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Dreadnought
16-04-2010, 15:03
Evolution of the British Naval Gun – The Smooth Bore Gun

INTRODUCTION
There is little doubt that the evolution of the naval gun made an unparalleled impact on the design and effectiveness of warships, and that gun development in Britain was a major factor in enabling Britain to become one of the greatest sea powers in history.

For centuries naval warfare at sea consisted of sailors boarding enemy ships and fighting hand to hand. The early naval guns were anti-personnel weapons, mounted on the stern and forecastle, that discharged all manner of shot.

It wasn’t really until the 16th Century that the English Tudor Navy adapted French culverin for use at sea, These were fairly light guns with long barrels, and fired round shot. The Mary Rose was the first purpose built English warship with a mixture of brass and iron ordnance, and the first ship to fire a broadside.

Before we start, it’s worth just clearing up some of the nomenclature. The word “cannon” is believed to be derived from the word cane, tube or reed in several different languages. It actually refers to a size of gun and was the next in size to the largest “Cannon Royal”, a 12 foot gun capable of firing 48 pound shot. Before standardization in the 18th Century there was an enormous range of calibres and lengths of guns. The attachment NavalGuns_1, shows the principal types of English guns in the Tudor time. There were then additional guns in some of the classes, with, for instance, at least twelve different types of Culverin – large, small, ordinary, extraordinary, special etc., five types of Demi-Cannon, five types of Saker and so on. Other guns of the time, not shown in the table, include those with bizarre names such as Pellicans, Sparrows, Lizards, Fowlers, Murderers, Double Murderers, Drakes, Syrens, Apostles and shrimps. Most of these were bronze pieces. Early iron cannon, known as Bombards, were made from wrought iron and were principally use to fire stone and metal balls at enemy fortifications.

“Guns” are “ordnance”, and there is “brass ordnance” (actually bronze), and “iron ordnance”, both used on land and at sea. The term “artillery” pre-dates guns and cannons, and goes back to the Roman catapults, and later, longbows and crossbows. Artillery is anything that can discharge a projectile in combat. It wasn’t until the 11th century when the Chinese had gunpowder for bombs and guns.

“Muzzle-loading” guns are loaded from the front, with everything rammed down the barrel. “Breech-loading” guns are loaded from the rear. The earliest wrought-iron guns were breech-loaders, but these fell into disuse by the late 16th century. Breech-loaders were re-introduced in the late 19th century, and went on to become the standard method for sea and land based guns.

Preparations for securing English sea supremacy began during the reign of Henry VIII when he took a keen interest in developing more and more powerful guns for service in the royal ships. It was During Henry’s reign that the greatest advances in the evolution of sea ordnance were made.

DESIGN & DEVELOPMENT
Early gun design was largely based upon the rules of proportion with the various dimensions expressed in units of the calibre, the diameter of the round shot the gun fired. For example, trunnions were made the same diameter as the calibre, and were placed at 4/7ths of the length from the muzzle. The walls of the barrel were one calibre thick at the breech, and a half calibre at the chase. The circumference at the breech was 9 calibres, 7 calibres at the trunnions, and 5 calibres at the muzzle. There do not appear to be any logical reasons these dimensions, for the designers had no means of gauging bore pressures, muzzle velocity, or strength of materials. Nevertheless, throughput the smooth-bore era much thought continued to be given to improving ordnance, ammunition, and to a much lesser extent, ballistics and gunnery.

With reference to the attached picture of the George II brass gun (NavalGuns_1), here are descriptions of the principal parts:

Cascabel
The Cascabel originally referred to the round knob at the breech end of the gun, but later came to represent the entire area behind the Base (or Breech) Ring, the round knob known as the Button. Iron guns incorporated a Cascabel Loop in the neck of the Cascabel (see the George III gun).

Breech
The breech (or breech chamber) is the area within the vent field where the powder is ignited. Gun length is measured from the muzzle to the rear end of the Base/Breech Ring. The Vent (or Touch-Hole) is a hole at right angles to the breech through which the gunpowder is poured and ignited to set off the charge and to fire the gun.

Reinforce
The first part of the gun barrel from the Base/Breech ring to the trunnions is called the First Reinforce. This is this thickest part of the gun, necessarily to withstand the pressure generated by the exploding charge in the breech. The Second Reinforce is the next tapered section of the barrel and is where the Trunnions are fitted. On bronze cannon, lifting handles were also fitted here, often elaborately ornamented as dolphins or similar.

Chase
The final section of the barrel, ending in the muzzle and face of the gun.

The junctions of the Reinforces and the Chase are marked by wide flat rings (Reinforce Rings), which sometimes have adjacent Ogees and Fillets. Astragals are another type of moulded ring which has a semicircular section.

Muzzle
The muzzle is the section at the open end of the Chase. The narrowest part of the barrel, the muzzle neck flares out to the swell before narrowing again to the muzzle face of the gun. At this point there may be muzzle mouldings – Astragals, Ogees or Fillets.

Trunnions
Trunnions are cylindrical projections from either side of the barrel, just forward of the centre of gravity, that enabled the gun to pivot up and down in its carriage.

The vertical position of trunnions relative to the bore, however was subject to change, and some debate. When they were first conceived in about 1450 they were quite logically positioned with their horizontal axis coincident with the vertical centre of the bore. Because at that time there was no elevating mechanism to hold the gun in place, it tended to rock up and down when fired. To prevent this, it was calculated that the trunnion should be moved so that it was aligned with the bottom of the bore, in so doing the forces generated upon firing would hold the breech down. This worked, but often resulted in the wedged shaped quoin used for achieving elevation, being ejected backwards. The trunnions remained in this position right up until the middle of the 18th Century when the Board of Ordnance were finally convinced that the best position where they were originally, and moved them.

At the beginning of the 18th Century, armies and navies started standardizing the dimensions and calibres of their artillery. Sometime after the succession of George I to the English Throne in 1714. the Board of Ordnance set out to rationalise the Royal Ordnance, and appointed Albert Borgardto develop a uniform pattern of cannon of varying sizes, including their carriages and shot.

Borgard was born In Holbech, Holland, and fought in the Danish, Polish and Prussion armies, before becoming Chief Fire Master at Arsenal, Woolwich in 1712. He was the first and last person to design a complete system of artillery. Fundamental to his designs, he dispensed with the naming of cannon as Culverin, Minion, Saker etc. and the guns became known by the weight of their round shot, with weights of approximately 4lb, 6lb, 9lb, 12lb, 18lb, 24lb, 32lb, and 42lb. The designs were accepted by the Board of Ordnance in 1716, and althought later redesigned when John Armstrong took over as official designer in 1722, Bogard’s standards for the size of the cannonballs were to remain firmly established for their future use.

