Ordnance QF 2-pounder

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Ordnance QF 2 pounder
The British Army in the United Kingdom 1939-45 H23836.jpg
The QF 2 pounder
TypeTank gun
Anti-tank gun
Place of originUnited Kingdom
Service history
In service1936–1945
Used byUnited Kingdom
WarsSpanish Civil War[1]
World War II
1948 Arab–Israeli War[2]
Production history
No. built12,000[3]
Mass814 kg (1,795 lb)
Barrel lengthoverall: 2.08 m (6 ft 10 in) L/52
bore: 2 m (6 ft 7 in) L/50

Shell40×304 mm. R
Calibre40 mm (1.575 in)
BreechSemi-automatic vertical sliding-block
Carriagethree-leg platform
Elevation-13° to +15°
Rate of fire22 rounds per minute
Muzzle velocity792 m/s (2,600 ft/s) with AP shot
Effective firing range914 m (1,000 yd)
Maximum firing range1000 m (1093.6 yd)[3]
Feed systemBreech-loaded

The Ordnance QF 2-pounder (QF denoting "quick firing"), or simply "2 pounder gun", was a 40 mm (1.575 in) British anti-tank and vehicle-mounted gun employed in the Second World War.

It was used in the Battle of France and during the North African Campaign. In its vehicle-mounted variant the 2-pounder was a common main gun on British tanks early in World War II, as well as being a typical main armament of armoured cars, such as the Daimler, throughout the war. As Axis tanks' armoured protection improved, the 2-pounder lost effectiveness and it was gradually replaced by the 6-pounder starting in 1942, though some remained in service until the end of the war.

This QF 2-pounder was not the same gun as the QF 2 pounder "pom-pom" gun extensively used by the Royal Navy as an anti-aircraft gun although they both fired 2 pounds (0.9 kg), 40 millimetres (1.6 in) projectiles.


The gun was developed as both a tank weapon and an anti-tank gun. For reasons of economy and standardization, it was accepted - as the 2-pdr Mark IX - for both purposes in October 1935. Carriages for the gun were designed by Vickers and the Design Department at the Woolwich Arsenal.[4]

Mark I carriage, April 1941

Vickers was the first to submit a design, which was accepted as the Ordnance QF 2-pounder Mark IX on Carriage Mark I. A limited number of pieces were built in 1936. The carriage had an innovative three-legged construction. In the travelling position, one of the legs was used as a towing trail, and the other two were folded. When the gun was positioned for combat, the legs were emplaced on the ground and the wheels were lifted up. Woolwich Arsenal had continued to develop their carriage and when re-examined was seen to be superior to Vickers design, and with this carriage the gun was adopted as Ordnance QF 2-pounder Mark IX on Carriage Mark II. It was conceptually similar, although when the gun was emplaced for combat the wheels had to be removed. This carriage was also manufactured by Vickers.[4]

The unusual construction gave the gun good stability and a traverse of 360 degrees, allowing it to quickly engage moving vehicles from any approach. With the Vickers carriage, the gun could also be fired from its wheels, at the expense of limited traverse. The 40 mm 2-pounder could outperform[citation needed] a typical 37 mm piece, such as the German 3.7 cm PaK 36 or the Bofors 37 mm, and significantly outclassed 25mm and 20mm weapons of that era. A drawback of the 2-pounder was that it was nearly twice as heavy as the PaK 36 and had a higher profile.[citation needed]

The gun was first put into use on a tank as the main armament of the Vickers-designed Cruiser Tank Mk I.

A late-war project was the Canadian David High Velocity to allow 2-pdr ammunition to be fired from the larger-calibre 6-pdr. This was intended to improve the muzzle velocity of the shot. The system was still being developed when the war ended, the program ending along with it.[citation needed]

Another development was the 2-pdr HV 'Pipsqueak', a postwar gun using a 40x438R cartridge originally intended as the main armament for the Saladin armoured car that was to replace the AEC Armoured Car. This was designed to fire Armour-piercing discarding sabot (APDS) rounds, which would match the penetration of the 'Littlejohn' shot while still allowing high-explosive (HE) shells to be fired. In fact, the claimed performance was better, the 1,295 m/s shot penetrating 85mm of armour at 60 degrees at 900m. Development of this gun was also abandoned when the role of the Saladin shifted towards infantry fire support, and a low-velocity 76 mm gun was selected for it instead.[citation needed]

