Jump to content


Remembered Today:

Photo

British heavy howitzer barrel identification


33 replies to this topic

#1 RodB

RodB

    Lieut-Colonel

  • Old Sweats
  • 696 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Sydney Australia
  • Interests:Professional student. History, politics, literature, propaganda.

Posted 23 April 2008 - 08:24 AM

I have this photograph from the New York Times of 13 January 1918.


At first I thought it was for a 9.2 inch howitzer Mk II or even a 12 inch howitzer MkIV (long barrel). But on digging out my copy of Hogg & Thurston, I had doubts : the transporter in my photo is not the one shown, which has large wooden (9.2) or traction engine (12 inch) wheels at the muzzle end and smaller ones at the breech end; I can't see any guide rails along the barrel in my photo; the profile in my photo is stepped, not straight as in Hogg & THurston.
Is this something else, or is this an example of a mockup to deceive the enemy ?
Rod

#2 pmaasz

pmaasz

    Lieut-Colonel

  • Old Sweat
  • 688 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:west sussex

Posted 23 April 2008 - 08:48 AM

Looks to me that the barrel is held on to the carriage by ropes, and I think the pic may be just a barrel perhaps for a naval gun being transported on a trailer.

#3 Siege Gunner

Siege Gunner

    Lieut-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 7,719 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:London SW19

Posted 23 April 2008 - 08:56 AM

Rod,

The truck, I think, is one of those designed by Admiral Sir Reginald Bacon, during his time as MD of the Coventry Ordnance Works, for transporting the 15" howitzers ordered by Churchill. As Vice-Admiral at Dover, and proprietor of the Royal Naval Siege Guns (my avatar), he later 'borrowed' one of these truck-trains for transporting naval guns from Dunkirk to prepared emplacements in the dunes below Nieuport. Pic below is from Bacon's "Dover Patrol 1915-1917".

Which gun it is in your pic, I'm not sure, but if it is a naval gun it will be a 12" Mk X or 9.2" Mk X. As your pic shows only one gun-tractor, it may be the barrel of the 15" howitzer, which was designed to be dismantled and moved around, whereas the naval gun transports were one-off heavy-lift affairs.

Mick

Attached Files



#4 RodB

RodB

    Lieut-Colonel

  • Old Sweats
  • 696 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Sydney Australia
  • Interests:Professional student. History, politics, literature, propaganda.

Posted 23 April 2008 - 10:53 AM

Thanks Mick, that appears to identify the transporter.

But the barrel appears far too long and thin for the 15 inch and has the wrong profile. The lug on the breech for attachment to the recoil cylinder is what made me think of the 9.2 and 12 inch howitzer. I haven't seen this lug on a naval gun. Were lugs like this in fact used on naval guns ?
Rod

#5 Siege Gunner

Siege Gunner

    Lieut-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 7,719 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:London SW19

Posted 23 April 2008 - 11:19 AM

Rod,

My interest is more in the operations than the technology, so I'm afraid I can't answer your question. On appearance alone, I'd guess it was a 12" naval gun (the 9.2" was more bulbous - often laughingly described as a 'superannuated, bottle-shaped canon'). There are several big gun specialists on the forum, and I'm sure one will be along shortly to help us out.

The fact that the tractor drivers in your pic appear to be Army men (with an illusory resemblance at a distance to King George V!) doesn't really help us, as the drivers in the pic from Bacon's book also appear to be Army men. The actual handling and mounting of the RNSG's naval guns was done by naval personnel led by a swashbuckling character called Bickford, but help was often enlisted from Canadian railway troops operating in that sector.

Mick

#6 MikB

MikB

    Brigadier-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 1,866 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Redditch
  • Interests:Military/Naval history, Engineering history, old telescopes, ballistics.

Posted 23 April 2008 - 03:53 PM

It's far too long to be any kind of howitzer. It's a proper shrink-jacketed, wire-wound, 2000+ fps gun barrel, that is, and it looks to be around 12" calibre.

Were there not 12" railway guns? That looks the best candidate to me.

Regards,
MikB

#7 Siege Gunner

Siege Gunner

    Lieut-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 7,719 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:London SW19

Posted 23 April 2008 - 05:05 PM

Railway guns and replacement parts tended, by their nature, to be moved around by rail ... smile.gif

#8 MikB

MikB

    Brigadier-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 1,866 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Redditch
  • Interests:Military/Naval history, Engineering history, old telescopes, ballistics.