As a result of a serious accident at the Moorfields foundry in 1716, Bogard was seriously hurt and the Board relived him of his post. He went on to become the first Colonel Commandant of the Royal Artillery in 1722.

After Borgard’s departure, John Armstrong succeeded to the position of Surveyor General of Ordnance, and he was to control the develpoment of British ordnance for the next twenty years. By 1725 he had completely redesigned Borgard’s artillery systems with a complex serious of proportions for every section of the gun. The early craftmanship and elaborate decoration was dispensed with in favour of cast iron barrels that could be readily cast by any foundry.

Colonel John Armstrong had been Chief Engineer for the Duke of Marlborough and was instrumental in the success of many of the Duke’s sieges. In 1716, he recommended the split of the Ordnance Service into the Royal Engineers and the Royal Artillery. He was made of Fellow of the Royal Academy in 1723.

Some minor modifications were made to the Armstrong pattern in 1753 under the guidance of Charles Frederick as Surveyor General, and thus creating the Armstrong-Frederick pattern gun. The Armstrong, or Armstrong-Frederick was finally supplanted in 1794 by the Blomefield pattern gun.

In 1741, the Royal Military Academy was founded at Woolwich to train artillery and engineering officers. The German born Robert Muller became the Academy’s first Professor of Artillery. Muller wrote extensively on both gennery and engineering and published two seminal books, one of which was ‘A Treatise of Artillery’ which covered the construction of brass and iron ordnance for the army and the navy. Muller’s publications were primarily written for training purposes, but he also sought to try and change the philosophy of British gun design based upon extensive tests and mathementical analysis. He strongly advocated brionze guns for ships because of the abilty to re-cast after the gun was worn out. His works were read with much interest by foreign experts and they became the textbooks for American artillerymen of the revolutionary period. Much of Muller’s suggestions were argued against by the Board of Orndnance, except that he did contribute to the dessign of lighter guns for use at sea, and for the repositioning of the trunnions as previously mentioned.

The next major changes were to come in 1780 when a 36 year old artillery captain, Thomas Blomefield, was appointed as Inspector of Artillery and Superintendent of the Royal Brass Foundry. His first act was to condemn 496 pieces of new artillery as being unsuitable for delivery. Three years later he was entrusted with the complete reorganisatiion of the Ornance Department, and at the same time, embarked on experiments that enabled a new system of ordnance to be designed.His system, based on the calibre of the weapon, specified the length, wall thickness and other dimensions of the muzzle-loader gun. They were designed to use newly the improved "cylinder powder" developed by which apparently increased chamber pressures, bursting "old pattern" guns during testing.

The new Blomefield guns had the characteristic cascabel ring, thicker breeches and thinner chases. This gave a stronger gun without an increase in weight. Decorative elements were removed from the Blomefield pattern ordnance.

Although the Royal Navy also carried out their own experiments, and trialled variations on the Blomefield design against designs by Colonel Congreve (the inventor of rocket artillery), they ultimately adopted Blomefield’s designs and by 1794 the Blomefield pattern gun was the standard in the navy, although Armstrong’s were still on ships in 1808.

Blomefield had been promoted to lieutenant-colonel in 1793 and colonel seven years later. In 1803, he was promoted to major-general. He served as colonel-commandant of battalion in 1806, and wasd was Major-General of the artillery expedition to Copenhagen in 1807. He was created 1st Baronet Blomefield of Attleborough, County Norfolk on 14 November 1807. He died on the 24th August 1822

In the year of Blomefield’s death, a young boy had just started at The Royal Grammar School near Gateshead. His name was William George Armstrong and he was destined to become the next big influence in the dramatic development of the British Naval gun.


The next part of this article will consider gun manufacture.


Attachments:

NavalGuns_1: Principal 16th Century English Guns (own drawing)
NavalGuns_2: Typical Gun Profiles (own drawing)
NavalGuns_3: Bronze Cannon Detail (put together with images from various sources – no copyright restrictions evident)
NavalGuns_4: Iron Cannon Detail (put together with images from various sources – no copyright restrictions evident)
NavalGuns_5: Culverina and Cannon from the Mary Rose (photograph in the public domain)
NavaGuns_6: Early Bronze Cannon at Royal Amouries Museum Fort Nelson (photograph in the public domain)
NavalGuns_7: Bronze Cannon from the Mary Rose, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard (photograph in the public domain)

qprdave
16-04-2010, 16:43
Good and interesting report, Clive

Dave

emason
16-04-2010, 17:48
Clive, what an interesting and informative article. It must have taken ages to research. It is fascinating to see the progression of design and technology. It surprised me that they had breech loaders as early as the 16th century.

Regarding the loop on the cascabel; is it for a rope to limit the recoil when firing, or just ornament?

steve roberts
16-04-2010, 18:03
Hi Clive.BZ Mate. A really interesting and informative post.As Bill said it must have taken some time to research.Thank you for taking the time for all our benefit.
Regards Steve

Dreadnought
16-04-2010, 21:15
Thanks for the comments guys.

Bill, the cascabel loop was, as you mention, was to allow a rope to be routed through as part of the arrangements for limiting the rear traverse due to recoil. I will be covering this in more detail later. It was a an identifying feature of the the Blomefield gun, and was obviously necessary for controlling the gun in a ship. At this time there were many advances in the efficinecy and power of gun propellants such as gunpowder, plus the fact that manufacturing techniques were making the bore more accurate and true, which reduced windage, but resulted in more force back into the breech, increasing recoil. Before Blomefield's cascabel loop rope was wrapped roung the cascabel button. Early casting techniques made it difficult to form the loop.

INVINCIBLE
16-04-2010, 21:19
Thanks for the comments guys.

Bill, the cascabel loop was, as you mention, was to allow a rope to be routed through as part of the arrangements for limiting the rear traverse due to recoil. I will be covering this in more detail later. It was a an identifying feature of the the Blomefield gun, and was obviously necessary for controlling the gun in a ship. At this time there were many advances in the efficinecy and power of gun propellants such as gunpowder, plus the fact that manufacturing techniques were making the bore more accurate and true, which reduced windage, but resulted in more force back into the breech, increasing recoil. Before Blomefield's cascabel loop rope was wrapped roung the cascabel button. Early casting techniques made it difficult to form the loop.

Clive,

That is an excellent piece of work and of much value to us working in "Explosion!", the Museum of Naval Firepower at Gosport. I hope you do not mind if we take a copy of it.

Dreadnought
16-04-2010, 21:27
Thanks for your kind comments, and please use whatever you wish .. my pleasure. You may find the next few posts equally of interest; the next one due before the cock crows ...!!

