BL 6-inch Mk VII naval gun

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BL 6-inch gun Mk VII
Aboard HMCS Prince David circa 1941
Place of originUnited Kingdom
Service history
In service
  • 1901–1972 (Fort Scratchley)
  • 1915–1918 (field use)
  • 1901–1959 (naval use)
Production history
No. built898
VariantsMk VII, Mk VIIv, Mk VIII, Mk XXIV
  • 16,875 lb (7,654 kg) (gun & breech)[a]
  • 25 tons (gun on field carriage)
Length279.228 inches (7,092 mm)
Barrel length269.5 in (6.85 m) (44.9 cal)

ShellLyddite, HE, Shrapnel 100 lb (45 kg)[b]
Calibre6 in (152 mm)
BreechWelin interrupted screw
Recoil16.5 in (419 mm)
Rate of fire8 rpm[c]
Muzzle velocity
  • 2,525 ft/s (770 m/s) (light charge)
  • 2,775 ft/s (846 m/s) (heavy charge)[d]
Maximum firing range
  • Field carriage Mk. II: 13,700 yd (12,500 m)[e]
  • Naval: 14,600 yd (13,400 m) (light charge); 15,800 yd (14,400 m) (heavy charge)[1][f]
Filling weight

The BL 6-inch gun Mark VII (and the related Mk VIII)[h] was a British naval gun dating from 1899, which was mounted on a heavy travelling carriage in 1915 for British Army service to become one of the main heavy field guns in the First World War, and also served as one of the main coast defence guns throughout the British Empire until the 1950s.


The gun superseded the QF six-inch gun of the 1890s, a period during which the Royal Navy had evaluated QF technology (i.e. loading propellant charges in brass cartridge cases) for all classes of guns up to 6 in (150 mm) to increase rates of fire. BL Mk VII returned to loading charges in silk bags after it was determined that with new single-action breech mechanisms a six-inch BL gun could be loaded, a vent tube inserted and fired as quickly as a QF six inch gun. Cordite charges in silk bags stored for a BL gun were also considered to represent a considerable saving in weight and magazine space compared to the bulky brass QF cartridge cases.[2]

Naval gun[edit]

The gun was introduced on the Formidable-class battleships of 1898 (commissioned September 1901) and went on to equip many capital ships, cruisers, monitors, and smaller ships such as the Insect-class gunboat which served throughout World War II.[1]

The Mk VIII in naval service was identical to the Mk VII, except that the breech opened to the left instead of to the right, for use as the left gun in twin turrets.

In World War II the gun was used to arm British troop ships and armed merchant cruisers, including HMS Rawalpindi, which briefly fought the German 11 in (280 mm) gun battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau in November 1939, and HMS Jervis Bay which similarly sacrificed herself to save her convoy from the 11 in (280 mm) pocket battleship Admiral Scheer in November 1940 .

World War I field gun[edit]

The Mk VII gun was first used as a field gun in France in 1915. It was initially mounted on an improvised rectangular-frame field carriage designed by Admiral Percy Scott. The carriage was based on a design he had improvised for the 4.7-inch gun in the Second Boer War.[3] It was a successful carriage, except that it limited the elevation and hence the range. A better carriage which allowed elevation to 22°, the MK II, was introduced early in 1916. This was followed by Mk III, V and VI carriages. The gun was operated by the Royal Garrison Artillery in batteries of four, as were all the larger field guns in World War I.

Following a successful deployment in the Battle of the Somme, the role of the gun was defined as counter-battery fire. They "were most effective for neutralising defences and for wire cutting with fuze 106 (a new fuze which reliably burst instantly above ground on even slight contact, instead of forming craters)". They were also effective for long-range fire against "targets in depth".[4] The Mk VII was superseded by the lighter and longer-range BL 6-inch Gun Mk XIX which was introduced from October 1916, but the Mk VII remained in service to the end of World War I.

Coast defence gun[edit]

The 6-inch Mk VII gun, together with the 9.2-inch Mk X gun, provided the main coast defence throughout the British Empire, from the early 1900s until the abolition of coast artillery in the 1950s. Many guns were specially built for army coast defence use, and following the decommissioning of many obsolete cruisers and battleships after World War I, their 6-inch Mk VII guns were also recycled for coast defence. During World War I, 103 of these guns were in service in coastal defences around the UK.[5] Some of these, together with others at ports around the wider British Empire, played an important defence role in World War II and remained in service until the 1950s.

