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Remembered Today:

9.2 inch Howitzer "Mother"


ianjonesncl

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One of the most iconic of artillery equipments that saw action in World War One was the 9.2 inch howitzer. It's influence was such that it was chosen as the weapon system to symbolise the Gunners during the conflict on the Royal Artillery Memorial.

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RA Memorial Hyde Park - Northumbrian Gunner meanderings - The Great War (1914-1918) Forum (greatwarforum.org)

The prototype 9.2 inch howitzer, which became known as 'Mother', fired the first round on operations 1st November 1914. The howitzer could fire a 290 pounds round 10,000 yards (130kg - 9,200 metres). In December 1916, the Mark 2 9.2 inch howitzer entered service, its longer barrlel using a heavier propellant charge increased the range to 13,935 yards (12,742 metres).

 By the end of the war there would be 692 9.2 inch howitzers in service and over three million rounds of 9.2 inch ammunition were fired during the conflict.

It all started with 'Mother' which is preserved in the Imperial War Museum, London.

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The concept of a heavy siege howitzer arose from observations from the Siege of Port Arthur during the Russo-Japanese War [1] and the use of 11" (280 cm) howitzers against fortifications. [2] The Combined Training Manual of 1905 (the British Army's first ever doctrine publication) had no reference to Siege Operations. As a result of the observations of the Port Arthur Siege, by 1909, Field Service Regulations (superseding Combined Training 1905), devoted a whole chapter. [3]

The requirement for a heavy mobile howitzer was identified and specifications were issued to armaments manufacturers. The howitzer was to have a calibre of 9 to 9.2 inches ( 229 mm to 234 mm), firing a projectile of at least 290 lbs (131.5 kg)  at a range of not less than 10,000 yards (9,144 metres). It was to be transportable in 3 loads  (Howitzer, bed, carriage and cradle) en train by traction engine. [4]

The use of traction engines to hail heavy artillery began after the Crimean War and experiments had taken place over the following fifty years, firstly with steam and then internal combustion engines. Steam traction engines had been used to pull guns during the Boer War. [5] 

A prototype 9.2 inch howitzer was delivered by the Coventry Ordnance Works in 1913. [6]

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It was put through travelling and firing trials at Woolwich and Shoeburyness before being sent to Rhayadar [mid Wales] for acceptance trials in July 1914. The Battery Commander of the Siege Company conducting the trials reported,( signed the day before war broke out), "This equipment is a vast improvement on any other in use in the siege artillery, and is worth taking with an army".  As a result of the successful trial, the Master General of the Ordnance placed an order for sixteen 9.2 inch howitzers. [7]

After the trials the prototype was moved to Rhayader railway station where it was left in the care of the local police until being sent by rail to Woolwich. [8].

On the 13th October 1914, 8th Siege Battery Royal Garrison Artillery entrained onto 3 trains with two 6 inch Breech Loading Convertible Guns and the prototype 9.2 inch Howitzer, together with vehicles, stores and personnel. The Battery proceeded to Avonmouth where they embarked on the 14th October sailing to Le Havre,  disembarking on the 16th October. [9]

The 9.2 inch Howitzer Section consisted of; [10]

2 Officers + 41 Other Ranks RGA

26 ASC drivers and mechanics

1 x 9.2" Howitzer in 3 parts

1 x Fowler Tractor

1 Trailer

5 x 5 ton lorries

2 x 3 ton lorries

1 x motor car

2 x motor cycles

500 rounds of ammunition (128 to go with Howitzer)

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WO 95/393/2 War Diary 8th Siege Batter RGA October 1914 Appendix A

On arrival in France the 6 inch BLC section and the 9.2 inch section marched separately. On the 30th October, Major Webb and Lieutenant Cameron, under command of General Headquarters,  left for Hazebrouck. The next day saw the first action of a 9.2 inch howitzer on the Western Front at Lacoutre (15km SW of Armentieres). The mission was conducted by observation from aircraft and determination of the range from a map. [11]

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WO 95/393/2 War Diary 8th Siege Battery RGA 1st November 1914

