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From: 6" howitzer gun crew




Please find attached an extract from 6" B.L. Howitzer 26 cwt dated June 1918.


Excellent information from John Reed - Gun Drill for 6 inch Howitzer. Always interested in the workings of the gun detachment.

Source: 6" howitzer gun crew

The importance of a good ram is highlighted:

With a Howitzer, especially when worn and when firing at high angles of elevation, unless the shell is rammed well home, there is a danger of it slipping back in the chamber when the gun is elevated. This is liable to produce large errors, and is also a possible source of danger to the detachment, as it may cause a premature.

Certainly not good news for either the supported infantry or the gun detachment.

When rammed home properly, the sound of the driving band meeting the rifling can be distinctly heard

Love that sound :thumbsup:

And the gun drill in action:

Drill for 6" B.L. Howitzer 26 cwt.

Detailed detachment consists of 10 men.

Their duties are as follows:-

No. 1 (Normally a Sergeant could be bombardier)

  • He commands and is responsible to his Section Commander for the regular and efficient service of his gun in all respects.
  • Before leaving the gun park, or on his relief taking over, he must satisfy himself that the equipment of his sub-section is complete reporting the fact to his Section Commander.
  • He frequently tests the clinometer and elevation indicator, and in conjunction with the No. 4 supervises the testing the sights for line.
  • He is responsible that the buffer is properly filled and that there is no leakage in the stuffing box, that the buffer is firmly nutted up to the lug on the howitzer and the piston rod to the front cap on the cradle.
  • He tests the air pressure in the recuperator, sees that there is no leakage at the stuffing box of the liquid cylinder, and that the ram is nutted up to the front cap of the cradle.
  • He sees that the actuating gear of the piston rod is properly assembled.
  • He sees that the various oil holes in the carriage are supplied with oil, and that the guides on the gun are free from grit and burrs, and slightly oiled.
  • He sees that the wood block stop, for the quick loading gear, is in the correct position at all times, except when the gun is required to be fired at less than 7½º elevation, or when testing the sights, or filling, or emptying, the buffer and recuperator.
  • He supervises the arrangement of ammunition at the gun; cartridges will be segregated in lots, and shell grouped by nature, fuze, weight, and driving band. All grit and dirt should be removed from shell, particular attention being paid to the groves in the driving band. He inspects all charges before loading.
  • If the choice of ground for the gun platform rests with him, he is responsible that the most suitable ground available is selected. It is of the greatest importance to have a firm and level platform. When in action on a side slope the higher wheel should be dug in, if possible, to assist in steadying the carriage.
  • On coming in to action he, assisted the No. 4, fits the rocking bar sight (this must be done before girdles are fitted) and places the clinometer, spanners for buffer and recuperator, and pressure gauge, in a convenient position for use, to the right rear of the gun.
  • He acknowledges all orders affecting his sub-section by saluting, also any orders he may be required to pass down the battery. The salute must be given accurately and unmistakably so that it can be plainly seen.
  • When his gun is in action, he ascertains the aiming point or auxiliary aiming point used by the No. 4.
  • On receipt of the elevation he chalks the recoil indicator scale a distance of 3 inches on either side of the mark corresponding to the elevation. If the elevation is altered he rechalks the scale.
  • He supervises the ramming home.

It is of the most utmost importance, in order to get the most accurate results, that the shell should be rammed home properly. It should be sent home vigorously with a good travel; its not sufficient to push the shell up to its place and the press against the base. When rammed home properly, the sound of the driving band meeting the rifling can be distinctly heard. Uniformity in ramming from round to round is of the most utmost importance.

N.B.—Witha Howitzer, especially when worn and when firing at high angles of elevation,unless the shell is rammed well home, there is a danger of it slipping back in the chamber when the gun is elevated. This is liable to produce large errors,and is also a possible source of danger to the detachment, as it may cause a premature.

16. He applies the correction forM.V., also any corrections ordered in the form of "add" or "drop"-

(a) When the elevation indicator is being used, on the sight clinometer.

(B) When the Watkin clinometer is being used, to the elevation ordered by the Section Commander.

