Ordnance QF 17 pounder

Ordnance QF 17 pounder

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The Ordnance Quick-Firing 17 pounder (or just 17 pdr) was a 76.2 mm (3 inch) gun
Gun
A gun is a muzzle or breech-loaded projectile-firing weapon. There are various definitions depending on the nation and branch of service. A "gun" may be distinguished from other firearms in being a crew-served weapon such as a howitzer or mortar, as opposed to a small arm like a rifle or pistol,...

 developed by the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. It was used as an anti-tank gun on its own carriage, as well as equipping a number of British tanks. It was the most effective Allied
Allies
In everyday English usage, allies are people, groups, or nations that have joined together in an association for mutual benefit or to achieve some common purpose, whether or not explicit agreement has been worked out between them...

 anti-tank gun of the war. Used with the APDS
Armour-piercing discarding sabot
Armour-piercing discarding sabot is a type of kinetic energy projectile fired from a gun to attack armoured targets. APDS rounds are sabot rounds and were commonly used in large calibre tank guns, but have now been superseded by armour-piercing fin-stabilized discarding sabot projectiles in such...

 shot it was capable of defeating all but the thickest armour
Vehicle armour
Military vehicles are commonly armoured to withstand the impact of shrapnel, bullets, missiles, or shells, protecting the personnel inside from enemy fire. Such vehicles include tanks, aircraft, and ships....

 on German tanks. It was used to 'up-gun' some foreign-built vehicles in British service, notably the Sherman Firefly
Sherman Firefly
The Sherman Firefly was a World War II British variant of the American Sherman tank, fitted with the powerful British 17 pounder anti-tank gun as its main weapon...

, giving British tank units the ability to hold their own with their German counterparts. In the anti-tank role it was replaced by the 120 mm BAT recoilless rifle after the war. As a tank gun it was succeeded by the 20 pounder
Ordnance QF 20 pounder
The Ordnance QF 20 pounder was a British 84 mm tank gun introduced in 1948 and used in the Centurion tank and the Charioteer tank destroyer...

.

History



Before the QF 6-pounder
Ordnance QF 6 pounder
The Ordnance Quick-Firing 6-pounder 7 cwt, or just 6 pounder, was a British 57 mm gun, their primary anti-tank gun during the middle of World War II, as well as the main armament for a number of armoured fighting vehicles...

 had entered service, the British predicted that it would soon be inadequate given the increasing armour of German tanks. In late 1940 design of a replacement was started, and was largely complete by the end of 1941. A prototype production line was set up that spring, and with the appearance of Tiger I
Tiger I
Tiger I is the common name of a German heavy tank developed in 1942 and used in World War II. The final official German designation was Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. E, often shortened to Tiger. It was an answer to the unexpectedly formidable Soviet armour encountered in the initial months of...

 tanks in North Africa
North African campaign
During the Second World War, the North African Campaign took place in North Africa from 10 June 1940 to 13 May 1943. It included campaigns fought in the Libyan and Egyptian deserts and in Morocco and Algeria and Tunisia .The campaign was fought between the Allies and Axis powers, many of whom had...

, the first 100 prototype 17-pdr anti-tank guns were quickly sent off to help counter this new threat. So great was the rush that they were sent before proper carriages had been developed, and the guns had to be mounted in the carriages of 25-pounder gun-howitzer
Howitzer
A howitzer is a type of artillery piece characterized by a relatively short barrel and the use of comparatively small propellant charges to propel projectiles at relatively high trajectories, with a steep angle of descent...

s. These early weapons were known as 17/25-pounders and given the codename Pheasant. They first saw action in February 1943. Fully developed 17-pdrs started production in 1943 and were first used during the Italian Campaign
Italian Campaign (World War II)
The Italian Campaign of World War II was the name of Allied operations in and around Italy, from 1943 to the end of the war in Europe. Joint Allied Forces Headquarters AFHQ was operationally responsible for all Allied land forces in the Mediterranean theatre, and it planned and commanded the...

.

