QF 6-pounder Hotchkiss

This article is about the 1880s Hotchkiss gun. For the World War II anti-tank and Molins Class M gun, see Ordnance QF 6 pounder. For other 6-pounder weapons, see 6-pounder gun.
QF 6 pounder Hotchkiss

Early Elswick gun on recoil mounting
Type Naval gun
Coast defence gun
Tank gun
Place of origin France
Service history
In service 1885 - 1940s
Used by  Royal Danish Navy
 French Navy
 Icelandic Coast Guard
 Royal Navy
 United States Navy
 Imperial Russian Navy
 Imperial Japanese Navy
 Irish Naval Service
Wars Sino-French War,
Third Anglo-Burmese War
First Sino-Japanese War,
Russo-Japanese War
World War I
Russian Civil War,
Second Sino-Japanese War
World War II
Cod Wars
Production history
Designer Hotchkiss et Cie
Designed 1883
Number built 3,984 (UK)
Weight 821-849 lb
(372-385 kg)
Barrel & breech[1]
Barrel length various. 40-58 calibres

Shell Fixed QF 57x307R
Common and Steel Shell 6 lb (2.7 kg)
9.7 lb (4.4 kg) complete round
Calibre 57-millimetre (2.244 in)
Breech Vertical sliding block
Recoil Hydro-spring, 4 inch
Rate of fire 25 / minute[2]
Muzzle velocity 1,818 feet per second (554 m/s)[3]
Effective firing range 4,000 yards (3,700 m)[4]

The QF 6 pounder Hotchkiss was a light 2.24 inch (57 mm) naval gun and coast defence gun of the late 19th century used by many countries, and was adapted for use in the early British tanks in World War I.

British service

The UK adopted a 40-calibre (i.e. 90 inch barrel) version as Ordnance QF Hotchkiss 6 pounder gun [5] Mk I and Mk II or QF 6 pounder 8 cwt. It was manufactured under licence by the Elswick Ordnance Company.

United Kingdom Naval service

They were originally mounted for use against the new (steam-driven) torpedo boats which started to enter service in the late 1870s.

The original 1885 Mk I lacked a recoil system. The Mk II of 1890 introduced a recoil system, with a pair of recoil/recuperator cylinders.[6]

During World War I the navy required many more guns and a version with a single-tube barrel was developed to simplify manufacture, identified as "6 pdr Single Tube". Initially these guns were only allowed to be fired with a special lower charge but in 1917 they were relined with A tubes as Mk I+++ which enabled them to use the standard 6 pounder ammunition.[6]

After World War I the gun was considered obsolete for combat use, but continued in use as a saluting gun and as a sub-calibre training gun. Many were brought back into active service in World War II for arming small vessels for coastal and anti-submarine warfare, and for coastal defence. The vessels so armed included early models of the famous Fairmile D Motor Gunboats, some of which were not re-armed with the modern autoloading 6 pdr MkIIA until late 1944.[7]

United Kingdom tank service

German troops with captured Mk II tank, showing the unwieldy length of the gun barrel (projecting from sponson on left side of tank, on right of picture)

The gun was used to equip Male versions of the early British tanks, Mk I - Mk III. In 1916 the British Army was faced with the difficulty of quickly providing a new class of weapon with no prior battlefield experience, and the existing Hotchkiss 6 pounder naval gun appeared to most closely meet the need. A single gun was mounted in each sponson, i.e. 2 per Male tank (tanks armed only with machine guns were designated Female), able to fire forwards or to the side.

The gun turned out to be too long for practical use in action in side sponsons, as it could come into contact with the ground or obstacles when extended to the side as the tank travelled over uneven ground. The British chose to shorten the gun rather than change its location, and replaced it in 1917 in the Mark IV tank onwards by the shorter QF 6 pounder 6 cwt.

United Kingdom anti-aircraft service

Britain lacked any dedicated air defence artillery early in World War I and up to 72[8] 6 pounders were adapted to high-angle pedestal mountings at key establishments in Britain for close air defence by 1916. They are not listed as still being in service in this role at the end of the war,[9] presumably because German bombing attacks were conducted from relatively high altitudes which would have been beyond this gun's range.

United Kingdom ammunition

American service

Gun and crew on USS Oregon circa. 1896-1901

The history of the Hotchkiss six pounder (called the Rapid Fire gun rather than Quick Firer in the US) in United States Navy and Army service is a complex story. It was used in conjunction with another maker's design, its primary rival being the Driggs-Schroeder six pounder. Oddly, one shipbuilding and naval supply company, Cramp & Sons, had a license to build both the Hotchkiss and Driggs-Schroeder and sold both to the Navy in parallel. It appears that Hotchkiss type guns had an edge in production in the first half of the 1890s, but by 1895 Driggs-Schroeders were being produced in quantity to equip a considerable number of newly commissioned ships. However, the initial purchases by the Navy were in small lots each year and there was no mass-production of these guns like one would see in smaller weapons. Both Hotchkiss and Driggs-Schroeder guns used the same ammunition and eventually the Navy made certain that the ammunition for both was identical. There is no question that the Driggs-Schroeders were predominant in the new protected and armored cruisers that were being commissioned by 1895. However, USS Texas, a second class battleship commissioned in 1895, carried a mixed six pounder complement of ten Driggs-Schroeders and two Hotchkiss guns. USS Maine, an armored cruiser, exclusively carried Driggs-Schroeder six pounders although it had a mixed one pounder battery of both Driggs-Schroeder and Hotchkiss. Ships known to have carried exclusively Driggs-Schroeder six pounders are USS Olympia, Brooklyn, New York, and Columbia. Although from photographs of particular guns on the vessels in question, it appears that the battleships USS Indiana, USS Oregon, and USS Iowa carried exclusively Hotchkiss six pounders with USS Massachusetts carrying Driggs-Schroeders. The six pounders would largely be replaced by 3-inch (76 mm) RF naval guns starting around 1910.[10]

