10 Pounder Mountain Gun
by Rob Langham

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During the Second Boer War (1899-1902), the standard mountain gun was the 2.5 inch mountain gun. Whilst a good weapon, the 2.5 inch mountain gun was a muzzle loader, and used gunpowder which gave the gun’s position away every time it fired – and as the gun could only fire direct line of sight, this made the crew extremely vulnerable. The 10 pounder used smokeless cordite instead of black powder, and was a breech loader, making it relatively modern but still lacking any form of recoil system. The new weapon was introduced in 1901 and had the distinction of being the first British artillery piece fired in the Middle East during the Great War, fired by 26th Mountain Battery, Indian Army, at the Turks advancing towards the Suez Canal on 26th January 1915 at Qantara. The 10 pounder was also used at Gallipoli, including by the Scottish Territorial unit 4th (Highland) Mountain Brigade, Royal Garrison Artillery, who instead of the usual mules for transportation used Highland ponies (until injury or death forced their replacement with mules eventually). The small guns proved very useful at Gallipoli, and they were even brought right up to the front line to fire a few rounds into the Turkish positions then retreat – this caused heavy casualties to the gunners, and would have been no mean feat to move even these small weapons in the confines of Gully Ravine and other areas of the Gallipoli battlefields. As well as Gallipoli, the 10 pounder also saw use in East Africa and Palestine.

As well as British and Indian units using the 10 pounder at Gallipoli, it is also possible that the Turkish Army was using them as well, as 10 pounder shells were found by ANZAC forces that could not have landed there from friendly guns – possibly acquired from New Zealand pre-war. The 10 pounder was soon replaced by the more modern 2.75 inch mountain gun, and for those units at Gallipoli they would receive them after the campaign, which had the benefits of a recoil system and a gunshield to protect the crew.

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One of the more exciting roles involving the 10 pounder was those that accompanied Lawrence of Arabia. His use of Rolls Royce armoured cars is well known, but less well known is that of the Talbot light trucks that carried 10 pounder mountain guns on their rear bed. These were used from 1916 until what is called ‘the last great cavalry charge’, at the Battle of Meggido in September 1918. There were six Talbots with two 10 pounder guns, later increased to six, one for each Talbot. The Talbots use were the strengthened Talbot SY chassis designed for use in Russia, but even then the 10 pounder with its lack of recoil system caused the Talbot chassis to visible bend and spring back into place every time they were fired.

Lawrence of Arabia described the section as;

"An oddment which General Clayton had seen in Egypt and sent down to us in an inspired moment. Its six Talbots, specially geared for heavy work, carried (at first) two 10 pounders with British gunners".

He then later described an action involving the Talbot mounted 10 pounders;

"The Talbot battery opened the affair, coming spiritedly into action just below our point while the three armoured cars crawled around the Turkish earthworks like great dogs nosing out a trail. The enemy soldiers popped up their heads to gaze, and everything was very friendly and curious, till the cars slewed round their Vickers and began to spray the trenches. Then the Turks, realising that it was an attack, got down behind their parapets and fired at the cars raggedly. It was about as deadly as peppering a rhinoceros with bird shot. After a while they turned their attention to Brodie’s (Talbot) guns and peppered the earth about them with bullets."

Photos of the Talbots show them with no bonnet fitted (in one case covering the 10 pounder gun from the sunlight) and a small canvas cover over the cab, a very interesting modelling possibility. The Talbots and 10 pounders were operated by the Motor Section, Royal Field Artillery – unusual in that 10 pounders were usually operated by members of the Royal Garrison Artillery

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Talbot truck in the desert. No images of the Talbot with 10 Pounders mounted have been found.

The 10 pounder split into four parts for animal pack transportation, and weighed 874lbs (396.4kg) in total. The shells most often used were shrapnel or common shell, common shell being ‘low explosive’ where unlike high explosive shells, it did not detonate but instead break into large fragments on impact (shell fragments are often referred to as shrapnel, but shrapnel is in fact the small balls fired from shrapnel shells). The quaint looking carriage of the 10 pounder gave no traverse, but an elevation of -15 degrees to +25 degrees. The weapon had a range of 3,700 yards (3,383m) using a time fuse or 6,000 yards (5,486m) with a percussion fuse. Like other Royal Garrison Artillery weapons of the time, it used a separate shell and charge. The end of the barrel of the example photographed here and other survivors shows an unusual patterning at the muzzle, which is believed to have been an aid to unscrewing the fore end of the barrel from the rear for transportation.


Postwar Service

Although replaced by the 2.75 inch mountain gun during WW1 the 10 Pounder lingered on in Indian artillery units until the 1930s.

Survivors

This surviving example from 1902 is at ‘Firepower’, the Royal Artillery Museum in Woolwich, London.

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How to model this gun

No kits are available of this artillery piece in 1/76 or 1/72, but 28mm wargame models do exist of the 2.5 inch mountain gun which looks almost identical to the 10 pounder apart from being a muzzle loader instead of a breech loader.