Initially one of the most serious shortcomings of the 2-pdr was the lack of a high-explosive shell, especially when the 2-pdr was the main gun of a tank; this was very important when a tank was being used for infantry support, leaving it with only its machine gun for anti-personnel use. A high-explosive shell was not produced until late 1942. [5]

Service history[edit]

Crew inside a Valentine tank loading the gun.
2 pounder in action with British troops. Legs are unfolded.
Australian 2 pounder crew firing on Japanese tanks at point-blank range in the Battle of Muar.
Type 95 Ha-Go tanks, victims of the Australian 2 pounder gun. (See above image)

The 2-pdr gun became a part of the Royal Artillery in 1938, when five field brigades were converted to anti-tank regiments.[6] In the early western campaigns, the 2-pdr was employed by two types of Royal Artillery formations: anti-tank regiments of infantry divisions (four batteries with 12 pieces each), and light anti-aircraft/anti-tank regiments of armoured divisions (two 12-gun AT batteries). From October 1940, separate 48-gun anti-tank regiments were introduced in armoured divisions too. Infantry brigade structure initially included an anti-tank company, though it was typically equipped with 25 mm Hotchkiss anti-tank guns; these companies were disbanded later in the war. From 1942, infantry battalions received their own six-gun anti-tank platoons. The organization was different in the Far East theatres. The exact internal structure of AT units was also subject to changes and variations.

The gun first saw combat with the British Expeditionary Force (World War II) during the German invasion of the Low Countries and the subsequent rear-guard actions at Dunkirk. Most of the British Army's 2-pdrs were left behind in France during the retreat, stripping most of the army's infantry anti-tank capability. Those guns captured at Dunkirk entered German service under the designation 4.0 cm Pak 192 (e) or 4.0 cm Pak 154 (b), the "e" and "b" referring to the origin (English or mistakenly attributed to the Belgian Army).

Although the Woolwich Arsenal had already designed a successor to the 2-pdr, the 6 pounder gun, it was decided in the face of a likely German invasion to re-equip the army with the 2-pdr, avoiding the period of adaptation to production, and also of re-training and acclimatization with the new weapon. This had the effect of delaying production of the 6 pounder until November 1941, and availability to frontline units to spring 1942. Consequently, for most of the North African Campaign, the army had to rely on the 2-pdr, aided by the 25 pounder gun-howitzer functioning as an anti-tank gun—a role for which it was capable, though at the expense of taking it away from its main artillery role. As German tank design evolved, anti-armour performance of the 2-pdr gradually became insufficient; however, the gun owes a large part of the bad reputation it gained during the campaign to the open terrain, which made the high-silhouette piece hard to conceal, and to poor tactics.

In North Africa, it was found that the 2-pdr was damaged by being towed long distances across rough, stony deserts. Starting in 1941, the British developed the "en portee" method of mounting the 2-pdr, and later the 6-pounder, on a truck. Though only intended for transport, with the gun carried unloaded, crews tended to fire from their vehicles for more mobility, with consequent casualties. Hence the vehicles tended to reverse into action so that the gunshield of the 2-pdr would provide a measure of protection against enemy fire.

From mid-1942, the 2-pdr was increasingly displaced to infantry anti-tank platoons, to Home Guard units in Great Britain, and to the Far East, where it was still effective against the smaller and more lightly armoured Japanese tanks. It was finally removed from service entirely in December 1945. As a vehicle weapon, it remained in use throughout the war. Although most tanks equipped with it were withdrawn or upgraded to the 6-pdr, it remained in use with armoured cars.

Its performance as an anti-armour weapon was improved later in the war with the development of more sophisticated ammunition and got an additional boost with the introduction of the Littlejohn adaptor, which converted it to a squeeze-bore design firing specially-designed shells at much higher velocities. (However, the Littlejohn adaptor prevented the use of High Explosive rounds.) These improvements, however, were constantly outpaced by improvements in tank design.