Cheers

Dreadnought
16-04-2010, 21:53
Evolution of the British Naval Gun – Gun Manufacture

WROUGHT IRON GUNS
The earliest guns discovered on wrecked ships are made from wrought iron. They were forged by blacksmiths and known as Bombards, from the Greek word bombos – a loud buzzing noise.

The first stage was to make a wooden mandrel of the size of the bore of the barrel. Long chamfered iron strips were laid round the mandrel to from a cylinder and held together by a series of iron rings that were heated up and hammered down the length of the cylinder. When the rings cooled, they contracted to make a tight fit on the iron strips.

Sometimes, molten lead would be used to fill the gaps between the strips before the rings were fitted, in an attempt to prevent the escape of propellant gases. For heavier guns, rings might be fitted adjacent to each other over the whole length of the gun

Before fitting the rings the smith in some cases poured molten lead into the gaps between the bars to prevent the escape of propellant gas. With heavier types the rings were usually placed end-to-end.

This method of construction was similar to the fitting of band over the staves of a wooden “barrel”, and hence the term gun barrel

For some of the smaller guns sheets of iron were formed into a cylinder with edges welded together prior to the rings being shrunk on.

These guns (Bombards) were breech loaders. A separate section for the gunpowder was wedged in at the bottom of the barrel by a block or quoin against the end of the bed or carriage. These chambers could be changed quite easily, enabling a comparative quick firing.

The Diagram NavalGuns_8 shows the stages of making a forged Bombard.

The diagram NavalGuns_9 shows a bombard held on a carriage similar to the one recovered from the Mary Rose.

BRASS OR IRON
Brass ordnance was made by the bronzefounders who were masters at casting bells. Bronze guns were muzzle loading, and often intricately adorned with coats of arms and makers names in relief. Brass ordnance was expensive to produce, and most of this work was developed in Italy and Turkey.

Beginning as early as the 14th century, cannon were cast of bronze. Although marginally less durable, bronze was non-corrosive, which was an important property in the salt-water environment at sea. It was also lighter than Iron, another major consideration at sea where weight distribution was a matter of critical concern. On the other hand, bronze tends to absorb and retain heat which often lead to bronze guns drooping or losing their muzzles completely. Iron guns, being more brittle, would explode without warning when they failed, whereas bronze guns would craze and bulge before finally bursting. So bronze guns were favoured as being safe.

However, as England embarked upon the expansion of its Navy, it was desperate for more guns. Iron was easier to obtain and gun manufacture was cheaper.

In the 16th Century, French and Flemish gunfounders were induced to come to England teach the techniques of their craft, including how to cast iron, as well as bronze cannon. There are records that suggest that the first brass ordnance was cast in England by John Owen in 1521 (also recorded as 1535), before which they were imported from abroad. One of the bronze guns recovered from the Mary Rose has Owen’s name on it as the maker. Other records state that the first cast-iron guns were made at Buxted, Surrey by Ralph Hogge in 1543, who was taught and assisted by a Frenchman Peter Bawd. A servant of Bawd, John Johnson went on to further perfect the art of casting, and in 1595, his son, Thomas Johnson cast 42 iron guns for the Earl of Cumberland, each weighing 3 tons.

The skills of the English founders had rapidly progressed and soon excelled those of their teachers. Possession of English pieces was sought from abroad due the superiority of English workmanship over their foreign counterparts. The products of the most famous founders in Europe were defective with problems concerning poor casting consistency, unequal bores, and the accurate positioning of trunnions. All these factors making the gins dangerous and unpredictable. England began exporting guns all over the world for ships, forts and costal defence artillery.


THE CASTING PROCESS
The diagram NavalGuns_10 shows the various stage in casting a gun. This started with the making of a wooden mandrel slightly smaller than the bore of the gun (A). The mandrel would be supported on trestles so that the assembly could be rotated during the manufacturing process.

Rope or straw was then tightly wrapped around the mandrel (B) onto which clay was built up to the approximate final size of the gun (C). Sand and horse dung was added to the clay, making it friable, so as to aid removal from the mould later. Templates (Strickles) would be used to achieve the final shape (D), including the reinforcing rings. Separate patterns and moulds would be made for the breech and cascabel, and some foundries separately moulded the ‘head’ (part of the chase and muzzle). The finished patterns were dried using hot coals placed under the pattern assembly whilst on the trestles.

After this stage, wax would be used to pattern up details such as “dolphins” (handles), coats of arms, and other fine detailing. These would be pinned onto the gun pattern. Wooden patterns would also be made for the trunnions, and attached with an iron pin running right through the gun pattern.

The next stage was to form the outer mould. The pattern was first coated with wax, which acted as a release agent, and then layers of clay, mixed with sand and animal hair, were built up. Rope was again often used for the first layer, to reinforce the mould. The mould was then further reinforced by iron bands to prevent damage during the founding process (E).

The whole pattern/mould assembly could now be removed from the trestles and would be laid on the foundry floor for the removal of the pattern. The tapered mandrel was removed by gently knocking it out, followed by removing the rope/straw/clay. Removal of the trunnion pin allowed the wooden patterns to be extracted. The pins holding the wax mouldings were also removed (the wax would be melted out during firing). All holes in the mould were then filled and the mould was then fired to remove all traces of moisture. This was essential as damp moulds could (and often did) explode when the molten metal was poured into them. Firing was achieved by burying the mould in hot coals and covering it with earth. This process of filling holes and firing may have had to be repeated until the mould was ready for use. The inside of the mould was finally coated with a solution called “Lye”, which acted as a release agent.

Casting was carried out in vertical casting pits sunk into the ground. Firstly, the cascabel/breech mould (and head mould where separate) were wired onto the main mould, and the whole assembly lowered, breech first, into the casting pit. A feed pipe, that had been incorporated in the mould, was brought out to the tapping hole on the surface, close to the casting pit. Earth was back filled into the casting pit round the mould and tamped down firm. To form the bore of the gun, another mould, called the “core”, was made by wrapping rope round an iron bar. This was lowered down into the centre of the breech mould, and secured at the muzzle end with a clay plug.

Molten metal, from the adjacent furnace, was introduced into the mould via the tapping hole until the mould was full. The tapping hole was then closed, and the filled moulds left o cool down. This take anywhere from one to several days. When cooled, the mould was removed from the casting pit, and removed by taking off the reinforcing bands and breaking away the clay. Patterns and moulds had to be individually made for each gun. They were not reusable, and this was obviously expensive. In the larger foundries, several casting pits would normally be fed in a single pouring of metal.

