THE QUICK FIRE 18-POUNDER a stalwart of the British Army’s artillery for forty years.
‘The Guns! Thank God! The Guns!’ “Ubique” means that warnin’ grunt the perished linesman knows, When o’er ‘is sturng an’ sufferin’ front the shrapnel sprays ‘is foes. An’ as their firin’ dies away the ‘usky whisper runs. From lips that ‘aven’t drunk all day ‘The Guns! Thank God! The Guns!
..Rudyard Kipling 1865-1936.. Famous for his poem 'my boy Jack' Dedicated to his son who died at Loos
This 18-pounder Mark II field gun saw considerable action on the Western Front in the War. Between September 1916 and November 1917 it fired 16,513 rounds before being sent back to Britain to have its barrel relined/rebored. When it returned to France in March 1918 it was issued to 53rd Battery.Royal Field Artillery and took part in opposing the German spring offensive of 1918 and in the subsequent British advance in the autumn.Over 5,670 18-pounders were produced by the British and American factories by 1918. Over 86 million 18-pounder shells were fired during the war. Up to a million a week were fired in the summer of 1917. This gun is on show at the Imperial War Musuem.
Night action for RFA gunners on the western front.
Into position this is a 13 pdr at practice a full turnout of horses and men (IWM Q6719)
18 Pounder guns of which John was a crew member fired 3.3inch (84mm) calibre shells, shells weighed 18.5lb (8.4kg) each. A well trained crew could fire 30 rounds a minute, to a range of up to 3 miles or more. 4 types of shell were fired, High expolsive,Sharpnel (375 lead balls with a burster charge of black powder),Smoke and Gas. Some reduced charge rounds were fired for training. Rounds at a battery position would be about 176. 1000 rounds would be available for each gunpit held in various locations. A brigade would consist of about 800 men of these about 22 would be officers, of course losses of equipment ect would alter these figures. During the progression of the war men would be moved around brigades some coming back from injury finding their brigade had lost guns in battle. Field guns could be abandoned to the enemy. If possible guns would almost always be destroyed removing the gun sights or exploding a charge in the barrel or breech. This must have been a distressing time for the returning men not only are they not with their original brigade, friends of theirs would be missing and they themselves would be going to a new brigade in a different division probably not knowing anyone. This happened to John.
Royal Field Artillery batterys consisted of 6, 18 pounder guns to each battery, named "A" battery "B" battery "C" battery "D" battery were normally Howitzers. An 18-pounder field gun had a crew of ten, six of whom operated it in action. The limber is drawn by a team of six horses with a driver on one side of each pair, each of the artillerymen on the gun would have a number. No1 in command,(usually a Sergeant) No2 Operates breech mechanism. No3 Limbers and unlimbers (with No2) and fires the gun No4 Limbers up and unlimbers ammunition wagon(with 5 and 6) No5 and 6 Hook in and unhook ammunition team. No6 operates the fuse indicator. No7 and 8 are Reserves at the wagon line and assists with ammunition and replacing any casualties on the gun. No10 "Coverer" takes over in the event of an injury to number 1, but looks after wagon teams in the mean time. The wagon team were always susceptible to attack, the enemy targeted them because without ammo and horses your gunpits efficiency was greatly affected. The brigade also had about 65-70 drivers controlling horse and mule, some with ammunition wagons others with gun and limber spare parts, it could sometimes be a hazardous job with the weather conditions hampering the drivers getting to the guns to re-ammunition. In conditions where mule or horse were bogged down the ammunition was carried by the men each with 4 rounds in leg pouches (2 either side) with straps slung over their shoulders. This was very tiring work with men sinking into the mud, some getting lost in the dark on the way to gun positions, falling into muddied shell holes, sticking fast, other not getting out at all! Gunners and drivers although with the same brigade lived in separate locations sometimes miles apart.
This picture (IWM Q5171) Illustrates 6 men positioning a gun for action - during the Battle of Arras spring 1917.
Gunpit in Carnoy Valley on the Somme firing during the attack on pozieres Ridge. 30th July 1916.(IWM Q4065)
Actual sign from the Pozieres area used during ww1
A Battery in action.
Action stations a good example of the number 4 ramming the shell into the breech.The front of the shell would have been resting on his forearm before being inserted, because wrapping your fingers around the shell could mean loosing a finger or two if the number 2 was too quick in closing the breech!
