QF 4.5 inch Howitzer

QF 4.5 inch Howitzer

Infobox Weapon
name= Ordnance QF 4.5 inch Howitzer

caption=Camouflaged British 4.5 inch field howitzer on the Western Front, probably 1917
origin= UK
type= Field howitzer
service= 1908 - 1944
used_by=British Empire
wars=First World War Second World War
designer=Coventry Ordnance Works
manufacturer=Coventry Ordnance Works
spec_label=Mk1 Mk2
weight=Barrel & breech convert|972|lb|kg|sigfig=3; Total convert|3010|lb|kg|sigfig=4
length=9.1 ft
part_length=Bore convert|60.11|in|m|sigfig=4; Total convert|70|in|sigfig=4
width=6.7 feet
crew= 6
cartridge= separate QF. HE shell convert|35|lb|kg|sigfig=4
caliber= convert|4.5|in|mm|sigfig=4|sing=on
rate= 4 round/min
velocity= convert|1010|ft/s|m/s|sigfig=3 with maximum charge
max_range= convert|7300|yd|m|sigfig=3 Mk 2
sights=Reciprocating & non-calibrating
breech=Horizontal sliding block
carriage=wheeled, box trail
elevation = -5° - 45°
traverse= 3° right and left
The Ordnance QF 4.5 inch Howitzer was the standard British Empire field howitzer of The First World War.

QF stands for "Quick Firing". In British use this referred to the usage of a brass cartridge case to hold and load the propellant charge, hence facilitating loading, with the cartridge case providing obturation, or sealing the chamber, and hence allowing use of a fast-operating sliding block breech for the first time in British artillery. This weapon was the largest calibre of British QF field artillery ordnance.


The 4.5 was designed following lessons learned in the Second Boer War (1899-1902), to replace the BL 5 inch Howitzer.The Mark I was introduced officially in 1909 and the Mark II, with a reduced twist in the rifling (from 1:15 to 1:20), was introduced in 1917.

From the 1920s the carriage was upgraded. First to Mk 1R (solid rubber tyres) then to Mk 1P (new wheels, axles, brakes and pneumatic tyres) for vehicle towing. The similarly wheeled No 26 artillery trailer was introduced to replace the limber. A new streamlined shell (HE Mk 1D) was also introduced to increase maximum range from 6600 yards of the older 3C.R.H. (Calibres Radius Head) models to 7300 yards.

It and the 18 pounder field gun were superseded during the Second World War by the Ordnance QF 25 pounder gun-howitzer.

Combat service

British Empire service

The QF 4.5 served throughout the Great War, principally with the Royal Field Artillery, beginning with 182 guns in 1914, with 3,177 more produced during the war.

At the beginning of the First World War a Brigade of three 6-gun howitzer batteries was part of each British Infantry Division. In February 1917 Divisional artilleries were consolidated into two field brigades each with three batteries (A, B, C) of 18 pounder guns and one battery (D) of 4.5-inch howitzers. The balance were formed into Army Field Brigades with the same organisation.

Following experience gained in the Battle of the Somme in Summer 1916, its role on the Western Front was defined in January 1917 as "neutralising guns with gas shell, for bombarding weaker defences, enfilading communications trenches, for barrage work, especially at night, and for wire cutting in such places which the field guns could not reach". [Farndale 1986, page 158, quoting from Artillery Notes No. 4 - Artillery in Offensive Operations issued by the War Office in January 1917]

During advances such as at Messines in June 1917 the gun was typically employed in "standing barrages" of HE on the enemy forward positions ahead of the 18 pounders' creeping barrage, and gas shelling following bombardments. [Farndale 1986, page 188, 190]

A notable action was fought with 2 guns by a section of D Battery, 276 Brigade RFA, in stopping the German counter-attack at Little Priel Farm, S.E. of Epéhy, during the Battle of Cambrai on 30 November 1917. Sergeant C.E. Gourley was awarded the Victoria Cross for leading this action. [Farndale 1986, page 250]

There were 984 guns in service on the Western Front at the armistice and 25,326,276 rounds had been fired. [Farndale 1988, page 342]

4.5-howitzers were also used by British batteries in the campaigns in Gallipoli, the Balkans, Palestine, Italy and Mesopotamia.

In 1919 small numbers were used in the successful 3rd Afghan War and Waziristan Campaign.

The last operational use of 4.5 by the British Army was probably in late 1941 or early 1942 in Malaya.

