Canada in the Second World War

Arms & Weapons

25-Pounder Field Gun/Howitzer

Workmen constructing 25-pounder guns in Sorel, 1941.

Workmen constructing 25-pounder guns in Sorel, 1941.
Photo by Nicholas Morant. National Film Board of Canada / National Archives of Canada, PA-174507.

The 25-pounder was one of the most satisfactory field guns used by British and Commonwealth armies during the Second World War, and it equipped most field regiments of the Royal Canadian Artillery. Many of these guns and much of their ammunition were produced in Canada, at Sorel, Quebec. Intended to replace both the 18-pdr field gun and the 4.5 inch howitzer, which had been important weapons during the First World War, the 25-pdr resulted from the desire to design a gun which could combine the “high angle fire of a howitzer and the flat trajectory fire of a field gun”. The first 25-pdrs were made by relining existing 18-pdrs to accept a larger shell. Most of these guns were lost at Dunkirk and were replaced with true 25-pdrs. Where the 18-pdrs had used fixed ammunition-with the projectile and propellant charge contained in the same casing-the 25-pdr loaded the shell and cartridge case separately so that different charges could be used to engage targets at varying ranges. With the introduction of the “super” charge to increase the gun’s range to 13,400 yards, extra stresses on the carriage necessitated the adoption of a muzzle brake to relieve pressure inside the barrel.

The 25-pounder’s main ammunition was the High Explosive (HE) shell, but it could fire smoke shells, star shells, and special projectiles containing propaganda leaflets. A versatile weapon, the 25-pdr could also fire 20-pound armour piercing (AP) steel shot, and the carriage was equipped with a circular track that was dropped onto the ground to permit a 360-degree traverse in the anti-tank role. The trail was box-shaped to allow the elevation necessary for firing as a howitzer. As opposed to the Sexton self-propelled gun (SP), the standard version was towed, with its limber, usually behind a gun tractor called a Quadruped. The first true 25-pdrs entered service in early 1940 (issued to the Royal Canadian Artillery) and were not retired until 1967. Even then, they remained in use as training guns until 1975. George Blackburn’s The Guns of Normandy (Toronto: McClelland, 1995) recounts a number of instances when the 25-pdrs of his regiment fired until their barrels glowed red in support of Canadian infantry. They were undoubtedly much-appreciated by Canadian soldiers.

Members of "B" Troop, 5th Field Regiment, firing 25-pounder near Malden, Holland, 1 February 1945. From left to right: Sergeant Jack Brown, Bdr. Joe Wilson, Gunners Lyle Ludwig, Bill Budd, George Spence, and Bill Stewart.

Members of “B” Troop, 5th Field Regiment, firing 25-pounder near Malden, Holland, 1 February 1945. From left to right: Sergeant Jack Brown, Bdr. Joe Wilson, Gunners Lyle Ludwig, Bill Budd, George Spence, and Bill Stewart.
Photo by Michael M. Dean. Department of National Defence / National Archives of Canada, PA-146868.

25-Pounder Gun/Howitzer Mark 2 and Mark 3
Ordnance
Weight with breech mechanism 454 kg
Total weight in action 1800 kg
Length 2.71 m (with muzzle brake)
Calibre 88 mm
Rifling one turn in 20 calibres
Breech vertical sliding block
Elevation -5° to +40°
Traverse 4° right and left
Performance
Projectile Mark ID S/L Mark ID S/L Mark ID S/L Mark ID S/L
Type HE HE HE HE AP
Weight of Projectile 11.3 kg 11.3 kg 11.3 kg 11.3 kg 9 kg
Charge 1 2 3 Super Super
Muzzle velocity 200 m/sec 300 m/sec 450 m/sec 520 m/sec 610 m/sec
Penetration at 400 yards (0° impact) 70 mm
Maximum range 12,250 m

Suggested Reading:

  • L.W.C.S. Barnes and Fred Gaffen, “25-Pounder Gun/Howitzer,” Canadian War Museum Fact Sheet No. 14.
  • Ian V Hogg, British and American Artillery of World War 2 (London: Arms and Armour, 1978)