The concept of Pack artillery was developed by the US Army and dates back to 1830. It was designed to be easily disassembled and transported by animal, thereby making it ideal for deployment in rugged terrain. An airborne crew was expected to be able to ready their gun for firing from scratch inside of four minutes.
The first variant of the 75mm Pack Howitzer entered service in 1927, but did not fire a shot in anger until the Second World War, where it proved itself to be an effective and reliable weapon. Improvements were made upon the original M1 design throughout the 1930's, culminating in the M8, exclusively modified for the airborne role. In February 1943, the 1st Airlanding Light Regiment was equipped with these guns, replacing the inferior 3.7" Pack Howitzers, and twenty-four of them were used at Arnhem.
The American airborne units parachuted their guns into action in nine sections, roped together, however the British preferred to deliver them complete and ready for firing as soon as possible, and so transported them in Horsa gliders. Two gliders were required to transport a gun crew and their equipment. Typically, one would carry the weapon itself, a jeep, and an ammunition trailer, together with the sergeant in command of the crew and three subordinates, while the other would carry the remainder of the crew (commonly including one NCO), a jeep, and the remaining two ammunition trailers. In these trailers were one hundred and thirty-seven rounds; one hundred and twenty-five high-explosive, six armour piercing, and six smoke.
The 75mm Pack Howitzer was a classic design that excelled during the war and continued to serve as a front line weapon many years thereafter. Indeed it was only in recent times that it was still in use with the Indian Army, where it served as mountain artillery; its reliability, accuracy, and ease of deployment succeeding in disguising its age.
Manufacturer : US Ordnance Dept
Calibre : 75mm
Length : 12' 0"
Width : 3' 11"
Height : 2' 10"
Weight : 1339 lbs
Elevation : -5º to +45º
Range : 9,760 yards
Rate of Fire : 3-6 rounds per minute
Thanks to Tim Bell of the Summer of 44 Living History Group for allowing me to photograph and measure his 75mm Pack Howitzer, and all at the MT Department at Bletchley Park Museum for their help.