Artillery Day 2000
From Derek in England:

One of my fondest childhood memories, and probably the reason I have got so involved with military vehicles were Artillery days, back in the 70’s as a child I was taken to Larkhill school of artillery for what was one of the most spectacular shows you could hope to see, Artillery live firing. Back in those days the live firing show would go on for many hours, firing a wide selection of guns. Still in service were many world war two vintage guns: 25 pounders, 5.5’s, 40mm Bofors guns, plus the newer weapons 105mm pack howitzers, the mighty M107 howitzer, Abbot SPG’s, to name but a few.

The trade days were good with few people looking at the equipment and a chance to get some good photographs and talk to the soldiers and suppliers about their equipment. The first thing that struck me was how streamlined the Artillery had now become, gone were the days of two or three different guns of the same calibre.

This time the new army logistics repair department ABRO, were on hand and would be very happy so provide maintenance for preserved military vehicles for those special little jobs that are beyond the average enthusiast, at a price! (What ever next)

There were four types of weapon based at Larkhill on display. The basic towed field piece was the light 105mm, with the heavy weapons being the awesome 155mm AS90 self propelled gun: living about 12 mile from Salisbury plain on a still day the windows of our house rattle when these weapons operate. And of course the American built MLRS rocket launchers, with anti aircraft cover being provided by the ‘Stormer’.

AS 90 SPG 155mm

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'Stormer' High Velocity missile system

A self-propelled anti aircraft system that uses a short burn rocket motor to propel steel darts into the path of the plane (has now replaced "Javelin" as close air defence).

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A drone surveillance system with launch and recovery vehicles.

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In the main arena a display showing the history of artillery was put on, with many battle re-enactment groups proving equipment to depict the history of artillery from Roman times to the present day. A live firing display was carried out and lasted for about 2 hours, with guns being deployed by parachute and low-level airdrops from Hercules as well as being towed into the arena. It was mind blowing to sit behind the guns and see the shells fly through the air and hit the target some miles away. The firing display ended with a massed barrage including the MLRS as well as the new AS 90’s with the longer barrel to increase the range.


MLRS far left, AS90’s to the left with the 105’s to the right

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The day was rounded off with the massed bands playing Tchaikovsky 1812 overture with real artillery for the grand ending, a good day was had by all. To sum it up if you get the chance to visit an artillery day, do as you will have very little chance to get as close to the guns anywhere else.

Doug's comment:
Probably 6 years ago now, I attended a "Fire Power Display" put on by the Australian Defence Forces at Puckapunyal Army Base in central Victoria. It was very difficult to obtain a "ticket" to this event due to the demand for the very limited number of seats available. The event had a very good reputation because of the amount of effort the military went to once a year to put it on: but it did provide excellent "combined arms" and organisational training for those involved. It was repeated over several days with day 1 the practise day , day 2 for spectators, being VIP's and serving military and day 3 being reservists, military families and some civilians (members of the Tank Museum etc), the audience numbering up to 5000 people.

It combined Leopard Tanks, APC's, Artillery, Mortars, Infantry and the strike arm of the Air Force, along with helicopters and forward air control - quite a spectacle. As Derek mentions in his article, it is pretty impressive to be nearby when large guns fire and this was most certainly the case when the Leopard's fired their 105mm's, the concusion was distinctly felt. It is rather weird to sit there and watch a 105mm or 76mm tracer round travel a mile down range to its target. Even stranger was the 2 laser guided bombs that were released from an F-111 off to one side of us and then travelled down to the "bullseye" target on the next hill, with course corrections visible as they went in. Distinctly unsettling were the mortars fired from APC's parked 100m in front of us that appeared to travel straight up (overhead) into the clouds, but eventually came to earth, on target, over a kilometer away.

Sadly, the Aussie Fire Power Displays are now no more. A new officer was posted to "Pucka" and he straight away banned all civilians (tax payers) and military families from that year's display - as one soldier who overheard the following comment told me "none of their business being on military property". The next year the Fire Power Display was cancelled due to budget cuts and has not been held since.

We in Australia can only hope that "the powers that be" take note of the trend in England and the recruiting opportunity that is being missed.

Many thanks to Derek for an interesting article.


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