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Britain’s 25-Pounder
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
December 2014

In 1933, the British Army called for new designs for an artillery piece to replace both the 18-pounder field gun and 4.5-inch howitzer that had been the standard medium field peices of the Great War. Testing took place in 1938, and the Mark I model entered service the next year. This weapon consisted of the new gun mounted on surplus 18-pounder carriages, and was commonly known as the 18/25-pdr.

The hybrid weapon did not continue long in production, and most of them were lost in the rapid evacuations of British troops from France and Norway in 1940. The Mark 2 model appeared in 1940 with its own carriage. Unlike most contemporary artillery pieces, the new model 25-pounder had a traverse wheel allowing the crew to fire through a full 360 degrees without moving the weapon. Over 12,000 of these would be produced by war’s end in Britain plus another 1,315 in Australia, equipping the Dominion armies as well as the British artillery regiments.

Aussie gunners on the Kokoda Trail
in New Guinea, September 1942.
Australian War Memorial photo 026852.

The 25-pounder had a theoretical range of 13,400 yards with a supercharge, but this damaged the barrel fairly rapidly even with the addition of a muzzle brake. The safer maximum charge, “type 3,” gave a range of 11,875 yards but the common type 2 provided 7,800-yard range. A good crew could fire 6 to 8 rounds a minute, though this would damage the barrel as well, and 3 per minute was more normal and the recommended rate. Though called 25-pounder, its rounds varied in weight. By other nations’ measurement systems, it was a 3.45-inch or 87mm gun.

The “gunhow” fired three types of shell: armor-piercing, smoke, and high explosive. There was also a chemical shell designed and produced in limited quantities, that does not appear to have been issued to any regiments in the field during World War II.

Australia produced a “Short” version with, appropriately, a shorter barrel. It has less range, but could be broken down into pack loads, considered highly important in the jungle fighting in New Guinea. It could not fire the supercharge, but this was consdiered important only for firing the anti-tank solid shot, and the 25-pounder Short could dispose of what few Japanese tanks it might encounter quite well without it. A pair of British sergeants in a field regiment serving in Burma produced a similar narrow carriage, with the same barrel, that could be broken down for pack loads, carried in a C-47 transport plane or towed by a jeep. Artillery crews converted their pieces to this standard using locally-procured materials.

Did anyone actually tow these guns?
Sikh gunners manhandle a “Short” model
25-pounder during the 1962 Indo-Chinese War.

The 25-pounder remained the British Army’s standard field piece untilt he late 1960s, and some training units still had a few as late as 1989. They soldier on in a number of Third World armies; Kurdish nationalists militiamen used their handful against Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Army in 2003.

In the Panzer Grenadier series, the 25-pounder appears only in British colors. It has special qualities in limbering and unlimbering, due to its rugged construction and ease of emplacement (thanks to that traverse wheel).

One is even called for in Jungle Fighting, a battery of guns supplied to the Marine 246th Field Artillery Battalion from New Zealand’s inventory and taken to Guadalcanal. The 25-pounder is present in many scenarios in Desert Rats and Afrika Korps as well.

We’ve provided a free download of a 25-pounder battery in U.S. Marine colors, as well as three each in Australian, New Zealand and Indian colors to help round out your Dominion forces.

Order Jungle Fighting now and put this free 25-pounder to work!

Mike Bennighof is president of Avalanche Press and holds a doctorate in history from Emory University. A Fulbright Scholar and award-winning journalist, he has published over 100 books, games and articles on historical subjects. He lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, three children and his dog, Leopold.