Gunners’ Day Feature: Italian L5 105mm Pack Howitzer

This camouflaged Italian L5 105mm Pack Howitzer belonged to 22(D) Battery, Wellington.

Each year on 26th May, Gunners’ Day is celebrated around the Commonwealth and marks the day in 1716 when King George I issued a royal warrant forming the first regular artillery force in Britain. The National Army Museum holds several artillery pieces within our offsite collection at Pye Range in Waiouru Military Camp. Included in our collection is today’s featured gun, the Italian L5 105mm Pack Howitzer.

The New Zealand Army purchased twenty four of these 105mm guns from Oto Melara, Italy as a replacement for the old 25 Pounder field guns in 1963. A total of 4200 weapons were produced between 1957 and 1984. 161 Battery of 16th Field Regiment, RNZA deployed to Vietnam in 1965 as a four gun battery of L5s. They fired their first fire mission with the L5 on the 19th July 1965.

The advantage of the gun was that it could be broken down into twelve loads which could be transported by pack animals, hence the term ‘Pack Howitzer’. Besides being towed behind a Land Rover or a Unimog, it could be airlifted complete by a medium helicopter, and by removing the shields and parts of the trail it could be squeezed into the back of a M113 Armoured Personnel Carrier.

Because it was designed to be easily portable, and therefore lightly built, the gun was found not to be robust enough for the heavy and often continuous firing required in Vietnam. The L5s were therefore replaced in February 1967 by the older, sturdier American M101A1.

The L5 continued to serve with 161 Battery, the School of Artillery, and the two North Island territorial artillery units (11A Battery in Papakura and 22D Battery in Wellington), being replaced progressively throughout the late 1980s by the British L119 Hamel 105mm Light Gun.

Crew: Six of Seven

Ammunition: High Explosive, Smoke, Illumination, HEAT and Flechette

Range: 10, 575 metres