Posted 23 April 2008 - 06:48 PM

QUOTE (Siege Gunner @ Apr 23 2008, 06:05 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Railway guns and replacement parts tended, by their nature, to be moved around by rail ... smile.gif


Of course, but that doesn't exclude the odd overland schlepp for operational reasons of one sort or another. Come on, it's too long for any howitzer and too heavy for a field carriage. I thought the 8" howitzer was the biggest artillery on field carriages - the 15" being seriously limited by its short range and the huge effort needed to emplace it.

Regards,
MikB

#9 joseph

joseph

    Major-General

  • Old Sweat
  • 4,254 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 23 April 2008 - 07:14 PM

Rod,

The truck the barrel is on, was one designed and built by Sir William Tritton at Fosters in Lincoln, as was the Daimler – Foster 105 HP tractor. The wheels are 3 foot 6 inches in diameter and have12 inch treads with 6 inch extension pieces each wheel capable of taking a load of 5 – 51/2 tons (depending on road type) the truck itself weighing 18 tons. So the maximum barrel weight is in the region of 22 – 26 tons.

My assumption would be one of the eight 7.5 inch naval guns landed on the Belgian Coast, the barrel of the 12 inch weighed 50 tons the 9.2 30 tons.

The protrusion at the breech end is for attaching to some form of damper system and was used in the RN.

The tractor and truck was bought by the RN to move the ten Coventry Ordnance Works (Adm Bacons Company) 15inch Howitzers (ordered by Churchill and ready early 1915) and later the guns landed by the Dover Patrol as in Micks Picture.

Regards Charles

#10 Siege Gunner

Siege Gunner

    Lieut-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 7,719 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:London SW19

Posted 23 April 2008 - 08:38 PM

QUOTE (joseph @ Apr 23 2008, 08:14 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
My assumption would be one of the eight 7.5 inch naval guns landed on the Belgian Coast


Thanks, Charles, that sounds an eminently satisfactory explanation, requiring only one of the 105 HP Foster-Daimler tractors. Fourteen 7.5" guns became available as a result of the disarming of Swiftsure and release of her reserve barrels (as the guns were unique to the ship). Eight were given to the RN Siege Guns, four were mounted in monitors and two were initially mounted for coastal defence at Lowestoft, but were later also sent to Flanders. They were mounted on modified 6" Arrol platforms. They were emplaced among the RNSG's other guns, in batteries called (if memory serves me right) Saskatoon, Langley, Diana and Swiftsure.

Blumberg mentions that assistance was given by the tractor crews of nos 2 and 3 Howitzers of the RMA Howitzer Brigade, which was in the coastal sector during the summer of 1917.

Mick

#11 McTodd

McTodd

    Lance-Corporal

  • Members2
  • 6 posts

Posted 24 April 2008 - 01:08 AM

QUOTE (joseph @ Apr 23 2008, 08:14 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
My assumption would be one of the eight 7.5 inch naval guns landed on the Belgian Coast, the barrel of the 12 inch weighed 50 tons the 9.2 30 tons.

I'd tend to agree, though NJM Campbell (Warship Vol VII, p.119) states that one gun was mounted at Yarmouth and one at Lowestoft, while 10 guns and 8 mountings went to Belgium.

They were Mk III 7.5-inch guns, by the way, built by Elswick.

There's a photo of a 7.5-inch gun's breech here, which I thought might be useful for comparing the recoil cylinder attachment lugs with those of the barrel being towed, above...
7.5-inch gun
...but beware, it's a Vickers Mk IV, and apparently they were quite different from the Elswick Mk III.

#12 joseph

joseph

    Major-General

  • Old Sweat
  • 4,254 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 24 April 2008 - 06:07 AM

Hi,

Any Idea of the barrel weight of the 7.5 Elswick MKIII, I would suspect 18 - 20 tons, length about 9mts.

Regards Charles

#13 McTodd

McTodd

    Lance-Corporal

  • Members2
  • 6 posts

Posted 24 April 2008 - 09:16 AM

QUOTE (joseph @ Apr 24 2008, 07:07 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Any Idea of the barrel weight of the 7.5 Elswick MKIII, I would suspect 18 - 20 tons, length about 9mts.


