By Tony Hughes and Peter Papadakos,
Hawthorne Ordnance Museum
New and exciting wartime pieces of equipment continue to arrive at the Hawthorne Ordnance Museum in Hawthorne. Just last week we were happy to welcome our newly acquired military war machine, a unique long gun, a canon as some call it, a FH70 155mm towed Howitzer.
The FH70 was imported from its place of manufacturer (Vickers) and use in England some ten years ago by a private collector in Tennessee. For importation to occur back then, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (B-ATF) did require for the breech area to be severed to prevent use. The FH70 was delivered to the Hawthorne Ordnance Museum to be displayed on a Loan-basis to show the equipment that fired the 155mm projectiles to which the nearby Hawthorne Ammunition Depot has stored in abundance.
Arriving in Hawthorne on Tuesday, Feb. 18, several workers of the Museum were there to welcome the new gun. Thanks to Frank Millsap, one of our new members and with the knowledge of operating heavy mining equipment, he got in the driver’s seat. He was instructed by museum curator, Peter Papadakos, on the machine’s operation and drove the 155mm Howitzer off the trailer of the big rig and parked it in the fenced area of the museum.
The FH70 is a towed 155mm howitzer developed by an international consortium, which included manufacturing units from the United Kingdom, Italy and Germany. It was also produced in Japan under-license at a later date.
The FH70 program started in 1962, when a need for a new and common NATO field howitzer was identified and was initially a joint effort between the United States, the United Kingdom and West Germany and intended for the new weapon to be in service by 1970 and called the FH70 (“Field Howitzer for 1970”).
The FH70 entered service with the Royal Artillery in December 1979. First delivered to the British Army in 1978, the howitzer was in service with two British regiments. In 1991 it was decided that two TA Royal Artillery regiments were to be equipped with the 155mm FH70 towed howitzer. By 1999, the United Kingdom ended its use of their 67 qty, FH70s. The Museum’s FH70 is serial number 0016 and was manufactured in 1978.
The FH70 is generally towed by a larger heavy-duty truck and is technically not a vehicle; but it does have a limited ability to move like one with the use of an on-board “pony motor” that provides hydraulic pressure and electrical power. The unit is equipped with two seats on top on the left and right for a driver and another for a crew member. The Pony-motor is a Volkswagen 1700CC gasoline engine, with 4 cylinders. It is air cooled, spark ignited and can move the gun up to 20 km at low speed without towing by an artillery tractor. A 55 liter fuel tank furnishes the system.
The identification features of the FH70 are the two large wheel carriages with two trailing wheels at the bottom of long struts at the rear end of the trailing arms and extend outward, the tube is facing forward and the main wheels are elevated allowing the soleplate to rest on the ground when the gun is being fired. A complex hydraulic system is used to operate the wheels and trailing wheels. The tube is carried on a gun cradle along with the recoil system.
To operate the howitzer, a standard crew is eight people.
The MH70 will be the key display piece in the vacant lot adjoining the Ordnance Museum to the North. It is the Museum’s goal to create a “Fire Base” to show the American public where both Long-Range Artillery and Helicopters operated from, in places like Vietnam to Afghanistan. Currently, that lot is being surveyed so that Leavitt Construction can install the perimeter fence that soldiers guarding such bases called “the wire”. Once the wire goes up, old MH70 will be the first to move in so keep an eye on new things at the Hawthorne Ordnance Museum at 925 E Street.
The museum is open Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 3 pm. and on Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.