The gun used in the Royal Navy Field Gun Competition is a short barrel 12 pounder field gun. It is one of a family of guns with different lengths of barrel which give rise to the description of 12 pounder 8cwt, 12 pounder 12cwt which reflects the weight of the barrel.
The 8cwt gun was designed in about 1894 and was in service within four years. They continued in service through both world wars and retired from active service after the end of the Second World War.
The gun was initially carried on ships to support landing parties and has been described as a light landing gun. Two guns of this type were landed in South Africa at the start of the second Boer War at the same time as Captain Percy Scott, RN, designed and built the carriages for the long barrelled 12 pounder guns taken from HMS Terror and used in support of the British campaign in Natal. The long barrelled 12 pounder guns did sterling service particularly around Ladysmith.
The First World War
During the First World War the 8cwt guns were landed at Gallipoli in support of the Naval Brigade and the Army ashore where they were deployed in the line by both British and Australian units. They were also used during the campaigns in East and West Africa where British and locally raised forces confronted the German armies in Cameroon and across modern Kenya and Somalia.
The guns remaining in service after the First World War were refurbished in 1942 when the breech mechanisms were replaced with a more efficient and modern design. The 12 pounder guns had a calibre (barrel diameter) of 3 inches or 76.2 mm. The 3 inch gun was a staple of naval gunnery on ships and submarines and also in shore batteries for coastal defence. Long barrelled variants were developed for use in turrets on ships and for anti aircraft use.
The ammunition used was common across the range of 12 pounder guns. It was a two part ammunition consisting of a propellant charge and a shell. These were loaded into the breech in sequence. A good crew could fire 15 rounds per minute. The Maximum range of the guns was 5100 yards or 4660 metres.
The shells were of two general types; a high explosive round for use against fixed targets and a shrapnel round for use against troops in the open and in trenches.
That we continue to use today guns which are largely as they were introduced over 100 years ago, is a tribute to the men who designed and built them. We do not know if any of the guns we compete with were involved in combat but all of us who have been part of the competition share the close comradeship with the members of our crews which was the hall mark of the RN Field gun crews who took these guns into action.