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Ordnance QF 25 Pounder Field Gun

Just as the 18-Pounder field gun and 4.5” Howitzer had been developed following the British Army’s experience during the Second Boer War at the end of the 19th century, so too the QF 25-Pounder was developed after the Army examined the hard lessons learnt from the First World War.

The (WW2) German Army had many excellent field gun designs of their own, but they rated the QF 25-pdr so highly that they equipped entire units of their own with the guns that they captured during fighting in the Western Desert campaign.  Photo: © Historical Aviation Film Unit

One of the issues that artillery gunners had faced during the First World War was that it was necessary to use the 4.5” howitzer when a high trajectory was required (e.g. in hilly terrain), but when a flat trajectory and longer range was needed, it was necessary to use the 18-pounder. This meant that at times the best gun for the current tactical situation was not always available in sufficient numbers.

By the 1930’s the British Army had determined that an artillery piece firing a 25lb high explosive projectile over a range of almost 14km, with the added ability of being able to fire with a high gun elevation (just like the earlier howitzers) would be ideal. In short the Army needed a single new weapon that was effectively a field gun and a howitzer all in one. Budget restrictions meant that in the first instance many of the earlier 18-pounders were modified to use the new 25lb shell, and this gun became known as the QF 25-Pounder Mk.I. While it was capable of using the new shells it did not have the range or elevation required by the Army.

The new QF 25-Pounder which was a completely new gun, became known as the Mk.II and it entered service with the British Army in 1940. In August of that year the 5th Field Regiment, Royal New Zealand Artillery who were in England at the time, swapped their obsolete WW1-era 18-Pounders for the new MK.II’s. The Regular Force units of the New Zealand Army continued to use the Mk.II until 1963, however it was still in service with NZ Territorial Force Artillery units until it was formerly retired in late 1977.The quality and ruggedness of the design is emphasised by the fact that the Mk.II was never significantly upgraded during its more than 30-year service life span.

With a range of over 12 km, the ability to fire up to five rounds per minute with a crew of six, and the ability to fire High Explosive, Armour Piercing or Smoke shells, the Mk.II quickly went into mass production during the war. Produced in both England and Canada it soon became the standard field gun of all British and Commonwealth forces, and by the end of the Second World War over 12,000 had been manufactured.

A life-size diorama showing Kiwi troops in action with their 25-pounder fiueld gun during the Korean conflict. This display can be seen at the National Army Museum in Waiouru, New Zealand.  

When the New Zealand Government decided to send troops to form part of the United Nations force in Korea, the 16th Field Regiment, RNZA, was formed and equipped with the 25 Pounder Mk.II. Between 1951 and 1954 the guns of the 16th Field Regiment fired 797,000 rounds, which included nearly 10,000 rounds fired in support of the 3rd Royal Australian Regiment during the Battle of Kapyong in 1951.

A 100-gun salute featuring two 25-pdr field guns, held during the Centenary Armistice Day Commemoration, 11th November 2018. Amberley Domain, Amberley, Canterbury, New Zealand.

The New Zealand Defence Force’s Ceremonial Saluting Battery at Point Jerningham, overlooking Wellington Harbour, still uses four modified Mk.II 25-Pounders to mark several official events every year, and members of the public are usually welcome to attend and view these salutes. The 25 Pounder is also still used as New Zealand’s official State Funeral gun carriage (that is the coffin is placed on the gun carriage as part of the official funeral procession).

Another quick fire view of the artillery barrage by five WW1 and WW2 field guns, organised for the Centenary Armistice Day Commemoration, 11th November 2018.

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