to the full metal jacket used according to the terms of the Hague Convention.

The Mk VII (and later Mk VIII) rounds have versions utilizing nitrocellulose flake powder smokeless propellants. The nitrocellulose versions—first introduced in World War I—were designated with a "Z" postfix indicated after the type (e.g. Mark VIIZ, with a weight of 175 grains) and in headstamps.

Webley Mk VI Revolver

Designer Webley & Scott Weight 1.1kg (2.4lb), unloaded Rate of Fire 20 - 30 Rnds/min
Produced 1887 - 1923 Barrel Length 106mm (4.17 in) Muzzle Velocity 620 ft/s 190 m/s
Number Built 125,000 approx Length 286mm (11.25 in) Effective Firing Range 50 yds
Cartridge .455 Webley Mk II Action Double Action Revolver Feed System 6 - round cylinder
  Sights Fixed front blade and rear notch
    .455 Webley Mk II cartridge   .455 Webley Mk I - VI Cartridges             .455 Webley MK VI Webley Mk VI revolver and Fairbairn-           Sykes commando dagger  

.455 Webley is a British handgun cartridge, most commonly used in the Webley top break revolvers Marks I through VI.

The .455 cartridge was a service revolver cartridge, featuring a rimmed cartridge firing a .45 bullet at the relatively low velocity of 650 ft/s (190 m/s). The result was a cartridge and handgun combination with relatively mild recoil, but with good penetration and excellent stopping power. It was rated superior to the .45 Colt in stopping power in the disputed United States Thompson-LaGarde Tests of 1904 that resulted in the adoption by the U.S. of the .45 ACP cartridge.

The .455 Webley cartridge remained in service with British and Commonwealth forces until the end of the Second World War.

Six main types of .455 ammunition were produced:

.455 Webley Mk I: Introduced in 1891. 265 grain (17.2 g) solid lead round-nosed bullet propelled by black powder. All subsequent .455 designs used cordite propellant. In 1894 some Mark I cartridges were loaded with cordite (identified by a case cannelure and "C" headstamp) but it was found combustion was more efficient in a shorter case.

.455 Webley Mk II: Introduced in 1897. 265 grain (17.2 g) solid lead round-nosed bullet propelled by 6.5 gr (0.42 g) cordite. With the change to cordite propellant, case lengths were reduced. There are minor differences between the Mk I and II bullet shape, though these concern the internal dimensions and so are not immediately apparent.

.455 Webley Mk III: Introduced in 1898. The famous "Manstopper" bullet intended for police, civilian and colonial use. Essentially, the Mk III was a 218 grain lead "hollowpoint" design, propelled by cordite. The cylindrical bullet had hemispherical hollows at each end—one to seal the barrel, the other to deform on impact. This bullet was soon prohibited for use by the military because it was not compliant with the Hague Convention of 1899. The Mark III was withdrawn from service in 1900 and the Mark II was reintroduced.

.455 Webley Mk IV: Introduced in 1912. 220 grain, flat-nosed wadcutter with cordite propellant. Designed with the goal of producing a more effective bullet than the Mark II without violating the terms of the Hague Convention.

.455 Webley Mk V: Introduced in 1914. Identical to the Mk IV bullet, but cast from a harder lead-alloy containing more antimony with cordite propellant. This cartridge was only in use from April through November 1914. Upon its withdrawal the Mark II cartridge was returned to service. Remaining stocks were designated for target practice and unloaded cases were loaded with Mark II bullets.

.455 Webley Mk VI: Introduced in 1939. A 265-grain full-metal-jacketed bullet intended for military purposes, designed to comply with the Hague Convention. This cartridge was used during World War II. The propellant was 5.5–7.5 gr (0.36–0.49 g) cordite or 5.5 gr (0.36 g) nitro-cellulose. Cordite-loaded cartridges bore a "VI" on the headstamp while nitrocellulose-loaded cartridges were indicated with a "VIz".

.455 Webley Auto Mk I: Produced from 1913 to about the middle of WWII. This is a semi-rimmed cartridge for the Webley & Scott Self Loading pistols, along with some M1911 pistols purchased by the Royal Navy. The cartridge headspaces on the rim and was loaded with a 224 grain cupro-nickel-jacketed bullet with a muzzle velocity of 700 feet per second.

