2-pdr [4 cm/39 (1.575")] Mark VIII
Updated 24 September 2011

Also known as the "multiple pom-pom," this weapon was essentially a redesign of the 2-pdr Mark II to suit an eight gun mounting.  The Mark VIII used the same barrel as the previous weapon, but the new design did have an improved automatic mechanism.  It has been speculated that the reason that the 2-pdr shell was selected for this weapon was because there were about 2,000,000 rounds left over from the First World War.

This weapon had a long development history.  It started off when six 2-pdr Mark II guns were mounted on a common base on HMS Dragon during 1921-22.  This was modestly successful, and as a result design work was begun by Vickers and Armstrong on various multiple-gun designs.  Armstrong produced a design that allowed continuous fire while the Vickers design did not, but the Armstrong product was also a more complicated design.  Vickers won the contract and presented an eight-gun mockup for examination in July 1923 at Vickers, Dartford.  Lack of funding delayed proving ground firing trials out to 1927, with sea trials aboard HMS Tiger not being held until 1928.  Service introduction was delayed to the end of 1930 and consisted of a single mounting installed on HMS Valiant.  Satisfactory completion of trials on Valiant encouraged the Treasury to increase funding and during 1931 Nelson, Rodney and Revenge each received one mounting while Hood received two.  The following year saw Furious and Royal Sovereign each receiving two mountings while Renown received one.  Production was slow up until just before the war started.

At the time of its service introduction in 1930 this was a very advanced weapon, but by 1939 the rapid improvements in aircraft design had rendered it obsolete, as it had a low muzzle velocity, lacked a satisfactory explosive shell and no tracer ammunition was provided.  Nonetheless, these guns were manufactured in large numbers throughout World War II, with total production being about twice the number of Bofors 40 mm guns used by the Royal Navy.  The Naval Gun Register shows that 6,691 guns were made in Britain including 12 prototypes and a further 843 guns were manufactured in Canada.  There were also 219 ex-land service (Army) guns made which were scrapped in 1944-45.  Single and quad mountings for smaller ships were also produced after 1935, with the single mounting being widely used as a bow-chaser on coastal convoy escorts during the war.

As originally introduced, this was a recoil operated, "controlled" (partially-automatic) weapon which used a manually turned crank to operate the firing gear in the quadruple and octuple mountings (see note below for a further explanation).  In 1939 the octuple mountings design was changed to allow fully automatic firing but this was not extended to the quadruple mountings which were only produced in controlled versions throughout the war.  However, the quadruple mountings did replace the crank-turning crewmember with an electric motor sometime during the war.

A higher velocity projectile was introduced in 1938 and this required a different breech mechanism and other changes to the firing gear.  However, guns firing only the older low-velocity projectiles were still manufactured throughout World War II.  High velocity and low velocity ammunition was not interchangeable.  There were also several other gun variations, as shown in the data tables below.  It should be noted that standardization was never a high priority in British ordnance thinking prior to the 1950s.

The internal gun mechanisms were very complex and required much care and skilled maintenance to keep them in working condition.  Jams and stoppages were frequent, although the linked ammunition proved to be more reliable in service than the older belt-fed guns.

Constructed of monobloc barrel and the breech block moved parallel with the gun axis.  The naval gun register lists a total of 6,691 guns produced in Britain, including 12 prototypes, 843 manufactured in Canada and 219 ex-land service (Army) which were scrapped in 1944-45.

Vickers exported a variation of this gun to Japan during the 1930s where it was designated as the 40 mm/62 "HI" Shiki.

Actual bore length was 39.37 calibers.


2-pdr. in Mark VI Octuple Mount on HMS Ark Royal in 1939
The large boxes on the right are for ammunition
This appears to be a low velocity mounting

Click here for additional pictures
Gun Characteristics
Designation Vickers 2-pdr Mark VIII

Suffix designations:
   CLV:  Controlled Low Velocity
   CHV:  Controlled High Velocity
   CHV(U):  CHV with modification to latch locking crank
   ALV:  Automatic Low Velocity
   AHV:  Automatic High Velocity
   CHVW and AHVW:  CHV and AHV with modified cooling jackets to allow water circulation

There were also right and left hand inner and outer guns (indicated by the suffixes RHI, LHI, RHO and LHO), the differences being in the ammunition feed.  In outer guns and in upper guns in quadruple mountings, the connecting block in the gun - which took the barrel, buffer cylinders and ejector tube - was lengthened by 13 inches (33 cm) to allow the ammunition feed for inner and lower guns to pass through.