From NavWeaps:

15.75 tons
9.86m long

#14 joseph

joseph

    Major-General

  • Old Sweat
  • 4,254 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 24 April 2008 - 08:52 PM

McT,

That to me, fits the bill, the rear wheel of the Tractor is 8ft so looks good. I would say slightly shorter but thats an opinion. Thanks.

Regards Charles

#15 McTodd

McTodd

    Lance-Corporal

  • Members2
  • 6 posts

Posted 24 April 2008 - 10:28 PM

Hi there - I doublechecked a couple of figures, and they would certainly have been well over 9 metres as they were 50 cal (actually, that was the main figure I wanted to check!), giving a bore length of 9.525 metres. Adding the screw breech probably does take it up to 9.86 metres, or thereabouts.

I vaguely remember reading somewhere ages ago that because they were so long, and mounted relatively low in the two Chilean (later British) battleships, that fairly gentle heeling could cause the muzzles to dip in the sea when they were swung out on the broadside. The ships' designer, Sir Edward Reed, came in for some criticism over this.



#16 MikB

MikB

    Brigadier-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 1,866 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Redditch
  • Interests:Military/Naval history, Engineering history, old telescopes, ballistics.

Posted 25 April 2008 - 07:09 AM

QUOTE (McTodd @ Apr 24 2008, 11:28 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
...fairly gentle heeling could cause the muzzles to dip in the sea when they were swung out on the broadside. The ships' designer, Sir Edward Reed, came in for some criticism over this.


That criticism, or similar, could be levelled at the design of many British ships of the time. Even the successful QE class battleships had 6" secondary armament mounted low enough to be seriously impaired if there was much of a sea running. For that reason, as well as the better arcs available, the tendency was for armament to move higher, as far as the attendant stability risks could be resolved.

Looks like Reed just took a contemporary design technique a bit further than others...biggrin.gif

Regards,
MikB




#17 RodB

RodB

    Lieut-Colonel

  • Old Sweats
  • 696 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Sydney Australia
  • Interests:Professional student. History, politics, literature, propaganda.

Posted 28 April 2008 - 04:24 PM

Thanks for sorting that out gentlemen, I didn't get any email notification even though I subscribed to the topic, so I assumed it had died - how wrong I was !
The consensus seems to be that it's a BL 7.5 inch Mk III from HMS Swiftsure - that appears to date the photo no earlier than 1917, correct ?
I forgot to post the accompanying blurb from the New York Times : "Battery of British heavy field pieces and their crews on the roadside near Neuville Vitasse, British West Front". Which would place this South-East of Arras, more or less on the front line ? Propaganda ?
thanks
Rod

#18 Siege Gunner

Siege Gunner

    Lieut-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 7,719 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:London SW19

Posted 28 April 2008 - 05:55 PM

If the identification of the 7.5" naval gun barrel is correct, and I certainly agree with it, then the location is not Neuville Vitasse, as Swiftsure's guns never went beyond the coastal sector. I think the location is somewhere between Dunkerque and Nieuport and the date is June-August 1917.

For the caption to be correct, the barrel would have to be that of one of the 15" howitzers for which the special-purpose trucks were originally designed, and, by common agreement, the barrel is that of a naval gun, not a howitzer.

#19 centurion

centurion

    General

  • Old Sweats
  • 23,846 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:The Marches
  • Interests:Military history, science fiction

Posted 28 April 2008 - 07:11 PM

According to a booklet produced by William Foster & co in 1919 the original contract for the wagons/trucks was placed by Bacon with Fosters and was specifically to provide a means of transporting a 12 inch naval gun and carriage. Photographs of the gun on its carriage, the carriage on an 8 wheel truck and the barrel on a 16 wheel truck and the barrel being towed by Foster's tractors are shown ( the latter being the same photo as already shown in this thread). The drivers are army but everyone else is naval. The gun was emplaced at St Joseph's Farm Adenkirk as a counter to the Bismark battery and manned by naval personnel. The trucks were not designed for the 15 inch howitzer (although they may subsequently have been used for this purpose). The barrel under discussion in this thread is clearly not the 12 inch gun and appears to be being transported by the 8 wheel truck originally used for the 12 inch carriage with an improvised series of fastenings. I suspect that having emplaced the 12 inch the equipment was then used for whatever was suitable. Unfortunately Fosters do not give any dates but if anyone knows when the 12 in was emplaced at Adenkirk this should place it, the photo under discussion would have to be after that date.

