Military Wiki
RBL 12 pounder 8 cwt gun
At the Australian War Memorial, Canberra
Type Field gun
Place of origin  United Kingdom
Service history
In service 1859 - 19??
Used by British Empire
Wars New Zealand Land Wars
Second Opium War
Production history
Designer W.G. Armstrong Co.
Manufacturer Royal Gun Factory
Unit cost £79 - £170[1]
Barrel length First model: total 84 inch, bore 73.375 inch
New model: total 72 inch, bore 61.375 inch (20.46 calibres)[2]
Crew 9 [3]

Shell 10 lb 11 oz Shrapnel
11 lb 4 oz common shell
10 lb 8 oz Segment
10 lb 9 oz case
Calibre 3-inch (76.2 mm)
Breech Armstrong screw with vertical sliding vent-piece (block)
Muzzle velocity 1,239 feet per second (378 m/s)[2]
Effective range 3,400 yards (3,100 m)

The Armstrong Breech Loading 12 pounder 8 cwt, later known as RBL 12 pounder 8 cwt, was an early modern 3-inch rifled breech-loading field gun of 1859.


"New pattern" 72-inch barrel and breech

The gun incorporated some advanced features for its day. It was one of the first breech-loaders: shell and gunpowder propellant were loaded through the gunner's end of the barrel, rather than through the muzzle as in previous guns, allowing a higher rate of fire. The shells were coated with lead, which engaged spiral grooves cut inside the barrel ("rifling") and caused the shell to spin rapidly in flight and hence imparted far greater accuracy and range than previous guns. The lead coating effectively sealed the gap between shell and barrel and eliminated the wastage of propellant gases, previously known as "windage", and hence only half the amount of gunpowder propellant as previous was required.

The barrel was of wrought iron, "built up" of a tube with additional layers heated and then shrunk over it as they cooled. The result was a "pre-stressed" barrel: the interior of the barrel was under compression from the layers shrunk over it, so that the heat and pressure of firing did not stretch it. Hence the barrel was smaller and lighter than previous guns.

United Kingdom service

The gun was the British army's first rifled breechloading field gun, superseding the SBML 9 pounder 13 cwt in 1859. The gun as originally adopted had a barrel 84 inches long, with a bore of 73.375 inches. The Royal Navy adopted a version with a 72 inch barrel, with a bore of 61.375 inches, by simply cutting 12 inches off the end, and from 1863 the shorter length was incorporated into a common version for both land and sea use.[4]

Unfortunately, the new technology involved required higher standards of gun maintenance and gunner training than the British army was prepared to provide, with the result that in service the gun had a reputation for unreliability. In 1871 Britain reverted to muzzle-loading guns, which were cheaper and fired much cheaper ammunition, with the RML 9 pounder 8 cwt.

Colony of Victoria service

The Colony of Victoria (today the State of Victoria, in Australia), sold 6 Armstrong 12-pounders to New Zealand for use in the Māori wars, for a sum of 3,592 pounds 1s 8d with equipment and ammunition.[5] They travelled from Melbourne on 7 November 1863 on the troopship Himalaya, and arrived in Auckland on 11 November 1863.

The Victorian Government purchased 6 more guns in 1864 to equip its horse artillery; one of these is restored and displayed at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.[6]

New Zealand Land Wars

"C" Battery, 4th Brigade Royal Artillery, with six guns, served in New Zealand under Captain H.A. Mercer, in March 1861 in the final stages of the First Taranaki War. Captain Mercer again led this battery in the Second Taranaki War until he died leading an unsuccessful attack on a Maori redoubt at Rangiriri in November 1863. In January 1864 "I" battery, equipped with the "new pattern" of 24-calibres, arrived in New Zealand with another six guns. The guns from Victoria were employed from January 1864 onwards to reinforce "C" and "I" batteries. At the end of the war these guns apparently remained in New Zealand where they were used to equip the militia.


RBL 12 pdr Common shell diagram.jpg
RBL 12 pdr Segment Shell Diagram.jpg
Powder cartridge
Mk III Common shell
Mk I Segment shell

Surviving examples

See also

Notes and references

  1. £170 for guns made by Elswick Ordnance Company to March 1862, complete with sights and 2 vent-pieces; £83 14s 9d total unit cost for 364 guns made by Royal Gun Factory 1860-1861; £79 9s 7d total unit cost for 254 guns made by Royal Gun Factory 1861-1862. Report of the Select Committee on Ordnance 1862. These are total calculated costs of manufacture. Quoted in Holley 1865, pages 25-26
  2. 2.0 2.1 Text Book of Gunnery 1902, Page 336
  3. Crew of 1 NCO (No. 1) and 8 gunners (Nos. 2 - 9). Numbers 1 - 4 loaded and fired the gun, Nos. 1 - 5 ran the gun up, Nos. 5 - 9 supplied ammunition from the limber and wagon. "An Artilleryman", "A Popular Introduction to Rifled Ordnance". Published by Boddy and Co., Woolwich, 1871. Pages 87 - 93
  4. Treatise on Construction of Ordnance, 1877, page 162
  5. Military Historical Society of Australia 2006: "Australia's logistical and commissariat support in the New Zealand wars, 1863-66"
  6. Australian War Memorial. search for REL30087. Accessed 30 August 2008


External links

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