QF 1-pounder pom-pom

Not to be confused with the QF 2 pounder naval gun also known as the pom-pom.
QF 1 pdr Mark I & II ("pom-pom")

Mk II gun dated 1903, on anti-aircraft mounting, at the Imperial War Museum, London.[1]
Type Autocannon
Place of origin United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
Service history
In service 1890s–1918
Used by South African Republic
British Empire
German Empire
United States
Wars Spanish–American War
Second Boer War
World War I
Production history
Designer Hiram Maxim
Designed Late 1880s
Manufacturer Maxim-Nordenfelt
Vickers, Sons & Maxim
Variants Mk I, Mk II
Weight 410 pounds (186.0 kg) (gun & breech)
Length 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m) (total)
Barrel length 3 ft 7 in (1.09 m) (bore)

Shell 37 x 94R. 1 lb (0.45 kg) Common Shell
Calibre 37-millimetre (1.457 in)
Barrels 1
Action automatic, recoil
Rate of fire ~300 rpm (cyclic)
Muzzle velocity 1,800 ft/s (550 m/s)[2]
Maximum firing range 4,500 yards (4,110 m) (Mk I+ on field carriage)[3]
Filling weight 270 grains (17 g) black powder

The QF 1 pounder, universally known as the pom-pom due to the sound of its discharge,[4][5][6] was a 37 mm British autocannon, the first of its type in the world. It was used by several countries initially as an infantry gun and later as a light anti-aircraft gun.


Hiram Maxim originally designed the Pom-Pom in the late 1880s as an enlarged version of the Maxim machine gun. Its longer range necessitated exploding projectiles to judge range, which in turn dictated a shell weight of at least 400 grams (0.88 lb), as that was the lightest exploding shell allowed under the St. Petersburg Declaration of 1868 and reaffirmed in the Hague Convention of 1899.[7]

Early versions were sold under the Maxim-Nordenfelt label, whereas versions in British service (i.e. from 1900) were labelled Vickers, Sons and Maxim (VSM) as Vickers had bought out Maxim-Nordenfelt in 1897. They are all effectively the same gun.

Service by nation


The Belgian Army used the gun on a high-angle field carriage mounting.[3]


A version was produced in Germany for both Navy and Army.[3]

In World War I, it was used in Europe as an anti-aircraft gun as the Maxim Flak M14. Four guns were used mounted on field carriages in the German campaign in South West Africa in 1915, against South African forces.[8]

German service
German gunners wearing gasmasks, with Maxim Flak M14 

United Kingdom

Second Boer War

The British government initially rejected the gun but other countries bought it, including the South African Republic (Transvaal) government. In the Second Boer War, the British found themselves being fired on with success by the Boers with their 37 mm Maxim-Nordenfelt versions with ammunition made in Germany.

In response, Vickers-Maxim of Britain shipped either 57 or 50[9] guns out to the British Army in South Africa, with the first three arriving in time for the Battle of Paardeberg of February 1900.[10] These early Mk I versions were mounted on typical field gun type carriages.

British service during the Second Boer War
Australian troopers with 1 pounder in South Africa circa. 1901 
Boer 1 pounder with shield 

World War I

In World War I, it was used as an early anti-aircraft gun in the home defence of Britain. It was adapted as the Mk I*** and Mk II on high-angle pedestal mountings and deployed along London docks and on rooftops on key buildings in London, others on mobile motor lorries at key towns in the East and Southeast of England. 25 were employed in August 1914, and 50 in February 1916.[11] A Mk II gun (now in the Imperial War Museum, London) on a Naval pedestal mounting was the first to open fire in defence of London during the war.[3] However, the small shell was insufficient to damage the German Zeppelin airships sufficiently to bring them down.[12] The Ministry of Munitions noted in 1922: "The pom-poms were of very little value. There was no shrapnel available for them, and the shell provided for them would not burst on aeroplane fabric but fell back to earth as solid projectiles ... were of no use except at a much lower elevation than a Zeppelin attacking London was likely to keep".[13]

Nevertheless, Lieutenant O.F.J. Hogg of No. 2 AA Section in III Corps was the first anti-aircraft gunner to shoot down an aircraft, with 75 rounds on 23 September 1914 in France.[14]

The British Army did not employ it as an infantry weapon in World War I, as its shell was considered too small for use against any objects or fortifications and British doctrine relied on shrapnel fired by QF 13 pounder and 18-pounder field guns as its primary medium range anti-personnel weapon.

The gun was experimentally mounted on aircraft as the lighter 1-pounder Mk III, the cancelled Vickers E.F.B.7 being specifically designed to carry it in its nose.[15] As a light anti-aircraft gun, it was quickly replaced by the larger QF 1½ pounder and QF 2 pounder naval guns.