31st Division, whereabouts 1918 until Johns wounding.
March 21st saw the start of the 'Great German offensive'. This offensive if successful could have changed the whole outcome of the war. Germany's well trained stormtroopers made great advances,up to 40 miles inside allied lines. The German high command were slow in getting trained reinforcements to relieve them, which cost them dear. Infact it was the beginning of the end for the German empire, who realised they faced defeat when their offensive eventually failed which led to the start of the German armies retreat.
Battle of St Quentin 21-23 Mar. 1st Battle Bapaume 24-25 Mar. 1st Battle Arras 28 Mar. Battle of Estaures 9-11 Apr. Battle of Hazebrouck 12-15 Apr. Action of La Becque 28 Jun. July and August at Wallon Cappell. (July 18th. Turn of the tide for the allies.)
In August 1914, Royal Artillery personnel numbered 4,083 officers, and 88,837 other ranks, by November 1918, there were 29,990 officers, and 518,790 other ranks. Guns and Howitzer from 486 to 6,437, ammunition of all calibres totalled approx 170,385,295.
49,076 Royal regiment of artillery gave their lives between 1914-1919.
Artillery memorial London
Picture courtesy of Royal Artillery Musuem London.
INTERESTING FACTS AND FIGURES ON WW1. *************************************
Hostilities opened on Aug 4th 1914. and closed on Nov 11th 1918. *** The armistice was signed on the hundredth day of the fifth year of the war. *** The British army came first into action at Mons and British troops recaptured Mons on the last day of the fighting. *** At the outbreak of hostilities the strength of the British army at home and abroad was 256,014 of all arms, while the total strength available for the firing line was slightly over 131,000 officers and men. At the end we had sent into the field 9,496,170.(Roll of honour) *** On the 1st of July 1916 British killed in action amounted to over 19,000 loses, all casualties totalling 57,000 in one single day, the worst in British history. *** During the battle of the somme the RFA fired over 7,000,000 shells. *** The first tanks appeared in the battle of the somme, Sept 1916. *** The first bomb (22lbs) dropped on British soil was in Dover on Christmas eve 1914, it fell harmlessly in a field. *** There were 51 zeppelin raids on England between Jan 19, 1915 and April 12 1918. *** The total casualties killed and injured from airship and aeroplane raids and bombardments amounted to 4,820, (1,413 killed,) included in the casualties were 295 children. *** The casualties in the war were appalling There were, roughly, 187,000 war widows in the British Isles. The total British losses in the Army Navy and Air Force, including wounded and missing and prisoners of war, amounted to 3,098,260. 908,400 of that figure were deaths over 9 million people were mobilised. Britain lost 7.5 million tons of shipping, over a thousand ships. *** The end of hostilities saw the collapse of three mighty empires. Russia,Austria and Germany. Germany suffered 1.8 million dead. *** France had over 20% of its population 8 million active in the war 3.5% were killed. with 5 million casualties, 1,385,000 military deaths. *** Russia mobilised over 12 million men. 6.6 million casualties. *** In total some 8.5 million people lost their lives during the great war. Wounded totalled 21,250,000, and missing 7,750,000. 58.6 million were mobilised, a total of 37.5 million were casualties *** Britains last Tommy of ww1 Harry Patch served with the 7th Duke of Cornwalls Light Regiment, wounded 22nd Sept 1917 in the Flanders war, died in July 2009 aged 111.... "And if any man tells you he ever went to France and went in the front line and tells you he was'nt scared....Then he's a damn liar!" *** Mrs Amy Beechey lost five sons to the war, when her loses reached the ears of the court she was presented to King George V and Queen Mary. When the queen commented on her great sacrifice she responded: 'It was no sacrifice, Ma'am. I did not give them willingly.' *** Casualty statistics based on Roll of honour (which does not give source) and The Guns of August (1964)Film/Docu. ***
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LINKS:- clickhere. Great ww1 site and forum hosted by Chris Baker.
clickhere. Excellent site on Worcester 241 artillery brigade.
clickhere. 1st class site on artillery through the ages.
clickhere. Exemplary site on British and Foreign war graves of our brave men.
Kings crown RFA cap badge. Latin motto UBIQUE(forward) QUE FAS ET GLORIA DUCUNT (Where)(Whither) right and glory lead).