The US Army also used the Hotchkiss six pounder, referred to as a "2.24-inch gun" in some period references. As the primary defender of coastal fortifications and harbors, the US Army had a need for lighter guns to supplement their shore batteries, particularly since land defense against infantry was a consideration in the 1890s.[11] The Army was in an experimental phase like the Navy, testing new weapons in an era when military budgets were expanding after decades of Congressional stinginess. It appears that the US Army and US Navy, while both using the "Mark" system, assigned their designations to different ordnance. References indicate that Driggs-Schroeder guns, manufactured by the American Ordnance Company and designated Mark II and Mark III, were adopted along with Driggs-Seabury weapons designated M1898 and M1900. In 1898-1901 a total of 97 weapons were acquired: 20 M1898, 40 M1900, 10 Mark II, and 27 Mark III guns. However, 17 M1898 and all ten Mark II guns were transferred for use on Army troop transports in the Spanish-American War of 1898, leaving 70 weapons for land use. The mountings for the Army six pounders were called M1898 and M1898 (modified) "rampart mounts" or "parapet mounts", wheeled carriages with fittings that allowed them to be secured to pintle mounts.[12] Another reference has somewhat different figures.[13] There were generally two of these guns issued per major fort, and eventually many of them became saluting guns at the post's flagpole.[13] A dozen were deployed at Fort Ruger in Hawaii as part of the Land Defense Project of 1915-1919, while others were deployed in the Philippines under this project.[14]

Unlike her 8-inch guns, the preserved USS Olympia (C-6) retains her Driggs-Schroeder 6-pounders. She is at the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia.

Russian service

Russian 58-calibre version, on Kuivasaari island, Finland

The Russian navy tried 40, 50 and 58-calibres versions of the gun from 1904, and later transferred them to the army.[15]

Japanese service

The 57 mm Hotchkiss naval gun was the standard secondary or tertiary armament on most Japanese destroyers built between 1890 and 1920, and was still in service as late as the Pacific War.

Canadian service

These guns were used as examination guns at coastal forts in World War II, including Barrett Point battery near Prince Rupert, British Columbia. A twin mount and two single mounts survive at Fort Rodd Hill, Victoria, BC, with an additional weapon at the Bay Street Armoury (see below).

Icelandic service

The 57 mm Hotchkiss naval gun was used by the Icelandic Coast Guard, and served as the main gun of most of its patrol vessels between the 1920s until 1990 when it had been completely replaced with 40 mm Bofors autocannons.

Irish service

A 6 pounder gun was fitted to the single Vickers Mk. D tank used by the Irish Army between 1929-1940. When the tank was scrapped in 1940 the 6 pounder gun was removed and used as an anti-tank weapon.

Surviving examples

See also

Weapons of comparable role, performance and era

Notes and references

  1. Hogg & Thurston 1972 quote 821 lb (372 kg) for the UK 40-calibres coast defence gun. DiGiulian quotes 849 lb (385 kg) for the naval gun. Weights varied according to barrel length.
  2. 25 rounds per minute is the figure given by Elswick Ordnance for their 40-calibres model. Quoted in Brassey's Naval Annual 1901
  3. 1818 ft/s in British service, with 90-inch (2.3 m) bore, using propellant of 1 lb 15 oz (0.88 kg) Q.F. black powder or 7¾ oz cordite size 5. Text Book of Gunnery, 1902, Table XII, Page 337.
  4. Hogg&Thurston 1972, Page 36-39 quote 7,500 yards (6,900 m) maximum for the British version. Text Book of Gunnery 1902 quotes 4,000 yards (3,700 m).
  5. British forces traditionally denoted smaller ordnance by the weight of its standard projectile, in this case approximately 6 pounds (2.7 kg).
  6. 1 2 Hogg & Thurston 1972, Page 36-39
  7. See Reynolds 'MGB 658'
  8. Routledge 1994, Page 17
  9. Routledge 1994, Page 27
  10. Campbell, John (1985). Naval Weapons of World War Two. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-459-4.
  11. Somewhat inexplicably, defense against land attack disappeared from the design of forts built after 1900, and the Land Defense Project of the World War I era was apparently not repeated.
  12. Lohrer, George L. Ordnance Supply Manual, U. S. Ordnance Dept., 1904, pp. 282-295
  13. 1 2 3 Williford, pp. 44-45
  14. Berhow, pp. 188-189, 217
  15. DiGiulian, Tony, Russian 57 mm/40, 57 mm/50 and 57 mm/58 (2.244") 6-pdr (2.72 kg) Hotchkiss guns
  16. Surviving seacoast artillery at the Coast Defense Study Group
  17. 1 2 3 Berhow, p. 235


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