Humanities › History & Culture World War II: Ordnance QF 25-Pounder Field Gun Share Flipboard Email Print (Public Domain) History & Culture Military History Arms & Weapons Battles & Wars Key Figures Naval Battles & Warships Aerial Battles & Aircraft Civil War French Revolution Vietnam War World War I World War II American History African American History African History Ancient History and Culture Asian History European History Genealogy Inventions Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History The 20th Century Women's History View More By Kennedy Hickman Military and Naval History Expert M.A., History, University of Delaware M.S., Information and Library Science, Drexel University B.A., History and Political Science, Pennsylvania State University Kennedy Hickman is a historian, museum director, and curator who specializes in military and naval history. He has appeared on The History Channel as a featured expert. our editorial process Facebook Facebook Kennedy Hickman Updated January 11, 2020 The Ordnance QF 25-pounder was the standard artillery piece used by British Commonwealth forces during World War II. Designed to be an improvement over the World War I-era 18-pounder, the 25-pounder saw service in all theaters and was a favorite with gun crews. They type was also adapted for use on tracked vehicles as self-propelled artillery. It remained in use through the 1960s and 1970s. Development In the years after World War I, the British Army began seeking a replacement for its standard field guns, the 18-pdr, and the 4.5" howitzer. Rather than design two new guns, it was their desire to have a weapon that possessed the high-angle fire capability of the howitzer along with the direct fire ability of the 18-pdr. This combination was highly desirable as it reduced the types of equipment and ammunition needed on the battlefield. After assessing their options, the British Army decided that a gun of approximately 3.7" in caliber with a range of 15,000 yards was needed. In 1933, experiments began using 18-, 22-, and 25-pdr guns. After studying the results, the General Staff concluded that the 25-pdr should be the standard field gun for the British Army. After ordering a prototype in 1934, budget restrictions forced a change in the development program. Rather than design and build new guns, the Treasury dictated that existing Mark 4 18-pdrs be converted to 25-pdrs. This shift necessitated reducing the caliber to 3.45". Beginning testing in 1935, the Mark 1 25-pdr was also known as the 18/25-pdr. With the adaptation of the 18-pdr carriage came a reduction in range, as it proved incapable of taking a charge strong enough to fire a shell 15,000 yards. As a result, the initial 25-pdrs could only reach 11,800 yards. In 1938, experiments resumed with the goal of designing a purpose-built 25-pdr. When these were concluded, the Royal Artillery opted to place the new 25-pdr on a box trail carriage which was fitted with a firing platform (the 18-pdr carriage was a split trail). This combination was designated the 25-pdr Mark 2 on a Mark 1 carriage and became the standard British field gun during World War II. Ordnance QF 25-Pounder Field Gun OverviewNation: Great Britain & Commonwealth NationsDates of Use: 1938-1967 (British Army)Designed: 1930sVariants: Marks I, II, III, Short-Mark ICrew: 6SpecificationsWeight: 1.98 tonsLength: 18 ft. 2 in.Width: 7 ft. wheelbaseBarrel Length: 31 calibersBreech: Vertical Sliding BlockFeed System: Separate LoadingShell: Normal, SuperCaliber: 3.45 in.Elevation: -5 to 45 degreesTraverse: 360 degrees on platform, 4 degrees on carriageRate of Fire: 6 to 8 rounds per minuteMuzzle Velocity: 1,700 ft./sec. Charge SuperRange: 13,400 Charge SuperSights: Direct Fire - Telescopic Indirect Fire - Calibrating and Reciprocating Crew & Ammunition The 25-pdr Mark 2 (Mark 1 Carriage) was served by a crew of six. These were: the detachment commander (No. 1), breech operator/rammer (No. 2), layer (No. 3), loader (No. 4), ammunition handler (No. 5), and a second ammunition handler/coverer who prepared the ammunition and set the fuses. The No. 6 usually served as second-in-command on the gun crew. The official "reduced detachment" for the weapon was four. Though capable of firing a variety of ammunition, including armor-piercing, the standard shell for the 25-pdr was high explosive. These rounds were propelled by four types of cartridge depending on range. 25-pdr field gun of 153rd Field Regiment (Leicestershire Yeomanry) during a practice shoot, 1943. Public Domain Transport and Deployment In British divisions, the 25-pdr was deployed in batteries of eight guns, which were composed of sections of two guns each. For transport, the gun was attached to its limber and towed by a Morris Commercial C8 FAT (Quad). Ammunition was carried in the limbers (32 rounds each) as well as in the Quad. In addition, each section possessed a third Quad that towed two ammunition limbers. Upon arriving at its destination, the 25-pdr's firing platform would be lowered and the gun towed onto it. This provided a steady base for the gun and allowed the crew to rapidly traverse it 360°. Morris-Commercial C8 'Quad' artillery tractor and 25-pdr field gun crossing a pontoon bridge at Slaght Bridge in Antrim, Northern Ireland. Public Domain Variants While the 25-pdr Mark 2 was the most common type of the weapon, three additional variants were built. The Mark 3 was an adapted Mark 2 that possessed a modified receiver to prevent rounds from slipping when firing at high angles. Mark 4s were new build versions of the Mark 3. For use in the jungles of the South Pacific, a short, pack version of the 25-pdr was developed. Serving with Australian forces, the Short Mark 1 25-pdr could be towed by light vehicles or broken down into 13 pieces for transport by animal. Various changes were made to the carriage as well, including a hinge to permit easier high angle fire. A short 25-pounder in use on New Guinea, 1944. Public Domain Operational History The 25-pdr saw service throughout World War II with British and Commonwealth forces. Generally thought to be one of the best field guns of the war, the 25-pdr Mark 1s were used in France and in North Africa during the conflict's early years. During the British Expeditionary Force's withdrawal from France in 1940, many Mark 1s were lost. These were replaced by the Mark 2, which entered service in May 1940. Though relatively light by World War II standards, the 25-pdr supported the British doctrine of suppressing fire and proved itself highly effective. After seeing American use of self-propelled artillery, the British adapted the 25-pdr in a similar fashion. Mounted in the Bishop and Sexton tracked vehicles, self-propelled 25-pdrs began to appear on the battlefield. After the war, the 25-pdr remained in service with British forces until 1967. It was largely replaced with the 105mm field gun following standardization initiatives implemented by NATO. The 25-pdr remained in service with Commonwealth nations into the 1970s. Heavily exported, versions of the 25-pdr saw service during the South African Border War (1966-1989), the Rhodesian Bush War (1964-1979), and the Turkish Invasion of Cyprus (1974). It was also employed by the Kurds in northern Iraq as of late 2003. Ammunition for the gun is still produced by the Pakistan Ordnance Factories. Though largely retired from service, the 25-pdr is still frequently used in a ceremonial role.