 Mills Bomb 


      Mills bombs. L-R: No. 5, No. 23, No. 36 Designed 1915

Number Built 70 million+
Varients No. 5, No. 23, No 36, No. 36M
Weight 765g (1 lb 11.0 oz)
Length 95.2mm
Diameter 61mm (2.4 in)
Filling Baratol


Detonation Mechanism Percussion cap and time delay fuse: 7 seconds, later reduced to 4
Mills bomb is the popular name for a series of prominent British hand grenades. They were the first modern fragmentation grenades used by the British Army. is the popular name for a series of prominent British hand grenades. They were the first modern fragmentation grenades used by the British Army.

William Mills, a hand grenade designer from Sunderland, patented, developed and manufactured the "Mills bomb" at the Mills Munition Factory in Birmingham, England, in 1915. The Mills bomb was inspired by an earlier design by Belgian captain Leon Roland. Roland and Mills were later engaged in a patent lawsuit.The Mills bomb was adopted by the British Army as its standard hand grenade in 1915, and designated the No. 5.

The Mills bomb underwent numerous modifications. The No. 23 was a variant of the No. 5 with a rodded base plug which allowed it to be fired from a rifle. This concept evolved further with the No. 36, a variant with a detachable base plate to allow use with a rifle discharger cup. The final variation of the Mills bomb, the No. 36M, was specially designed and waterproofed with shellac for use initially in the hot climate of Mesopotamia in 1917, but remained in production for many years. By 1918 the No. 5 and No. 23 were declared obsolete and the No. 36 (but not the 36M) followed in 1932.

Mills bomb N°23 Mk II, with rod for launch by rifle.

         N°5 Mk II Mills bomb

The Mills was a classic design; a grooved cast iron "pineapple" with a central striker held by a close hand lever and secured with a pin. According to Mills' notes the casing was grooved to make it easier to grip and not as an aid to fragmentation, and in practice it has been demonstrated that it does not shatter along the segmented lines. The Mills was a defensive grenade: after throwing the user had to take cover immediately. A competent thrower could manage 15 metres (49 feet) with reasonable accuracy, but the grenade could throw lethal fragments farther than this. The British Home Guard were instructed that the throwing range of the No. 36 was about 30 yards with a danger area of about 100 yds.

At first the grenade was fitted with a seven-second fuse, but during combat in the Battle of France in 1940 this delay proved to be too long, giving defenders time to escape the explosion, or even to throw the grenade back, and was reduced to four seconds.

The Mills bomb was developed into a rifle grenade by attaching a metallic rod to its base. This rod-type rifle-grenade has an effective range of about 150 yards. The operating procedure was to insert the Mills bomb rod down the barrel of a standard rifle, put a special blank cartridge in the rifle’s chamber, place the rifle stock on the ground, then pull the safety spoon on and immediately fire the rifle. If the soldier did not launch the grenade quickly, the grenade's fuse would run down and explode.

It was found that the repeated launching of grenades by this method caused damage to the barrel of the rifle. This led to the development of a cup-type launcher to replace the rod-type rifle-grenade. In this design, a can-shaped launcher was attached to the muzzle of the rifle and a gas check disc was screwed onto the base of the grenade before the grenade was placed in the launcher. The safety pin could then be removed as the launcher cup kept the safety-spoon in place. The operator would then insert the blank cartridge into the rifle before setting the stock on the ground. When the cartridge was fired it pushed the grenade out of the cup releasing the spoon. The cup-type launcher could launch the grenade out to about 200 yards. Lee-Enfield rifles equipped with the cup launcher were modified with copper wire wrapped around the stock, to prevent the wood from cracking under the increased recoil. If necessary, both the rod and the gas check grenade could be thrown as a standard hand-grenade.


