Military Wiki
QF 4.7 inch Gun Mk I - IV
QF 4.7 inch gun deck mounting.jpg
Typical naval deck mounting, 1890s
Type Naval gun
Medium field gun
Coastal defence gun
Place of origin  United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
Service history
In service 1887–1918
Used by Naval:
 United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
 Kingdom of Italy
 Empire of Japan
 United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
 Union of South Africa
Wars Second Boer War
World War I
Production history
Designer Elswick Ordnance
Designed ca. 1885
Manufacturer Elswick Ordnance
Vickers Sons and Maxim
Number built 1,167[1]
Variants Mark I, II, III, IV, VI
Weight Barrel & breech 4,592 lb (Mk I–III); 4,704 lb (Mk IV)[2]
Barrel length 189 inch bore (40 cal)[2]
Crew 10

Shell Separate loading QF; WWI : AP, Shrapnel, Common Lyddite, Common pointed, HE 45 pounds (20.41 kg)[3]
Calibre 120 millimetres (4.72 in)
Breech Single motion interrupted screw
Recoil 12 inch (carriage Mk I)
Elevation -6° – 20° (Mk I field carriage)[2]
Rate of fire 5–6 rounds per minute
Muzzle velocity Gunpowder : 1,786 feet per second (544 m/s)[4][5]

Cordite : 2,150 feet per second (660 m/s) with Cordite[6]

Maximum range 10,000 yards (9,100 m) at 20°, 12,000 yards (11,000 m) at 24°[7]

The QF 4.7 inch Gun Mks I, II, III, and IV[8] were a family of British quick-firing 120-mm naval and coast defence guns of the late 1880s and 1890s which served with the navies of various countries. They were also mounted on various wheeled carriages to provide the British Army with a long range gun. They all had a bore of 40 calibres length.

The gun was originally designed to replace the older BL 5 inch (127 mm) naval guns. It was optimised for the modern smokeless propellants such as Cordite and could be loaded and fired far more rapidly than the BL 5-inch gun while firing a shell only slightly lighter.

Design and development

The guns were designed and manufactured by the Elswick Ordnance Company, part of Armstrong Whitworth. They were a major export item and hence were actually of 120 mm calibre (4.724 inches) to meet the requirements of metricised navies: 4.7 inch is an approximation used for the British designation. The guns, Mark I to Mark III, were Pattern P, Pattern Q and Pattern T respectively. All three differed in detail of construction but were of the tube and hoop types. The Mark IV differed from these by incorporating a wire wound element to its construction. As first built, all used a three-motion screw breech, some were altered later by modifying the three-motion screw becoming "A" subtypes, or by fitting a single motion breech ("B" type). Army guns altered to use a bagged charge with a steel (instead of the more usual brass) case were renumbered as Mark VI.

United Kingdom service

Royal Navy service

British pre-dreadnoughts and cruisers of the period used these guns. Total production was 154 Mark I, 91 Mark II, 338 Mark III and 584 Mark IV. The Royal Navy received 776 of these guns directly. The Army transferred a further 110 to the Navy.

The Latona-class minelayer gave up their guns to produce high-angle anti-aircraft guns to defend London.[9]

By World War I the guns were obsolete for warship use, but many were re-mounted on merchant ships and troopships for defence against enemy submarines and commerce raiders.

British Army service

In land service, limited numbers were mounted for use as coast artillery. In addition, some Mark IV guns were mounted on converted 40-Pr Rifled Breech Loading Gun carriages for use by batteries of the Volunteer Artillery. These were semi-mobile guns with limbers, which could be drawn by horses or gun tractors. They continued in use with artillery units of the Territorial Force, with some being used into the First World War.

Second Boer War (1899–1902)

"Joe Chamberlain" at Magersfontein.

Gun on static siege mounting, Siege of Ladysmith.

British forces in the Second Boer War were initially outgunned by the long range Boer artillery. Captain Percy Scott of HMS Terrible first improvised timber static siege mountings for two 4.7-inch (120 mm) guns from the Cape Town coastal defences, to counter the Boers' "Long Tom" gun during the Siege of Ladysmith in 1899–1900.[10]

Gun on "Percy Scott" carriage at the Battle of Colenso.

