Aircraft / Aviation Vehicles & Artillery Small Arms Warships & Submarines Military Ranks Military Pay Chart (2024) Special Forces
Land Systems / Battlefield

Ordnance BL 12-inch (Rail)

Railway Howtizer [ 1916 ]

The Ordnance BL 12-inch collection of British Army railway howitzers developed for siege operations of World War 1.

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 08/17/2021 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

Because of the proliferation of heavily-fortified structures relied upon by all sides of World War 1 (1914-1918), large-caliber guns were the order of the way concerning that conflict. Siege warfare was alive and well and these massive creations were used to dislodge enemy forces and pulverize structures, preventing their reuse in the long term. Like the Germans, the British developed several railway gun types, large-caliber gun systems transported by the mature railway infrastructure offered in France, Belgium and elsewhere. One of these creations became the BL 12-inch railway howitzer weapon - and indirect-fire system that saw consistent use from 1916 onward. Eighty-one of these guns were manufactured for wartime service across three distinct, though related, marks - Mark I, Mark III and Mark V (Mark II and Mark V signified guns developed for British homeland defense in the war).

Design and manufacture of the units fell the Elswick Ordnance Company (EOC) (to eventually come under the Armstrong Whitworth brand label at a future date).

The 12-inch howitzers fired a 750lb High-Explosive (HE) shell of 305mm caliber at 1,175 to 1,468 feet per second depending on the model gun used. Effective range was out to 15,000 yards (again model dependent). As complete systems, they required considerable manpower and railway resources to be effective but their lethality on the battlefield was second-to-none. Artillery accounted for more deaths in the war, and more destruction of tanks, than any other weapon deployed.©MilitaryFactory.com
The three designs varied slightly between each other: Mark I appeared in March of 1916 and sported a shorter barrel that its sister designs while mounting its recuperator / run-out cylinder above the barrel assembly. The Mark III followed by being given a heavier-duty breech section to contend with the inherently violent forces at play as well as to improve the weapon's basic balancing. In July of 1917, the Mark V arrived which relocated the recuperator to just under the barrel for a more natural arrangement and the breech was lightened. To offset this, an integral crew platform was added which rotating with the gun platform - offering 120-degree traversal. BL 12-inch railway howitzers were operated by members of the Royal Garrison Artillery for the duration of the war - which ended with the Armistice of November 1918. After the war many were give up for the scrap heap.

Their formal British Army designation was "Ordnance BL 12 inch Howitzer on Truck, Railway". A towed version also existed and is detailed in a separate entry on this site.©MilitaryFactory.com
Note: The above text is EXCLUSIVE to the site www.MilitaryFactory.com. It is the product of many hours of research and work made possible with the help of contributors, veterans, insiders, and topic specialists. If you happen upon this text anywhere else on the internet or in print, please let us know at MilitaryFactory AT gmail DOT com so that we may take appropriate action against the offender / offending site and continue to protect this original work.


Elswick Ordnance Company - UK
United Kingdom
Operators National flag of the United Kingdom
Service Year
United Kingdom
National Origin

Support allied forces through direct / in-direct fire, assault forward positions, and / or breach fortified areas of the battlefield.
Special purpose design developed to accomplish an equally-special battlefield role or roles.

12.1 ft
(3.7 meters)

1 x Locomotive for drive power.
Drive System
6 miles
(10 km)
Road Range

1 x 305mm (12") gun barrel
Dependent upon ammunition carrier.

"Ordnance BL 12-inch Howitzer on Truck, Railway" - Base Series Designation; 81 examples completed.
Mk I - Initial mark of 1916; over-barrel recuperator
Mk III - Heavier breech design
Mk V - Model of 1917; under-barrel recuperator; integral gunnery platform.

Military lapel ribbon for the American Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for pioneering aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of the Bulge
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Kursk
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon representing modern aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Ukranian-Russian War
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur War
Military lapel ribbon for experimental military vehicles


1 / 1
Image of the Ordnance BL 12-inch (Rail)
Image from the Public Domain.

Disclaimer | Privacy Policy | Cookies

2024 Military Pay Chart Military Ranks DoD Dictionary Conversion Calculators Military Alphabet Code Military Map Symbols

The "Military Factory" name and MilitaryFactory.com logo are registered ® U.S. trademarks protected by all applicable domestic and international intellectual property laws. All written content, illustrations, and photography are unique to this website (unless where indicated) and not for reuse/reproduction in any form. Material presented throughout this website is for historical and entertainment value only and should not to be construed as usable for hardware restoration, maintenance, or general operation. We do not sell any of the items showcased on this site. Please direct all other inquiries to militaryfactory AT gmail.com. No A.I. was used in the generation of this content; site is 100% curated by humans.

Part of a network of sites that includes GlobalFirepower, a data-driven property used in ranking the top military powers of the world, WDMMA.org (World Directory of Modern Military Aircraft), WDMMW.org (World Directory of Modern Military Warships), SR71blackbird.org, detailing the history of the world's most iconic spyplane, and MilitaryRibbons.info, cataloguing military medals and ribbons. Special Interest: RailRoad Junction, the locomotive encyclopedia.

©2023 www.MilitaryFactory.com • All Rights Reserved • Content ©2003-2023 (20yrs)