Available ammunition[7][8]
Type Model Shot/shell Round weight Projectile weight Filler Muzzle velocity
Armour-piercing, tracer AP/T Mk I Shot 2.04 kg (4.5 lb) 1.08 kg (2.4 lb) 792 m/s (2,600 ft/s)
Armour-piercing, tracer, increased charge APHV/T Shot 2.04 kg (4.5 lb) 1.08 kg (2.4 lb) - 853 m/s (2,800 ft/s)
Armour-piercing, capped, ballistic cap, tracer APCBC/T Mk I Shot 2.22 kg (4.9 lb) 1.22 kg (2.7 lb) - 792 m/s (2,600 ft/s)
Armour-piercing, composite non-rigid
(used with the Littlejohn adaptor)
AP/CNR (APSV) Mk I Shot ? 0.57 kg (1.3 lb) - 1,280 m/s (4,200 ft/s)
Armour-piercing, composite non-rigid
(used with the Littlejohn adaptor)
AP/CNR (APSV) Mk II Shot ? 0.45 kg (0.99 lb) - 1,189 m/s (3,900 ft/s)
High-explosive, tracer HE/T Mk II Shell 1.86 kg (4.1 lb) 0.86 kg (1.9 lb) Lyddite 792 m/s (2,600 ft/s)
Armour penetration table (in millimeters)[9][note 1]
Distance 100 yd (91 m) 500 yd (457 m) 1,000 yd (914 m) 1,499 yd (1,371 m)
AP (meet angle 60°) 49 37 27 17
APHV (meet angle 60°) 62 57 38 28
APCBC (meet angle 60°) 73 65 57 49


Gun variants:

  • Mk IX - main pre-war production version, with barrel of autofrettage construction.
  • Mk IX-A - Mk IX simplified for mass production.
  • Mk X - later production version, with forged barrel.
  • Mk X-A - Mk X with dimension tolerances reduced.
  • Mk X-B - main late-war vehicle version, fitted with the Littlejohn adaptor.

Carriage variants:

  • Mk I - Carriage designed by Vickers.
  • Mk II - Carriage designed by the Royal Arsenal.

Self-propelled mounts[edit]

Matilda II
Australian 2 Pounder Anti-tank Gun Carrier.
Armoured cars
Other vehicles

Surviving examples[edit]

  • There is an Irish Army QF 2 pdr in the museum in Collins Barracks in Dublin City.
  • Another QF 2 pdr is on display at the Canadian Military Heritage Museum in Brantford Ontario Canada.
  • Two guns, one of them on an improvised carriage, are on display in the IDF History Museum (Batey HaOsef) in Tel Aviv, Israel.
  • An Australian-made QF 2 pdr is on display at the Australian War Memorial. [11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Different methods of armour penetration measurement were used in different countries / periods. Therefore, direct comparison is often impossible


  1. ^ Bishop, Chris (1998). The encyclopedia of weapons of World War II. New York: Barnes & Noble Books. p. 180. ISBN 0760710228. OCLC 40924461.
  2. ^ Russell, Lee; Katz, Sam (April 1986). Israeli Defense Forces, 1948 to the Present. Uniforms Illustrated 12. Olympic Marketing Corp. p. 6. ISBN 978-0853687559.
  3. ^ a b c Military Factory: Ordnance QF 2-pounder Anti-Tank Gun
  4. ^ a b Henry 2004, p. 6–7.
  5. ^ Boyd, David (1 January 2009). "WWII Equipment - 2 Pounder Anti-Tank Gun".
  6. ^ Henry, Chris (2004). British Anti-tank Artillery 1939-45, Osprey New Vanguard No.098, p.39
  7. ^ Hunnicutt, R. P. - Sherman: A History of the American Medium Tank., p 496.
  8. ^ Guns vs Armour 1939 to 1945.
  9. ^ Bird, Lorrin; Lingston, Robert (2001). World War II Ballistics: Armor and Gunnery. Albany, NY USA: Overmatch Press. p. 60. OCLC 71143143.
  10. ^ Chamberlain, Peter and Gander, Terry - Anti-Tank Weapons, p 38.
  11. ^ "2 Pounder Anti-Tank Gun". www.awm.gov.au. Retrieved 24 September 2019.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]