Royal Ordnance QF 25-Pounder Field Guns, Saluting Platform, Dover Castle, Kent, UK

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John Latter on July 18, 2011

The Saluting Platform and Parade Ground, built in the 1930's above Long Gun Magazine (gunpowder, c. 1800) (1), has concrete gun positions for four guns of which only the centre two are currently occupied by "Royal Ordnance Quick-Firing 25-Pounder Field Guns".

The Saluting Platform lies immediately to the west of the Victorian Officers New Barracks (out-of-shot to the right) with the guns pointing south across Queen Elizabeth Road, over the cliff-side Casemates Balcony entrance to Dover Castle's "Secret Wartime Tunnels", and then out towards Dover Harbour and English Channel beyond.

On the unseen Harold's Earthwork at top-right in the photo are the pre-1020 AD Saxon church of St Mary-in-Castro (restored by architect Gilbert Scott in 1862, William Butterfield in 1888) and the ruins of the AD 46 Roman watchtower or lighhouse known as the Pharos. Between the towers on Harold's Earthwork and the Saluting Platform is a Fire Beacon (the thing looking like a waste-paper basket on top of a stick).

The photo was taken at 10.19 am on Sunday, 3rd of July, 2011.

Dover Castle appears in the video, "Dover in World War Two: 1942", a ten minute British Ministry of Information film, released by the US Office of War Information, and narrated by the American journalist, Edward R. Murrow.

Click to see all photos of Dover Castle, a Dover English Heritage site and a Grade I Dover Listed Building.

Excerpt from the book, "The 25-pounder field gun, 1939-72" (2):

The last British force to operate a 25-pounder gun in action were two SAS troopers in the Omani port of Mirbat on 19th July 1972. Under the command of Captain Mike Kealy, the SAS (Special Air Service) and members of the Omani armed forces fought a running battle ("Battle of Mirbat") of several hours against a communist-influenced ethnic group known as the Adoo who were rebelling against the rule of the then-current Sultan. The 25-pounder was emplaced in a protected gunpit just outside a fort in the town. It was fired at point blank range and held off the attackers until the SAS relief force arrived to take control.

The gun itself is still in existence and is dated 1943. That it still gave good service some 29 years later attests to the sound design and robust nature of the gun. Few weapons could be said to have had such a long life, especially as modern armaments are superseded in a very short time.

Notes on the Ordnance QF 25-pounder Field Gun (3):

The British Army's Ordnance QF 25 pounder, or more simply, 25-pounder or 25-pdr, was introduced into service just before the Second World War, during which it served as the major British field gun/howitzer. It was considered by many to be the best field artillery piece of the war, combining high rates of fire with a reasonably lethal shell in a highly mobile piece.

It was the British Army's primary artillery field piece well into the 1960s, with smaller numbers serving in training units until the 1980s. Many Commonwealth of Nations (ex-British Commonwealth) countries used theirs in active or reserve service until about the 1970s and ammunition for the weapon is currently being produced by Pakistan Ordnance Factories.

The original design was the result of extended studies looking to replace the Ordnance 18 pounder field gun and the Ordnance QF 4.5-inch howitzer (114.3 mm bore), which had been the main field artillery equipments (see Royal Field Artillery) during the First World War. The basic idea was to build one weapon with the direct-fire capability of the 18 pounder and the high-angle fire of the howitzer, firing a shell about half way between the two in size, around 3.5 to 4 in (90 to 100 mm) of about 30 pounds (14 kg).

This resulted in the Mark I, known officially as the "Ordnance, Quick Firing 25 pounder Mark I on Carriage 18-pr Mark IV", or "Ordnance, Quick Firing 25 pounder Mark I on Carriage 18-pr Mark V" and commonly called the 18/25 pounder. The Mark I was a 25-pdr barrel and breech in the modified jacket of an 18 pounder gun, as a 'loose liner'.

The Mark II, fitted to the Mark 1 carriage was the standard gun during World War II. They were built in Australia and Canada but mostly in UK. Deliveries (from UK production) started at the beginning of 1940 and first entered service with a Canadian regiment stationed in UK during May 1940. No Ordnance 25-pr Mk 2 on Carriage 25-pr Mark 1 were lost in France. This gun fired all charges - 1, 2, 3 and Super:

The 25 pounder fired separate ammunition; the projectile and the propelling charge in its usually brass cartridge case with its integral primer were loaded separately. Being a QF gun the cartridge case provided obturation (the gas seal in the breech).

There were two types of cartridge. The 'Normal' contained three cloth charge bags (coloured red, white and blue). White and/or blue bags would be removed from the cartridge to give "Charge 1" or "Charge 2", leaving all three bags in the cartridge case gave "Charge 3". The cartridge case was closed at the top with a leatherboard cup.

The second type of cartridge was "Super"; it provided charge "Super" only, and the bag protruded beyond the top of the cartridge case. In the middle of World War II an additional increment bag was introduced to raise the muzzle velocity when firing AP (Armour Piercing, US: Armor Piercing) shot with charge Super; this required that a muzzlebrake was fitted.

Other variants: Mark II/I, Mark III, Mark IV, and the 25 pounder Short Mark I, or "Baby 25 pdr": this was a shortened version of the standard 25 pounder, mounted on the Carriage 25 pdr Light, Mark 1. The Baby was intended for jungle warfare and was only used by Australian units in the South West Pacific theatre of World War II.

Carraige variants: Mark I, Jury Axle (Burma), Mark II, Mark III, Mark IV.

