- A.N. Other and NHSA Webmaster
- Naval technology
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- June 1982 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
TO THOSE MEMBERS who are interested in the formation of the Ceremonial Field Gun Battery, and for those who have seen the Royal Navy’s field gun competition, the following notes may be of some assistance.
The 12 pounder was a light field piece specially designed to be taken ashore with a naval landing force, although the weight of the barrel (8 cwt) was heavier than the gun issued to the Royal Horse Artillery, which was also a 12 pounder but had a 6 cwt barrel.
Adopted in 1894 to replace the old RML 9 pounder 8 cwt gun, the 12 pounder was to remain in service for many years, and although a 3.7 inch howitzer was adopted and issued in 1928, the old gun was still retained in some ships and quite a few shore establishments. Designed to be boat portable, the gun could be quickly stripped down into a few basic parts, i.e. the piece, the trail and wheels. A limber was provided to carry ammunition, and its wheels were interchangeable with the gun. Both pieces of equipment were mounted on steel tyred wooden spoked wheels, which bore the official description of ‘Madras Pattern’, the wheels being 42 inches in diameter.
The limber was pulled by two men by means of a pole with a cross bar, and these two members of the team were the brakes. Drag ropes were attached to drag washers on the limber wheels, the drag ropes being fitted with hand grips. In the limber there was stowage for ammunition and spare parts and spare primers, etc. Two boxes were fitted to the frame of the limber, each holding 12 cartridges, 2 case shot and 4 common shell and 6 shrapnel.
As was common with most field pieces at the time of the adoption of the 12 pounder, no traversing gear was fitted to the carriage, but elevating gear was.
Being fitted with the same breech mechanism as the heavier 12 pounder 12 cwt ship’s gun, the field gun suffered from a very major defect, it did not extract the spent cartridge case after firing. Loading was fairly slow, as the gun was designed for separate loading, i.e. the shell was rammed followed by the cartridge case. Another defect was the lack of faith in primers, normally known as tubes. These could be either electric or percussion, but both were treated with awe. In the case of the 12 pounder, and many other quick firing guns of the time, the tube (or primer) was not fitted into the case until AFTER the case was firmly seated in the breech. The drill was that after No. 3 of the crew had entered the shell, and No. 4 had entered the cartridge, No. 2 closed the breech, and then opened it sufficiently to fit a percussion tube, and then closed the breech for the second time. As the tube protruded out from the adapter in the base of the case, the breech block carried a recess to go over the tube. After firing, the breech was opened and the breech worker hooked a hand extractor under the tube adapter and physically hauled the case out of the breech.
To lay the gun was a simple matter of turning a handle, but to traverse the piece, No. 1 had to bodily move the carriage with a hand spike. Moving the gun about country was accomplished by 17 men, with two on the pole and 15 on the drag ropes.
Should a gun be injured in action, the drill provided for the gun and carriage to be packed on the limber boxes and dragged out of action as one unit.
The gun lacked recoil gear, and was fitted with Nelsonic type trunions on the barrel. To help reduce the recoil when firing, metal drag shoes were placed under the wheels, and these were connected to the rear of the trail by steel wire cables.
As far as ballistics go, the gun fired a projectile weighing 12.5 pounds, propelled by a charge of 13.5 ounces of cordite number 10. Projectiles provided included common, case and shrapnel.
An AFO of 1946 contained the words ‘delete all reference to the 12 pounder 8 cwt, the 3.7 inch howitzer and the Maxim gun’. The Royal Navy had given up its traditional role of providing the landing force. Whilst the gun was deleted as a fighting weapon, it was retained for competition work and for use as a funeral gun.