Massimo (Flickr) Foti
Lat : 50.69500 / Long : -2.24220
General comments on this surviving gun :
Identical items in the same location :
Items covered by this file :
Historic context :
In February 1915, the First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill created a small experts commission, named the 'Landship Committee', with a mission to develop armor fighting vehicles for the Western Front. Following that impulsion, William Tritton, Manager of the 'William Foster & Company of Lincoln', to whom had been associated the brilliant Navy Officer Walter Wilson, had imported in August 1915 a complete set of tracks (with their wheels and girder frames) bought to the 'Bullock Creeping Grip Tractor Company' from Chicago and assembled it on a prototype moved by a Daimler engine and inspired by the artillery tractors the company was already selling to the UK Army at these times. This prototype, named 'Nr One Lincoln Machine' revealed the fragility of these tracks for the heavy 16 tons load as soon as september 1915.
At the end of these disappointin tests, Tritton and Wilson however decided to show to the Committee delegate, the colonel Ernest Swinton, a full size wooden mock-up of an innovating concept invented by Wilson with tracks running all the way round the vehicle body and lateral sponsons dedicated for weapons . In parallel, a new design of tracks, wider and much more robust, was proposed by Tritton at the end of September 1915, and mounted for testing on the original 'Lincoln Machine'. This intermediary prototype weighing 16.5 tons was also equipped with a rear steering wheels trail that could be retracted by hydraulic means and was to act as a rudder of a boat. 'Little Willie' proved Tritton tracks to be a device resistant enough for heavy weights.
But it is only with the final prototype, 'Big Willie', presented on February 2 1916 to Lord Kitchener that both the inventions of Tritton and Wilson were combined to end up with the vehicle that would be the very first British tank, the 'tank Mark I' with its characteristic rhomboid profile, its tracks running around the body and its wheeled steering trail. Also known as 'Centipede', and even more often as 'Mother', this 28 tons prototype was able to convince since a 100 'tanks' (named this way to fool the enemy spies) order was given in early February 1916 to Lincoln and other sub-suppliers, increased in April 1916 to 150 units.
The embarked weapons choice for the Mark I tank had been done already with 'Mother' prototype and was, just as French and German tanks later France and Germany later, a choice based mostly on the availability of existing material. This is how the selection was made for a 57 mm quick firing gun designed by the French company Hotchkiss and adopted by the Royal Navy in 1885 then later used as a littoral defense weapon, and available in sufficient quantities for equipping a bit less than 100 tanks. The QF 6 Pdr' gun was given the Quick Firing denomination thanks to its rapid action vertical sliding block breech, its hydro-spring recoil recuperation system and its complete rounds (shell and cartridge assembled) .
These weapons were placed inside the Mark I tanks lateral sponsons (2 guns per tank, pointing to the front), each sponson also receiving a Vickers machine gun oriented to the sides of the vehicle. The gun was mounted on a pedestal and equipped with a thick narrow and curvated shield with a vertical slit. It needed two servants for its operation. The second order for an additional 50 units created an issue since the 6-Pdr gun stocks could not serve as many as 150 tanks. Therefore the decision was taken to equip half of the ordered vehicles with 4 Vickers machine-guns only installed in modified sponsons. The tanks aremed with 2 guns and 2 machine-guns were named 'Mark I tank Male', whereas the ones equipped with 4 machine-guns were named 'Mark I tank Female'.
These tanks were engaged on the Somme on September 15 1916 at Flers-Courcelette with a quite modest tactical success and numerous mechanical issues or ditching (only 9 out the 32 engaged tanks made it to the German lines), but with a big psychological effect on the enemies. The experience acquired with the Mark I tanks allowed the design of the further models, particularly with the Mark IV tank whose production started in May 1917 and whose first vehicles were engaged as soon as June 1917 in Messines. Among other improvements, this version was now equipped with a '6-Pdr 6cwt' gun shortened to 23 calibres, since the much longer 40 calibres barrel of the original 6-Pdr was too often dug into the mud or struck obstacles when crossing trenches or shell holes on the battlefield. Mark II and Mark III intermediate models kept the long 6-Pdr version
Technical data :
- Complete description : Quick Fire 6-pounder HotchkissMk I and Mk II or QF 6 pounder 8 hundredweight
- Design year : 1915
- Calibre : 57.00 mm
- Weight in firing position :
- Weight for transportation :
- Tube length in calibres : 40.00
- Grooves : 0
- Projectile weight :
- Initial speed : 554 m/s
- Fire rate : 25 rounds per minute
- Range : 3700 m (4000 yards)
- Elevation range : unknown
- Direction range : 0 (avant) à -110 degrés (arrière) pour la casemate tribord, 5 (avant) à -115 degrés (arrière) pour la casemate babord,