BL 15-inch howitzer
|BL 15-inch howitzer Mk I|
In action at Englebelmer Wood, Somme, 7 August 1916
|Type||Heavy siege howitzer|
|Place of origin||United Kingdom|
|In service||1915 - 1918|
|Used by||British Empire|
|Wars||World War I|
|Designer||Coventry Ordnance Works|
|Manufacturer||Coventry Ordnance Works|
|Shell||HE 1,450 lb (657.7 kg)|
|Calibre||15 inches (381.0 mm)|
|Breech||Welin interrupted screw|
|Recoil||Hydro-spring 31 inches (790 mm) constant|
|Muzzle velocity||1,117 ft/s (340 m/s)|
|Maximum firing range||10,795 yd (9,871 m)|
Winston Churchill describes the events that led to the production of this weapon and its role in the subsequent development of the tank in Chapter IV of The World Crisis, 1915. Churchill concluded the howitzer was difficult to employ since it was transported in eight sections on giant caterpillar tractors. When he saw the tractors, he asked if one could be modified to cross a trench while carrying a mounted gun and troops. According to Churchill, The development of test vehicles using this concept contributed to the development of the tank.
The weapon was operated by Royal Marine Artillery detachments of the Naval Brigade, with 1 gun per battery. One gun was sent to Gallipoli but not used there. They were later transferred to the British Army. It was used at the Battle of the Somme in September 1916 and at the Battle of Passchendaele, also known as the Third Battle of Ypres, in October 1917.
It operated successfully where it was needed to destroy deep fortifications on the Western Front, but was limited by its relatively short range compared to other modern siege howitzers. The size and weight made it difficult to move and emplace. No further development occurred after the first batch of 12, and instead Britain continued to develop and produce the 12-inch howitzer and 12-inch railway howitzer.
Weapons of comparable role, performance and era
- Škoda 380 mm Model 1916 howitzer Austro-Hungarian equivalent
Notes and references
- Hogg & Thurston 1972, page 198
- Clarke quotes 1,450 pound shell, Hogg & Thurston quote 1,400 pound shell
- Hogg & Thurston 1972, page 199
- Dale Clarke, British Artillery 1914-1919. Heavy Artillery. Osprey Publishing, Oxford UK, 2005
- I.V. Hogg & L.F. Thurston, British Artillery Weapons & Ammunition 1914-1918. London: Ian Allan, 1972. ISBN 978-0-7110-0381-1
- Winston S. Churchill. The World Crisis, Part 2, 1915. (New York: Rosetta Books, 2013), Kindle.
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