17. He lays for elevation, and passes on the angle form the dial sight and the deflection to the No. 4. When setting the elevation indicator the last motion should be to increase the elevation, this is order to counteract any play that may develop in the sight. When setting the sight clinometer the last motion should be one of depression that is turning the micrometer counter clockwise.

18. The gun is never to be fired without his order. Before giving this order, he is responsible that the breech screw is properly locked and that the firing plunger on the quick elevating gear is engaged. When the breech is properly closed the red lines on the breech and breech screw are coincident. He is responsible that the interval ordered between rounds is properly kept as regards to his own gun.

19. During firing he satisfies himself that the recoil is correct, by observing the mark of the pointer on the scale when the gun has fired. If at any time the recoil is 1 inch or more shortor long, the No. 1 reports this to the Section Commander before ordering the gun to be loaded, so that the cause can be ascertained. He watches the action of the recoil as regards the spade,and gives such orders to run up and adjust the trail support as mey be necessary.

20. As soon nas his gun is fired he gives the order to load, if the B.Cs., orders indicate that this is the intention.

21. When rapid or continued firing takes place, he is responsible that during any cessation of fire every opportunity is taken to cool the gun --- by swabbing it out with wet sponge cloths on the rammer. The buffer, breech, mushroom head, and breech block should also be cooled with wet swabs of sponge clothe, sack etc

22 To avoid damage when traveling the rocking bar sight complete should be taken off and the elevating gear should invariably to be thrown out of engagement with the cradle after the latter has been secured in the cradle clamp.


  • He attends to breech and muzzle covers.
  • He is responsible for the breech mechanism and service of the vent, he will see that all bearing parts are kept well lubricated and free from grit or dirt.

He opens and closes the breech as follows:-

To open the breech.

Take hold of the lever breech mechanism with the left hand, thumb uppermost, and slide the hand down the catch retaining, at the same time pulling the lever to the rear, and then swinging it round to the right as far as it will go.

To close the breech

It is the reverse of the above.

He tests the obturating pad (vide care of breech fittings) and, if necessary, adds adjusting discs until the proper fit is obtained.

  • He periodically dismounts the mechanism in order that it may be thoroughly cleaned. By this means stiffness is prevented.
  • He tests the gear for rapid elevating in the following manner:-

To bring the gun into the loading position (7½º elevation),he raises the quick motion elevating lever, and sees the loading plunger engages in the socket on the right of the cradle. He then returns the gun tithe firing position by lowering the quick motion lever,and sees that the firing plunger engages in the socket in the elevating arc.

N.B.- The gun should not be slammed into the firing position, as there is a danger of a rebound action taking place, which prevents the plunger from entering the hole in the arc and may lead to grave errors in the fall of the next round.

6. On coming into action he places his stores as follows:-

Handspike, bevel up, on the right side opf the carriage, close to and parallel to it; iron shod lever, outside the handspike, and head to the front; the lanyard, round his neck; the wrench breech mechanism, vent bit, and rimer, convenient for use, on the right of the carriage. He removes the breech and muzzle covers, if these have been replace dafter "preparation for action."

Except when the girdles are used during firing, he puts on the right brake as soon as the laying for direction with handspikes has been completed. When the gun has to be moved in action he takes off the brake, and puts it on again when the gun is in the correct position. He attends to the right brake when travelling (horse drawn batteries).

  • He inserts tubes in the vent, and locks them by turning them to the right with his left hand; during action the vent should be rimed out frequently, the bodies of tubes be slightly oiled to ensure free working, and the pad be kept greased with tallow.

When the rifle mechanism is being used, the sequence of his duties will be:-

    • Open lock and eject S.A. cartridge
    • Open breech, wipe the head of the vent axial with a wet cloth and complete the loading of shell and charge.
    • Close breech.
    • Elevate the howitzer
    • Inset small-arm cartridge in lock.
    • Inset the firing peg with lanyard attached.
    • Close the lock.
    • Fire the gun.

Note.---If for any reason the gun is not to be fired at once, the lanyard should be unhooked from the firing peg.

If the howitzer is being fired at such an elevation that it is inconvenient to load the small arm cartridge after elevating to the firing position, operation4 above will be carried out after operations 5,6, and 7, in which case great care should be taken that no fouling of the lanyard occurs whilst the howitzer is being elevated.