The 17-pdr outperformed all other Allied armour-piercing guns, and was quickly adapted for use on various tank chassis. However, few tanks were capable of carrying such a large gun due to the limitation of the size of their turret ring. It was expected that a 75 mm gun under development by Vickers would be used for tanks, but this did not enter service.
The British had plans in hand for a tank - based on the Cromwell
Cromwell tank
Tank, Cruiser, Mk VIII, Cromwell ,The designation as the eighth Cruiser tank design, its name given for ease of reference and its General Staff specification number respectively and the related Centaur tank, were one of the most successful series of cruiser tanks fielded by Britain in the Second...

 then under development - to carry the 17 pounder. However the problems inherent in the modifications meant the result, the Cruiser Mark VIII Challenger, was delayed and relatively few built.

However, the British devised a conversion for their US-supplied M4 Sherman
M4 Sherman
The M4 Sherman, formally Medium Tank, M4, was the primary tank used by the United States during World War II. Thousands were also distributed to the Allies, including the British Commonwealth and Soviet armies, via lend-lease...

 tanks to take the 17 pounder and it was rushed into service in time for D-Day
D-Day
D-Day is a term often used in military parlance to denote the day on which a combat attack or operation is to be initiated. "D-Day" often represents a variable, designating the day upon which some significant event will occur or has occurred; see Military designation of days and hours for similar...

 as the Sherman Firefly
Sherman Firefly
The Sherman Firefly was a World War II British variant of the American Sherman tank, fitted with the powerful British 17 pounder anti-tank gun as its main weapon...

. The gun (a modified design was produced specifically for the Firefly) had to be rotated through 90 degrees to fit into the turret of the Sherman, i.e. it lay on its side, and an additional box was welded to the back of the turret to take the radio which was moved to allow for the breech and its recoil. More Shermans were converted until about 50% of Shermans in British service were Fireflies.

The British also converted some of their US-produced M10 tank destroyer
M10 Wolverine
The M10 tank destroyer, formally 3-inch Gun Motor Carriage, M10 was a United States tank destroyer of World War II based on the chassis of the M4 Sherman tank. It was numerically the most important U.S...

s, replacing the 3-inch (76 mm) cannon with the 17-pdr; the resulting vehicles were called Achilles or just 17 pdr M10
17pdr SP Achilles
The 17 pounder, Self Propelled, Achilles was a British variant of the American M10 Tank destroyer armed with the powerful British Ordnance QF 17 pounder anti-tank gun in place of the standard 3" Gun M7...

.

The 17-pdr was also successfully fitted to the Australian-designed Sentinel tank
Sentinel tank
The Sentinel tank was a cruiser tank designed in Australia in World War II in response to the war in Europe, and to the threat of Japan expanding the war to the Pacific or even a feared Japanese invasion of Australia. It was the first tank to be built with a hull cast as a single piece, and the...

 during trials, though no Sentinels equipped with this gun entered service with the Australian Army
Australian Army
The Australian Army is Australia's military land force. It is part of the Australian Defence Force along with the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force. While the Chief of Defence commands the Australian Defence Force , the Army is commanded by the Chief of Army...

.

The 17-pounder anti-tank guns saw action in Korea, against tanks and in general support use against bunker positions. Afterwards, it was largely replaced in the tank role by the Ordnance QF 20 pounder
Ordnance QF 20 pounder
The Ordnance QF 20 pounder was a British 84 mm tank gun introduced in 1948 and used in the Centurion tank and the Charioteer tank destroyer...

 and in the anti-tank role by the 120 mm L6 WOMBAT
L6 Wombat
The L6 Wombat, was a 120 mm calibre recoilless anti-tank rifle used by the British Army. They were used until anti-tank guided missiles such as Vigilant and MILAN took their place....

 recoilless gun.

The United States Army did not use the 17-pounder in action, though the gun was offered to US forces with a number of Shermans modified for testing.

Variants


Mark I
  • first production versions.

Mark II
  • intended for tank use. Removed the carrier mountings and replaced the muzzle brake
    Muzzle brake
    Muzzle brakes and recoil compensators are devices that are fitted to the muzzle of a firearm or cannon to redirect propellant gases with the effect of countering both recoil of the gun and unwanted rising of the barrel during rapid fire...

     with a counterweight. The brake was added back on in March 1944 with the introduction of the APDS shot. The Mk. II was used on the Archer
    Archer (tank destroyer)
    The SP 17pdr, Valentine, Mk I, Archer was a British self propelled anti-tank gun of the Second World War based on the Valentine infantry tank chassis fitted with a Ordnance QF 17 pounder gun.-Design and development:...

     tank destroyer and Challenger tank.

