QF 4.7-inch Gun Mk I–IV

QF 4.7 inch Gun Mk I - IV

Typical naval deck mounting, 1890s
Type Naval gun
Medium field gun
Coastal defence gun
Place of origin United Kingdom
Service history
In service 1887–1920
Used by

United Kingdom
Kingdom of Italy
Empire of Japan
United Kingdom
Union of South Africa
Coast defence:
United Kingdom
United States of America

Wars Second Boer War
World War I
Production history
Designer Elswick Ordnance
Designed ca. 1885
Manufacturer Elswick Ordnance
Vickers Sons and Maxim
Number built 1,167[1]
Variants Mark I, II, III, IV, VI
Weight Barrel & breech 4,592 lb (Mk I–III); 4,704 lb (Mk IV)[2]
Barrel length 189 inch bore (40 cal)[2]
Crew 10

Shell Separate loading QF; WWI : AP, Shrapnel, Common Lyddite, Common pointed, HE 45 pounds (20.41 kg)[note 1]
Calibre 120 millimetres (4.72 in)
Breech Single motion interrupted screw
Recoil 12 inch (carriage Mk I)
Elevation -6° – 20° (Mk I field carriage)[2]
Rate of fire 5–6 rounds per minute
Muzzle velocity

Gunpowder : 1,786 feet per second (544 m/s)[note 2][3]

Cordite : 2,150 feet per second (660 m/s)[4]
Maximum firing range 10,000 yards (9,100 m) at 20°, 12,000 yards (11,000 m) at 24°[note 3]

The QF 4.7 inch Gun Mks I, II, III, and IV[note 4] were a family of British quick-firing 120-mm naval and coast defence guns of the late 1880s and 1890s which served with the navies of various countries. They were also mounted on various wheeled carriages to provide the British Army with a long range gun. They all had a bore of 40 calibres length.

The gun was originally designed to replace the older BL 5 inch (127 mm) naval guns. It was optimised for the modern smokeless propellants such as Cordite and could be loaded and fired far more rapidly than the BL 5-inch gun while firing a shell only slightly lighter.

Design and development

The guns were designed and manufactured by the Elswick Ordnance Company, part of Armstrong Whitworth. They were a major export item and hence were actually of 120 mm calibre (4.724 inches) to meet the requirements of metricised navies: 4.7 inch is an approximation used for the British designation. The guns, Mark I to Mark III, were Pattern P, Pattern Q and Pattern T respectively. All three differed in detail of construction but were of the tube and hoop types. The Mark IV differed from these by incorporating a wire wound element to its construction. As first built, all used a three-motion screw breech, some were altered later by modifying the three-motion screw becoming "A" subtypes, or by fitting a single motion breech ("B" type). Army guns altered to use a bagged charge with a 3-inch steel (instead of the more usual brass) breech-sealing case were renumbered as Mark VI.[5]

United Kingdom service

Royal Navy service

British pre-dreadnoughts and cruisers of the period used these guns. Total production was 154 Mark I, 91 Mark II, 338 Mark III and 584 Mark IV. The Royal Navy received 776 of these guns directly. The Army transferred a further 110 to the Navy.

The Latona-class minelayer gave up their guns to produce high-angle anti-aircraft guns to defend London.[5]

By World War I the guns were obsolete for warship use, but many were re-mounted on merchant ships and troopships for defence against enemy submarines and commerce raiders.

British Army service

In land service, limited numbers were mounted for use as coast artillery. In addition, some Mark IV guns were mounted on converted 40-Pr Rifled Breech Loading Gun carriages for use by batteries of the Volunteer Artillery. These were semi-mobile guns with limbers, which could be drawn by horses or gun tractors. They continued in use with artillery units of the Territorial Force, with some being used into the First World War.

Second Boer War (1899–1902)

"Joe Chamberlain" at Magersfontein.
Gun on static siege mounting, Siege of Ladysmith.

