Artillery tractors at Preston Barracks, 1937

This glass plate negative shows three artillery pieces towed by light dragoon artillery tractors. The photograph was taken by the Brighton and Hove Herald newspaper on 3 July 1937 while reporting on a public display at Preston Barracks in Brighton.

What can we see?


The guns are 4.5″ howitzers. They had a range of 6,700 meters, fire at a rate of 4 rounds a minute, and had a crew of six.

The 4.5″ howitzer entered service with the British army in 1908 and remained in use until 1942. Over 3,300 were built during this period.

The two-wheeled cart behind the gun is called a limber. It contains ammunition and enables the gun to be towed.

Artillery tractors

These light dragon MkII B artillery tractors where built by Vickers Armstrong and the Royal Ordnance Factory. The army had received the first of these tractors in 1934, so they were fairly new at the time this photograph was taken.

The Light Dragon MkII B was fitted with a Vickers angled double-spring suspension and powered by a Meadows EPT six cylinder engine. It carried a crew of seven: one driver and six men of the gun detachment. The Dragon had a maximum speed of 30 mph. This dropped to 20 mph when towing a limber and gun.

Preston Barracks

The display attracted a mixed crowd of soldiers and civilians.

The barracks were originally constructed in 1793 as a response to the French Revolution and a new threat of invasion. The were demolished in the 1990s and the site has been redeveloped.

Author: Charles Paddick, Collections Assistant