Ship Class Used On Almost all major warships of World War II
Date Of Design 1923
Date In Service Octuple Mounting:  1930
Quad Mounting:  1936
Gun Weight
(see Note 1)
LV:  572 lbs. (259.5 kg)
HV:  850 lbs. (385.6 kg)
Gun Length oa 102.6 in (2.606 m) [one source says 115.6 in (2.936 m)]
Bore Length 62.0 in (1.575 m)
Rifling Length 54.84 in (1.293 m)
Grooves (12) 0.0141 in deep x 0.322 (0.358 x 8.18 mm)
Lands 0.894 in (2.271 mm)
Twist Uniform RH 1 in 30
Chamber Volume 9.98 in3 (0.165 dm3)
Rate Of Fire Controlled Firing Gear:  96 to 98 rounds per minute 

Automatic Firing Gear:  115 rounds per minute


1) These weights probably do not include the cooling water.  Only CHVW and AHVW guns were fitted for water recirculation, other models had simple water jackets.  The common filler for these was a prominent funnel at the rear of the gun assemblies, as can be seen in the sketch of the Mark VII quad mounting shown on the additional pictures page.

2) Controlled Firing - In any multiple automatic weapon mounting, if each gun is allowed to fire on its own then they are all going to cycle at a slightly different rate.  This means that at some point they are all going to be firing simultaneously, causing obvious shock and vibration problems as well as creating a "gap" in the bullet stream.  An alternative to letting the guns fire freely is to synchronize them in some manner such that they fire sequentially and in a pre-determined pattern.  This was the path that the British chose for the multiple 2-pdr mountings, and the use of the cranked firing gear for these mountings ensured that the guns were synchronized - which the British for some reason called "controlled."  In other words, the cranked firing gear meant that all guns fired at the same rate and in a planned sequential order.  In the case of the quad mounting, the guns fired in pairs and this was probably the same for the octuple mounting.  In 1939, the British apparently concluded that the concerns of allowing the guns to fire freely was less of a problem for the octuple mountings than it was for the quadruple mountings and so changed the octuple guns so as to eliminate the "controlled" firing gear.

Type Fixed
Projectile Types and Weights
(see Note 1)
HE LV - 2.0 lbs. (0.91 kg)
SAP - 2.0 lbs. (0.91 kg)
AP - 2.0 lbs. (0.91 kg)

HE HV - 1.81 lbs. (0.82 kg)

Weight of Complete Round HE LV - 2.95 lbs. (1.34 kg)
SAP - 2.95 lbs. (1.34 kg)
AP - N/A, probably 2.95 lbs. (1.34 kg)

HE HV - 2.87 lbs. (1.30 kg)

Bursting Charge HE LV - 0.16 lbs. (0.071 kg)
SAP - 0.05 lbs. (0.023 kg)
AP - None (solid shot)


Projectile Length N/A
Complete round:  11.995 in (30.47 cm)
Propellant Charge HE LV:  0.243 lbs. (0.11 kg) HSCT/K 134-055
HE HV:  0.2793 lbs. (0.13 kg) HSCT/K 134-055
Others:  N/A
Cartridge 40 x 158R
Muzzle Velocity LV:  1,920 fps (585 mps) 
HV:  2,300 fps (701 mps)
Others - N/A
Working Pressure LV:  15.5 tons / in2 (2,440 kg / cm2)
HV:  16.5 tons / in2 (2,600 kg / cm2)
Approximate Barrel Life LV:  5,000 rounds
HV:  7,200 rounds
Ammunition stowage per gun Royal Sovereign class, Hood, Barham and Malaya:  720 rounds
Warspite:  750 rounds
Queen Elizabeth, Valiant, King George V class, Renown, Town class, Dido class and Colony class:  1,800 rounds
Edinburgh class:  2,500 rounds
Tribal class:  3,500 rounds
Ark Royal and Courageous classes:  2,500 rounds
Others:  N/A

1) Low Velocity type shells were first introduced in 1914.  The High Velocity type was introduced in 1938.  HE tracer does not appear to have been issued prior to 1942.  Norman Friedman in "US Destroyers" says that self-destructing ammunition was used, but I have found no evidence of this in official design documents.  It is possible that the tracer elements was used to self-destruct the projectiles.

2) The usual outfit was HE and HE tracer, but SAP and AP were issued to a limited number of ships.

3) Ammunition was supplied in 14-round steel-linked belts which could be hooked together.   Ammunition feed boxes held 140 rounds per gun for the octuple mounting, 112 rounds for the quadruple mountings and 56 rounds for the single mounting.

4) Complete breakdown of LV shell weight from "Q.F. High Explosive 2 pdr Mark II N Shell":

   Empty body:  1.45 lbs. (0.66 kg)
   Driving band:  0.875 oz (0.025 kg)
   Paint:  0.125 oz (0.0035 kg)
   Bursting charge:  2.5 oz (0.071 kg)
   Fuze No 131:  5.25 oz (0.15 kg)
   Total filled:  2 lbs. (0.9 kg)

Shell Type and Weight Range
With LV shells 2.0 lbs. (0.91 kg) 3,800 yards (3,475 m)
With HV shells 1.81 lbs. (0.82 kg) 5,000 yards (4,572 m)
AA Ceiling with HV shells 13,300 ft. (3,960 m)
Note:  The British considered the 2-pdr HV to have a maximum effective range of 1,700 yards (1,550 m).
Mount / Turret Data
(see Notes 1 and 2)
Octuple Mounts
   M (later changed to Mark V)
   Mark VA
   Mark VI
   Mark VIA
   RP 10 Mark VIA*