British forces in the Second Boer War were initially outgunned by the long range Boer artillery. Captain Percy Scott of HMS Terrible first improvised timber static siege mountings for two 4.7-inch (120 mm) guns from the Cape Town coastal defences, to counter the Boers' "Long Tom" gun during the Siege of Ladysmith in 1899–1900.[6]

Gun on "Percy Scott" carriage at the Battle of Colenso.

Captain Scott then improvised a travelling carriage for 4.7 inch guns removed from their usual static coastal or ship mountings to provide the army with a heavy field gun. These improvised carriages lacked recoil buffers and hence in action drag shoes and attachment of the carriage by cable to a strong point in front of the gun were necessary to control the recoil.[6] They were manned by Royal Navy crews and required up to 32 oxen to move.[6]

World War I

South-West Africa Campaign (1914–1915)

In sand, South West Africa Campaign, WWI. Note oxen.

The same guns mounted on "Percy Scott" carriages were used by South African forces against German forces in the South-West Africa Campaign in World War I. Guns were landed at Lüderitz Bay in October 1914 and later at Walvis Bay in February 1915 and moved inland across the desert in support of South African troops.

Western Front (1914–1917)

On 1900 Mk I "Woolwich" carriage, Sausage Valley, Somme 1916.
Germans with captured QF gun, on "Woolwich" carriage, in Belgium

Up to 92 QF 4.7 inch guns on more modern Mk I "Woolwich" carriages dating from June 1900 with partially effective (12 inch) recoil buffers, and on heavier "converted" carriages from old RML 40 pounder guns, went to France with Royal Garrison Artillery units, mostly of the Territorial Force, in 1914–1917.

They figured prominently in the early battles, such as at Neuve Chapelle in March 1915 where there were 32, and only 12 60-pounders, assigned to counter-battery fire. General Farndale reports that counter-battery fire there failed to deal with the German artillery, but ascribes the failure to the as yet imprecise nature of long range map shooting, and the difficulty of maintaining forward observers on the flat terrain.[7]

By the Battle of Aubers Ridge on 9 May 1915 the barrels of the 28 guns of the 3rd and 8th Heavy Brigades and the 1st West Riding and 1st Highland Heavy Batteries engaged were now so worn that driving bands were stripped off shells at the muzzle, limiting accuracy.[8] In addition two guns in the armoured train "Churchill" were in action at Aubers Ridge. Thirty-three 60-pounders were available. Counter-battery fire again failed due to the inaccuracy of the worn-out guns and also because the army still lacked accurate means of locating enemy guns,[9] as air observation and reporting and use of radio was only beginning.

The inaccuracy through wear and relatively light shell diminished their usefulness in the developing trench warfare, and they were replaced by the modern 60-pounder guns as they became available. At the Battle of the Somme in June–July 1916 there were 32 4.7-inch (120 mm) guns and 128 60-pounders engaged.[10] The last were however not withdrawn until April 1917. Guns withdrawn from the Western Front were redeployed to other fronts such as Italy and Serbia.[11]

Battle of Gallipoli (1915)

Dragging the gun up to its position at Anzac, July 1915.
Gun in emplacement at Anzac, Gallipoli.

A 4.7 inch gun was used by the 1st Heavy Artillery Battery, a joint unit of Australians and Royal Marines, on Gallipoli to counter long range Turkish fire from the "Olive Grove" (in fact "Palamut Luk" or Oak Grove)[12] between Gaba Tepe and Maidos. Lt-Colonel Rosenthal, commanding 3rd Australian Field Artillery Brigade, noted : "I had made continual urgent representations for two 4.7-inch guns for right flank to deal with innumerable targets beyond the range of 18-prs., but it was not till 11 July that one very old and much worn gun arrived, and was placed in position on right flank, firing its first round on 26 July.[13]" This gun was destroyed and left behind at the withdrawal from Gallipoli but later salvaged as a museum piece.[14] The burst barrel is on display at the Australian War Memorial.

