yeovil at waR

Smith gun

Weapons of the Home Guard


The Smith Gun was an ad hoc anti-tank artillery piece used by the British Army and Home Guard during the Second World War. With a German invasion of Great Britain seeming likely after the defeat in the Battle of France, most available weaponry was diverted to the regular British Army, leaving the Home Guard short on supplies, particularly anti-tank weaponry. The Smith Gun was designed by a retired Army Major named William H Smith as a makeshift anti tank weapon, and was put into production in 1941 following a demonstration to the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill.

The weapon consisted of a 3-inch smoothbore barrel approximately 54 inches long mounted on a carriage and capable of firing both anti-tank and anti-personnel rounds to ranges of approximately 500 yards. Despite the promising-sounding nature of the weapon it had several problems; the effective range was only around 100–300 yards, it was a heavy and awkward weapon to move around and it developed "a terrifying reputation for killing its crew." Production problems meant that it was not introduced until 1942, when it was issued mainly to Home Guard units and those units in the regular Army tasked with guarding airfields, and ammunition shortages meant that the guns had only six or seven rounds each. Despite these problems many Home Guard units developed an attachment to the weapon, later claiming it was "one of the best pieces of equipment ever issued to the force".




Courtesy of Rob Baker

This photograph of the Yeovil Home Guard shows a remarkable weapon - the Smith Gun - at left and a Boys Anti-Tank Rifle at right. Officially known as the Ordnance, Smooth Bore, 3 inch, or OSB, the Smith Gun was a weapon mostly issued to the Home Guard (in very small numbers) for anti-tank and HE purposes, although it was also occasionally used for airfield defence.


A 1940s photograph of a Smith Gun in tow behind a private vehicle pressed into service.


An illustration of a Smith Gun taken from a training manual.