On no account should the lock be closed with a cartridge in it, unless the firing peg is in position.

  • He assists No. 3 in lifting and traversing the trail.
  • On receiving orders from No. 1, he fires.

He "makes ready" by hooking the lanyard to the tube with his left hand and then steps clear of the wheel,facing the front. Holding the toggle of the lanyard in his right hand, he fires by jerking the lanyard smartly.

In the event of the tube failing to ignite a charge, care should be taken in extracting the fired tube that no one is standing directly in rear of the vent, as the gas generated will cause the tube to fly out with some violence as soon as the T head is clear.

The vent channel sometimes becomes choked with residue from the cartridge. When this occurs, the taper portion should be cleared with na "rimer vent T" sufficiently to allow the insertion of a tube, which, when fired will remove the rest of the obstruction.

When the rifle mechanism is being used.

He "makes ready" by hooking the lanyard to the firing peg with his left hand, and stands facing the front, ready to fire, holding the togglein his left hand. He fires by pulling the lanyard directly towards him. He should be careful to see that the pull given is in direct prolongation of the firing peg. Fair leads will be fitted to ensure this, at any angle of elevation.

The vent should be rimed out at least one a day, and the the lock cleaned with paraffin. The lock should also be oiled out every 50 rounds.

To removed the lock.---Remove the keep split pin retaining the vent axial nut. Disengage the pin retaining from the "nut vent T axial" and unscrew and remove the lock.

Note. ---Before unscrewing the lock it is necessary to open it,otherwise the jaws of the extractor will not clear the recess cut for them inthe head of the vent.


1. He cleans and lubricates the threads of the breech as required, and examines the chamber and bore.

On coming into action, he places his stores as follows:- Handspike, bevel up, and iron shod lever, on the left of the carriage, heads to the front; the rammer on the left of the trail. head in line with the centre of the trail, and about one yard clear; the lanyard of the fuze key round his neck and the key in his pocket; and the oil can, tallow, and waste convenient for use on the left of the carriage.

  • Except when the girdles are used during firing, he puts on the left brake as soon as laying for direction, with the handspike, has been completed. When the gun has to be moved in action ha takes off the brake, and puts it on again when the gun is in its correct position. He attends to the left brake when traveling (horse-drawn batteries).
  • He uncaps fuzes, assists to ram home. He picks up the rammer with his right hand and passes it over his head.
  • The shell is rammed home by No. 3 and No. 5 as follows:- After the loading tray is in position the No. 3 will push the shell into the chamber, with his right hand, till the base of the shell is flush with the face of the breech of the gun.

No. 3 and No. 5 will place their inner feet inside the trail, and their outer feet on the rear pump brackets of the trail, reach out and grasp the rammer at the end, inner hands back up, and the outer hands back down. No. 1 gives "home" as soon as they are ready, and the shell is sent home in one motion with full force.

6. He assists the No.2 in lifting and traversing the trail.

No. 4

1. He removes and replaces the sight cover, as necessary.

2. He examines and lubricates the traversing gear and elevating gears, and assists the No. 2 to test the quick elevating gear.

3. He frequently tests the sights, in conjunction with the No. 1.

4. Oncoming into action he assist No. 1 to place the rocking bar sight in position, he clamps the dial sight with carrier in its bracket, and clips the sight clinometer on its bracket

5. He directs No. 6 to plant aiming posts,when used, and No. 6 and No. 9 to plant the picket that is used for night firing, or for a close auxiliary aiming point. The picket should, if possible, to be planted in rear of the gun, as if to a flank, and close, the recoil of the carriage which takes place until the spade grips, will produce considerable errors in line. When required, he will hold an aiming post over the centre of the dial sight.

6. With indirect laying, he lays conjointly with the No. 1 in a set sequence.

7. He continually checks the settings on the dial sight and on deflection scale of the dial sight carrier during firing, and will record the readings to the auxiliary aiming point and to the picket, in chalk, on the gun, or on a board provided for that purpose. In setting the sight to any angle, the whole degrees R. or L.will be put on the dial plate, and the minutes R. or L. on the micrometer scale; care should be taken when recording angles, to see that minutes on the micrometer head correspond with the direction recorded on the dial plate.

