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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Original paint on IWM's 9.2 Howitzer "Mother"

Guest hs16b

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I'm looking for some info on the maintenance and painting of artillery. I'm a paintings conservator, and am working on the IWM's 9.2 Howitzer "Mother", to establish its original colour (thought to be all-over dark green). Cross-section analysis of the paint layers reveals that a dark green paint is the lowest paint layer on the gun and on the carriage. However, the gun and carriage have different dates: the gun is from 1913 and the carriage from 1918. There was little development in paint and pigment manufacture between these dates, and it would not be surprising to find the same paint on both, but this, and other things have raised a few questions.

I found a bright red anti-corrosion paint/ priming layer on a few areas of the carriage (the very inaccessible bits right up inside at the top and at the bottom of the back). In some samples, the dark green paint lies directly on this red priming layer, which provides fairly conclusive proof that the dark green paint is the original paint (on the carriage at least). However, this red priming layer is not visible anywhere else on the carriage, and nowhere on the gun, although what I think is the 'original' dark green paint is present all over both - apparently applied to bare metal.

I was wondering whether the maintenance and painting of artillery was an area of interest or expertise of anyone? My particular questions are:

Was there a paint specification/ colour for artillery when it was manufactured?

Was artillery always re-painted in the field, or would it have been repainted if it went back to the factory for repair?

Why is the red priming/ anti-corrosive layer only present in inaccessible areas of the carriage: might it have only been applied in these areas only, as the manufacturer knew that access to these areas would be very limited once the gun was assembled, and wanted to provide the best protection to the metal?

A theory I'm thinking about is that the gun was stripped down and re-painted in 1918, at the same time it was united with its current carriage, and coated with the same paint.

A brief history of the gun is: in France from 1914-1915; in Shoeburyness from 1915 to 1917; re-lined and re-issued to France in 1917/18, when the gun was (presumably?) put on its current carriage; and re-numbered in 1918.

A link to the gun is here:


Thanks in advance for your help


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All very good and interesting questions. I'm near completion on the restoration of a M. 1915 Austrian Infanteriegeschutz (infantry support gun) and during my work I also found the same kind of bright red/orange primer. I can't answer any of your questions but I think I know someone who might be able to help. Contact the gentlemen who run this web site: http://www.lovettartillery.com/ The gentlemen are Ralph and Leon Lovett. Good luck!

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You could try speaking to the conservation experts of the Royal Artillery's collection, formerly at the Woolwich Rotunda, but now at the "Firepower" permanent exhibition. Some of the equipment they have is in unused ex-factory condition, so there might be a chance that they have one or two contemporary guns to compare.


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