BL 7.2-inch howitzer
|BL 7.2-inch howitzer Mk I-IV|
7.2-inch howitzer of 51st Heavy Regiment, Royal Artillery, France, 2 September 1944. Gun crew emplacing recoil ramps in rear and setting wheel brakes. Front ramps prevent howitzer from rolling past position fired from.
|Place of origin||United Kingdom|
|Weight||22,000 lb (10,000 kg)|
|Length||24 ft 4 in (7.42 m)|
|Barrel length||22.4 calibres / 14 ft 3 in (4.34 m)|
|Width||9 ft (2.7 m)|
|Height||4 ft 3 in (1.30 m)|
|Shell weight||202 pounds (92 kg)|
|Calibre||7.2 inches (182.9 mm)|
|Breech||Welin screw & Asbury mech|
|Elevation||0° to 45°|
|Traverse||4° Left & Right|
|Rate of fire||1/3 rpm|
|Muzzle velocity||1,697 ft/s (517 m/s)|
|Maximum firing range||16,900 yd (15,500 m)|
|BL 7.2-inch howitzer Mk 6|
|Weight||38,580 lb (17,500 kg)|
|Length||34 ft (10 m)|
|Barrel length||33.1 calibres / 20 ft 8 in (6.30 m)|
|Width||8 ft (2.4 m)|
|Height||8 ft 3 in (2.51 m)|
|Elevation||-1° to 63°|
|Traverse||30° Left & Right|
|Muzzle velocity||1,925 ft/s (587 m/s)|
|Maximum firing range||19,667 yd (17,984 m)|
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In 1940 the British Army concluded that the only available heavy artillery, the World War I era BL 8-inch howitzer, had insufficient range for the conditions of World War II. As a stopgap the decision was made to re-line the existing barrels to a smaller calibre and develop a new range of ammunition to achieve the desired ranges.
The 8 inch barrels were re-lined to 7.2 inches (180 mm) and the old carriages were retained although the original steel rimmed wheels were replaced with new pneumatic balloon-tyre wheels, as was consistent with the motorisation of the British Army. The new four-charge ammunition increased the range to 16,900 yd (15,500 m), but when fired at full charge the recoil caused the weapon to rear violently and jump backwards. To help counter this, two wedge shaped ramps were placed behind the wheels although the gun could sometimes still jump over them, presenting a hazard to crews. Marks I–IV differed only in the original 8-inch barrel used and the type of conversion; some barrels and carriages were also supplied from US World War I stocks.
In 1944 several 7.2-inch barrels were placed in the US Carriage M1 used by the 155 mm Long Tom already in use by the British Army, becoming the BL 7.2-inch howitzer Mk V. Few Mk Vs were produced and it was never issued to batteries, as it was apparent that the Carriage M1 was capable of accepting greater recoil forces.
The BL 7.2-inch howitzer Mk 6 (there was a shift from Roman numerals) retained the Carriage M1 of the Mk V but had a new built 7.2 inch barrel 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) longer than previous marks and a fifth charge was added to the ammunition. The longer barrel and extra charge provided a range increase to 19,667 yd (17,984 m). The new carriage also provided a far more stable platform, greatly increasing accuracy. The Mk 6 was considered a highly effective gun.
The original marks performed well. The first 7.2-inch howitzers were issued to batteries from mid-1942 and used in action in North Africa and later following the Normandy landings. In Burma they were provided as a pool of two guns per corps and used by Regiments as required. By the end of 1944, most of the earlier marks had been replaced by the Mk 6.
The usual gun tractor for the 7.2-inch howitzer in the early war years was the Scammell Pioneer, although this was never available in sufficient numbers. From late 1943 the Pioneer was supplemented by the Albion CX22S.
The BL 7.2-inch howitzer formed parts of "Heavy" regiments of Army Group Royal Artillery (AGRA) units, providing heavy fire support for British and Commonwealth troops. The Mk 6 remained in British Army service until the early 1960s.
A modified version of the gun was used as the main armament of the experimental FV4005 Stage II tank, based on the centurion main battle tank, as well as the main armament of the experimental FV215b tank.
See: "7.2-Inch Howitzer". British Artillery in World War 2.
- 57 (later 166) (Newfoundland) Field Artillery Regiment
- 59 (Newfoundland) Heavy Regiment
- Royal Artillery
- 1 Heavy Regiment
- 32 Heavy Regiment
- 51 (Lowland) Heavy Regiment
- 52 (Bedfordshire Yeomanry) Heavy Regiment
- 53 Heavy Regiment
- 54 Heavy Regiment
- 55 Heavy Regiment
- 56 Heavy Regiment
- 58 Heavy Regiment
- 60 Heavy Regiment
- 61 Heavy Regiment
- 75 Heavy Regiment
- 171 Heavy Regiment
- 8th (Belfast) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment – section only; in Burma campaign
- 52nd (London) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment – section only; in Burma campaign
- 56th (Cornwall) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment – section only; in Burma campaign
- 67th (York and Lancaster Regiment) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment – section only; in Burma campaign
- List of artillery
- 8 inch Howitzer M1 US equivalent, sharing the Carriage M1
- 203 mm howitzer M1931 (B-4) approximate Soviet equivalent
- Pat Ware: A complete dictionary of military vehicles, Anness Publishing, 2012, p101.
- "7.2-Inch Howitzer". British Artillery in World War 2. 17 Nov 2007. Retrieved 20 February 2011.
- Brig N.W. Routledge, History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery: Anti-Aircraft Artillery 1914–55, London: Royal Artillery Institution/Brassey's, 1994, ISBN 978-1870114004, p. 244.