Salonika Front

Several 4.7-inch (120 mm) guns mounted on "Percy Scott" carriages served with British and Serb forces in the Salonika (Macedonian) campaign from January 1916 onwards.

United States service

Battery Hogan under construction, Fort San Jacinto, Harbor Defenses of Galveston, Texas.

In 1898 the United States Army acquired 35 British QF 4.7-inch guns; these were designated "4.72-inch Armstrong guns". Eighteen were 40 caliber Mark IV weapons, thirteen were 45 caliber, and four were 50 caliber; apparently the 45 and 50 caliber guns were non-standard export models.[15][16] These and the nine 6-inch Armstrong guns acquired at the same time appear to have been purchased to rapidly arm coast defense batteries with modern quick-firing medium-caliber weapons due to the outbreak of the Spanish–American War. It was feared that the Spanish fleet might bombard US East Coast ports. The massive Endicott program of coast defenses was still years from completion, and most existing defenses dated from the 1870s with muzzle-loading weapons. By the end of 1899 34 of the 4.7-inch guns had been deployed at 17 forts on the East and Gulf Coasts;[17] the remaining gun (40 caliber) was retained for testing at the Sandy Hook Proving Ground at Fort Hancock, New Jersey.[15][18][19][20]

The projectiles listed in US manuals for these weapons were a common cast iron practice round, a common steel explosive round, a strong-headed steel explosive round, and a shrapnel round with a time/percussion fuze, each 45 pounds (20 kg).[21] The maximum ranges on mounts with 15-degree elevation were 8,312 yards (7,600 m) (40 caliber gun),[21] 9,600 yards (8,800 m) (45 caliber gun),[22] and 9,843 yards (9,000 m) (50 caliber gun).[23] The 40 caliber gun used 7.5 pounds of nitrocellulose powder, while the 45 and 50 caliber guns used 10.5 pounds of nitrocellulose in a larger case.[21][22][23]

The United States Navy acquired two protected cruisers in 1898 with four British-made export-model 4.7-inch 50 caliber guns each, along with a 6-inch main battery. These were under construction for Brazil at Elswick, and the US acquired them partly to prevent their purchase by Spain, renaming them as the New Orleans class. One source states the 6-inch guns were Elswick Pattern DD and the 4.7-inch guns were Pattern AA.[24] Their guns were unique in the US Navy, and they were designated "4.7"/50 caliber Mark 3 Armstrong guns".[25] During refits at the Cavite Navy Yard in the Philippines in 1903, both ships had their 4.7-inch guns replaced with standard USN 5-inch guns; the 6-inch guns followed in 1907.[26] At least some of the guns from these ships were emplaced in the Grande Island/Subic Bay area 1907–1910 and operated by the United States Marine Corps Advanced Base Force until the Coast Artillery Corps' modern defenses centered on Fort Wint were completed.[25][27] One gun each from USS New Orleans (CL-22) and USS Albany (CL-23) are preserved in Geneva, Illinois.[28]

In 1913-1914 eight 4.7-inch 45 caliber guns were redeployed from the US to Fort Ruger and Fort Kamehameha in Hawaii, including two spares.[18][19][20] The Endicott and Taft fortification programs were largely complete by this time, with most 4.7-inch guns superseded by 6-inch guns. The four 4.7-inch 50 caliber guns at Fort Monroe were placed in reserve in 1914, with one transferring to Sandy Hook for tests and the others stored at the Augusta Arsenal in Georgia.[15]

The American entry into World War I in 1917 saw more redeployment of 4.7-inch weapons. Eight Mark IV 40 caliber weapons from less-threatened forts were loaned to the Army Transport Service for the duration of hostilities and may have armed troop transports and cargo ships; they were returned in 1919 and promptly disposed of.[15] Two Mark IV 40 caliber weapons were redeployed from Fort Strong in Boston Harbor to Sachuest Point in Middletown, Rhode Island. The three 50 caliber guns stored at Augusta, GA were deployed to San Juan, Puerto Rico, although apparently only two were mounted, both at Fort Brooke, as Castillo San Felipe del Morro (often called "Morro Castle") was known at the time.[15][18][19] Following the war, all 4.7-inch weapons were withdrawn from service by the end of 1920, and all were disposed of by 1927. Other weapons deployed in limited quantity were also retired during this period. 24 weapons were given to various cities and towns or retained in Hawaii as war memorials; only six survive.[15] Most of the remainder were probably donated to World War II scrap drives.

