Final shots fired in the Glen

Last Thursday the Defence Forces celebrated its last firing of the famous 25-pdr field gun in the Glen of Imaal, Co Wicklow.A large invited audience of retired and serving Artillerymen, many from Mullingar, was present for the historic occasion.A demonstration of modern artillery pieces and fire control equipments was also part of the programme.For the final shoot, each gun in the six gun battery was crewed by gunners drawn from each of the Artillery Regiments, both regular and reserve. This included a crew each from the Mullingar based 4 Field Artillery Regiment and the 54 Reserve Artillery Regiment.The 25-Pdr was introduced to the Irish Defence Forces in 1949 with the purchase of 48 guns.The inaugural shoot was held in the Glen of Imaal on 21 June 1949 which means that last week's final shoot also represented the 60th Anniversary of the first firing of this weapon.The gun remained as the main artillery weapon in the Defence Forces until the introduction of the 105mm Light Gun in 1980. However, Regiments, both PDF and RDF have continued to fire the 25 Pdr as a training weapon up to this year.Thursday's display in the Glen included a full 'six wheeler', limber and gun combination, not seen in Ireland since the early 1960s. This was provided thanks to the "Living History Group" from Tilbury Fort, UK who brought the piece over by ferry for the memorable occasion. The display also included an 'air drop' by helicopter of a 105mm Lt Gun.In his address, the Chief of Staff, Lt Gen Dermot Earley paid tribute to the famous gun and to the artillerymen and women who have crewed it over the past 60 years.At 1500hrs, the final round was fired by the Director of Artillery, Col Ray Quinn, formerly of the 4 Field Artillery Regiment. This was perhaps a fitting tribute as Col Quinn will retire from the Defence Forces in October after 42 year's service in the Artillery Corps.The Defence Forces will retain twelve 25pdr's for use on state ceremonial occasions and for display purposes.History of the 25-pounder gunThe Ordnance QF 25 pounder, or more simply, 25-pounder, was introduced into service in the British Army just before WWII, during which it served as the major British Field Gun/Howitzer.It was designed and built by the Royal Ordnance factories in the United Kingdom, and was also manufactured in Australia and Canada. It is remembered as one of the best field guns used during the Second World War.The basic idea of its design was to build a single weapon with the direct-fire capability of the 18 pounder and the high-angle fire of the 4.5 inch howitzer.It was the British Army's primary Artillery field piece well into the 1960s, with smaller numbers serving in training units until the 1980s. It was an extremely versatile and robust weapon, and could be used as a direct fire weapon, howitzer and also in the anti-tank role.Each gun came equipped with a limber (trailer) for carrying rounds and other equipment.The gun was hitched to this trailer and the trailer hitched to the vehicle when being towed. The trailer carried thirty-two rounds of ammunition in trays (two rounds per tray).The 25 pounder's main ammunition was the High Explosive (HE) streamlined shell. It was also provided with base ejection smoke (white and coloured), star shells, and Chemical Shells. For anti-tank use, the 25 pdr was also supplied with a limited amount of 20 pound solid armour-piercing (AP) rounds. After the Second World War, the British replaced the AP round with a High Explosive Squash Head (HESH) shell.