Captain Scott then improvised a travelling carriage for 4.7 inch guns removed from their usual static coastal or ship mountings to provide the army with a heavy field gun. These improvised carriages lacked recoil buffers and hence in action drag shoes and attachment of the carriage by cable to a strong point in front of the gun were necessary to control the recoil.[10] They were manned by Royal Navy crews and required up to 32 oxen to move.[10]

World War I

South-West Africa Campaign (1914–1915)

In sand, South West Africa Campaign, WWI. Note oxen.

The same guns mounted on "Percy Scott" carriages were used by South African forces against German forces in the South-West Africa Campaign in World War I. Guns were landed at Lüderitz Bay in October 1914 and later at Walvis Bay in February 1915 and moved inland across the desert in support of South African troops.

Western Front (1914–1917)

On 1900 Mk I "Woolwich" carriage, Sausage Valley, Somme 1916.

Germans with captured QF gun, on "Woolwich" carriage, in Belgium

Up to 92 QF 4.7 inch guns on more modern Mk I "Woolwich" carriages dating from June 1900 with partially effective (12 inch) recoil buffers, and on heavier "converted" carriages from old RML 40 pounder guns, went to France with Royal Garrison Artillery units, mostly of the Territorial Force, in 1914–1917.

They figured prominently in the early battles, such as at Neuve Chapelle in March 1915 where there were 32, and only 12 60 pounders, assigned to counter-battery fire. General Farndale reports that counter-battery fire there failed to deal with the German artillery, but ascribes the failure to the as yet imprecise nature of long range map shooting, and the difficulty of maintaining forward observers on the flat terrain.[11]

By the Battle of Aubers Ridge on 9 May 1915 the barrels of the 28 guns of the 3rd and 8th Heavy Brigades and the 1st West Riding and 1st Highland Heavy Batteries engaged were now so worn that driving bands were stripped off shells at the muzzle, limiting accuracy.[12] In addition two guns in the armoured train "Churchill" were in action at Aubers Ridge. Thirty-three 60 pounders were available. Counter-battery fire again failed due to the inaccuracy of the worn-out guns and also because the army still lacked accurate means of locating enemy guns,[13] as air observation and reporting and use of radio was only beginning.

The inaccuracy through wear and relatively light shell diminished their usefulness in the developing trench warfare, and they were replaced by the modern 60 pounder guns as they became available. At the Battle of the Somme in June–July 1916 there were 32 4.7-inch (120 mm) guns and 128 60-pounders engaged.[14] The last were however not withdrawn until April 1917. Guns withdrawn from the Western Front were redeployed to other fronts such as Italy and Serbia.[15]

Battle of Gallipoli (1915)

Dragging the gun up to its position at Anzac, July 1915.

Gun in emplacement at Anzac, Gallipoli.

A 4.7 inch gun was used by the 1st Heavy Artillery Battery, a joint unit of Australians and Royal Marines, on Gallipoli to counter long range Turkish fire from the "Olive Grove" (in fact "Palamut Luk" or Oak Grove)[16] between Gaba Tepe and Maidos. Lt-Colonel Rosenthal, commanding 3rd Australian Field Artillery Brigade, noted : "I had made continual urgent representations for two 4.7-inch guns for right flank to deal with innumerable targets beyond the range of 18-prs., but it was not till 11 July that one very old and much worn gun arrived, and was placed in position on right flank, firing its first round on 26 July.[17]" This gun was destroyed and left behind at the withdrawal from Gallipoli but later salvaged as a museum piece.[18] The burst barrel is on display at the Australian War Memorial.

Salonika Front

Several 4.7-inch (120 mm) guns mounted on "Percy Scott" carriages served with British and Serb forces in the Salonika (Macedonian) campaign from January 1916 onwards.

Japanese service

The Japanese Type 41 4.7-inch/40 (12 cm) naval gun was a license-produced copy of the Elswick Mark IV. Initially, a number were procured directly from Elswick in England. After the turn of the century, production in Japan was under the designation “Mark IVJ”. The gun was re-designated as Type 41 on 25 December 1908, after the 41st year in the reign of Japanese Emperor Meiji. It was further re-designated in centimeters on 5 October 1917 as part of the standardization process for the Imperial Japanese Navy to the metric system. Although finally classified as a "12 cm" gun the bore was unchanged at 4.724 inches.