Japanese service

First Sino-Japanese War

Japanese belted cruiser Chiyoda launched in 1890 was armed with ten QF 4.7-inch Guns in single mounts, mounted one each in the bow and stern, and four on each side in sponsons. This was one of the first naval use of this gun. After Chiyoda, the Imperial Japanese Navy aggressively introduced quick-firing guns in their cruisers. Six Japanese cruisers that fought Battle of the Yalu River in 1894 had a total of 60 QF 4.7-inch guns. Along with eight QF 6-inch guns, overwhelming superiority in quick-firing guns of the Japanese Fleet gave it tactical advantage over the Chinese Beiyang Fleet and was one of the decisive factors of the Naval Battle.

Licensed Products

The Japanese Type 41 4.7-inch/40 (12 cm) naval gun was a license-produced copy of the Elswick Mark IV. Initially, a number were procured directly from Elswick in England. After the turn of the century, production in Japan was under the designation "Mark IVJ". The gun was re-designated as Type 41 on 25 December 1908, after the 41st year in the reign of Japanese Emperor Meiji. It was further re-designated in centimeters on 5 October 1917 as part of the standardization process for the Imperial Japanese Navy to the metric system. Although finally classified as a "12 cm" gun the bore was unchanged at 4.724 inches.

During World War I, the Japanese Navy transferred 24 original Elswick-built and 13 Mark IVJ to Britain as part of their military assistance to the Allies under the Anglo-Japanese Alliance.[29] In 1940, some of these weapons were emplaced in British coastal defence batteries; for instance, at Mersea Island in Essex.[30]

It was the standard secondary or tertiary armament on most Japanese cruisers built between 1900 and 1920, and was the primary armament on a number of destroyers, including the Umikaze class. Some units were still in service as late as the Pacific War.

Italian service

These guns were mounted on Italian cruisers built by Ansaldo.


Surviving examples

Japanese-built 4.7"/40 Mark IV in Manege Military Museum
One of two surviving QF 4.7-inch B Mark IV* guns at Fort Péninsule, Forillon National Park, Quebec.

See also

Weapons of comparable role, performance and era


  1. Various shell weights, both heavier and lighter than 45 pounds (20.41 kg), were tried. Early Mk I–IV Common Lyddite shells weighed 46 pounds 9 ounces (21.12 kg). Subsequent Mks V, VI, VII beginning October 1909, weighed 45 pounds (20.41 kg). Brassey's Naval Annual of 1894 quotes a 45-pound projectile, based on "List of Service Ordnance 1891, corrected by Official Card List 1892". Text Book of Gunnery 1902 only gives figures for 45 pounds (20.41 kg) projectiles. All shells used in World War I are believed to be 45 pounds (20.41 kg). Sources: Hogg & Thurston 1972, Page 242; Treatise on Ammunition 10th Edition 1915, pages 45, 165, 170, 188, 217.
  2. The gun used gunpowder propellant when first introduced in the 1880s. Muzzle velocity was 1,786 feet per second (544 m/s) with 12 pounds (5.44 kg) "SP" (gunpowder) firing a 45 pounds (20.41 kg) projectile. "Instructions for 4.724 inch 120 mm Quick Firing Armstrong Gun and Automatic Centre Pivot Mounting", 1880s, Range Table.
  3. 12,000 yds at 24° with 45 lb shell is quoted by Hall, December 1971. Tony Bridgland, Field Gun Jack versus the Boers (pages 7–8) quotes a range of 12,000 yards (11,000 m) being achieved at 24° in trials of the improvised field carriage at Simonstown in October 1899, and refers to The Times reporting this figure. 10,000 yards (9,100 m) at 20° in WWI is quoted by Hogg & Thurston page 111, referring to the maximum elevation of Mk I field carriage. Hogg & Thurston 1972 page 235 quote 11,800 yards (10,800 m) at 30° on CP (centre pintle mount) for the coast defence gun. Lighter and heavier shells were tried early in the gun's career, but by WWI 45 lb (20 kg) was the standard shell weight.
  4. Mk I = Mark 1, Mk II = Mark 2, Mk III = Mark 3, Mk IV = Mark 4. Britain used Roman numerals to denote Marks (models) of ordnance until after World War II. Hence these were the first 4 models of British QF 4.7 inch gun.


