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FWD 3 ton lorry towing 6 inch howitzer


RodB
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I have found this photo in the Times History, and also a drawing based on it in Dale Clarke's British Heavy Artillery 1914 - 1919. He describes it as a 6 inch howitzer being towed by the American FWD lorry.

I got to studying the photo, and I see what look like 6 ft tractor wheels, rather than the wooden steel-tired wheels I see in all the other photos. And the carriage appears to be that of the 30 cwt rather than the 26 cwt. So is this a 6 inch 30 cwt howitzer, fitted with 6 ft traction engine wheels for towing, battling on into 1916 ?

FWDLorryTowing6inchHowitzerWWIQuality80.

Did traction engine wheels (what was the correct name ?) get fitted to all guns for mechanised towing, without a change in carriage Mk, with wooden wheels used for horse towing to save weight ?

thanks

Rod

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I believe they are standard wooden wheels with a bracketed steel tyre added, you can see the clamp arrangement. Additionally traction engine wheels had two rows of spokes running contra to each other which i cannot determine in this picture. I understood this picture was a training excercise.

Roop

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I did some digital manipulation of the wheels and I cannot make any second row of spokes appear. Also the hub looks like a standard wooden spoked wheel. So this was a steel tyre arrangement that could be added to the wooden wheel ? I don't remember seeing any wheels like this in other photos.

It makes sense that this would be a training photo, using obsolete ordnance. Do you have any info on when/where ? It looks clean and well organised, very efficient, just what was needed to reassure the public presumably, rather than the ugly chaos of the battlefield.

I've been studying the Times History volumes to see just what the folks at home were being fed about the war. It's scary to think that without inside and additional info, such as what you've provided about this being a training exercise rather than the real thing, and others such as a photo of what we know was a retreat titled at the time "guns going forward" - without correct captions the whole picture could add up to a big lie. What I'm trying to say is, do we have a true photographic record of how things actually happened - if only pictures showing idealised, positive, correctly functioning equipment that looked powerful were allowed, and anything looking even slightly negative was not photographed, then the photographic record as a whole is spurious and about as real as Saving Private Ryan.

thanks

Rod

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If figures for the consumption of ammunition are any guide, a small number of 6-inch 30 cwt howitzers soldiered on in France and Flanders until the end of 1917.

Wheels were modular items. Thus, a particular model of wheel was often used on a variety of carriages. Similarly, many carriages could be fitted with more than one type of wheel. Swapping wheels on 6-inch howitzer, moreover, was a relatively straightforward task. Thus, we shouldn't be surprised to see a variety of combinations of wheels and carriages.

While I haven't seen any particular documentation on this subject, I suspect that the adoption of traction wheels had more to do with better performance on soft ground than with suitability to mechanical traction.

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That's interesting about the ammo Bruce - I had thought (from Dale CLarke) it was adapted to use the standard 100 lb gun shell from 1914. Are you saying it could continue to use old shells (118.5 lbs ?), and it is continuing consumption of these on the Western Front you're referring to ?

Another thing - the guns themselves get all the writeups and discussion, but my readings indicate that the carriage made the gun. It influenced mobility, stability, accuracy, range, rate of fire, maintainability. The humble wheel, recoil buffer and recuperator were as important as the gun.

Rod

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I'm afraid that the latest edition of the Treatise on Ammunition (dated 1915) that I have on hand does not provide information about the ammunition used by the 6-inch 26 cwt howitzer. However, Hogg and Thurston's British Artillery Weapons and Ammunition, 1914-1918 shows the charge used with the 6-inch 26 cwt howitzer as being much larger than that used with the 6-inch 30 cwt howitzer. When combined with the longer range achieved, this suggests to me that shells fired by the older piece (30 cwt) could have had thinner walls than shells fired by the newer piece (26 cwt). This is in keeping with the figures that Hogg and Thurston provide for the explosive fillings of the shells built for each piece, which show the 100-pound shell designed for the 30 cwt howitzer carrying about twice as much filling as 100-pound shells designed for the 26 cwt howitzer.

