BL 7.2-inch howitzer

The BL 7.2-inch howitzer was a heavy artillery piece used by the British Army throughout the Second World War.

BL 7.2-inch howitzer Mk I-IV
7.2-inch howitzer of 51st Heavy Regiment, Royal Artillery. France, September 1944.
TypeHowitzer
Place of originUnited Kingdom
Service history
In service1940–1944
WarsSecond World War
Production history
Designed1940
Produced1940–1944
VariantsMk I, Mk II, Mk III & Mk IV
Specifications
Mass10.22 long tons (10.38 t)
Length24 ft 4 in (7.42 m)
Barrel length14 ft 3 in (4.34 m)
L/22.4
Width9 ft (2.7 m)
Height4 ft 3 in (1.30 m)
Crew10

ShellHE
Shell weight202 pounds (92 kg)
Calibre7.2 inches (182.9 mm)
BreechWelin screw & asbury mech
CarriageBox trail
Elevation0° to 45°
Traverse4° left & right
Rate of fire3 rpm under optimal conditions
Muzzle velocity1,697 ft/s (517 m/s)
Maximum firing range16,900 yd (15,500 m)
ReferencesChris Bishop[1][2] & Nigel Evans[3]
BL 7.2-inch howitzer Mk 6
7.2 in howitzer Mk 6, on the US M1 carriage. Rhine crossing, 1945.
Service history
In service1944–early 1960s
WarsSecond World War
Production history
Designed1944
Produced1944–1945
Specifications
MassTraveling 17.5 long tons (17.8 t)
in action 13 long tons (13 t)
Length34 ft (10 m)
Barrel length20 ft 8 in (6.30 m)
L/33.1
Width8 ft (2.4 m)
Height8 ft 3 in (2.51 m)
Crew12

CarriageSplit trail
Elevation-1° to 63°
Traverse30° left & right
Muzzle velocity1,925 ft/s (587 m/s)
Maximum firing range19,667 yd (17,984 m)
ReferencesChris Bishop[1][2] & Nigel Evans[3]

History

In 1940 the British Army concluded that the only heavy howitzer available to it, the First World War-era BL 8-inch howitzer, had insufficient range for the conditions of Second World War. As a stopgap the decision was made to re-line the existing barrels to a smaller calibre and develop a new range of ammunition to achieve the desired ranges.[1][2][4]

Marks I–IV

The 8 inch barrels were re-lined to 7.2 inches (180 mm) and the old carriages were retained although the original steel rimmed wheels were replaced with new pneumatic balloon-tyre wheels, as was consistent with the motorisation of the British Army. The new four-charge ammunition increased the range to 16,900 yd (15,500 m), but when fired at full charge the recoil caused the weapon to rear violently and jump backwards. To help counter this, two wedge shaped ramps were placed behind the wheels although the gun could sometimes still jump over them, presenting a hazard to crews. Marks I–IV differed only in the original 8-inch barrel used and the type of conversion; some barrels and carriages were also supplied from US First World War stocks.[1][2][5]

Mark V

In 1944 several 7.2-inch barrels were placed in the US Carriage M1 used by the 155 mm Long Tom already in use by the British Army, becoming the BL 7.2-inch howitzer Mk V. Few Mk Vs were produced and it was never issued to batteries, as it was apparent that the Carriage M1 was capable of accepting greater recoil forces.[1][2]

Mark 6

The BL 7.2-inch howitzer Mk 6 (there was a shift from Roman numerals) retained the Carriage M1 of the Mk V but had a new built 7.2 inch 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) longer barrel than previous marks, additionally a fifth charge was added to the ammunition. The longer barrel and extra charge provided a range increase to 19,667 yd (17,984 m), the new carriage also provided a far more stable platform, greatly increasing accuracy. The Mk 6 was considered a highly effective gun and it was retained in service after the war.[1][2]

Use

The original marks performed well. The first 7.2-inch howitzers were issued to batteries from mid-1942 and used in action in North Africa and later following the Normandy landings. In Burma they were provided as a pool of two guns per corps and used by Regiments as required. By the end of 1944, most of the earlier marks had been replaced by the Mk 6.[1][2]

The usual gun tractor for the 7.2-inch howitzer in the early war years was the Scammell Pioneer, although this was never available in sufficient numbers and from late 1943 the Pioneer was supplemented by the Albion CX22S.[6]

The BL 7.2-inch howitzer was usually employed in two four-gun batteries (alongside two four-gun batteries equipped with the 155mm Long Tom) of "Heavy" regiments of Army Group Royal Artillery (AGRA) units, providing heavy fire support for British and Commonwealth troops. The Mk 6 remained in British Army service until the early 1960s.[2][3][7]

User units

 Newfoundland[3]
  • 57 (later 166) (Newfoundland) Field Artillery Regiment
  • 59 (Newfoundland) Heavy Regiment
 United Kingdom (Royal Artillery)[3][8][9]

See also

References

  1. Chris Bishop (ed), The encyclopedia of small arms and artillery, Koo nr Rochester: Grange Books, 2006, ISBN 978-1-84013-910-5.
  2. Chris Bishop (ed), The encyclopedia of weapons of World War II, London: Metro Books, 1998, ISBN 1-58663-762-2.
  3. Nigel F Evans, "7.2-inch howitzer", nigelef.tripod.com, retrieved 26 June 2018.
  4. Gen Sir Martin Farndale, History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery: the years of defeat, Europe and North Africa 1939–1941, London: Brasseys, 1996, ISBN 1-85753-080-2.
  5. Williford, Glen M. (2016). American Breechloading Mobile Artillery, 1875-1953. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing. pp. 108–111. ISBN 978-0-7643-5049-8.
  6. Pat Ware, A complete directory of military vehicles, Wigston: Anness Publishing Ltd, 2012.
  7. Nigel F Evans, "Organisations", nigelef.tripod.com, retrieved 26 June 2018.
  8. Gen Sir Martin Farndale, History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery: the far east theatre 1939–1946, London: Brasseys, 2002, ISBN 1-85753-302-X.
  9. Brig N.W. Routledge, History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery: anti-aircraft artillery 1914–55, London: Brasseys, 1994, ISBN 1-85753-099-3.

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