These types of moulds caused differential cooling of the gun, which exacerbated the problem of the brittleness of iron guns. This problem was partially overcome with the introduction of sand moulding around 1750.

BORING & FINISHING
The first job after breaking of the mould, was to saw off the feeding “sprue”. For large guns, this could take two or three days. The trunnions were then turned to ensure they were round. This was done by using a vertically mounted hand cutting tool.

Guns that were hollow cast using a core, simply had to have any imperfections removed from the bore. This “reaming” process was carried out using basic lathes powered by water or animals.

From around the middle of the 18th Century, better boring techniques had been developed which allowed guns to be cast without a core, and the entire bore machined out. This could take days, or even weeks, but a more accurate bore was achieved that reduced “windage” (the difference between the bore of the barrel and the diameter of the shot).

Guns were then checked for casting flaws and blemishes. The barrel was inspected using a number of methods, “Searchers” comprising a wooden stave with wire points were designed to catch in any cavities. Other methods included using a candle and a mirror, slid down the bore on a long stick. Another method was to suspend the barrel vertically and fill the bore with water, and check for seepage indicating porosity of the casting. During the 18th Century tests used water under pressure. Where possible, any flaws were repaired. The bore was gauged for accuracy and straightness, tolerances being quite generous (+/- 0.1 inch for calibre)

After this, the vent hole was drilled, which was either vertical to the breech chamber, or sloping backwards at about 70 degrees (F).

Having got to this stage, guns were then marked with makers names or numbers, along with the weight of the gun (mainly iron guns).

PROOFING
The final test was to fire the gun with a “proof charge” well above the normal service charge. This was usually a firing with a charge not less than the weight of the cannon ball, followed by two further firings at two thirds this weight. Sometimes guns would be double shotted for proof testing. After successful inspection, the gun was stamped with the letter ’P’.


As previously mentioned, the invention of boring machinery vastly improved gun manufacture, enabling the gun to be cast solid instead of hollow on a core. This, along with other improvements in manufacturing methods, enabled iron guns to be made lighter without undue loss in strength, and they became favoured for the naval gun. Iron was one eighth the cost of brass and, in action, they outlasted brass ordnance, which cracked, bent at the muzzle, and wore out the vent. A well made iron gun was almost indestructible.


THE ROYAL BRASS FOUNDRY
Throughout the 17th Century the founding of guns continued to be carried out by private enterprise although Proof was carried out under the supervision of the Board of Ordnance. In 1619 a decree was issued that gun-founding was to be confined to Kent and Sussex, that guns were to be landed at, or shipped from the Tower Wharf only, and that East Smithfield was to be the one market-place for their sale or purchase.

Guns could be proved only in Ratcliff fields, and all pieces were to have on them at least two letters of the founder's name, with the year and the weight of the gun. Exportation was illegal; nevertheless the illicit traffic went on just as in Queen Elizabeth's time. In later years proof took place at other government grounds, all within the London area, and between 1665 and 1680, proof of ordnance was transferred to the naval depot at Woolwich. A Proof Master and “His Majesty’s Founder of Brass and Iron Ordnance were instituted to supervise and the contractors manufacturing the guns.

In 1716, at one of the London foundries, some captured guns were melted down for recasting and as they were being poured, due to the moulds being damp, there was a huge explosion that killed and injured many members of the public. In order to prevent anything similar happening again, it was decided that the government should control the manufacture of ordnance and the Royal Brass Foundry was established at Woolwich.

Andrew Schalch, became the first Master Founder at Woolwich on the 16th May 1718. Schalch was born in Scaffhausen in 1692 and prior to been appointed by the Duke of Marlborough (Master General of Ordnance), he worked at the famous French Foundry at Douai.

Despite the establishment of the Royal Foundry, most British artillery was still being manufactured by private contractors, a lot of them often producing better quality guns. Over time, the Foundry went into decline and Schlach became set in his ways. In 1770, as a result of recommendations made by the Royal Navy, the Government decided to implement improvements at Woolwich. A new Master Founder, Jan Verbruggen, was appointed, along with his son Pieter. Verbruggen had been Master Founder for the Dutch Government. Schlach, now in his eighties, was reluctant to leave his position, and when he finally went, he took with him a lot of equipment that he claimed was his own. This left the foundry in a very run down state.

It took over two years to complete all of the improvements that the Verbruggens recommended, during which time, all cannon production was contracted out. When it started production again, the foundry had been completely reorganized and up to date technology introduced. They added a new furnace, re-lined the old ones, and refurbished the foundations of the casting pits. They also introduced new horizontal boring methods for the solid cast guns that formed the basis of the horizontal boring machine patented by John Wilkinson in 1779. By 1774 the Vanbruggens were producing the highest quality guns, much in demand all over the world, and supplying nearly all of the guns required by the Royal Navy. Jan Verbruggen died in 1781, and his son in 1786, both having made a vital contribution to British gunmaking.

On Peter Verbruggen's death in 1786, the Mastership of the Royal Brass Foundry notionally passed to Frederick Groves but, in Groves' absence, control was exercised over the Foundry by John King. The brothers Henry and John King were first employed at the Royal Brass Foundry at Woolwich prior to 1770, when Andrew Schalch was Master Founder. In 1789, John King was appointed Foreman of the Foundry and his brother, Henry, appointed Assistant Foreman. At the same time, John King is believed to have successfully applied for his son, Cornelius, to be appointed to the post of Assistant Moulder

Although the Royal Brass Foundry had been exceptionally busy with the production of cannon during the American War for Independence (1775-1783), work almost ceased in 1784 and it was only through petitions, supported by Peter Verbruggen, that the brothers King were able to remain employed at Woolwich. The outbreak of Britain's war with Revolutionary France in 1793 brought increased cannon production at Woolwich. In 1797, John King was promoted to Master Founder and Henry King appointed Assistant Founder. In 1805, Cornelius King was appointed Foreman.

John King died in 1813 and brother Henry was promoted to Master Founder, with Cornelius being promoted to Assistant Founder. The partnership of Henry and Cornelius King continued at the Royal Brass Foundry until Henry's retirement in 1818. Cornelius continued at Woolwich as Assistant Founder until his retirement in 1822. Henry King died in 1825 and Cornelius died in 1835.

In 1856 the government decided to upgrade the Royal Arsenal once again, but this time there would be facilities for making its own guns. The prime reason for the up-dating this time, was the introduction of the Armstrong Gun.


The next part of this article will consider the gun carriage.


