The 25-pounder was the main field artillery weapon used by British Commonwealth and colonial infantry and armoured divisions of all types during the Second World War. Throughout the war each British-pattern infantry division was established with 72 25-pounders, in three field artillery regiments (battalions). Armoured divisions eventually were standardised with two field artillery regiments, one of which was self-propelled (see below). Before mid-1940 each regiment had two batteries (companies) of twelve guns; after that date regiments changed to batteries of eight guns and added a third battery, a process that was not completed until early 1943. In the late 1950s, the British Army reverted to batteries of six guns. Field artillery regiments had two batteries of 25-pounders and one of 5.5 inch guns.
The early 18- and 25-pounders had been towed in the field by the Light Dragon, a tracked vehicle derived from a light tank, and the Morris CDSW. Throughout most of the Second World War the 25-pounder was normally towed, with its limber, behind a 4x4 field artillery tractor called a "quad". These were manufactured by Morris, Guy and Karrier in England, and, in greater numbers, as the Canadian Military Pattern field artillery tractor by Ford and Chevrolet in Canada. In the 1950s, the British Army replaced the various "quads" with a new Bedford three-ton gun tower fitted with a specialist body.
In 1941, the British Army improvised a self-propelled 25-pounder named the Bishop, on the chassis of the Valentine tank. This mount was unsatisfactory and was replaced in 1942 by the American M7 Priest. However, this complicated the supply of ammunition in the field, and was replaced in 1944 by the Sexton, which was designed and mostly manufactured in Canada (some 2/3 of ordnances and mountings were imported from the UK due to limited Canadian production capacity) and mounted the 25-pounder on a Ram or Grizzly tank chassis.
By World War II standards, the 25-pounder had a smaller calibre and lower shell-weight than many other field-artillery weapons, although it had longer range than most. (Most forces had entered the war with even smaller 75 mm (3.0 in) designs but had quickly moved to 105 mm (4.1 in) and larger weapons.) It was designed for the British practice of suppressive (neutralising) fire, not destructive fire that had proved illusory in the early years of World War I. Nevertheless the 25-pounder was considered by all to be one of the best artillery pieces in use. The effects caused by the gun (and the speed at which the British artillery control system could respond) in the North-West Europe Campaign of 1944–1945 made many German soldiers believe that the British had secretly deployed an automatic 25-pounder.
In UK service most guns were replaced by the 105mm Abbot and some by the Oto Melara 105mm pack howitzer and the remainder by the 105mm L118 light gun. The last British military unit to fire the 25-pounder in its field role (as opposed to ceremonial use) was the Gun Troop of the Honourable Artillery Company on Salisbury Plain in 1992.
Service with other nations
In addition to Commonwealth and colonial forces other Second World War users included the free forces of France, Greece, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. The first shot fired by US artillery against the German army in World War II was from a 25-pounder of the 34th Infantry division.
After the Second World War 25-pounders remained in service with many Commonwealth armies into the 1960s. They were used in Korea by British, Canadian and New Zealand regiments and in Malaya by British and Australian batteries. They also featured in wars on the Indian sub-continent and in the service of Israeli and other Middle Eastern armies.
The gun was called G1 by the South African Defence Force. It was extensively used in the early stages of the South African Border War, including Operation Savannah. The G1 is still used in the ceremonial role.
The Rhodesian Army used the weapon during the Bush War but by this stage the round could not penetrate enemy bunkers.
The 25-pounder was extensively used by the Sri Lankan Army during the early years of the Sri Lankan civil war. It still remains in service, although only in a ceremonial role.
In 1949, 48 ex-British-Army Mark III 25-pounders were acquired by the Irish Defence Forces and were in service with the reserves until 2009, having been replaced in the army by the 105 mm light gun in 1981. The Irish Army maintains a six-gun ceremonial 25-pounder battery for use on state occasions.
The Indian Army employed the 25-pounder into the 1980s.
The Luxembourg Army maintains a number of 25-pounder guns rebarrelled to 105 millimetres (4.1 in) and fitted with new sights for gun salutes.
The 25-pounder first entered service with Greek forces in North Africa during WWII. Three (I,II and III) field artillery regiments of 24 pieces were created in total as part of the Greek infantry brigades created. They saw significant action at El Alamein and Rimini. After the war the 25-pounder served as part of the Greek Army during the Greek Civil War. A total of 125 25-pounder guns were used by the Greek artillery during the civil war of 1946–1949, in various organizational schemes. After the civil war they were organized into seven independent regiments of 18 guns. Following Greece's entry into Nato in 1952 and the standardization on American calibres in 1953, the 25-pounders were not retired (unlike other models), but were reorganised as 13 battalions of eight guns in divisional artilleries. In 1957 the influx of American artillery pieces permitted an increase from 8 to 12 guns per battalion. In 1964 a total of 54 25-pdr guns were delivered from Greece to Cyprus, where they entered service with the Cyprus National Guard organized into four battalions of 12 guns (181, 182, 183 and 185) and one independent battery of six guns (184). They saw action during the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974. The 25-pounder remained in Greek Army service until 1992, when it were retired as part of the CFE agreement. The guns of the Cyprus National Guard remain in storage.
The 16th Field Regiment of the Royal New Zealand Army, equipped with 25-pounders, was formed to join the United Nations force in the Korean War.
A British 25-pounder gun has been spotted and used by Kurdish Peshmerga Forces against ISIS positions in Mosul.