Mark III
  • Royal Navy
    Royal Navy
    The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

     adaptation for use on landing craft
    Landing craft
    Landing craft are boats and seagoing vessels used to convey a landing force from the sea to the shore during an amphibious assault. Most renowned are those used to storm the beaches of Normandy, the Mediterranean, and many Pacific islands during WWII...

    , generally similar to the Mk. I, but included an automatic loading system. Unused.

Mark IV
  • Another tank adaptation, this time with a different breech where the block slid to the side instead of down to take up less room. Unused.

Mark V
  • A version of the Mk IV with different mounts to allow it to replace the US 3in (76.2mm) Gun M7 on the 3in SP, Wolverine
    M10 Wolverine
    The M10 tank destroyer, formally 3-inch Gun Motor Carriage, M10 was a United States tank destroyer of World War II based on the chassis of the M4 Sherman tank. It was numerically the most important U.S...

    s, creating the 17pdr SP Achilles
    17pdr SP Achilles
    The 17 pounder, Self Propelled, Achilles was a British variant of the American M10 Tank destroyer armed with the powerful British Ordnance QF 17 pounder anti-tank gun in place of the standard 3" Gun M7...

    .

Mark VI
  • Another Mk. IV adaptation with a shortened breech.

Mark VII
  • Similar to the Mk. VI, yet another change to the breech.

Straussler Conversion
  • This was an experimental gun, designed by Nicholas Straussler
    Nicholas Straussler
    Nicholas Straussler was an engineer mainly remembered for devising the flotation system used by Allied amphibious DD tanks during World War II. Born in Hungary, he developed a reputation as an innovative automotive engineer before moving to Britain during the interwar period...

     that was fitted with a motorized gun-carriage. A modified ammunition limber would be attached to the gun's trails, making a four-wheeled, self propelled vehicle and removing the need for a truck to tow the gun.

77 mm HV

  • As the breech length of the 17-pdr was too long to fit in many tanks a new version was designed with a shorter breech, firing the same projectile as the 17-pdr from a 3-inch 20 cwt AA gun
    QF 3 inch 20 cwt
    The QF 3 inch 20 cwt anti-aircraft gun became the standard anti-aircraft gun used in the home defence of the United Kingdom against German airships and bombers and on the Western Front in World War I. It was also common on British warships in World War I and submarines in World War II...

     cartridge through a shortened 17-pdr barrel. This new gun's ammunition was not interchangeable with the 17-pounder, so to prevent confusion over ammunition supplies, it was renamed the "77 mm HV"—the 'HV' standing for High Velocity—although it was the same 76.2 mm calibre as the 17-pdr. This gun was used in the Comet tank
    Comet tank
    The Tank, Cruiser, Comet I was a British cruiser tank that first saw use near the end of World War II. It was designed to provide greater anti-tank capability to Cromwell tank squadrons. It was armed with a 77mm HV, a derivative of the 17 pounder, with the result it was one of the few British...

    .

Ammunition


The 17-pounder used two types of anti-tank ammunition. APCBC
APCBC
The armour-piercing capped ballistic cap is a type of armor-piercing shell introduced in the 1930s.-Development:The APCBC munition type was an evolutionary development of the early war armour-piercing capped shell, itself an evolution of the more basic AP and APHE shell types...

 (Armour Piercing, Capped, Ballistic Capped) ammunition could penetrate 140 mm of armour at 457 metres and 131 mm at 914 m at a 30 degree angle. APDS
APDS
APDS may refer to:*Armour-piercing discarding sabot*Androgynous Peripheral Docking System*Augusta Preparatory Day School...

 (Armour Piercing, Discarding Sabot) could penetrate 208 mm of armour at 457 m and 192 mm at 914 m at a 30 degree angle, allowing it to penetrate the armour of even the redoubtable King Tiger
Tiger II
Tiger II is the common name of a German heavy tank of the Second World War. The final official German designation was Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. B,Panzerkampfwagen – abbr: Pz. or Pz.Kfw. Ausführung – abbr: Ausf. .The full titles Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf...

 tank. However, APDS was much less accurate than APCBC ammunition, and did not do nearly as much damage to an enemy tank if it did penetrate. APCBC ammunition was standard; APDS shot was used for about 6% of the average loadout of a 17-pdr equipped British tank.