This does not mean that, in a pinch, the newer weapon couldn't fire ammunition built for the older piece, only that using a full charge with the old ammunition might be dangerous. Similarly, if any of the heavy (118-pound) shells for the 6-inch 30 cwt were still around when the 6-inch 26 cwt made its debut, their use with the new piece would be possible, but far from advisable. (The full charge for the 100-pound shell was actually larger than the full charge for the 118-pound shell.)

As far as I know, no new heavy shells for the 6-inch 30 cwt howitzer were built after the start of the war. Indeed, I suspect that production ceased several years before the start of the war, when the new 100-pound light shell was introduced.

As far as carriages go, you are quite right. The design of carriages often had a huge impact upon performance.

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I cannot find the photo now but the steel rim addition as photographed was particularly used in the deserts on sand.

I will keep looking.

Roop

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In desert sand they got this, after they had to resurrect Captain Scott's creation for the SW Africa campaign... looks like the carriage didn't transfer much weight to the limber - is that the problem here ? I understand that the idea was to spread the load evenly between gun carriage and limber to achieve the minimum load on all wheels - was that the aim ?

British4.7InchNavalGunPercyScottCarriage

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I have a pic somewhere with spoked wheeled howitzers and sand shoes. The above pics shows locally made wheels , where is the picture taken?

Roop

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South West Africa, 1915. I understand it to be a 4.7 inch gun on the original improvised sheet metal wheels and carriage designed by Captain Percy Scott in the Boer War. They were apparently pulled out of mothballs by the South Africans to capture South West Africa from Germany in 1915. The coastal strip is a true sand desert and perhaps that is where they are. Inland is more scrubby, goat country. It's difficult to interpret these old monochrome photos - no colour clues to judge the type of surface. I'm only a layman, but I understand an important part of carriage and limber design is to split the gun load evenly, and that doesn't appear to be happening with the Scott carriage. I understand this was addressed in the 60 pounder, with a barrel able to be slid back. But then he didn't design this carriage for crossing deserts, and he didn't have the resources of the entire Imperial military-industrial complex available.

Cheers

Rod

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Bruce, Roop & Rod

Here are some comments on the howitzer portion - the comments on the naval guns in GSWA has taken on a life of its own.

FWD 3 ton lorry towing 6 inch howitzer

There was a comprehensive discussion on the cartridges and shell used in the earlier 6inch 30cwt and the later 6inch 26cwt with pictures at

http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=66214&st=0&p=680304entry680304

and at

http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=75108&hl=30cwt*

While the preface to the 1905 (8th) edition of the Treatise on Ammunition is dated 1st Sep 1905, that of the 1915 (10th) edition is dated 1st Aug 1914 and thus were published after the learning curve of the South African War and before the learning curve of the Great War when the prewar focus was to be on mobility.

A lot of the specific technical data was put into the handbooks and manuals and my impression is that the various Treatise and Textbooks were prepared as books of instruction. As an example, the machining of the forged shells and their later filling would be done to specific designs and the usage, ranging etc would be described in the handbooks. There was a veritable multitude of 6inch shells (both gun and howitzer) and the issues of bursting charges (explosive type and quantity), velocities and ranging are important and require detailed instructions. The vastly increased demand for munitions would have had to result in compromises between the prewar exquisite engineering and labour (skilled) intensive manufacturing with ever scarcer materials.

Post # 1 Posted by: RodB Oct 7 2007, 11:45 AM

The 3-ton FWD Model B dates from 1912 but was issued as early as 1915 and this might be before the general issue of the 6inch 26cwt howitzers. It does seem strange that an ‘enhanced’ wheel would be necessary on a plank road unless this is some form of acceptance or endurance test.

Post # 2 Posted by: KONDOA Oct 7 2007, 12:04 PM

The wheels certainly appear to be the normal 14 spoke 5 foot howitzer carriage wheel although the smooth wrought iron tyre certainly seems wider than normal. I seem to recall that there was a handbook dealing with carriages and mountings and will extract info.