Attachments:

NavalGuns_8: Forged Iron Bombard (own drawing)
NavalGuns_9: Bombard Firing Arrangement (own drawing)
NavalGuns_10: Cast Barrel Moulding (own drawing – representation only)
NavalGuns_11: Early drawing of Gun Foundry (source unknown)
NavalGuns_12: Picture of Colonel John Armstrong with the Duke of Marlborough – see Post#1 (source unknown)
NavalGuns_13: The Royal Brass Foundry at Woolwich (picture believed to be in the public domain)
NavalGuns_14: Details of Verbruggen guns
NavalGuns_15: Early drawing showing a bronze gun being cast (source unknown)
NavalGuns_16: Early drawing of a casting being checked prior to boring (source unknown)
NavalGuns_17: Early drawing of casting being set up for the trunnions to be machined (source unknown)
NavalGuns_18: Photograph of the Verbruggens House at the Woolwich Aresenal, next the the Brass Foundry (picture believed to be in the public domain)
NavalGuns_19: Plaque on the wall of the house.

astraltrader
17-04-2010, 10:35
All interesting information Clive and from a period which I know little about.

Many thanks for all of your efforts.

INVINCIBLE
17-04-2010, 17:20
Clive,

Thank you - truly excellent and most useful for "Explosion!", the Museum of Naval Firepower. We also have some naval guns in Fort NELSON.

emason
17-04-2010, 17:39
Excellent work Clive. In your diagram of wrought iron gun manufacture, it shows eight pieces of iron forming an octagonal bore. Is this just shown as eight for clarity, and in reality there were many more to obtain a near circular bore? And was this then bored out? Or am I barking up a red herring?

Dreadnought
17-04-2010, 20:42
Clive,

Thank you - truly excellent and most useful for "Explosion!", the Museum of Naval Firepower. We also have some naval guns in Fort NELSON.

Thanks again for your appreciation. I am flattered that you feel you may be able to use my work for "Explosion". Just for your information, I intend to submit additional threads over the next few weeks that will cover the following (not sure yet in what order):

The Gun Carriage (this will be next and is currently work in progress)
Propellants
Projectiles
Gunnery at Sea
Rifling
The Armstrong Gun
Turrets

Depending how the thread develops, there may be other specific topics ... I hope so, the more I research this, the more interesting it becomes, and the more it becomes apparent that the the development of the British naval gun was hugely instrumental in ship design and naval strategy.

Dreadnought
17-04-2010, 21:07
Excellent work Clive. In your diagram of wrought iron gun manufacture, it shows eight pieces of iron forming an octagonal bore. Is this just shown as eight for clarity, and in reality there were many more to obtain a near circular bore? And was this then bored out? Or am I barking up a red herring?

Hi Bill,

There is surprisingly little information regarding the number of strips/staves used in the construction of forged iron guns. Most of the information I was able to find was by way of drawings, and a lot of those were interpretative. I have not yet physically studied the Mary Rose gun, something I am going to do very soon. I would imagine that it depended on the quality and calibre of the gun. In my drawing I chose to use an octagon because the drawings I studied normally showed this, and also, it clearly demonstrated the method of construction.

I am hoping that there are some proper early cannon experts out there that can fill in these knowledge gaps.

Bombards seemed to have quite a range of calibre, some of the Turkish guns being huge. Many of them fired stone projectiles, or anything they could ram down the barrel that they thought would have the most devastating effect on their target. The early charges (gunpowder) were not that explosive in terms of power, and the windage was quite large (i.e there was a good deal of obduration of the propellant gases, so that ranges of destructive power were relatively short).

I can find no evidence that bombards had any finishing to the bore, in fact even the early cast guns only had limited finishing operations as I describe in the Gun Manufacture post. Boring as we understand it today didn't really come in until guns were cast solid.

Appreciate your interest Bill.

Cheers

Imir
17-04-2010, 21:36
"There do not appear to be any logical reasons these dimensions, for the designers had no means of gauging bore pressures, muzzle velocity, or strength of materials."

Do you not think in those days, the things that worked well were adopted, and the things which blew up and killed people were left behind?

Now we call this trial and error?

The reason why we adopt the dimensions or ratio is because they are successful.

This happened throughout history and in any and all sciences.

The cemeteries are filled with experimentors whose guns and other apparatus did not follow thier expectations!

Dreadnought
18-04-2010, 08:52
Hi Imir,

Absolutely. Certainly the early development of cast guns was to some extent largely experimental, with casting techniques developed from the founding of bells.

There are records of experiments being carried out in the 1700's involving shortening guns a calibre at a time, and trying different charges to optimize gun weight. This was to try and reduce the number of men and horses required to move guns about. The experiment consisted of firing the gun at a bank of earth and measuring the penetration of the shot.

You are right to suggest that there were many casulties during early gun development, paricularly relating to cast iron guns exploding. They were aare of the problems of the porosity of castings, and had worked out that it was important to ensure that the iron was free of phosphorous as this made the guns burst very easily.

I think we would be surprised of the level of technological knowledge of the the early gun makers. They use all sorts of mathematical instruments and there are several surving examples of internal and external calipers, for instance, used for checking dimensions. As far back as 1400 guns were virtually standardised accross Europe.

Science wasn't really introduced into gun design and manufacture until the 18th century.

keblin
18-04-2010, 16:32
Wonderfully refreshing thread this, Clive.

Well done, can't wait for the rest of it.

Dreadnought
19-04-2010, 19:18
In post #8, I make reference to the Ralph Hogge and the first iron gun cast in England in 1543. Before I move on to "The Gun Carriage" as previously promised, I think that the Sussex town of Buxted deserves a mention, along with its Rector and his contribution to cannon manufature in England.

William Levett was born around 1495 in Hollington East Sussex. Educated at Oxford, he became rector of the village of Buxted and also became heavily involved in the family iron mining and smelting business set up by his elder brother John Levett. Iron mines had been worked in Sussex back as far as Roman times and the smelting and forging of iron was a great industry of the Weald from the 13th to the 18th century. Smelting was carried out with charcoal, the large forests in the area providing abundant supplies of wood. One of the first blast furnaces to be used in England was built in Buxted in about 1491

John Levett died in 1535 and four years later, in 1539, Parson William Levett took over the running of the business.

Ralf (Ralph) Hogge (also known as Hugget), who ran the Buxted foundry encouraged French master gun founder Peter Baude (Bawd) to come to Buxted to help him make an iron cannon. They succeeded in making the first muzzle loading one piece cast iron cannon in England in the year 1543.

One of the successful features of Hogge’s guns was that they were cast vertically in wood lined pits. This technique had been used in the Duchy of Jülich in 1539 and 1540, and it is suggested that it was brought to Normandy in 1540 and to the Weald in 1543, as a result of the alliances of both Francis I and Henry VIII with William de La Marck, Duke of Cleves. In the case of the Weald, the intermediary could have been Nicholas Wotton, who in 1539 led the negotiations for Henry’s marriage to Anne of Cleves, and did not return to England until July 1541, when he took up the office of Dean of Canterbury.