 Lewis Gun 

Lewis Gun with air-cooling shroud, bipod, and pan-shape drum magazine Designer Samuel McClean Col Isaac Newton Lewis Weight 13kg (28 lbs) Rate of Fire 500-600 Rnds/min
Designed 1911 Barrel Length 670mm (26.5 in) Muzzle Velocity 2,440 f/ps (740m/s)
Manufacturer Birmingham Small Arms Company Length 1,280mm (50.5 in) Effective Firing Range 800m
Cartridge .303 British .30-06 Springfield 7.92x57mm Mauser Width 110mm (4.5 in) Max Firing Range 3,200m (3,500 yds)
Action Gas Operated Automatic Feed System 47 or 97 rnd pan magazine 30 rnd detachable Bren magazines
  Sights Blade & tangent leaf


Men of the 28th Battalion of the 2nd Australian          Division practice Lewis gun drill at Renescure     Australian Soldiers firing at enemy planes List of parts
Pan magazine as used on a 7.92×57mm Lewis Gub Lewis Guns mounted in the front cockpit of the               pusher Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2d

The Lewis gun was invented by US Army Colonel Isaac Newton Lewis in 1911, based on initial work by Samuel Maclean. Despite its origins, the Lewis gun was not initially adopted by the American military—most likely because of political differences between Lewis and General William Crozier, the Chief of the Ordnance Department. Lewis became frustrated with trying to persuade the US Army to adopt his design and so ("slapped by rejections from ignorant hacks", as he said), retired from the army. He left the United States in 1913 and headed to Belgium, where he established the Armes Automatique Lewis company in Liège to facilitate commercial production of the gun. Lewis had been working closely with British arms manufacturer The Birmingham Small Arms Company Limited (BSA) in an effort to overcome some of the production difficulties of the weapon. The Belgians bought a small number of Lewises in 1913, using the .303 British round, and in 1914, BSA purchased a licence to manufacture the Lewis machine gun in England, which resulted in Col. Lewis receiving significant royalty payments and becoming very wealthy. Lewis and his factory moved to England before 1914, away from possible seizure in the event of a German invasion. The Belgian Army acquired only a handful of his guns, probably only just in double figures. They were not on general issue in the Belgian Army. They were used only in a few forays by motor vehicles, south of Antwerp, against the flank of the invading German Army.

The onset of World War I increased demand for the Lewis gun, and BSA began production (under the designation Model 1914). The design was officially approved for service on 15 October 1915 under the designation "Gun, Lewis, .303-cal." No Lewis guns were produced in Belgium during World War I; all manufacture was carried out by BSA in England and the Savage Arms Company in the US.

The first use of the Lewis in the War was by Belgium, in August and September 1914, when the small number available were fitted to a handful of touring and armoured cars and used in a few sorties against German patrols and troop columns. It is stated that as a consequence the Germans nicknamed the Lewis "The Belgian Rattlesnake"., but contemporary German references have not been found. The Lewis was not in service with the regular Belgian Army.

Great Britain officially adopted the Lewis gun in .303 calibre for land and aircraft use in October 1915, with the weapon beginning to be generally issued to the British Army's infantry battalions on the Western Front in early 1916 as a replacement for the heavier and less mobile Vickers machine gun, the Vickers then being withdrawn from the infantry for use by specialist machine-gun companies. The US Navy and Marine Corps followed in early 1917, adopting the M1917 Lewis gun (produced by the Savage Arms Co.), in .30-06 caliber.

The US Army never officially adopted the weapon for infantry use and even went so far as to take Lewis guns away from US Marines arriving in France and replace them with the cheap, shoddy, and extremely unsatisfactory Chauchat LMG —a practice believed to be related to General Crozier's dislike of Lewis and his gun. The US Army eventually adopted the Broning Automatic Rifle in 1917 (although it was September 1918 before any of the new guns reached the front). The US Navy and Marine Corps continued to use the .30-06 caliber Lewis until the early part of World War II.

The Russian Empire purchased 10,000 Lewis guns in 1917 from the British government, and ordered another 10,000 weapons from Savage Arms in the US. The US government was unwilling to supply the Tsarist Russian government with the guns and there is some doubt as to whether they were actually delivered, although records indicate that 5,982 Savage weapons were delivered to Russia by 31 March 1917. The Lewis guns supplied by Britain were dispatched to Russia in May 1917, but it is not known for certain whether these were the Savage-made weapons being trans-shipped through the UK, or a separate batch of UK-produced units.

British Mark IV tanks used the Lewis, replacing the Vickers and Hotchkiss used in earlier tanks. The Lewis was chosen for its relatively compact magazines, but as soon as an improved magazine belt for the Hotchkiss was developed, the Lewis was replaced by them in later tank models.

The Germans also used captured Lewis guns in both World Wars, and included instruction in its operation and care as part of their machine-gun crew training.