Quadruple Mounts
   Mark VII
   RP 50 Mark VII*
   Mark VII*P

Single Mounts
   Mark VIII and Mark VIII* (hand worked)
   Mark XV (power worked)
   Mark XVI (power worked and used primarily by coastal forces)

Weight  Octuple
   M (Mark V):  16 tons (15 mt)
   Mark VA:  15.04 tons (15.3 mt)
   Mark VIA:  15.68 tons (15.9 mt)

   Mark VII*:  8.58 tons (8.7 mt)
   RP 50 Mark VII*:  10.00 tons (10.16 mt)
   Mark VII*P:  11.01 tons (11.19 mt)

   Mark VIII:  1.78 tons (1.8 mt)
   Mark XVI and XVI*:  1.1 tons (1.1 mt)

Elevation Quad and Octuple Mounts:  -10 / +80 degrees
Single Mounts:  -10 / +70 degrees
Elevation Rate Manual:  15 degrees per second

RPC Mounts:  25 degrees per second

Train 360 degrees
Train Rate Manual:  15 degrees per second 

RPC Quad Mounts:  25 degrees per second
RPC Single Mounts:  40 degrees per second

Gun recoil N/A

1) The Mark V differed from the Mark VI by having a heavier carriage and different controlled firing gear.  Both were trained and elevated by a self-contained electro-hydraulic system powered by an 11 hp motor.  The later octuple mountings with motorized firing gear were introduced in 1939 and designated as Mark VA and Mark VIA.  As originally introduced, guns lacked shields and flash hiders, these were added during the war.

2) Mountings capable of firing the HV projectiles are indicated by the star (*) in their designations.

3) RPC and water cooling jackets were added to the Mark VIA* mountings at the same time.

4) USN Mark 14 gyro sights were added to some quad mountings in 1945 as an anti-kamikaze measure, mainly for ships intended for the Pacific area of operations.  At least the battleships Anson and Duke of York and the carrier Implacable were so fitted.

5) The Mark VII and Mark VII* were hand elevated and trained.  The Mark VII*P was a late war quadruple mounting with self-contained power that had a dual joystick control.  RP 50 Mark VII* mountings also had local joystick controls.  Power control was still controlled by the hand cranks, which allowed a simpler "hand clutch" return to manual operation in the event of a loss of power.  The crew for the quadruple mountings consisted of eight men, starting with the gun captain, who was in general charge and operateed the firing clutch lever.  The remainder of the crew were the gunlayer, trainer, ammunition feed numbers and loaders for right and left guns.

6) The single Mark XVI and XVI* mountings were derived from the twin 20 mm Oerlikon Mark V mountings.  The Mark XVI was hydraulically powered by an off-mounting driven by the main or auxiliary engines on coastal craft.  In the Mark XVI*, an electric motor was provided to drive the pump.  Both versions had scooter control.  Some of the Mark XVI* mountings were fitted with USN Mark 14 gyro sights and used on the carrier Ocean and some cruisers and destroyers assigned to the Pacific fleet in 1945.  Elevation was restricted compared to other 2-pdr mountings as the position of the elevating trunnion axis was lower, due to the smaller nature of the Oerlikon guns.

7) At the start of the war, octuple mountings had been installed on battleships, battlecruisers, some 8-inch (20.3 cm) cruisers, the AA cruisers Coventry and Curlew, and the minelayer Adventure.  The largest number at this time was four Mark VI mountings on both Warspite and Ark Royal.  By the end of the war, there were as many as eight octuple mountings on the King George V class battleships while the battleship Nelson, the cruiser Sussex and the fleet carriers carried up to six octuple mountings.

8) Quad mountings were introduced for smaller ships in 1935-36 and was first successfully tried on the destroyer Crusader (H60).  By September 1945 there were six RP 50 mountings on each of the Colossus class carriers, the cruisers Glasgow and Liverpool and six Mark VII*P mountings on the battleships Duke of York, Anson and Howe.  Destroyers starting with the "Tribal" class and up to one of the "S" war emergency class had a single quad mount installed amidships.  Some earlier destroyers had a single quad mount fitted during the war.

Data from
"Big Gun Monitors:  The History of the Design, Construction and Operation of the Royal Navy's Monitors" by Ian Buxton
"Naval Weapons of World War Two" by John Campbell
"Destroyer Weapons of World War 2" by Peter Hodges and Norman Friedman
"British Carrier Aviation" and "US Destroyers:  An Illustrated Design History" both by Norman Friedman
"Battleships:  Allied Battleships in World War II" by W.H. Garzke, Jr. and R.O. Dulin, Jr.
 "British Battleships of World War Two" and "British Cruisers of World War Two" both by Alan Raven and John Roberts
"Q.F. High Explosive 2 pdr Mark II N Shell - Forged Steel with Fixing Screw Design."  No. 21,071.c.(1) / A.D.G.S/3/164 dated 24 February 1916
Special help from Anthony G. Williams
Page History

20 February 2008 - Benchmark
06 September 2010 - Added explanation for "Controlled Firing" and notes on mountings
24 September 2011 - Added outfit on Edinburgh class