BL 6-inch 26 cwt howitzer

The Ordnance BL 6 inch 26cwt howitzer was a British howitzer used during World War I and World War II. The qualifier "26cwt" refers to the weight of the barrel and breech together which weighed 26 long hundredweight (1.3 t).

BL 6 inch 26 cwt Howitzer
A 6 inch 26 cwt on World War II pneumatic tyres at Firepower - The Royal Artillery Museum.
TypeMedium howitzer
Place of originUnited Kingdom
Service history
In service1915 to 1945
Used byUnited Kingdom
Union of South Africa
New Zealand
Russian Empire
Estonian Republic
WarsWorld War I
World War II
Production history
ManufacturerVickers, Beardmore, Coventry Ordnance Works, Woolwich Ordnance Factory, Midvale Steel Company
No. built3,633
MassBarrel: 2,856 lb (1,295 kg)
Total: 8,142 lb (3,693 kg)[1]
Length21 ft 7 in (6.58 m)
Barrel lengthBore: 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m)
Total: 7 ft 3 in (2.21 m) L/13.3
Width6 ft 10 in (2.08 m)

High explosive
Shell weightWWI: 100 pounds (45.4 kg)
WWII: 86 pounds (39.0 kg)
Calibre6 in (152.4 mm)
BreechWelin screw
RecoilHydro-pneumatic, variable
CarriageBox trail
Elevation0° to +45°
Traverse4° L & R
Rate of fireMax: 2 rpm
Muzzle velocityMax: 1,400 ft/s (430 m/s)
Maximum firing rangeWWI 100 pounds (45.4 kg) shell : 9,500 yards (8,700 m)
WWII 86 pounds (39.0 kg) shell : 11,400 yards (10,400 m)[2]
SightsCalibrating (1930s) & reciprocating


World War I

It was developed to replace the obsolescent 6 inch 25 cwt and 6 inch 30 cwt howitzers which were outclassed by German artillery such as the 15 cm schwere Feldhaubitze 13. Design began in January 1915, the first proof-firing occurred on 30 July 1915 and it entered service in late 1915.[1] Its combination of firepower, range and mobility (for its day) made it one of the British Empire's most important weapons in World War I.

It was originally towed by horses but from 1916 onwards was commonly towed by the "FWD" 4 wheel drive 3 ton lorry as heavy field artillery. The wooden spoked wheels could be fitted with "girdles" for work in mud or sand to prevent them sinking. Towards the end of the war solid rubber tyres were fitted over the iron tyres on the wheel rims, giving the rims a heavier appearance. It fired 22.4 million rounds on the Western Front.[3]

World War II

During the interwar period the carriage had its wooden spoked wheels replaced with modern steel wheels and pneumatic tyres. During World War II, its use was restricted after 1942 when the replacement BL 5.5 inch Medium Gun came into use. It was however reintroduced in Burma due to a number of premature detonations in 5.5-inch (140 mm) guns. It was declared obsolete with the end of the war in 1945.

Captured examples received the designation FH-412(e) in German use.

Surviving examples

  • Royal Artillery Museum, Woolwich, London
  • Army Memorial Museum, Waiouru, New Zealand
  • Royal Australian Artillery Museum, North Head, Sydney, Australia
  • Museo della guerra (War Museum), Rovereto (Italy)
  • South Africa : The Imperial Government presented 6 howitzers to the Union of South Africa after World War I and the six South African Heavy Artillery Memorials were designed, commissioned and paid for by the South African Heavy Artillery Association to honour their fallen Comrades-in-Arms : Memorial to 71st (Transvaal) Siege Battery at Johannesburg Zoo (restored); 72nd (Griqualand West) Siege Battery at Clyde N Terry Museum, Kimberley; 73rd (Cape) Siege Battery at Company Gardens, Cape Town; 74th (Eastern Province) Siege Battery at National Museum, Bloemfontein (Restoration is about to begin, May 2009); 75th (Natal) Siege Battery, Warriors' Gate MOTH Shellhole, Old Fort Road, Durban; 125th (Transvaal) Siege Battery near the Union Buildings, Pretoria.

These guns are being restored by the Gunner's Association of South Africa

World War I ammunition

Projectiles used in World War I weighed 100 pounds (45.4 kg). A lighter 86 pounds (39.0 kg) long-range projectile was introduced in November 1918, too late to see service in the war [3]

See also

Weapons of comparable role, performance and era

Notes and references

  1. Hogg & Thurston 1972, Page 126-127
  2. Clarke page 37 quotes 9,500 and 11,400 yd (10,400 m); General Farndale page 129-130 quotes a range of 9,800 yd (9,000 m) for the WWI 2 c.r.h. shell, with a range of 12,500 yd (11,400 m) for the later 5/10 c.r.h. shell. The longer ranges were obtained with the 86 lb (39 kg) Mk 2D 5/10 c.r.h. shell with an augmenting ("Super") charge.
  3. Clarke 2005, page 37


  • Dale Clarke, British Artillery 1914-1919. Heavy Artillery. Osprey Publishing, Oxford UK, 2005 ISBN 978-1-84176-788-8
  • General Sir Martin Farndale, History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery. Western Front 1914-18. London: Royal Artillery Institution, 1986. ISBN 978-1-870114-00-4
  • I.V. Hogg & L.F. Thurston, British Artillery Weapons & Ammunition 1914-1918. London: Ian Allan, 1972. ISBN 978-0-7110-0381-1

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