Post # 4 Posted by: Hoplophile Oct 7 2007, 01:21 PM

The 6inch 30cwt and the even more feeble 5inch BL Field Howitzer were pre South African War relics that were replaced by the 6inch 26cwt and the 4.5inch QF. From Hogg and Thurston “in 1914 only one Siege Brigade was armed with the 6inch 30cwt although this might be more a comment on doctrine than availability and / or efficiency.

The large and heavy (and expensive) steel traction wheels would only have been used where the increased strength of these wheels was necessary to bear the weight of heavy equipments. It would however be interesting to compare the load per area of the different wheels as well as the effect of weight distribution from a long barrel and / or a light limber although I am sure that the weaker wooden spoke wheel was more cost effective and it was only late in the war that solid rubber tyres were fitted over the wrought iron tyre on the 6inch 26cwt howitzers which would get pneumatic tyres in the next war.

Post # 5 Posted by: RodB Oct 7 2007, 02:46 PM and Post # 6 Posted by: Hoplophile Oct 8 2007, 01:53 AM

The original 120lb (variously given as 122lb and 118.5lb) (known later as the ‘heavy’ shell) for the 6inch 30cwt might have been useable in the 6inch 26cwt (there are other issues than the diameter to be considered). The later ‘light’ 100lb shell dates from 1901 and even then the need for increased range was apparent even at the expense of reduced bursting charges. I am not sure that the increased brisance of Trotyl (TNT) and 80/20 Amatol (80% Ammonium Nitrate / 20% TNT) would have compensated for the drastic reductions in the bursting charges. The need for increased range (some 3 000 yards) over the 6inch 30cwt appears to have made the reduced bursting charge of the ‘light’ 100lb shell (9.5lb of Lyddite (original) or some 8lb of Trotyl (later)) preferable. Interestingly the later 86lb stream line shell had a HE filling of 11.8lb. These HE shells were filled with Lyddite, Trotyl (TNT) or 80/20 Amatol to a specific design which would later be part of the shell markings. The ‘heavy’ and the ‘light’ projectiles were nose fuzed with a variety of fuzes that were somewhat less streamlined (106E) if not actually blunt – the streamline shell had the later 117 streamline fuze.

As a point of interest comment has often been made that because of poor quality control shell varied in length by up to 4 inches – it might be noted that the length of the Mark XIII shell was 17.53 inches while the Mark XV and Mark XVI shell were 21.60” ALL being 100lb (fuzed and filled).

Carl Hoehler

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Bruce, Roop & Rod

Post # 2 Posted by: KONDOA Oct 7 2007, 12:04 PM

The wheels certainly appear to be the normal 14 spoke 5 foot howitzer carriage wheel although the smooth wrought iron tyre certainly seems wider than normal. I seem to recall that there was a handbook dealing with carriages and mountings and will extract info.

There is indeed a 1924 Text Book of Gun Carriages and Gun Mountings and Chapter XIII covers Wheels and Axles.

The 6-in 26-cwt is now medium artillery and uses a 1st class (medium and some heavy artillery) wheel of 5 ft height and with a 6 inch [mild steel] tyre that is shrunk (old) or pressed on using an hydraulic press (new) and may have a [solid] rubber tire vulcanized on a steel ring pressed on the [existing steel] tire.

The materials are specified as is a detailed decription of design & manufacture and care, maintenance & repair.

There are sections on anti-friction [ball and roller] bearings but nothing about those new fangled pneumatic tyres except to note ". . . that there is a considerable prospect of saving weight by the use of a rubber tire".

Those wheels with 2 diametres are fitted with extension (or sand) felloes (the outer wood section/s of the wheel to which the spokes are fixed) which provide a wide surface for soft ground and a narrow surface for hard ground. There are usually 2 spokes per felloe.

The 18-pdr and 4.5-in howitzer use 2nd class 4ft 8in high wheels and there were other smaller sizes.

Carl Hoehler

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