The other important feature of the guns was that they were of the modern Italianate style in both design and nomenclature. This style had evolved in Venice at the end of the 15th century, and had probably been brought to England by Francis Arcano in 1523. The adaptation of this style led to Sussex and Kent becoming the centre of European gun making. In 1545, Parson Levett was ordered to produce 120 of his state-of-the-art cannons as well as a large amount of ammunition. Suddenly the English iron-masters had become the yardstick by which armourers were measured.

By 1553, the Board of Ordnance in London had purchased more than 250 of Levett's guns, and Levett became the leading supplier of cast-iron muzzle-loading cannons to the English forces. Records show that he did not confine his iron founding to Sussex, but was also producing munitions and weaponry at a site close by the Tower of London, where the Royal stores of armaments were warehoused.

When Levett died in 1554, Ralf Hogge took over the foundries and was appointed Gun Founder to Queen Elizabeth 1st who also granted him a monopoly on the export of “cast iron ordnance” to foreign countries.

The wars of Henry VIII were good for the iron industry in the Weald The 20 blast furnaces and 28 forges in Sussex in 1549 more than doubled in 25 years to 50 furnaces and 60 forges. The secret was in the English method of vertical casting.

Eventually, the dwindling woods of the Weald, combined with new coke-fired technology, pushed England's ironworking industry north toward the Midlands and abundant coal.


The village sign at Buxted is shown below. It incorporates a cannon and a picture of a hog, dated 1581, that is taken from a cast iron rebus over the door of Hogge House, built by Ralph Hogge.

There is a Buxted rhyme …“Master Hugget and his man John They did cast the first canon”



The Buxted Village sign was first erected in 1966, to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes (1965). The design was chosen from competition entries, and won by Mrs. Enid Purvis. It first stood outside the village shop, but was moved in 1972 near to the Buxted Inn. Since then, it has been again moved after a complete restoration that was completed in 1994. It now stands at the junction of the High Street and Gordon Road.

Dreadnought
10-05-2010, 15:33
Evolution of the British Naval Gun – The Truck Carriage

The familiar four wheeled carriage that was used for mounting the long guns of warships for over three hundred years has come to be known as the truck carriage. Traditionally, most naval armament followed the development of land based artillery. But the limitations imposed by guns having to operate in the confines of the gun deck resulted in the truck carriage remaining little changed during its period of use, as it offered advantages peculiar to use at sea.

Prior to the introduction of the truck carriage the early breech loading guns were mounted on the two wheeled sledge/trough carriages similar to the one recovered from the Mary Rose. (see post #8 ). These were difficult to aim, had little or no elevation adjustment, and were poor at absorbing recoil. They were only really effective at point blank range. The development of the cast gun and the introduction of the trunnion was to bring about the development of the truck carriage, and by the middle of the 16th Century it had largely become the standard naval gun carriage.

The drawing (NavalGuns_21) shows the general construction of a 17th century truck carriage for a 32-pound smooth bore iron gun. The preferred wood for the carriage was elm due to its strength, durability and resistance to shock, although many were made of oak. The cheeks, bed and axle trees were joined together with iron bolts. The trunnions of the gun barrel rested in semi-circular cut-outs in the carriage cheeks and secure with “cap squares”, which were again securely bolted to the cheek with iron bolts.

The overall strength of the carriage was important to withstand the enormous stresses caused by the shock of recoil. But these stresses were to an extent reduced in the carriage, and the ship itself, byallowing the whole gun equipment to recoil freely across the deck. This enabled the energy to be diverted as kinetic energy. From this point of view the weight of the carriage, relatively to that of the gun, was of considerable importance. If the carriage had been too heavy it would not have yielded sufficiently under the shock of the gun firing, and, no matter how strongly made, would eventually have been destroyed. If the carriage had been too light, the force of the recoil would have torn loose the breechings.

The “trucks” (wheels) were made of elm, and on the 32 pounder, they were 5 or 6 inches wide, with the diameter of the front pair being 18 inches, and the rear 16 inches; the difference in diameter being to compensate for the slope of the gun deck, and to help check recoil. They were secured to the axle tree spindle using iron thimbles that were driven through a transverse hole in the hub. The hub was protected by iron bands to prevent wear (sometimes this would be copper on the bottom of the spindle). The size of the trucks and the axletree spindles were optimized to be resistant to rolling when not required. When the gun fired the carriage started from rest suddenly and the trucks would skid on the deck without rotating, thus offering friction to check the first violent motion of recoil. During the latter phase of the recoil the trucks then rotated, and the carriage ran smoothly back until checked by the breechings.

Wooden “quoins” were used to support the barrel of the gun on the “stool bed”, and was wedge shaped to allow some variation in elevation. This was done by a gunner, who would stick his “trailspike” on one of the carriage steps, hook the spike under the barrel and press down. This lifted the guns off the quoins, allowing them to be slid in or out to position them where they were wanted.

The friction of the trucks on the deck was also affected by the position of the trunnions relatively to the axis of the gun. Truck guns were nearly always "quarter-hung," or cast with their trunnions slightly below their axis, so as to cause the breech to exert a downward pressure on firing, and thus augment the friction of the rear trucks on the deck and check the recoil. The trunnions were also positioned to give the minimum of jump to the gun and ensure a smooth start to the recoil. They were therefore not equally placed relative to the weight of the gun along its length, but so that an additional one-twentieth of the weight of the gun was given to the breech-end, thus bringing a slight deadweight pressure upon the quoin.

A 32 pound cannon weighed about 3 tons and ropes were used to secure the gun when at sea but not in use. A thick rope through the breech ring and secured to the side of the ship, was used to limit recoil, and other rope systems were used to train the gun, and for running it backwards and forwards for loading and firing. This is covered in more detail in the future “Gunnery” post.

On of the important attributes of the truck carriage was its portability.The shifting of guns was constantly going on in a commissioned ship. At sea they were lashed against the sides so as to leave as clear a deck as possible. In chase, a shifting of guns, among other heavy weights, was resorted to in order that the vessel should not lose way by plunging heavily. If she set sail on a long voyage some of the guns were struck down into the hold, to stiffen her and give her an increased stability. Great advantages were offered, therefore, from having gun-carriages compact, self-contained, and capable of being quickly removed from one place to another.