Despite costing more than a Vickers gun to manufacture (the cost of a Lewis gun in 1915 was £165, the Vickers cost about £100), Lewis machine guns were in high demand with the British military during World War I. The Lewis also had the advantage of being about 80% faster (in both time and component parts) to build than the Vickers (and was a lot more portable), thus orders were placed by the British government between August 1914 and June 1915 for 3,052 guns. By the end of World War I over 50,000 Lewis guns had been produced in the US and UK and they were nearly ubiquitous on the Western Front, outnumbering the Vickers by a ratio of about 3:1.


 Vickers Medium Machine Gun 


Designed 1912 Effective Firing Range 2,000m (2,187 yds)

Manufacturer Vickers Max Firing Range 4,100m (4,500 yds) Indirect Fire
Cartridge .303 British
Weight 15 - 23kgs (33-51 lbs) Feed System 250 Rnd Canvas Belt
Barrel Length 720mm (28 in) Length 1.12m (3 ft 8 in)
Crew Three man crew Action Recoil w/ Gas Boost
Rate of Fire 450 - 500 Rnds/min Muzzle Velocity 2,440 f/ps (744m/s)
  A Vickers Machine Gun Crew in action at the Battle of the Menen Road Ridge. September 1917                             Rear View         Notice the two wooden handlebars


The Vickers machine gun or Vickers gun is a name primarily used to refer to the water-cooled .303 British (7.7 mm) machine gun produced by Vickers Limited, originally for the British Army. The machine gun typically required a six to eight-man team to operate: one fired, one fed the ammunition, the rest helped to carry the weapon, its ammunition and spare parts. It was in service from before the First World War until the 1960s, with air-cooled versions of it on many Allied World War I fighter aircraft.

The weapon had a reputation for great solidity and reliability. Ian V. Hogg, in Weapons & War Machines, describes an action that took place in August 1916, during which the British Army's 100th Company of the Machine Gun Corps fired their ten Vickers guns continuously for twelve hours. Using 100 new barrels, they fired a million rounds without a single failure. "It was this absolute foolproof reliability which endeared the Vickers to every British soldier who ever fired one."

The Vickers machine gun was based on the successful Maxim gun of the late 19th century. After purchasing the Maxim company outright in 1896, Vickers took the design of the Maxim gun and improved it, reducing its weight by lightening and simplifying the action and substituting components made with high strength alloys. A muzzle booster was also added.

The British Army formally adopted the Vickers gun as its standard machine gun on 26 November 1912, using it alongside their Maxims. There were still great shortages when the First World War began, and the British Expeditionary Force was still equipped with Maxims when sent to France in 1914. Vickers was, in fact, threatened with prosecution for war profiteering, due to the exorbitant price it was demanding for each gun. As a result, the price was slashed. As the war progressed, and numbers increased, it became the British Army's primary machine gun, and served on all fronts during the conflict. When the Lewis Gun was adopted as a light machine gun and issued to infantry units, the Vickers guns were redefined as heavy machine guns, withdrawn from infantry units, and grouped in the hands of the new Machine Gun Corps (when heavier 0.5 in/12.7 mm calibre machine guns appeared, the tripod-mounted, rifle-calibre machine guns like the Vickers became medium machine guns). After the First World War, the Machine Gun Corps (MGC) was disbanded and the Vickers returned to infantry units. Before the Second World War, there were plans to replace the Vickers gun; one of the contenders was the 7.92 mm (.312 in) Besa machine gun (a Czech design), which eventually became the British Army's standard tank-mounted machine gun. However, the Vickers remained in service with the British Army until 30 March 1968. Its successor in UK service is the L7 GPMG


 Stokes Mortar 


Designer Sir Wilfred Stokes KBE Rate of Fire 25 Rnds/min (Max) 6-8 Rnds/min (sustained)
Designed 1915 Elevation 45°-75°
Weight 47.17kg (104 lbs) Effective Firing Range 686m (750yd)
Crew 2 Max Firing Range 731m (800yd)
Shell HE 10 lb 11 oz (4.84kg) Filling Amatol
Calibre 3.2 in (81mm) Filling Weight 2lb 4oz (1kg)
Action Trip    


  The destructive effect of a mortar                         round  HE Bomb used in the Stokes Mortar   Mortar rounds dug up from the      former battlefields on the Western                           Front

No145MkI Percussion Fuse Diagram  


The Stokes mortar was a British trench mortar invented by Sir Wilfred Stokes KBE that was issued to the British, Commonwealth and U.S. armies, as well as the Portuguese Expeditionary Corps (CEP), during the later half of the First World War. The 3-inch trench mortar is a smooth-bore, muzzle-loading weapon for high angles of fire. Although it is called a 3-inch mortar, its bore is actually 3.2 inches or 81 mm.

