The Hampstead Heavies
138th Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery
British 60-pounder field gun
After the Boer War heavy batteries of the British field army were equipped with a so called quick-firing 4.7 inch gun but it was soon felt that a more effective field gun should be developed. As a result the Heavy Battery Committee was established in 1902 to draw up the specification of a such a gun and eventually a decision was made in favour of a design by Armstrong which fired 60-pound shells of either the shrapnel or high explosive type. Some problems were encountered in designing a suitable carriage for the gun but after trials in 1904 the breech-loading Mark 1 was approved for service in 1905.
Because of its weight the new gun was close to the upper limits for which horses could be used as a means of traction and, in addition, the gun lacked the protective shield incorporated in lighter guns of the period. Nevertheless a total of 1,756 60-pounders were produced from 1905 onwards of which 571 remained in service in 1918. Over 10 million 60-pounder rounds were expended on the Western Front during the war.
For the first few months of their active service the Heavies were equipped with four Mark I 60-pounders operating in two Sections. At the end of August 1916 the Battery was made into a Six Gun Battery by the addition of a Section of the 166 Heavy Battery fresh from England.
Bombardier Stockdale of the Heavies compiled the following statistics of the number of rounds fired by the Battery between 8 August and 4 November 1918, the final weeks of the Allied offensive:Number of rounds fired: 25,470
Weight of shells fired: 682 tons
Average rounds per day: 353
Maximum rounds per day: 897 (24 tons) at Hargicourt, 27 September 1918
A Mark II version of the 60-pounder entered service following World War I and remained with the British army until 1944 seeing its final service in the Western Desert.Top of page