The shoot was successful, an enemy Battery near Lorgies was destroyed with 8 rounds. The 9.2 inch howitzer was later moved as it was considered that the line was not secure enough for the equipment to be so close to the front.  To protect the new equipment from unauthorized persons and enemy activity, an infantry guard and  an anti-aircraft section to deal with hostile aeroplanes were deployed. [12]

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One of the first 9.2 inch howitzer (Mother) to arrive in Flanders  IWM Q 56185

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One of the first 9.2 inch howitzer (Mother) to arrive in Flanders IWM Q 56186

WAR SERVICE - [13]

8th Siege Battery

  • 1914 31-Oct to 1-Nov Mounted by night at LA COUTURE and brought into action as an independent section under Major (afterwards Brigadier-General) G. B. MACKENZIE, Royal Artillery, gaining great reputation by destroying an enemy heavy battery near LORGIES in 8 rounds.
  • 1914 1-Nov to 2-Nov  Dismounted at night and removed, as the line was not considered securely enough held to allow the howitzer to remain so close to it.
  • 1914 2-Nov to 4-Nov  Marched via MERVILLE and BAILLEUL to NIEPPE. The 18-ton tractor sank in the road and as 200 men could not move it, it was abandoned, and the howitzer towed on by a Foden steam ammunition lorry.
  • 1914 5-Nov  Visited by Field Marshal Sir John French, Commander-in-Chief. Mounted at night at NIEPPE.
  • 1914 7-Nov  Opened fire at WARNETON 7th to 24th November Fired occasionally on targets in the vicinity of WARNETON and WYTSCHAETE, ammunition being limited to six rounds a day. "MOTHER" was considered a great curiosity, and an infantry guard was detailed to keep civilians away and an Anti-aircraft section allotted to drive away enemy aeroplanes.
  • 1914 18-Nov  VISITED IN ACTION by H.R.H. THE PRINCE OF WALES, K.G., who photographed the howitzer.

10th Siege Battery

  • 1915 February to June Became part of 10th Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery.
  • 1915 10-Mar to 13-Mar Took part in the Battles of NEUVE CHAPELLE
  • 1915 15-May to 25-May Took part in the Battles FESTUBERT
  • 1915 6-Jul Sent home

1915 to 1918

  •  6th July Sent home and fired at SHOEBURYNESS till worn out.

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Mother ' 9.2 Howitzer at Shoeburyness' Gantry Battery

  • In 1917 " MOTHER " was re-lined and re-issued to France, and re-numbered in January, 1918.

Post War 

After the Armistice, ' Mother ' served with the 69th Siege Battery based at Wahn Camp near Cologne, as part of the Occupation Force, before being selected to be the permanent 9.2 Howitzer exhibit at the new Imperial War museum housed at Crystal Palace, London. Sometime in the Spring of 1919 ' Mother ' was dismantled and shipped from Germany on Vickers Travelling Carriages to the new Imperial War Museum building in the Crystal Place, London, where it was re-assembled and put on display at the Imperial War Museum when it opened on 9th June 1920. [14]

And in 2015..... 

9.2in BL Howitzer Mk 1 (Mother), British | Imperial War Museums (iwm.org.uk)

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9.2 inch Howitzer 'Mother' Imperial War Museum 2015

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[1] Headlam - The History of the Royal Artillery from Indian Mutiny to the Great War Volume II (1899-1914) page 258

[2] Ibid page 256

[3] Ibid page 258 

[4] Ibid page 262

[5] Moving the Guns - The mechanisation of the Royal Artillery 1854-1939 - Chapter 1

[6] Osprey - British Artillery 1914-19 Heavy Artillery page 33

[7] Headlam Vol 1 - page 262-263

[8] The Journal of the Royal Artillery, Vol. 50, page 176-177 (July 1923)

[9] WO 95/393/2 War Diary 8th Siege Battery RGA 1914 Oct - 1915 July :  13 to 16 Oct 1914

[10] Ibid October 1914 Appendix A

[11] Ibid 30 Oct to 1 Nov

[12] 9.2in BL Howitzer Mk 1 (Mother), British | Imperial War Museums (iwm.org.uk)

[13]

[14] From  @Lancashire Fusilier  <https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/173218-ww1-military-motors-1916-set-x-50-cards/page/169/>

 

Edited by ianjonesncl

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