An important part of the gun was the ammunition limber ("Trailer, Artillery, No 27"). The gun was hitched to it and the trailer hitched to the tractor when on tow. The gun did not need a limber and could be hooked directly to a tractor. The trailer carried ammunition (thirty-two rounds in trays at two rounds per tray).

The gun detachment comprised the following: No 1 - detachment commander (a sergeant), No 2 - operated the breech and rammed the shell, No 3 - layer, No 4 - loader, No 5 - ammunition, No 6 - ammunition, normally the 'coverer' - second in command and responsible for ammunition preparation and operating the fuze indicator.

The official 'reduced detachment' was 4 men.

Self-propelled 25 pounders (3):

The Bishop was a British self-propelled 25-pounder utilising the Valentine tank chassis. The Sexton was a Canadian self-propelled 25-pounder utilising the Ram or Grizzly tank chassis. The Yeramba was an Australian self-propelled 25-pounder utilising the M3 Lee tank chassis.

Users of the 25 pounder artillery piece (3):

Australia, Canada, Cyprus, Ireland (Eire), Kingdom of Italy (captured examples), Lebanon, Luxembourg, Nazi Germany (captured examples), New Zealand, Oman, Portugal, Rhodesia, South Africa, Sri Lanka (Ceylon), United Kingdom.

Wars (3):

World War II (WWII WW2, 1939-1945), Malayan Emergency (1948-1960), Korean war (1950-1953), Rhodesian Bush War (1964-1979), South African Border War (1966-1989), Dhofar Rebellion (1962-1975), Turkish invasion of Cyprus (1974) (4), Sri Lankan Civil War (1983-2009), Iraq War (2003 invasion: Second Gulf War or Operation Iraqi Freedom).

Specifications (Ordnance QF 25 pounder Mk II on Carriage 25 pounder Mk I) (3):

Manufacturer: Royal Ordnance Factory

Type: Field gun/Howitzer

Weight: 1,633 kg (3,600 lb)

Length: 4.6 m (15 ft 1 in) (muzzle to towing eye)

Barrel length: 2.47 m (8 ft 1 in)

Width: 2.13 m (7 ft) (width at wheel hubs)

Height: 1.16 m (3 ft 10 in) (trunnion height)

Crew: 6

Shell: High Explosive, Anti-Tank, Smoke

Shell weight: 11.5 kg (25 lb) (HE - "High Explosive" - including fuze)

Calibre: 87.6 mm (3.45 in)

Breech: Vertical sliding block

Recoil: Hydro-pneumatic

Elevation: -5 degrees to 45 degrees, (70 degrees with dial sight adapter and digging trail pit or wheel mounds)

Traverse: 4 degres Left and Right (top traverse), 360 degrees (platform)

Rate of fire: Gunfire, 6-8 rpm (rounds per minute), Intense, 5 rpm, Rapid, 4 rpm, Normal, 3 rpm, Slow, 2 rpm, Very slow, 1 rpm

Muzzle velocity: 198 - 532 m/s, (649 - 1,745 ft/s)

Maximum range: 12,253 m (13,400 yd) (HE shell)

Sights: Calibrating and reciprocating

The OTO Melara Mod 56 105 mm Howitzer (3)

NATO ("North Atlantic Treaty Organization") standardization led to the replacement of the 25 pounder with the Italian OTO Melara Mod 56 105 mm howitzer. The last British military unit to fire the 25 pounder in its field role (as opposed to in a ceremonial role) was the Gun Troop of the Honourable Artillery Company on Salisbury Plain in 1992.

Cannon or Guns? (5)

A cannon is any piece of artillery that uses gunpowder or other usually explosive-based propellents to launch a projectile. Cannon vary in caliber, range, mobility, rate of fire, angle of fire, and firepower; different forms of cannon combine and balance these attributes in varying degrees, depending on their intended use on the battlefield. The word cannon is derived from several languages, in which the original definition can usually be translated as tube, cane, or reed. The plural of cannon is cannon, the same word. In modern times, cannon has fallen out of common usage, usually replaced by "guns" or "artillery", if not a more specific term, such as "mortar" or "howitzer".

St Martin’s Battery is a Victorian and Second World War coastal artillery position across the River Dour valley on the Western Heights.

(1) "Long Gun Magazine" is so called because of its proximity to the mound, out-of-shot to the left (west), upon which Queen Elizabeth’s Pocket Pistol once stood. Also once known as "Queen Anne's Pocket Pistol", this remarkable weapon is now housed in the Victorian former Regimental Institute on Knights Road.

(2) The 25-pounder field gun, 1939-1972, by Chris Henry (2002)

(3) Wikipedia entry for Ordnance QF 25 pounder (Abridged)

(4) After joining the Royal Signals in 1967, I was subsequently posted to NATO FSS Cape Greco in Cyprus in December 1974.

(5) Wikipedia entry for Cannon

A British Army Royal Artillery (also Royal Artillery (RA)) and Dover Castle (12th Century Norman) history photo.

John Latter / Jorolat

Dover Blog: The Psychology of a Small Town

This is the Images of Dover website: click on any blue "John Latter" link to access the Entry Page.

John Latter on January 4, 2013

The Saluting Platform and 25-pounders appear in the background to:

The Statue of Admiral Sir Bertram Home Ramsay in Dover Castle

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Photo taken in Dover Castle, Castle Hill, Dover, Kent CT16 1HU, UK
Dover Castle

Photo details

  • Uploaded on July 17, 2011
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2011/07/03 10:19:40
    • Exposure: 0.005s (1/200)
    • Focal Length: 18.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/11.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash

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