  1. British 4.7"/40 (12 cm) QF Marks I to IV and Japanese 4.7"/40 (12 cm) Type 41, Navweaps.com. Accessed 7 April 2008.
  2. 1 2 3 Hogg & Thurston 1972, page 111.
  3. Text Book of Gunnery, 1902.
  4. 2,150 feet per second (660 m/s) firing a 45 pounds (20.41 kg) projectile, with 13 pounds 4 ounces (6.01 kg) Cordite size 20 propellant, at 60 °F (16 °C). Text Book of Gunnery 1902.
  5. 1 2 British 4.7"/40 (12 cm) Elswick 4.7"/40 (12 cm) QF Marks I, II, III, IV and VI
  6. 1 2 3 Hall 1971.
  7. Farndale 1986, page 87, 88.
  8. Farndale 1986, page 104.
  9. Farndale 1986, page 106, 107.
  10. Farndale 1986, page 144.
  11. Hogg & Thurston 1972, page 110.
  12. Mallett 1999.
  13. Rosenthal 1920.
  14. Mallett 2005.
  15. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Gun and Carriage cards, National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 156, Records of the Chief of Ordnance, Entry 712
  16. List of Elswick guns at NavalHistory.flixco.info
  17. Congressional serial set, 1900, Report of the Commission on the Conduct of the War with Spain, Vol. 7, pp. 3778-3780, Washington: Government Printing Office
  18. 1 2 3 Berhow, pp. 86–87, 200–223
  19. 1 2 3 US fort and battery list at the Coast Defense Study Group website
  20. 1 2 FortWiki, lists all US and Canadian forts
  21. 1 2 3 U. S. Army Ordnance Department (1917). Instructions for Mounting, Using, and Caring for 4.72-inch gun, Armstrong, 40 caliber. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office. pp. 11–14.
  22. 1 2 U. S. Army Ordnance Department (1917). Instructions for Mounting, Using, and Caring for 4.72-inch gun, Armstrong, 45 caliber. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office. pp. 11–14.
  23. 1 2 U. S. Army Ordnance Department (1917). Instructions for Mounting, Using, and Caring for 4.72-inch gun, Armstrong, 50 caliber. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office. pp. 11–14.
  24. Gardiner and Chesneau, p. 154
  25. 1 2 4.7"/50 Mark 3 Armstrong at NavWeaps.com
  26. Friedman, Norman (1984). U.S. Cruisers: An Illustrated Design History. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. pp. 41–43. ISBN 0-87021-718-6.
  27. 6"/50 Mark 5 Armstrong at NavWeaps.com
  28. 1 2 3 Kane County Soldier and Sailor Monument at www.waymarking.com
  29. DiGiulian, Tony. "4"/40 (12 cm) 41st Year Type". NavWeaps.com.
  30. http://unlockingessex.essexcc.gov.uk/custom_pages/monument_detail.asp?kids=1&monument_id=31487
  31. 4.7-inch gun photo at TheDonovan.com
  32. Cannone da 120/40 - anno 1893 su affusto a culla., Sala armi subacquee.
  33. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Berhow, p. 233


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