Frederick Wilfred Scott Stokes – who later became Sir Wilfred Stokes KBE – designed the mortar in January 1915. The British Army was at the time trying to develop a weapon that would be a match for the Imperial German Army's Minenwerfer mortar, which was in use on the Western Front.

Stokes's design was initially rejected in June 1915 because it was unable to use existing stocks of British mortar ammunition, and it took the intervention of David Lloyd George (at that time Minister of Munitions) and Lieutenant-Colonel J. C. Matheson of the Trench Warfare Supply Department (who reported to Lloyd George) to expedite manufacture of the Stokes mortar.

The Stokes mortar was a simple weapon, consisting of a smoothbore metal tube fixed to a base plate (to absorb recoil) with a lightweight bipod mount. When a mortar bomb was dropped into the tube, an impact sensitive primer in the base of the bomb would make contact with a firing pin at the base of the tube, and detonate, firing the bomb towards the target.

The barrel is a seamless drawn-steel tube necked down at the breech or base end. To the breech end is fitted a base cap, within which is secured a firing pin protruding into the barrel. The caps at each end of the bomb cylinder were 81 mm diameter. The bomb was fitted with a modified hand grenade fuse on the front, with a perforated tube containing a propellant charge and an impact-sensitive cap at the rear.

Range was determined by the amount of propellant charge used and the angle of the barrel. A basic propellant cartridge was used for all firing, and covered short ranges. Up to four additional "rings" of propellant were used for incrementally greater ranges. See range tables below. The four rings were supplied with the cartridge and gunners discarded the rings which were not needed.

One potential problem was the recoil, which was "exceptionally severe, because the barrel is only about 3 times the weight of the projectile, instead of about one hundred times the weight as in artillery. Unless the legs are properly set up they are liable to injury".

A modified version of the mortar, which fired a modern fin-stabilised streamlined projectile and had a booster charge for longer range, was developed after World War I; this was in effect a new weapon.


 ML 9.45-inch Heavy Trench Mortar 


Designer Dumezil-Batignolles Rate of Fire 1 every 6mins
Designed 1915 Elevation 75°–45°
Number Built 712 Effective Firing Range 660yd - 2,400yd (600m - 2,190m)
Weight Mortar & Elevating gear 499lb, + body & bed 987lb (MkI) 644lb, + 1169lb (MkII-IV)
Filling Amatol or Ammonal
Traverse 18° L & R
Crew 7
Shell HE 152lb (69kg) Calibre 9.45in (240mm)
Barrel Length 4ft 3in (1.30m) (MkI) 5ft 8in (1.73m) (MkII-IV)    
   9.45 inch Trench Mortar Bomb

In a concealed cellar - 30th January 1918
  The ML 9.45 inch Heavy Trench           Mortar, nicknamed the Flying Pig     Lee-Enfield Firing Mechanism  


The ML 9.45 inch Heavy Trench Mortar, nicknamed the Flying Pig, was a large calibre mortar of World War I and the standard British heavy mortar from the autumn of 1916. It was a modification of an original French design, the Mortier de 240 mm developed by Batignolles Company of Paris and introduced in 1915. Britain manufactured the modified version under licence.

The British ML 9.45-inch (240 mm) mortar was a design based on the French 240 mm mortar in 1915 and introduced in 1916. The British version differed from the French LT weapon in that the propellant charge was loaded through the muzzle whereas the French 240 mm had the charge loaded through the breech in a brass cartridge case.

In June 1916, following unsatisfactory trials with the French model, Britain replaced them with 30 of its own model, firing a 150 pound bomb, followed by 200 more in December 1916.

The Mark I with 51-inch (1,300 mm) barrel was introduced from June 1916. In 1917, the Mark II and Mark III followed with 69-inch (1,800 mm) barrel, and small numbers of Mark IV.