But, despite its positive features for use at sea, the truck carriage was not without inherent design flaws.In the first place, the breechings were so reeved that the force sustained by them in opposition to the recoil tended inevitably to cause the gun to jump. The reaction of the breeching acted along lines below the level of the gun-axis, and the breeching therefore exerted a lifting force which, instead of pressing down all of the four trucks upon the deck, and thus deadening the recoil, tended to raise the fore trucks in the air and reduce the friction of the carriage upon the deck. The larger the gun and the higher the gun-axis above the trucks, the greater was this tendency of the gun to lift and overturn. If the rear trucks, about which the gun and carriage tended to revolve, had been set at some distance in rear of the centre of gravity of the equipment, it would have been more stable.

But space did not permit of this, and in fact, it was often the case that even with the weight of the guns, they would indeed jump when being fired and unequal strains on the breechings were inevitable. This led to guns being unpredictably thrown around, damaging equipment and crew. Bolts and rings would be ripped out of the deck and ship’s side and fly around with devastating effect. In addition. The crew were also in danger of having their limbs caught up in the maze of ropes and tackle surrounding the gun.

Even so, the truck carriage fought of proposed new carriage and mounting arrangements. It was strong, simple, and self-contained. Metal carriages of various designs proved brittle, too rigid, heavy, and dangerous from their liability to splinter. Gunslides, traverses, or structures laid on the deck to form a definite path for the recoil of the gun were disliked on account of their complication, the deck-space occupied, and the difficulty which their use entailed of keeping the deck under the gun dry and free from rotting; though raised beds were sometimes fitted, and were indeed a necessity in the earlier days owing to the large sheer and camber given to the decks. The use of compressors, or of adjustable friction devices, in any form, for limiting the recoil, was objected to on account of the possibilities which they presented for accident owing to the forgetfulness of an excited crew. The truck carriage, being self-contained and independent of external adjustment, was safe in this respect.

But inevitably, as developments in charges, firing mechanisms and other gun features, progressed, the carriage took on new innovations. Sir Charles Douglas did much to improve the efficiency of the truck carriage. On his appointment to the Duke in 1779 he came up with a number of schemes.

To ease the recoil of the guns and to save their breechings he devised and fitted steel springs to them which, even with a restricted length of recoil no breeching, not even that of a 32-pounder weather gun double-shotted and fired over a slippery deck, was ever known to break. He further eased recoil by loading the truck carriage with shot, which he slung on it, thereby augmenting the recoiling mass. He also proposed and tried suspending weights, secured to the carriage by ropes reeved through fairleads, which on recoil the made the gun lift. The weights also helped to run the gun out again which he calculated to be equal to that of two extra men on the tackles.

The most notable contribution to the development of the truck carriage, however, was to come about through his realization of the importance of possessing a large arc of training for his guns. To this end, he cleared away all possible obstructions on the gun decks of the Duke, removing and modifying knees, standards and pillars to allow his guns to be pointed a full four points before and abaft the beam. Something that was unknown up until now.

To traverse the carriages quickly to the required line of bearing he had eyebolts fitted in line between the guns for attachment to the tackles. He also fitted wedges behind the carriages to act as drags. Initially the truck would roll back, then it would mount the wedges and slide back with increased friction. In fact, he roughened up the bottom of the wedges and put tar on them to increase friction further. This use of wedges shortened and controlled the recoil and therefore allowed firing on an extreme bearing in a confined space, and also improved the rate of fire.

By 1812 gun sights were introduced and elevation scales were being fitted to carriages. In 1811 Colonel Congreve (later to be Sir William) published a treatise in which he demonstrated the defects of the truck carriage and proposed in its place a far more scientific and ingenious form of mounting. It lacked, however, some of the characteristics which, as we have seen, gave value to the old truck carriage. Except where special conditions gave additional value to its rival, the truck carriage kept its place. In 1820 an iron carriage was tried officially, for 24-pounders, but gave unsatisfactory results. In 1829 the Marshall carriage was tried, offering important advantages over the standard pattern. Its main feature was a narrow fore-carriage separate from the recoiling rear portion, this fore carriage being pivoted to a socket in the centre of the gun-port. But still the truck carriage survived the very favourable reports given on its latest rival.

As concentration of fire became developed new fittings such as directing bars, breast chocks and training racers made their appearance and were embodied in the design. As the power of guns and the energy requiring to be absorbed on recoil increased, the rear trucks disappeared and gave place, in the two-truck Marsilly carriage, to flat chocks which by the friction of their broad surfaces against the deck helped more than trucks to deaden the motion of the carriage.

The quoin, perfected by the addition of a graduated scale marked to show the elevation corresponding to each of its positions, gave place at length to various mechanical forms of elevating gear. The elm body was replaced by iron plates bolted and riveted together. And then at length, with the continuous growth of gun-energy, the forces of recoil became so great that the ordinary carriage constrained by rope breechings could no longer cope with them. The friction of wood rear-chocks against the deck was replaced by the friction of vertical iron plates, attached to the carriage, against similar plates attached to a slide interposed between carriage and deck, and automatically the invention, it is said, of Admiral Sir Thomas Hardy. The truck carriage, as it had been known for centuries, had at last been left behind in the evolution of naval artillery.


NavalGuns_21: 17th century naval gun carriage construction (own drawing)
NavalGuns_22: 32 pound Blomefield gun mounted on truck carriage (own drawing)
NavalGuns_23: Compilation of photographs of truck carriages (photos from various sources, including personal photos - HMS Victory)

steve roberts
10-05-2010, 16:21
Hi Clive.Thank you for another fascinating and detailed account of the development of the Truck Carriage.Made all the more understandable by your illustrations.BZ Clive.
Many Regards Steve.

steve roberts
30-05-2010, 17:08
Hi Clive.I have taken the liberty of attaching a photo of a model one of my Daughters bought me back from holiday.(I think it was Plymouth.) Not entirely sure of the accuracy of the lashings and rigging of the gun.Of course a barrel of powder would not be stowed this close to it,neither would a bucket full of cannon balls! But It gives,I think, a fair idea of the general arrangements of such a weapon.
Many Regards Steve.

Dreadnought
30-05-2010, 18:17
Hi Steve,

Funnily enough, the arrangement of the rigging isn't far out at all. I will be covering this in more detail in later posts. Thanks for reminding me to get on with it ...!!

qprdave
18-06-2010, 20:59
Naval Gunnery
Article published in The Times on 14th October 1851

terrymarshall
09-09-2010, 23:26
im new here so hope im doing this right.
Well done Clive you have and are doing a great job. very informative i have built a mock up of a naval cannon from which i fire a theatrical marroon when myself and friends commemorate trafalgar.
MKIII is being made at the moment hope to be ready for the 21st october its really interesting to learn how the real things were made thanks again, terry

John Odom
10-09-2010, 00:13
Very interesting! Wonderful illustrations. The newspaper account was also most informative.