The HE shell initially developed for the 17-pdr lacked power: due to the high-powered cartridge; the shell walls had to be thicker to stand the stresses of firing, leaving less room for explosive. Reducing the size of the propelling charge for the HE shell allowed the use of a thinner-walled and more powerful shell.

The 17-pdr produced a very large muzzle flash due to the large amount of propellant in its cartridges. Muzzle blast was also significant, described by crews of the anti-tank gun variant as resembling a hard slap on the chest.

Anti-tank gun


The 17-pdr was a much bulkier and heavier weapon than its predecessor. As a result it had to be towed by a gun tractor such as the Crusader as it could not effectively be moved by its crew alone, especially on poor ground. After the war it was issued to anti-tank units of the Royal Artillery in the British Army of the Rhine
British Army of the Rhine
There have been two formations named British Army of the Rhine . Both were originally occupation forces in Germany, one after the First World War, and the other after the Second World War.-1919–1929:...

 (BAOR) towed by the M3 Half Track and when the Royal Artillery Anti-Tank Units were disbanded in 1951, transferred to Infantry battalions in the BAOR (6 per battalion), towed by the Windsor Tracked Carrier.
25 pdr carriage
Stop gap measure named Pheasant.

Split trail
Split trail
The split trail is a type of gun mount or gun carriage for relatively small and transportable artillery pieces....

 carriage
  • Split trail carriage, with gunshield.
  • Weight: 3 t.
  • Elevation: -6° to +16.5°
  • Traverse: 60°

Vehicle mount


World War II
  • Tank, Cruiser, Challenger (A30) - 200 built
  • Tank, Cruiser, Comet I (A34)
    Comet tank
    The Tank, Cruiser, Comet I was a British cruiser tank that first saw use near the end of World War II. It was designed to provide greater anti-tank capability to Cromwell tank squadrons. It was armed with a 77mm HV, a derivative of the 17 pounder, with the result it was one of the few British...

     (77 mm OQF HV) - 1,200 by end of war.
  • SP 17pdr, Valentine, Mk I, Archer
    Archer (tank destroyer)
    The SP 17pdr, Valentine, Mk I, Archer was a British self propelled anti-tank gun of the Second World War based on the Valentine infantry tank chassis fitted with a Ordnance QF 17 pounder gun.-Design and development:...

     tank destroyer built from Valentine tank
    Valentine tank
    The Tank, Infantry, Mk III, Valentine was an infantry tank produced in the United Kingdom during the Second World War. More than 8,000 of the type were produced in 11 different marks plus various purpose-built variants, accounting for approximately a quarter of wartime British tank production...

     hull. 655 built
  • Sherman Firefly
    Sherman Firefly
    The Sherman Firefly was a World War II British variant of the American Sherman tank, fitted with the powerful British 17 pounder anti-tank gun as its main weapon...

     (Modified Sherman tank (Medium Tank M4) - about 2,000
  • 17pdr SP Achilles
    17pdr SP Achilles
    The 17 pounder, Self Propelled, Achilles was a British variant of the American M10 Tank destroyer armed with the powerful British Ordnance QF 17 pounder anti-tank gun in place of the standard 3" Gun M7...

     (Modified 3in SP, Wolverine
    M10 Wolverine
    The M10 tank destroyer, formally 3-inch Gun Motor Carriage, M10 was a United States tank destroyer of World War II based on the chassis of the M4 Sherman tank. It was numerically the most important U.S...

    ) - about 1,100 by end of war
  • Tank, Infantry, Black Prince (A43)
    Black Prince (tank)
    The Tank, Infantry, Black Prince was the name assigned to an experimental development of the Churchill tank with a larger, wider hull and a QF 17-pounder gun...

     (prototype tank, never fielded)
  • Australian Cruiser tank Mk IV
    Sentinel tank
    The Sentinel tank was a cruiser tank designed in Australia in World War II in response to the war in Europe, and to the threat of Japan expanding the war to the Pacific or even a feared Japanese invasion of Australia. It was the first tank to be built with a hull cast as a single piece, and the...

     (prototype turret only, never fielded)

Post-war
  • Centurion
    Centurion tank
    The Centurion, introduced in 1945, was the primary British main battle tank of the post-World War II period. It was a successful tank design, with upgrades, for many decades...

     - at prototype stage during war
  • SP 17pdr, A30 (Avenger) - not available in time for war, 250 built

External links