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Ordnance QF 6 Pounder Anti-Tank Gun

During the early phase of the Second World War, many British tanks were equipped with the QF 2-pounder gun which had entered service in 1936, and it was also the primary British anti-tank weapon of the time. However as German tank designs rapidly evolved, the 2-pounder quickly became obsolete as it could no longer pierce the ever thicker armour used by the German tanks.

A New Zealand 6-pounder crew at Maadi Camp in Egypt in 1943. The 6-pdr could pierce armour 70mm thick at a range of 1000 metres, and only required a crew of four.  Photo: © National Army Museum (New Zealand) [Ref. DA8933] Image Supplied

As the 2-pounder became obsolete, the QF 25-pounder field gun was in service, and in the Western Desert the type was (by necessity) being operated as an anti-tank weapon. This often meant that the 25-pounder batteries were not being employed in their primary role of infantry support, and in some cases lead to batteries being captured by the German forces.

By mid-1942 the QF 6-pounder had been developed and rushed into service as a replacement for the 2-pounder, allowing the 25-pounder to revert to its former role.The 6-pounder gun was first used by the New Zealand Division at the Battle of Minqar Qaim in Eqypt in June 1942. The new guns were rushed to the anti-tank units and were thrown into action even before the crews were able to practice firing their new weapons.

6-pounder anti-tank on display in the main hall of the National Army Museum (Waiouru, New Zealand).  

Unfortunately, within a year the 6-pounders were being used against the new German Tiger tank in Tunisia, and the gunners found that even this weapon could not penetrate the 100mm frontal armour of the new German tank. By the Battle of Medenine in Tunisia on 6th March 1943, the 6-pounder was being replaced by the even newer and larger 17-pounder anti-tank gun.

Many 6-pounders remained in service in New Zealand after the war, with the type finally being retired in the late 1960’s.

A unit of British Paratroopers (from Army Group Central, a reenactment unit in Nelson, New Zealand), demonstrate how a 6-pounder anti-tank gun could be used for rapid movement and close support operations in Europe during World War Two.

Test (blank) firing of a WW2-era QF 6-pounder anti-tank gun. The 6-pounder was first used in North Africa in April 1942, and quickly replaced the 2 pounder in the anti-tank role, allowing the 25 pounder to revert to its intended artillery role. The United States Army also adopted the 6-pdr as their primary anti-tank gun under the designation 57 mm Gun M1.

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