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Remembered Today:

9.2 inch Howitzer Deployment


ianjonesncl

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Whilst researching the  first ever 9.2 inch howitzer 'Mother' 

9.2 inch Howitzer "Mother" - Northumbrian Gunner meanderings - The Great War (1914-1918) Forum (greatwarforum.org)

I realised that whilst one had seen many pictures of the 9.2 inch howitzer, read accounts of their deployment and it being the weapon system that is on the Royal Artillery Memorial at Hyde Park, I must admit I was not sure how this multi-part howitzer actually fitted together.

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9.2 inch howitzer Royal Artillery Memorial Hyde Park

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9.2 inch Howitzer, 185th Siege Battery Royal Garrison Artillery

The 9.2 howitzer consists of three main components which are transported separately and assembled on deployment; 

  1. Howitzer Barrel
  2. Howitzer Bed and Earth Box
  3. Howitzer Carriage and Cradle

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The three components were carried on separate carriages.

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The method of deployment was for a holdfast (carried on the Bed and Earth Box carriage) to be buried in the ground to provide a stable platform. The howitzer bed with the pivot for the Carriage / Cradle would then be lowered onto the hold fast and attached. The collapsible Earth Box could then be assembled on the howitzer bed and filled with earth. The Earth Box prevented the howitzer jumping when fired. The  Carriage / Cradle would need to be lowered onto the Bed, and the Barrel mated to it. 

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9.2 inch howitzer holdfast arrangement

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9.2 inch howitzer assembly

 Each carriage could be drawn by twelve heavy draught horses, but mechanical traction was normally used.

Holt caterpillar tractors (operated by the Army Service Corps (ASC)), towed the carriages as three linked loads. The total weight of the carriages was approximately 15 tons and the 'train' moved at an average speed of three miles per hour.


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Holt Tractors drawing 9.2 inch howitzer trains

The deployment of a 9.2 inch battery begins with a reconnaissance officer going ahead to the designated gun area to find suitable locations for the guns.

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An officer  looking for a suitable location to position his guns. 

The Gunners were sent ahead in lorries with stores and would begin to prepare the positions ready for the guns arriving.  This would include preparing level platforms for the guns, routes for deployment and ammuntion supply.

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RGA Gunners and lorry transport

The four 9.2 inch howitzers would then move to their new position. The slow movement was not a hindrance due to the time to prepare the postion for their arrival. Level platforms would need to be prepapred, as well as routes for deployment and amminition supply.

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 Holt 75 Tractor hauling a train of 9.2 inch Howitzer Travelling Carriages

Once the howitzer trains arrived the carriages would be unhooked and the manhandled into position. The first task would be unload the, holdfast, bed and the earth box. The holdfast would be dug in, the bed be positioned onto the prepared platform and the earth box assembled.  

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Unloaded Bed and disassembled Dirt Box.

The howitzers carriage and cradle would then be positioned ready to mated with the howitzer barrel.

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Canadians getting 9.2 inch howitzer carriage and cradle into position

With the carriage / cradle manouenured into postion., the howitzer barrel can now be mated. The travelling carriage containing the barrel is postioned behind carriage / cradle and the barrel is inched into th cradle.

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9.2 inch howitzer mating of barrel and cradle

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9.2 inch howitzer barrel being winched into cradle

With the barrel and carriage / cradle mated together, the main firing system could then be positioned over the bed and lowered onto the pivot.

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124 Siege Battery RGA hauling a 9.2 Howitzer on it's Travelling Carriage                                                                                                                                                            to a new position near the village of Pilkem 14th September 1917.

The Earth Box was required to act as an anchor as the howitzer was liable to jump when fired, particularly at low trajectories. The box needed to be assembled onto the bed, and then filled with earth. A time consuming job that required 9 tons of earth to be shovelled in by hand. A process that needed to be carried out again when moving and the earth shovelled out. The latter contributing to the time taken to move positions.

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9.2 inch howiter Earth Box

Once the howitzer was deployed it was of little use without ammunition, the weapon of artillery. Men would now need to unload ammunition from a variety of means of transport (lorry, narrow gauge railways), move it to the howitzer and prepare it for firing. Each shell weight 100 pounds (45 kg).

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British troops loading 9.2-inch howitzer shells

British troops loading 9.2-inch howitzer shells onto a light railway trolley 

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55th Australian Siege Artillery Battery unloading 9.2 inch shells

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Men of the 95th Siege Battery 9.2 inch howitzer

The process of moving from one location to another and deploying the four guns of a 9.2inch howitzer battery could take from 18 to 24 hours. 

The battery ready.... time for a brew........

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then ready to respond to requests for fire.

 

Edited by ianjonesncl

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Don't forget, after earlier lessons learned, nearly 4 tons of filled sand bags had to be placed between the earth box and the the Howitzer on the bed to prevent breakage. 

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ianjonesncl

Posted (edited)

13 minutes ago, petwes said:

nearly 4 tons of filled sand bags had to be placed between the earth box and the the Howitzer on the bed to prevent breakage. 

I wondered where the sand bags fitted in.

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Edited by ianjonesncl
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What an excellent thread. My grandfather was RGA on heavy howitzers and I have often wondered what was involved in moving them around 

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Dai Bach y Sowldiwr

Posted

Indeed, an excellent blog.

My grandfather was a tractor driver, pulling guns for 264 then 118SB.
This is the most comprehensive account I've seen regarding how all the trailerloads fitted together and came apart again.

Well done.

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