It was operated by crews of the Royal Garrison Artillery which was the part of the British Army that operated the heaviest artillery weapons, formed into batteries of 4 mortars attached to each division, designated "V/nn" where nn = division number. From February 1918 they were reorganised and moved from divisional to corps control.

The weapon was dismantled for transport, requiring 4 carts for the barrel, base, carriage and ammunition.

In action, a heavy timber platform was constructed embedded in the ground, on which the mortar base was immovably secured. The mortar carriage sat on the base and could traverse. The mortar barrel and breech were mounted on the carriage which provided elevation.

They were used in the "siege warfare" on the Western Front to destroy enemy strongpoints, bunkers and similar "hard" targets which were invulnerable to lighter mortars and field guns. The US Army handbook described it : "... the use for which it is primarily adapted is in the bombardment of strongly protected targets - dwellings, covered shelters, command posts, entrances to galleries, etc - or in the destruction of sectors of trenches, salients and the like.". Their effectiveness decreased late in the war as German policy changed to a lightly held front line, hence decreasing available targets, and they became redundant when the war of movement resumed late in 1918.

Both the propellant charge appropriate for the required range and the bomb were loaded via the muzzle. Usually a Lee-Enfield rifle's bolt action mechanism was screwed into the breech. A special blank rifle cartridge was loaded and was triggered by pulling a lanyard, and fired into an igniter at the base of the mortar chamber, igniting the propellant charge and launching the bomb.


 QF 4.5-inch Howitzer 

Designer Coventry Ordinance Works Calibre 4.5in (114mm)


Manufacturer Coventry Ordinance Works, Royal Arsenal, Vickers, Bethlehem Steel Breech Horizontal Sliding Block
Recoil Hydro Spring 40 inches (0° elevation);
20 inches (45° elevation)
Number Built 3,359 Carriage Wheeled, Box trail
Weight Barrel & Breech: 972lb (441kg) Total: 3,010lb, (1,370kg)
Elevation -5° to +45°
Traverse 3° right and left
Length 9ft (2.7m) Rate of Fire 4 Rnds/min
Barrel Length Bore: 5ft (1.5m) Total: 5ft 10in (1.78m) Muzzle Velocity Max: 1,010 ft/s (310 m/s)
Width 6ft 8in (2.03m) Maximum Firing Range MkII: 7,300yd (6,700m)
Crew 6    
Shell Separate QF. HE Shell 35lb (16kg)    
Sights Reciprocating & non-calibrating


   Camouflaged British 4.5 inch field         howitzers on the Western Front  Separate QF 15 pounder cartridge   Diagram of 4.5-inch howitzer     Mk I cartridge case showing arrangement of cordite rings around central core. One or more rings were          removed for shorter ranges


The Ordnance QF 4.5-inch howitzer was the standard British Empire field (or ‘light’) howitzer of the First World War era. It replaced the BL 5-inch howitzer and equipped some 25% of the field artillery. It entered service in 1910 and remained in service through the interwar period and was last used in the field by British forces in early 1942. It was generally horse drawn until mechanisation in the 1930s. It was used by British and Commonwealth Forces in most theatres, by Russia and by British troops in Russia in 1919. Its calibre (114 mm) and hence shell weight were greater than those of the equivalent German field howitzer (105 mm); France did not have an equivalent. In the Second World War it equipped some units of the BEF and British, Australian, New Zealand and South African batteries in East Africa and the Middle and Far East.

During the Second Boer War (1899–1902) the British government realised its field artillery was being overtaken by the more modern "quick firing" guns and howitzers of other major powers. The Krupp field howitzers used by the Boers had particularly impressed the British. The usefulness of field howitzers and the need for them to form part of an infantry division’s artillery were reinforced by reports from the Russo-Japanese War in 1904. In 1900 Cabinet ordered Field Marshal Lord Roberts, the Commander-in-Chief in South Africa to send home artillery brigade and battery commanders “selected for their eminence and experience” to form an Equipment Committee. The committee was chaired by General Sir George Marshall, who had been artillery commander in South Africa.It formed in January 1901 with wide ranging terms of reference concerning artillery equipment from guns and howitzers to harness design and instruments.

