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Ordnance, Q.F., 25-pdr

The 25pdr Field Gun
A Brief History of the 25-pdr (Ordnance, Q.F., 25-pdr)

During the British Army’s analysis of their artillery in the wake of the First World War it was felt there was a requirement for a light artillery piece that combined the advantages of a howitzer and a gun. This new weapon would replace both the 18-pdr and 4.5 inch Howitzer. Development work was carried out during the 1920s and 1930s, but a limited budget meant little real progress was made.

The outcome of initial investigations concluded that a gun of 3.7 inches (94mm) in calibre firing a shell of 20 to 25 lbs (9 to 11 kgs) and with a range of 15,000 (13,716 metres) yards or more would be required to replace both the gun and howitzer.

Tests were run with 18, 22 and 25-pdr guns in 1933, it was soon decided by the war department that the 25-pdr be used to equip the field artillery.

Due to the large number of existing 18-pdr field guns the Treasury was reluctant to scrap them in favour of an entirely new weapon. Treasury demanded that a way be found to use the existing stocks of 18-pdrs in the development of the new gun. 

The 18pdr has a calibre of 3.3 inches (84mm), but was fitted with a barrel liner that could easily be removed and replaced, but unfortunately the maximum calibre achievable by relining the barrel was only 3.45 inches (87.6mm), a far cry from the originally intended 3.7 inches. In 1935 it was decided to adopt 3.45 inches as the new calibre of the 25-pdr.
The circular firing platform in position under the 25-pdr carriage

This first model, Ordnance, Q.F., 25-pdr Mk 1 or more commonly known as the "18/25-pdr", was to see service in Europe and North Africa in the early stages of WWII, it used the Mk 4P 18-pdr carriage, the ’P’ indicating the use of pneumatic tyres for motorised use. Because the 18-pdr carriage was not intended for use with the new 25 lb round a reduction was made to the charge and as a consequence the range was decreased from the desired 15,000 yards to 11,800 yards.

Many 18/25-pdrs were lost during the evacuation from Dunkirk and they needed to be replaced. The Mk 2 25-pdr saw the introduction of its own carriage. The trials were between the original split trail design and a Vickers box trail design that came with its own firing platform. After test firing at the School of Artillery it was unanimously decided to adopt the Vickers design. This new weapon was known as the 25-pdr Mk 2 on the Mk 1 carriage. The Mk 2 first saw action in Norway 1940 and by the end of the war over 12,000 had been made.

Many saw service in North Africa and were often pressed into the anti-tank roll when the 2-pdr proved inadequate. The circular firing platform proved its worth in the anti-tank role, the 25-pdr was able to be repositioned by its crew with ease when faced with multiple direct fire targets.

Left: The circular firing platform in position under the 25-pdr carriage.

The Vickers carriage proved to be so hardy and robust that it was used when the 17-pdr was first introduced, the carriage standing up to the strain of this more powerful weapon.

A narrower and lighter carriage was also developed for use in jungle warfare, this was known as the 25-pdr Mk 2 with Carriage Mk 2.

A Late War 25-pdr painted by Jeremy

A hinged trail model was also developed for mountain warfare to give increased elevation (25-pdr Mk 2 with Carriage Mk 3).

The Australians designed a pack version that could be broken down for easier movement.

It was also motorised in Canadian armoured chassis (in a similar concept to the American Priest) known as the Sexton. The Bishop was of British design and was based on the Valentine tank chassis, unlike the Sexton the gun was enclosed in a turret like superstructure with rear facing doors for access.

The 25-pdr had a very effective High Explosive (HE) round. As well as the explosive concussion caused by the round, it also broke into 500 or more splinters, each capable of killing or maiming. It has even been estimated to be 1.5 times more effective than the equivalent US 105mm round.

Modifications were also made to the ammunition, the introduction of the super charge and later super plus meant the addition of a muzzle break was required to reduce the strain on the carriage, but increases in range were achieved out to 13,500 yards. Further modifications were made to the breach ring to prevent cracking when firing the new ammunition, this became the Mk 2/1.

25-pdrs in North Africa

Modifications were made to the breach to prevent slip-back when loading (Mk 3), with those having the breach ring modification of the Mk 2/1 known as the Mk 3/1. The final mark included all the modifications like the Mk 3/1 but was of new manufacture.

The 25pdr, despite its compromised design specifications, proved to be an effective and well-liked weapon for its crew. It had a good range, a carriage that proved robust in the harshest conditions; it had an excellent High Explosive round and could be deployed in the anti-tank role when needed.

Some have even termed the 25-pdr "a classic".
Setting up the 25-pdr gun 25-pdr and ammunition trailer in North Africa

Last Updated On Friday, December 19, 2008 by Wayne at Battlefront