Irish service

It is worth noting that the QF 4.5 survived in use with the Irish Army until the 1960s.They were fired by the FCA (An Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil - Local Defence Force)on the Glen of Imaal firing range, County Wicklow circa 1976. Some retired examples exist today, such as those preserved at Collins Barracks, Cork.

Finnish service

Britain supplied 24 howitzers to Finland for use in the Winter War of 1939-1940. Finland obtained 30 more from Spain in July 1940 and all guns were used in the Continuation War of 1941-1944. It was designated 114 H/18 in Finnish service. Some of the guns were used in the BT-42 self-propelled artillery piece. [ [http://www.jaegerplatoon.net/ARTILLERY5.htm#114H18 Jaeger Platoon: Finnish Army 1918 - 1945. Artillery Part 5: Light Howitzers] ]

Extended specification

**overall length: 5 ft 10 in
**bore length: 60 inches
**weight: 972 lb (Mk1), 1,021 lb (Mk2) including breech
**Rifling: PPS 32 grooves
**Twist: 1 in 20-15 increasing twist (Mk I)
1 in 20 uniform twist (Mk II)
**Breech: horizontal sliding block

**weight: 27 cwt (1,372 kg) total weight
**Width: 6 ft 9 inches
**recoil: 40 inches (0° elevation) 20 inches (45° elevation)
**Elevation: -5° to +45°
**Traverse: 3° right and left


**"Shell HE" Mk 12 to 16 - 4.3 lb Amatol or TNT filled. Minor differences between marks
**"Shell Smoke Bursting" Mk 3 to 11 - White phosphorus filled
**"Shell Smoke Base Ejection" Mk 1 - Hexachloroethane/Zinc filled
**"Shell Star" Mk 3 - Star unit & parachute with Fuze Time & Percussion No 221

**Shell weight: 35 lbs
**Propellant charge: 5 parts, from .4 to 1 lb loaded into a 3.4 inch long brass case


See also

*10.5 cm leFH 16
*List of artillery#Towed howitzers and field guns

urviving examples

* [http://www.firepower.org.uk Royal Artillery Museum, Woolwich, London]
* [http://duxford.iwm.org.uk Imperial War Museum, Duxford, England]
* [http://www.tykistomuseo.fi/piilosivut/artillery_museum Artillery Museum, Hämeenlinna, Finland]
*Collins Barracks, Cork, Ireland
* [http://www.armymuseum.co.nz Army Memorial Museum & School of Artillery, Waiouru, New Zealand]
* [http://www.northfort.org.au Royal Australian Artillery National Museum] , North Head, Sydney, Australia



*Nigel F Evans, [http://members.tripod.com/~nigelef/45Howinchsheet.htm British Artillery in World War 2. 4.5-Inch Howitzer]
*General Sir Martin Farndale, [http://www.naval-military-press.com/FMPro?-db=nmp%5fproducts.fp5&-format=nmpweb%2fdetail.htm&-lay=cgi&-sortfield=date&Co=NMP&search=History%20of%20the%20Royal%20Regiment%20of%20Artillery.%20Western%20Front%201914-18&-max=20&-recid=35933&-token.0=3668698&-find= History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery. Western Front 1914-18. London: Royal Artillery Institution, 1986]
*I.V. Hogg & L.F. Thurston, British Artillery Weapons & Ammunition 1914-1918. London: Ian Allan, 1972.
*WL Ruffell, [http://riv.co.nz/rnza/hist/local/qf45in.htm QF 4.5-in Howitzer]
*The Third Afghan War 1919 - Official Account, 1926. General Staff Branch, Army Headquarters, India.
*Operations in Waziristan 1919-20, 1923. General Staff Branch, Army Headquarters, India.

External links

*Douglas T Hamilton, [http://www.archive.org/details/highexplosiveshe00hamirich "High-explosive shell manufacture; a comprehensive treatise". New York: Industrial Press, 1916. Ch. VII : Specifications and manufacturing method for British 4.5 inch howitzer shell.]
* [http://www.1914-1918.net/arms_tactics/art_weapons.htm Chris Baker, The British artillery weapons of 1914-1918]
* [http://www.ra39-45.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/guns/page3.html RA 1939-1945]
* [http://www.landships.freeservers.com/british_4dot5inch_howitzer_info.htm British 4.5 inch QF Howitzer, LANDSHIPS]

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