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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:



The 444th Siege Battery was formed on 31st May 1917 at Horsham and deployed to the Western Front 10th December 1917 equipped with two 12 inch Mark V Railway Howitzers.

The success of the 9.2 in Mk1 Howitzer (290 lb shell firing out to 10,600 yards / 130 kg - 9,965 m ) which had been introduced in 1914 and the continuation of trench warfare led to a demand for ordnance which could fire heavier shells and at a longer range. The Elswick Ordnance Company designed and manufactured a 12 inch howitzer (750 lb shell firing out to 11,132  yards / 340 kg - 10,180 m) mounted on a well railway truck. It came in to service in March 1916. It had a capability to traverse 360 degrees (6,400 mils), but was limited to 19 degrees (340 mills) left and right of centre line due to issues with stability. The  longer-barrelled Mk III soon followed, with a heavier breech to balance the gun. This increased the range to 15,000 yd (14,000 m). The 12 inch rail howitzer mark V was introduced in July 1917. The recoil system was moved to under the barrel, and the loading platform was moved from the railway wagon to the revolving gun mounting. These alterations reduced the range to 14,350 yd (13,120 m), but allowed the mounting to traverse at 90 degrees (1,800 mils).

It was the 12 inch Mark V Railway Howitzer with which 444 Siege Battery deployed to the Western Front. They operated in the area Lens and Arras, and one of the howitzers was given the name Bunty.


444 Siege Battery RGA and Bunty

The howitzer was loaded by winching the round onto the loading platform


Shell being hoisted onto loading platform

Once hoisted up to the loading platform it was placed on a loading tray.


Round being placed on loading tray

Once on the loading tray the round was ready to be rammed into the breech.


Round ready to be loaded and rammed into the breech

The gun would then be layed with the firing data, the barrel being elevated ready for firing.


Laying ready for firing


Ready for firing

The howitzer would then fire, sending a 290 lb (130 kg) shell to the target.


Fire !

The barrel would then be returned to the horizontal ready for loading.


Barrel returned to loading position

Once the fire mission was completed - time for a quick team photograph


444 Siege Battery RGA and Bunty - Fire Mission completed


Time to look after the Battery mascot.



Edited by ianjonesncl


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