The Committee swiftly established requirements and invited proposals from British gun makers. None were satisfactory and compared poorly with a captured Krupp 12 cm howitzer. A purchase of Krupp howitzers was discussed including visits to Essen. However, by 1905 the Committee was sufficiently satisfied to recommend the production of trial equipments from Ordnance Factories, Armstrong, Vickers and the Coventry Ordnance Works (a joint venture by several Coventry engineering companies). Testing in 1906 showed the Coventry design was by far the most satisfactory and a battery’s worth were ordered for trials. In 1908, after trials the 4.5-inch howitzer was recommended for service, albeit with a shortened barrel.

The 4.5-inch howitzer was used on most fronts during the First World War. On the Western Front its normal scale was 1 battery to every 3 batteries of 18 pounder. Initially 4.5-inch howitzers equipped a howitzer brigade RFA in each infantry division. In the original British Expeditionary Force in 1914 this brigade had 3 batteries each with 6 howitzers. Subsequent batteries had only 4 howitzers. In 1916 all batteries on the Western Front began to be increased to 6 howitzers and later that year the howitzer brigades were disbanded and a howitzer battery added to each Field Brigade RFA as the fourth battery. This organisation continued between the wars.

It remained in service during the inter-war period and was used in various campaigns in that time. However, apart from changes to ammunition the howitzer itself remained unchanged except for carriage modifications to enable mechanisation.

During the Second World War they served with the BEF in France and although many were lost they were the most widely available artillery piece until 25 pounder production developed. They were used in the Middle and Far East theatres as well as for training and were gradually replaced by the 25 pounder.


 Ordnance QF 18-Pounder 


Designer Armstrong Whitworth Shell 18.5lb (8.4kg) Projectile 23lb (10kg) including case Armour Piercing Smoke Gas Star Incendiary Shrapnel Shell High Explosive  
Designed 1901
Manufacturer Armstrong Whitworth Woolwich Arsenal Royal Ordnance Factory Vickers Beardmore Bethlehem Steel
Number Built 10,469 approx (MkI & II)
Weight 1,282 tonnes 2,825lb (1,281kg) Calibre 3.3in (83.8mm)
Recoil 41in (1.0m) (MkI-II) 26in (0.66m) to 48in (1.2m) (MkIII-V)
Barrel Length 7ft 8in (2.34m)
Width 6ft 3in (1.91m)
Crew 6 Carriage Pole trail (MkI & II) Box trail (MkIII & IV) Split trail (MkV)
Elevation -5° to +16°(Mk I & II)
+30° (Mk III)
+37°(Mk IV & V)
Traverse 4.5° left and right (Mk I - IV)
25° left and right (Mk V)
Effective Firing Range 6,525yd (5,966m) (MkI & II) 7,800yd (7,100m) with trail dug in. 9,300 yd (8,500 m) (MkIII, IV & V) 11,100yd (10,100m) (Streamlined HE Shell Mk IC)
Muzzle Velocity 1,615 ft/s (492 m/s) (Mk I & II)
1,615 ft/s (492 m/s) (Mk IV)
Rate of Fire 20 Rnds/min (max) 4 Rnds/min (sustained)


            QF 18 Pounder Shells Australian 18-pdr with armoured oil      reservoir at end of recuperator             Recoil Mechanism                   QF 18 Pounder  

The Ordnance QF 18 pounder,or simply 18-pounder Gun, was the standard British Empire field gun of the World War I era. It formed the backbone of the Royal Field Artillery during the war, and was produced in large numbers. It was used by British and Empire Forces in all the main theatres, and by British troops in Russia in 1919. Its calibre (84 mm) and hence shell weight were greater than those of the equivalent field guns in French (75 mm) and German (77 mm) service. It was generally horse drawn until mechanisation in the 1930s.

The first versions were introduced in 1904 and later versions remained in service with British forces until early 1942. During the interwar period the 18-pounder formed the basis of early versions of the equally famous Ordnance QF 25 pounder, which would form the basis of the British artillery forces during and after World War II, in much the same fashion as the 18-pounder had during World War I.