#20 joseph

joseph

    Major-General

  • Old Sweat
  • 4,254 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 28 April 2008 - 07:30 PM

Rod,

Im with Mick on this.

But the photo is really good, is there another in the NY Tiimes with the caption '7.5inch gun'?

This shows the dimensions of the 15inch Howitzer:

http://www.landships.....Image (2).jpg

This is a photo of the Tube and the shell;

http://upload.wikime...zerAndShell.jpg

Regards Charles



#21 centurion

centurion

    General

  • Old Sweats
  • 23,846 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:The Marches
  • Interests:Military history, science fiction

Posted 28 April 2008 - 07:42 PM

Correction to my posting - It was Adinkirk and the German battery was the Tirpitz battery near Ostend. The British gun was called Dominion. As the Tirpitz battery was not in place until August 1917 then Dominion would not have been hauled from Dunkirk until sometime after this. Given that the idea to counter Tirpitz was Bacon's and he designed the trucks built by Fosters the date for the photo under discussion would have to be the back end of 1917 at the earliest. After the trucks had been built and Dominion emplaced thus freeing up the trucks for other work.

#22 joseph

joseph

    Major-General

  • Old Sweat
  • 4,254 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 28 April 2008 - 07:59 PM

Centurion,

Have a read of Admiral Bacon's 'Dover Patrol' (he also owned the Company that made the 15inch Howitzers) he gives graphic details of large naval gun movements. I have no doubt Bacon ordered more of his friends trucks and tractors to move his 7.5, 9.2, 12, 15 and 18 inch guns. I have photos of the Daimler & Foster 105hp numbered up to 47. From a logistic point you have to look at what the trucks can carry, and how much the tractor can pull.

The 15inch Howitzers were in the field early 1915, Trittons 105hp tractor was devloped for the 1909 Millitary tractor trials loosing out to the Thorneycroft which only had half the power and no sprung wheels. After war was declared Bacon extoled the virtues of this vehicle to pull large guns.

Bacon does mention the trucks that he ordered had been used for the 15inch howitzers so he obtained 4 and 2 105hp tractors.

I am sure Mick will come up with the dates for the naval seige guns.

Regards Charles

#23 joseph

joseph

    Major-General

  • Old Sweat
  • 4,254 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 28 April 2008 - 08:06 PM

Centurion,

Are you saying that the Tube is a 12inch gun?.

Regards Charles

#24 centurion

centurion

    General

  • Old Sweats
  • 23,846 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:The Marches
  • Interests:Military history, science fiction

Posted 28 April 2008 - 09:56 PM

QUOTE (joseph @ Apr 28 2008, 09:06 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Centurion,

Are you saying that the Tube is a inch gun?.


No in my posting you'll find that I said "The barrel under discussion in this thread is clearly not the 12 inch gun and appears to be being transported by the 8 wheel truck originally used for the 12 inch carriage with an improvised series of fastenings."

Foster's document clearly states that the trucks ie the 8 and 16 wheel trailers (not the tractors pulling them) were specifically ordered by Bacon for the 12 inch gun emplaced at Adinkirk. There are other sources that confirm this. Foster do not appear to have made any other such trucks. The Fosters document also states that Bacon expressed his satisfaction with the product. The carriage for the 12 inch was broken down into a number of loads each carried on an eight wheel truck (or wagon - Fosters use the two words interchangeably) towed by two standard tractors. What I have been saying (quite clearly I thought) was that the trucks were used for other guns after the 12 in was emplaced.

#25 joseph

joseph

    Major-General

  • Old Sweat
  • 4,254 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 29 April 2008 - 12:28 AM

Oh well,

The 7.5inch barrel is on that truck being pulled by one 105hp tractor, these guns being landed in the spring of 1917. The date on the New York Times is 13 Jan 1918 so could be a spare barrel or the photo taken any date prior to that.

"Having had to do with the design of the equipment of the 15-inch howitzers, I knew the loads the various trucks would carry, and the tractive power of the Daimler-Foster 105 HP tractors. Four of the trucks used with the howitzers and two tractors obtained, and the necessary alterations carried out in Dover dockyard."

Adm Bacon Vol 1 Dover Patrol page 184.

Regards Charles