Designed to replace the 6" 30cwt howitzer, the first of the 26cwt was delivered in May 1915, and the gun remained in service until 1945.
Photographs used with the kind permission of Frank Louw.
THE VOICE OF THE GUNS by Gilbert Frankau
WE are the guns, and your masters! Saw ye our flashes?
Heard ye the scream of our shells in the night, and the shuddering
Saw ye our work by the roadside, the shrouded things lying,
Moaning to God that He made them the maimed and the dying?
Husbands or sons,
Fathers or lovers, we break them. We are the guns!
We are the guns and ye serve us. Dare ye grow weary,
Steadfast at night-time, and noon-time; or waking, when dawn winds blow
Over the fields and the flats and the reeds of the barrier-water,
To wait on the hour of our choosing, the minute decided for slaughter?
Swift, the clock runs;
Yea, to the ultimate settlement. Stand to your guns!
THE VOICE OF THE SLAVES by Gilbert Frankau
We are the slaves of the guns,
Serfs to the dominant things;
Ours are the eyes and the ears,
And the brains of their messagings.
Ours are the hands that unleash
The blind gods that raven by night,
The lords of the terror at dawn,
When the landmarks are blotted from sight
By the lit curdled churnings of smoke;
When the lost trenches crumble and spout
Into loud roaring fountains of flame;
Till, their prison walls down, with a shout
And a cheer, ordered line after line,
Black specks on the barrage of gray
That we lift as they leap to the clock,
Our infantry storm to the fray.
These are our masters, the slim
Grim muzzles that irk in the pit;
That chafe for the rushing of wheels,
For the teams plunging madly to bit
As the gunners swing down to unkey,
For the trails sweeping half-circle-right,
For the six breech-blocks clashing as one
To a target viewed clear on the sight
Dun masses, the shells search and tear
Into fragments that bunch as they run
For the hour of the red battle-harvest,
The dream of the slaves of the gun.
We have bartered our souls to the guns;
Every fibre of body and brain
Have we trained to them, chained to them. Serfs?
Aye! But proud of the weight of our chain
Of our backs that are bowed to their workings,
To hide them and guard and disguise
Of our ears that are deafened with service,
Of hands that are scarred, and of eyes
Grown hawklike with marking their prey
Of wings that are ripped as with swords
When we hover, the turn of a blade
From the death that is sweet to our lords.
By the limbs and the hands and the wings,
We are slaves to our masters the guns . . .
But their slaves are the masters of kings!