During World War I, the Japanese Navy transferred 24 original Elswick-built and 13 Mark IVJ to Britain as part of their military assistance to the Allies under the Anglo-Japanese Alliance.[19] In 1940, some of these weapons were emplaced in British coastal defence batteries; for instance, at Mersea Island in Essex.[20]

It was the standard secondary or tertiary armament on most Japanese cruisers built between 1900 and 1920, and was the primary armament on a number of destroyers, including the Umikaze class. Some units were still in service as late as the Pacific War.

Italian service

These guns were mounted on Italian cruisers built by Ansaldo.


Surviving examples

Japanese-built 4.7"/40 Mark IV in Manege Military Museum

See also

Weapons of comparable role, performance and era

Notes and references

  1. British 4.7"/40 (12 cm) QF Marks I to IV and Japanese 4.7"/40 (12 cm) Type 41, Accessed 7 April 2008.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Hogg & Thurston 1972, page 111.
  3. Various shell weights, both heavier and lighter than 45 pounds (20.41 kg), were tried. Early Mk I–IV Common Lyddite shells weighed 46 pounds 9 ounces (21.12 kg). Subsequent Mks V, VI, VII beginning October 1909, weighed 45 pounds (20.41 kg). Brassey's Naval Annual of 1894 quotes a 45-pound projectile, based on "List of Service Ordnance 1891, corrected by Official Card List 1892". Text Book of Gunnery 1902 only gives figures for 45 pounds (20.41 kg) projectiles. All shells used in World War I are believed to be 45 pounds (20.41 kg). Sources: Hogg & Thurston 1972, Page 242; Treatise on Ammunition 10th Edition 1915, pages 45, 165, 170, 188, 217.
  4. The gun used gunpowder propellant when first introduced in the 1880s. Muzzle velocity was 1,786 feet per second (544 m/s) with 12 pounds (5.44 kg) "SP" (gunpowder) firing a 45 pounds (20.41 kg) projectile. "Instructions for 4.724 inch 120 mm Quick Firing Armstrong Gun and Automatic Centre Pivot Mounting", 1880s, Range Table.
  5. Text Book of Gunnery, 1902.
  6. 2,150 feet per second (660 m/s) firing a 45 pounds (20.41 kg) projectile, with 13 pounds 4 ounces (6.01 kg) Cordite size 20 propellant, at 60 °F (16 °C). Text Book of Gunnery 1902.
  7. 12,000 yds at 24° with 45 lb shell is quoted by Hall, December 1971. Tony Bridgland, Field Gun Jack versus the Boers (pages 7–8) quotes a range of 12,000 yards (11,000 m) being achieved at 24° in trials of the improvised field carriage at Simonstown in October 1899, and refers to The Times reporting this figure. 10,000 yards (9,100 m) at 20° in WWI is quoted by Hogg & Thurston page 111, referring to the maximum elevation of Mk I field carriage. Hogg & Thurston 1972 page 235 quote 11,800 yards (10,800 m) at 30° on CP (centre pintle mount) for the coast defence gun. Lighter and heavier shells were tried early in the gun's career, but by WWI 45 lb (20 kg) was the standard shell weight.
  8. Mk I = Mark 1, Mk II = Mark 2, Mk III = Mark 3, Mk IV = Mark 4. Britain used Roman numerals to denote Marks (models) of ordnance until after World War II. Hence these were the first 4 models of British QF 4.7 inch gun.
  9. British 4.7"/40 (12 cm) Elswick 4.7"/40 (12 cm) QF Marks I, II, III, IV and VI
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Hall 1971.
  11. Farndale 1986, page 87, 88.
  12. Farndale 1986, page 104.
  13. Farndale 1986, page 106, 107.
  14. Farndale 1986, page 144.
  15. Hogg & Thurston 1972, page 110.
  16. Mallett 1999.
  17. Rosenthal 1920.
  18. Mallett 2005.
  19. DiGiulian, Tony. "4"/40 (12 cm) 41st Year Type". 
  21. Cannone da 120/40 - anno 1893 su affusto a culla., Sala armi subacquee.


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