8. Whenever the trail is moved he sets the internal traverse central.

No. 5

1. He assists the No. 10 in cleaning andfuzing the shell.

2. Oncoming into action, he places his stores as follows:-

Loading tray and McMahon spanner convenient for use;

3. He assists in ramming home.

No. 6

1. Oncoming into action, he places his stores as follows:-

Drag rope, pick, and shovel, on the right of the carriage, clear of the other stores; picket and maul, on the right of the carriage, outside No. 2's handspike,heads to the front; aiming posts, on the left of the carriage, outside No. 3's handspike.

2. When laying out the line of fire with aiming posts, he doubles out about 50 yards

to the front, or rear, with two aiming posts and plants them under the direction of the No. 4, in line with the dial sight at zero or 180º as the case maybe. The farthest aiming post should be planted first, and in aligning the posts, he should hold each at the extreme top, with the thumb and forefinger allowing it to hang vertical by its own weight until the signal to plant the post is given. If new lines of fire are ordered No. 6 doubles out, and on a signal from No. 4, picks up the aiming posts, near one first, replanting them as above.

3 When a picket is required to be planted, No 6 assists the No 9

4. He assists the No 8, in the preparation of charges, and carries them from the section cartridge store to the gun and loads them. In wet weather he must be careful to keep the igniter portion of the charge dry. In loading the cartridge he will be careful to place it in the chamber with the igniter to the rear and so that it will not be touched by the breech screw in the act of closing the breech, or the igniter may be displaced from its proper position. It should however, only just clear of the breech screw to ensure its ignition when the tube is fired.

5. He assists the No. 7 inn clearing the spade when choked.

No. 7 and 9

1. They assist No. 10 in the preparation of shell, No. 7 and No. 9 work alternately in carrying shell to gun with No. 7.

2. Oncoming into action No. 7 places hisdragrope, pick, and shovel on the left of the carriage, clear of the other stores.

3. No.7 assists the No. 6 in clearing the spade when choked.

4. No.9 plants picket, assisted by No. 6.

No. 8

1. He should be an N.C.O., if it can be arranged. He is responsible for the

preparation of charges, and the grouping of cartridges in lots

N.B.- These are very important duties, as different lots of corditeor N.C.T. may give varying velocities, in spite of the fact they are marked"adjusted charge." He informs the No. 1when the last cartridge of any particular lot goes up to the gun, in order that the battery commander may be informed.

2. He personally examines thestencilling on the cartridges as to the lot No., and should place no reliance on the stencilling on the cylinders or metal-lined cases.

3. He keeps a list of lots of cordite and N.C.T. showing exactly how many cartridges there are of each lot,and amends it from time to time.

4. He must use every endeavour to keep the cartridge magazine dry, and as far as possible free from sudden changes in temperature. He records charge temperatures in the magazine.

5. On coming into action he takes the metal-lined case and key to section cartridge store.

The N.C.T. cartridge consists of a core, numbered 1, with 3 sections attached, numbered 2, 3, and 4respectively. The cordite cartridge consists of a core numbered with 2 sections attached numbered 2 and 3 respectively. The charge will be ordered as charge 1,charge 2, etc. when all sections will be removed which bear a higher than the charge ordered..

No. 10

1. He is responsible for the issue of tubes, and fuzing,cleanliness, and issue of shells to the gun.

2. Shell should be kept scrupulously clean, all traces of grit or dirt being removed by washing, and once cleaned should not be oiled.

3. Fuzed shell should be kept covered from wet if possible.

4. The threads of a fuze should be well lubricated before screwing home, and the operation should be done under cover and inas short timeas possible

5. Shells will be grouped according to their nature, fuze,weight and driving band.

6. Shells after cleaning should rest on planks or battens

7. Any means available locally must be used to hide large dumps of shell from aerial observation.

8. On coming into action he issues tubes to No, 2 and places fuze keys, hammer, file,and brush convenient for use at the shell or lorry.

Extracted from Gun Drill 6" B.L.Howitzer 26 Cwt Dated June 1918


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