During the Second Boer War the British government realised its field artillery was being overtaken by more modern "quick firing" guns of other major powers, and investigated replacements for its existing field gun, the BL 15 pounder 7 cwt. In 1900 General Sir Henry Brackenbury, the then Director-General of Ordnance, sent officers to visit European gun makers. At Rheinische Metallwaren und Machinenfabrik in Düsseldorf, they found a quick firing gun designed by Heinrich Ehrhardt with a recoil system that totally absorbed all the recoil of firing, 108 guns plus spares, were secretly purchased and entered service as the Ordnance QF 15 pounder in June 1901.

At the same time,the British Cabinet ordered Field Marshal Lord Roberts, the Commander-in-Chief in South Africa, to send home artillery brigade and battery commanders "selected for their eminence and experience" to form an Equipment Committee. The committee was chaired by General Sir George Marshall, who had been artillery commander in South Africa. It formed in January 1901 with a wide ranging area of study from horse-drawn mobile guns and the larger more static field guns, to harness design, and even binoculars. They swiftly established the "conditions to be fulfilled by proposed new equipment"; the most important were the "weight behind the team", then ballistics, rapidity of fire, weight of shell, provision of shield and number of rounds carried.

British gun manufacturers were invited to propose designs. Of the many entries, five for the horse artillery gun and three for the field gun were selected and their makers invited to submit a "specimen". These were tested in 1902, but none was found suitable for service although they all had good features. The makers were called to a conference and agreed to collaborate to produce a composite design. This used the Armstrong gun, Vickers' recoil system, and Royal Ordnance Factory's sighting and elevating gear and ammunition carrying. Reduced wheel size from 5 ft (1.5 m) to 4 ft 8 in (1.42 m) was also accepted (it had been a matter the Equipment Committee had to investigate) which saved weight. Four Artillery batteries of the composite design took part in trials of in 1903, and the new 18-pounder design was accepted.

The 18-pounder was used on all fronts during the First World War. It remained in service during the inter-war period. Starting in 1938, carriages Marks IV and V were converted to 25 Pounder Ordnance QF Mark 1 on Carriage Mark 1. 18-pounder Guns served with the British Expeditionary Force in France in the Second World War and were used in other theatres as well as for training or beach defence.

The 18-pounder was a quick-firing horse-drawn field gun designed to be towed behind a limber and six horses. The gun barrel was wire bound nickel-steel with a single-motion screw breech with a cartridge extractor. It fired a fixed round of shell and cartridge fixed together, which was known as "quick firing" in British terminology. The lower carriage comprised a single hollow steel trail fixed to the centre of the axle-tree. The limited traverse saddle supported the elevating mass and a shield. Traverse controls were on the left and elevation on the right of the saddle. Recoil was by a hydraulic buffer with telescopic running-up springs to return the barrel to its firing position.

The Equipment Committee's conditions required tangent sights (i.e. direct fire) with the option of a telescope. However, the 18-pounder entered service with rocking bar (also called "bar and drum") sights - open sights with the option of a telescope on the left and a range scale (in yards) on the right of the cradle. These arrangements also incorporated independent line of sight, meaning that the sights could remain laid on the target while the barrel was elevated or depressed. A clinometer was provided for indirect fire when the sight was aimed using a gun-arc (a refined version of the expedient devices used in South Africa) and aiming posts in line horizontally with the target.

However, in 1906 indirect fire goniometric sights were adopted, consisting of an alidade mounted on a circular scale graduated in degrees that was mounted on the shield. In 1910 the Number 3 Dial Sight, a refined version with a telescope and compass, replaced the goniometer. The rocking bar and telescope were retained for direct fire, as was the range scale on the right in spite of a clinometer being part of the Dial Sight mount.

In 1910, after three years of trials the Number 7 Dial Sight was adopted. This was a very heavily modified version (notably using external instead of internal scales) of the German Goertz panoramic sight. This, with its sight mount that again included a sight clinometer, replaced the No 3. However, resolving various issues, notably with the sight and mount carrying case mounted on the shield, meant that the Number 7 sight did not enter service until early in 1914.

Unusually for a 20th-century British gun, the 18-pounder retained two man laying throughout its life, elevation (in yards) was set on a range scale on the righthand side of the cradle. The Equipment Committee had also insisted on better methods of fuze setting, important because until late in 1914 it only had time fuzed ammunition. A hand held mechanical fuze setter was developed, and in early 1914 a "fuze indicator" was introduced, this converted the range into a fuse setting.