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


    1. Glad to hear you found it interesting and that you are keeping busy during this unpleasantness.

    1. Hello Robin
      The Bren gun and later Universal carrier are sperate vehicles to the light dragon. They were, however, an evolution of the Vickers Armstrong Ltd VA D50 which was a commercial development of the light dragon that could be built either to carry a Vickers machine gun or as a field gun tractor. The army drew up a specification for there requirements for a machine gun carrier in 1935 and one VA D50 was built to the army’s desired parameters, it was designated the Experimental Carrier Machine Gun. This vehicle was developed into the Carrier Machine Gun No1 Mk1 and eventually the Carriers, Bren No2 Mk1. It is quite a complicated development. If you would like a rough overview of it and other carriers used by the British army I can suggest finding a copy of Making Tracks British Carrier Story 1914 to 1972 by Peter Chamberlin and Chis Ellis.

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