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THE BL 60-pr MEDIUM GUN

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THE BL 60-pr MEDIUM GUN

By: Michael Tobolo, Junior Curator, DITSONG: National Museum of Military History

 

INTRODUCTION

Despite the critical and decisive role that artillery played in the great wars and that it dominated the battlefields, the history of artillery during most conflicts has been neglected. Its impact during the battles has been inadequately understood. Artillery became an absolutely dominant arm in all major armies for the rest of the First World War.

 

The DITSONG: National Museum of Military History prides itself on a remarkable artillery collection, with the BL 60-pr gun being one of the most outstanding.

 

The experience gained during the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) convinced the British army of the need for a long-range mobile, hard-hitting medium gun for use by field artillery. During that war, naval 6-in and 4.7-in guns fitted to locally designed field carriages had been used with some success. What was needed was a gun firing a shell heavier than 20.4 kg of the 4.7 in the gun to a range of not less than 9000 m, yet not as heavy a weapon as the naval 6-in gun. 

Figure 1. 60-pr gun in full recoil during the battle (landing) at Cape Helles in the Gallipoli campaign, June 1916.

 

 

DEVELOPMENT OF THE BL 60-pr MEDIUM GUN

 

In 1903 an experimental gun firing a 60-1b 27.2 kg shell was produced. It was tested thoroughly in 1904 and accepted for service in the Royal Artillery the following year. The 60-pr replaced the 4.7-in gun. It was used throughout the First World War (1914-18), and its original design and modifications remained in service until 1994, when it became obsolete.

 

The Mark 1 version had a timber base and was drawn by a horse. The recoil system could be disconnected from the anchorage in the cradle to pull back and rest on the trail.

 

Two innovations were introduced to the original 60-pr Mark I gun to rectify design errors when the gun was fired off sloping ground. The sights were fitted to an oscillating bracket so they could be levelled, a feature soon applied to all gun sights.

 

The excessive weight on the wheels, due to the barrel in its firing position, often resulted in the vehicle sinking as it crossed soft on the muddy ground. To prevent this, the barrel was mounted further back along the trail and clamped in a travel trail clamped to the trailer wheels. The French had earlier applied a similar solution with their 155mm Creusot-Schneider (major arms manufacturer in the 1960s) guns (associated with the Long Toms of the Anglo-Boer).

 

Shortly after the First World War, the Union Defence Force acquired several Mark I 60-pr guns from the British government. The first deliveries equipped the medium battery of the South African Heavy Artillery in Cape Town. The battery used them during the East Africa campaign of 1940-1941.

The last carriages were modified to take 4-wheeled bogies fitted with pneumatic tyres instead of the original iron-rimmed wooden wheels. The gun`s mobility was thus considerably improved, but the original wheels had to be refitted before the gun could be fired, a task which took about five minutes.

The gun on display at the DITSONG: National Museum of Military History is one of those used in East Africa by the first battery.

Figure 2, 60-pr gun being re-painted at the DITSONG: National Museum of Military History by one of the Museum’s restorers.

 

 

TECHNICAL DATA OF THE 60pr

 

Weight of the gun and carriage…………… 5, 25 tons

Calibre…………………………………………127mm                      

Top traverse…………………………………. 40 Left and Right

Method of firing……………………………….Lanyard and percussion tube

Sights………………………………………………….Dial sights and telescope

Elevation……………………………………. -5°+ 350

Recoil system………………………………. Hydropneumatic, variables, 21, 6 in

Weight in action……………………………. 12,0481b

Projectile and weight………………………… HE Streamline shell: 27,2kg shrapnel 27,2kg

Muzzle velocity……………………………….650ms

Maximum Range (streamline shell)…………14600m

Ammunition……………………………………The separate loading bag charge

 

VARIANTS

MK I:   EOC design; wire-wound gun, 33.6 calibres long.

MK I*: Differed in construction, there being no breech bush and the breech screw engaged directly into      threads cut it in the rear end of the A tube

MK I**: Differed from MK I* by having a breech bushing let into the rear of the A tube and the breech threads cut into this bushing.

MK 2:    Vickers-Armstrong design, 37 calibres long, with Asbury mechanism (similar to MK 1 but no retraction).

MK 2*: Slight changes in construction to prevent rotation of the inner `À` tube from the torque generated by the action of the shell on the rifling Carriage. (Locally modified to have a retraction facility)

MK 3: Redesigned and incorporated retraction

MK 4: Completely new design with hydropneumatic recoil system, through the cradle, and retracting facility.                                                                                                                   

 

                                                                                                                              

SERVICE HISTORY

The 60-pr gun was mainly used in the First World War by the Royal Battery Garrison to counter-battery artillery fire to destroy the enemy`s artillery. A single 4-battery gun was attached to each infantry division of the British Expeditionary Force (Known as the BEF) in the First World War. The sixth division sent to the Western Front during the First World War was the BEF.

 

The Secretary of State for War, Richard Haldane, carried out the planning of the BEF. He was also responsible for the Haldane Reforms, a series of far-ranging reforms of the British Army made from 1906-1912. These reforms were made in view of the lessons learned in the Anglo-Boer War (South African War) (1899-1902).

 

Some of the significant battles fought by the BEF’s were between 1914 and 1918 and led by the commander in chief, Field Marshal John French (1914-1915) and commander in chief Field Marshal Douglas Haig (1915-1918) at the Battle of Mons, the Battle of Aisne, the Battle of Loos, the Battle of Arras, the Battle of Somme and many more including the Gallipoli campaign, that took place on the Gallipoli peninsula from 17 February 1915 to 9 January 1916. Britain, France and Russia (the Entente powers) fought to weaken the Ottoman Empire, one of the central powers, by taking control of the Ottoman capital at Constantinople to bombardment by allied battleships. The Entente powers cut it from the Asian part of the Empire. With Turkey defeated, the Suez Canal would be safe, and a year-round Allied supply route could be opened through the Black Sea to warm water ports in Russia.

 

CONCLUSION

After the First World War, the 60-pr remained in service and was used during the inter-war period (1918-1939) and was also used in Russia and Mesopotamia from 1920-21. They also served with the BEF in France and North Africa in medium regiments and by the South African Artillery in East Africa, of which the one displayed at the DITSONG: National Museums of Military was also part of.

 

 

REFERENCES

DITSONG: National Museum of Military History Archives.

Ian v. Hogg (British Author of books on firearms, Artillery).

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