A number of new similar guns with stronger barrels which allowed more powerful cordite charges to be used were manufactured for coast defence during World War II, and were designated 6-inch BL Mark XXIV.[1]

Notable actions[edit]

In the German raid on Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby on 16 December 1914, a notable action was fought by the Durham Royal Garrison Artillery of the Territorial Force at Heugh (two guns) and Lighthouse (one gun) batteries defending Hartlepool. They duelled with the German battlecruisers Seydlitz and Moltke (11 in (280 mm) guns) and Blücher (8.2 in (210 mm)), firing 112 rounds and scoring seven hits. The battlecruisers fired a total of 1,150 rounds at the town and the batteries causing 112 civilians and seven military killed.[6]

World War I ammunition[edit]

BL 6-inch HE Gun Shell Mk XVI Diagram.jpg
Mk III 23 lb (10 kg) Cordite MD Cartridge
Mk IV Common lyddite shell
Mk VIIA Common lyddite naval shell
MK XIIA QNT Common lyddite naval shell with night tracer
Mk XVI HE shell

See also[edit]

Weapons of comparable role, performance and era[edit]

Surviving examples[edit]

At the Royal Artillery Museum, London
7th Coastal Artillery Battery (Portugal)


  1. ^ 7 tons, 10 cwt, 2 qtrs. 19 lbs with breech fitting, including shot guide.
  2. ^ Shell weights given are filled and fuzed i.e. as fired. 100 lb (45 kg) was standard shell weight in WWI. Some earlier shells had slightly higher weights e.g. Mk IV common lyddite shell weighed 101 pounds (46 kg).
  3. ^ 8 rounds per minute is the figure given by Vickers. Quoted in Brassey's Naval Annual. 1901. p. 453.
  4. ^ 2,525 ft/s firing a 100 lb (45 kg) projectile using 23 lb (10 kg) Cordite MD size-16 propellant; 2,775 ft/s using 28 pounds 10 ounces (13.0 kg) Cordite MD size 26 was the standard naval loading in WWI. Twin mounts and unstrengthened P IV mounts were restricted to the light charge.(Treatise on Ammunition 1915) The original loading was 20 lb (9.1 kg) of the more powerful cordite Mk I size 20, but Mk I caused greater wear.
  5. ^ (Clarke 2005, p. 23) quotes 13,700 yd (12,500 m) on the Mk II carriage; (Farndale 1986, p. 130) quotes 12,000 yd (11,000 m) – this is possibly on the Mk I carriage.
  6. ^ All figures for 100 lb (45 kg) shell, which was standard in WWI.
  7. ^ Figures for WWI field gun.(Hogg & Thurston 1972, p. 243)
  8. ^ Mk VII = Mark 7, Mk VIII = Mark 8. Britain used Roman numerals to denote Marks (models) of ordnance until after World War II. Mark VIII's breech opened to the left and Mark VII's opened to the right, allowing for paired mounts. Guns mounted singly were all the right-opening Mark VII


  1. ^ a b c DiGiulian, Tony. "British 6"/45 (15.2 cm) BL Mark VII 6"/45 (15.2 cm) BL Mark VIII 6"/45 (15.2 cm) BL Mark XXIV". NavWeaps.
  2. ^ Treatise on Ammunition 1915, p. 393.
  3. ^ Hogg & Thurston 1972, p. 144.
  4. ^ Farndale 1986, p. 158, quoting Artillery Notes. Vol. No. 4 – Artillery in Offensive Operations. War Office. February 1917.
  5. ^ Farndale 1988, p. 404.
  6. ^ Farndale 1988, pp. 368–369, 401.
  7. ^ "Virtual site map". Bermuda Maritime Museum. Archived from the original on 3 February 2007.
  8. ^ "Other Surviving North American Seacoast Artillery Weapons" (PDF). American Seacoast Defenses: A Reference Guide. Compiled: Lists in CDSG News/Journal prepared by C.L. Kimbell (1985), R.D. Zink (1989), and T.C. McGovern (1992 and 1996). February 2014. p. 242. Retrieved 22 June 2018.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  9. ^ "Stanley Services Refurbish Naval 6inch Guns". Stanley, Falkland Islands: Stanley Service Ltd. Archived from the original on 16 October 2017. Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  10. ^ "The defence of Trincomalee and the 6 inch battery at Hood's Tower". Retrieved 22 November 2020.


External links[edit]