BL 12-inch howitzer

BL 12-inch howitzer

12-inch howitzer Mk IV manned by Newfoundland troops training in the UK, 1942
Type Heavy siege howitzer
Place of origin United Kingdom
Service history
In service 1916 - 1945
Used by UK and Commonwealth
Wars World War I, World War II
Production history
Designer Vickers
Manufacturer Vickers
Number built 14 (Mk II); 43 (Mk IV)
Variants Mk II, Mk IV[note 1]
Barrel length 160 inch (Mk II)
207.6 inch (Mk IV)[1]

Shell HE 750 lb (340 kg)
Calibre 12 inches (304.8 mm)
Recoil Variable hydropneumatic
Carriage siege carriage
Maximum firing range 11,340 yd (10.37 km) (Mk II)
14,350 yd (13.12 km) (Mk IV)[1]

The Ordnance BL 12-inch howitzer was a scaled-up version of the successful BL 9.2-inch siege howitzer.


Following the success of their BL 9.2-inch howitzer, Vickers designed an almost identical version scaled up to a calibre of 12 inches, the Mk II entering service on the Western Front in August 1916.[2] Eight complete equipments are reported as arriving in August 1916 and being in action in France shortly afterwards.

It was similar but unrelated to the BL 12 inch railway howitzers Mk I, III and V produced by the Elswick Ordnance Company at the same time.

The Mk IV was a more powerful version with longer barrel produced from 1917.

Later models were used for British home defence in World War II.

Service use

Shell marked "For Fritz" is readied for loading, bombardment of Thiepval September 1916

As with other large-calibre weapons, it was operated by the Royal Garrison Artillery in World War I.

The 12-inch was dismantled and transported in six loads mounted on traction engine wheels. It was then reassembled on its static siege mounting on top of a steel "holdfast", with 22 tons of earth in a box sitting on the front of the holdfast in front of the gun, to counteract the kick of firing.


See also

Weapons of comparable role, performance and era


  1. Mk II = Mark 2, Mk IV = Mark 4. Britain used Roman numerals to denote Marks (i.e. models) of ordnance until after World War II. Hence this article describes the second and fourth models of British BL 12-inch howizers. Marks I, III and V were the models of the unrelated BL 12-inch railway howitzer.


  1. 1 2 Hogg & Thurston 1972, page 181, 184
  2. Hogg & Thurston 1972, Page 180.


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