British Ammunition

The British are reported to have initially used some Common pointed shells (semi-armour piercing, with fuze in the shell base) in the Boer War, in addition to the standard Common shell. However, the common pointed shell proved unsatisfactory, with the base fuze frequently working loose and falling out during flight.[10][16] In 1914, the cast-iron common shell and tracer were the only available rounds.[17]

United States

On USS Vixen, circa. 1898–1901

The U.S. Navy adopted the Maxim-Nordenfelt 37 mm 1 pounder as the 1-pounder Mark 6 before the 1898 Spanish–American War. The Mark 7, 9, 14, and 15 weapons were similar.[18] It was the first dedicated anti-aircraft (AA) gun adopted by the US Navy, specified as such on the Sampson-class destroyers launched 1916-17. It was deployed on various types of ships during the US participation in World War I, although it was replaced as the standard AA gun on new destroyers by the 3 inch (76 mm)/23 caliber gun.

Previously, with the advent of the steel-hulled "New Navy" in 1884, some ships were equipped with the 1-pounder Hotchkiss revolving cannon.

Rapid-firing (single shot, similar to non-automatic QF guns) 1-pounders were also used, including the Sponsell gun and eight other marks; the Mark 10 to be mounted on aircraft. Designs included Hotchkiss and Driggs-Schroeder. A semi-automatic weapon and a line throwing version were also adopted. Semi-automatic in this case meant a weapon in which the breech was opened and cartridge ejected automatically after firing, ready for manual loading of the next round.[18]

It is often difficult to determine from references whether "1-pounder RF" refers to single-shot, revolving cannon, or Maxim-Nordenfelt weapons.

Surviving examples

Gun 543 mounted on field gun carriage, South African National Museum of Military History (2007)

See also

Notes and references

  1. 1 2 Imperial War Museum (2012). "1 pdr Vickers Gun Mk II". Imperial War Museum Collections Search. Retrieved 18 February 2012.
  2. "Handbook of the 1-PR. Q.F. Gun", 1902. Page 19, Range Table for British Mk I gun. Muzzle Velocity of 1,800 ft/second, firing 1-pound projectile with 1 oz 90 grains Cordite.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Hogg & Thurston 1972, pp. 22–23
  4. The Waverley pictorial dictionary (Volume SIX). London: Waverley Book Co. p. 3335.
  5. "Weapons". Australian Boer War Memorial Committee. Retrieved 2008-08-28.
  6. "...my paper strength will be 2,400 mounted men, 6 guns, and 8 pom-poms". Brigadier Henry Rawlinson, 2 January 1902, in South Africa. From "The Life of General Lord Rawlinson of Trent", by Sir Frederick Maurice. London: Cassell, 1928
  7. Hogg & Thurston 1972, p. 22, state the Hague Convention dictated the 1 lb (0.45 kg) shell; however 400 grams was set as the minimum for exploding shells by Laws of War: Declaration of St. Petersburg; November 29 1868
  8. Major D.D. Hall, The South African Military History Society Military History Journal - Vol 3 No 2, December 1974. "GERMAN GUNS OF WORLD WAR I IN SOUTH AFRICA". Major Hall states that these guns were made by Krupp, but the 2 captured guns in the South African Military History Museum were made by Deutsche Waffen und Munitionsfabriken (DWM)
  9. 'The Times History of the War in South Africa' mentions 57; Headlam 'The History of the Royal Artillery' only mentions 50.
  10. 1 2 Fiona Barbour, The South African Military History Society Military History Journal - Vol 3 No 1 June 1974. Mystery Shell
  11. Farndale 1988, pp. 362–363
  12. Routledge 1994, p. 7–8
  13. Official History of the Ministry of Munitions 1922, Volume X, Part 6, pp. 24–25. Facsimile reprint by Imperial War Museum and Naval & Military Press 2008. ISBN 1-84734-884-X
  14. Routledge 1994, p. 5
  15. THE CANNON PIONEERS: The early development and use of aircraft cannon, by Anthony G Williams
  16. The British 1902 manual listed only the Common Shell as currently produced : "A number of steel shells have been issued, but no more will be provided": "Handbook of the 1-PR. Q.F. Gun", 1902. Page 18
  17. Treatise on Ammunition 10th Edition, 1915. War Office, UK
  18. 1 2 DiGiulian, Tony, United States of America 1-pdr (0.45 kg) 1.46" (37 mm) Marks 1 through 15
  19. Bundesamt für Wehrtechnik und Beschaffung
  20. Museo Naval y Maritimo | Archivo y Biblioteca Histórica de la Armada


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