The design of the 9.2-inch (234mm) Howitzer started in 1910. The contract went to the Coventry Ordnance Works, and the first gun was completed early in 1914, and tested in Wales. The design was formally approved in July 1914, and in August that year the first gun was sent to France, and saw its first big action at Neuve Chapelle in early 1915 (this special gun became known as “Mother”). At the end of 1916 some 230 howitzers had been delivered to the British Army.
The 9.2in Mark I howitzer was a sturdy and well-thought-through design, with a hydro-pneumatic recoil system, which proved very reliable and soon became a standard British system. When moved, this big gun was of course broken down into loads, in this case three, and each was carried on a separate wagon. (Each wagon could be pulled by its own team of horses, or the three wagons could be interconnected, and pulled by a motorized tractor, like the Holt.) The only real problem with this potent gun, was that it was pretty short – because of the need to keep it compact enough to be pulled by horses – and as a consequence thereof it had a distinct tendency to go up a bit in the air when it was fired. In order to counter this a special “earth box” was used, attached to the front of the gun and, on deployment, filled with nine tons of earth.
Picture: Australian Battery of 9.2 inch Mark I howitzers, Somme, August 1916.
The Mark I could throw a 290lb (132kg) HE shell to a maximum range of 10,060 yards (9200 metres). The rate of fire was two rounds per minute. The range was a bit short, and work started on a new design, the Mark II.
The Mark II had a much greater maximum range of 13,935 yards (12,742 metres), but was some 3 tons heavier than the Mark I. Both Marks continued in use throughout the war (the Mark I was not replaced), and at war’s end 512 guns (both types combined) had been produced. The gun was still in use when World War 2 broke out.