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"Notes on British Artillery in the Burma Campaign" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following report on British artillery in the Burma Campaign during WWII was originally published in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 8, Sept. 24, 1942.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


Like much information on tactics and the performance of equipment in the Burma campaign, these notes on artillery consist simply of comments made by British officers who participated.

The standard British field-piece, the 25-pounder (88-mm) gun-howitzer, is not suited for jungle warfare; although in all other theaters it proved to be an excellent weapon. Medium and heavy mortars and light and heavy howitzers are much more satisfactory for this type of campaign. One officer recommended that, rather than the present organic division artillery of three regiments of 25-pounders, a division participating in such a campaign should have one regiment of pack howitzers and one battalion of 25-pounders.

The Japanese used their infantry howitzer in the campaign, and although this is an effective gun, it was handled poorly in this fighting. For example, the Japanese would often adjust and then fail to fire for effect. They also seemed to fire a great deal at random.

For firing, the British had to use a 1:63,360 map. While not entirely satisfactory, it was found that the map could be used to give better than fair results. The pack howitzers which were used were extremely effective and entirely satisfactory. One regiment, using the 3.7-inch medium howitzer broken up into 8 loads, fought and marched 1,300 miles from the 1st of February to the 20th of May and gave an extremely good account of itself. The following reasons were given for this: (a) The enlisted man was an excellent type of Indian soldier; (b) the training of this artillery, which had taken place on the northwest Indian frontier, insured a larger amount of peacetime action and marching in rough country; (c) The officers had often been sent on isolated missions with small units and were well-trained and competent; (d) the mule required no gasoline and could live almost entirely off the countryside.

It was found that the wire supply of 16 miles per artillery battalion was inadequate.

One light machine gun for each battery was provided, but the latest opinion was that four per battery were needed. Here, as in all campaigns, it was once more demonstrated that troops must be trained in each others jobs, for when casualties come, this is one of the most difficult problems which a battery or even a gun crew must face. In the case of units where this training had been insufficiently stressed, the period of reorganizing and providing the necessary minimum training was far too long.

A small car, such as the jeep, was unanimously desired by all officers and men. Many of the trucks used were too unwieldy and unmaneuverable. Some officers recommended that at least one per battery be assigned as a reconnaissance vehicle, and that it also be utilized as a prime mover for the 2-pounder antitank gun, 3.7-inch howitzer, and 40-mm Bofors.

The British officers felt that distribution of ammunition should be based on 85% HE, 10% shrapnel and case shot, and about 5% smoke.


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