INVINCIBLE
13-09-2010, 16:00
Clive,

I have much enjoyed your most interesting posts so far on this thread and look forward to further instalments when they are ready.
At the moment I am particularly interested in gunnery at Trafalgar having been invited to give a chat next month on Trafalgar night to an audience, which will contain a number of ex French Navy guests. I am naturally anxious to get it absolutely right and have done a little bit of research.
Comparing gunnery at Trafalgar I understand the British had several huge advantages. Highly trained the British gun crews could fire at two or three times the speed of the French and Spanish. They also used the more modern gunlock arrangements for firing their guns with a lanyard, attached to a flintlock, being tugged from a position directly behind the gun and therefore accurately trained (the long lanyard enabled them to be sufficiently far back to avoid the recoil). On the other hand the French mostly used the old linstock, a burning long match applied to the touchhole, by a man standing by the side of the gun, there was then a delay between applying the match and the gun firing. Even a short delay could be crucial as the ships were rolling heavily in the Atlantic swell at Trafalgar. The French gun layer, standing to one side could not look down the barrel and site his target in the way the English gunner could. The British gunpowder used different saltpetre to the French, which gave the British guns a greater muzzle velocity. The French gunners tended to aim high whilst the British gunners fired directly at the enemy hulls, much easier targets. On the assumption that is all true, and I hope I am right, then it is hardly surprising that Trafalgar was such a one sided battle.

Don Boyer
16-09-2010, 05:19
Dreadnought:

Had glanced at this post earlier, and never managed to get back for a full read intil a few days ago. This is superb stuff, and very well-written and the supplementing with you own illustrations is top notch. Are we looking at the basics for that best-selling naval history book?

Eagerly looking forward to your future posts on the subject -- get to work!:)

Best regards,

Derek Dicker
16-09-2010, 09:35
Morning Clive, many thanks for a very informative thread, I have been doing a bit of research myself. Every year I hold a Trafalgar night dinner at my home for a few friends, I like to have a particular theme for each occasion, this year I have been looking at the life and routine of the crew who served on Victory.
I must say that I am not profesional model maker, but I acquired a small 32pounder cannon from the period and have what I would say is a fair representation of the layout on the gundeck. I will be using this as a table centre.


Derek (Bunts)

John Odom
17-09-2010, 00:53
Clive, I just re-read the thread. Wonderful stuff!

Dreadnought
18-09-2010, 17:54
Dreadnought:

Had glanced at this post earlier, and never managed to get back for a full read intil a few days ago. This is superb stuff, and very well-written and the supplementing with you own illustrations is top notch. Are we looking at the basics for that best-selling naval history book?

Eagerly looking forward to your future posts on the subject -- get to work!:)

Best regards,

Morning Clive, many thanks for a very informative thread, I have been doing a bit of research myself. Every year I hold a Trafalgar night dinner at my home for a few friends, I like to have a particular theme for each occasion, this year I have been looking at the life and routine of the crew who served on Victory.
I must say that I am not profesional model maker, but I acquired a small 32pounder cannon from the period and have what I would say is a fair representation of the layout on the gundeck. I will be using this as a table centre.


Derek (Bunts)

Clive, I just re-read the thread. Wonderful stuff!

Well thanks for that guys. I must get round to contimuing this thread, and promise to back get on the case soon.

Dreadnought
18-09-2010, 18:01
Clive,

I have much enjoyed your most interesting posts so far on this thread and look forward to further instalments when they are ready.
At the moment I am particularly interested in gunnery at Trafalgar having been invited to give a chat next month on Trafalgar night to an audience, which will contain a number of ex French Navy guests. I am naturally anxious to get it absolutely right and have done a little bit of research.
Comparing gunnery at Trafalgar I understand the British had several huge advantages. Highly trained the British gun crews could fire at two or three times the speed of the French and Spanish. They also used the more modern gunlock arrangements for firing their guns with a lanyard, attached to a flintlock, being tugged from a position directly behind the gun and therefore accurately trained (the long lanyard enabled them to be sufficiently far back to avoid the recoil). On the other hand the French mostly used the old linstock, a burning long match applied to the touchhole, by a man standing by the side of the gun, there was then a delay between applying the match and the gun firing. Even a short delay could be crucial as the ships were rolling heavily in the Atlantic swell at Trafalgar. The French gun layer, standing to one side could not look down the barrel and site his target in the way the English gunner could. The British gunpowder used different saltpetre to the French, which gave the British guns a greater muzzle velocity. The French gunners tended to aim high whilst the British gunners fired directly at the enemy hulls, much easier targets. On the assumption that is all true, and I hope I am right, then it is hardly surprising that Trafalgar was such a one sided battle.

Hi Invincilble,

You are correct in all of that you say. However, although these are the much proferred resons for victory at Trafalgar, I think there is a little more behind such conclusions. I have tried to explore this in this new thread here:

http://www.worldnavalships.com/forums/showthread.php?t=8018

I wish you luck with your chat. Should you need any further details or clarification, please don't hesitate to shout. I may ne able to help.

INVINCIBLE
18-09-2010, 18:50
Hi Invincilble,

Your correct in all of that you say. However, although these are the much proferred resons for victory at Trafalgar, I think there is a little more behind such conclusions. I have tried to explore this in this new thread here:

http://www.worldnavalships.com/forums/showthread.php?t=8018

I wish you luck with your chat. Should you need any further details or clarification, please don't hesitate to shout. I may ne able to help.

Clive,

Many thanks indeed - have just commented in your new thread on British Gunnery at the battle of Trafalgar.
When I have put my piece together on reasons for British victory I may well come back to you and take advantage of your expertise.

Dreadnought
17-10-2010, 20:33
Evolution of the British Naval Gun - Gunlocks

HISTORY
Prior to the use of gunlocks, the firing of cannon was fairly crude. They were first fired using a red hot iron inserted in to the vent. A more controlled method was later introduced, using a slow burning match held in a linstock. Although this allowed gunners to stand further away from the gun, it was still extremely dangerous and made accurate firing from a moving ship difficult. The gunner had to stand to the side of the gun to avoid the recoil, and firing was a slow procedure.

The design of linstocks varied, those used with land artillery often doubling up as weapons for defending the cannon. They generally comprised of a wooden staff of about 30 inches or more in length, which at one end was fork or hole to hold lighted slow match. Some were arranged with elaborate double serpentine jaws to hold two matches. The name linstock derived from the Dutch word “lonstock” (match stick). The cotton cord match was soaked in linseed oil, saltpetre, lye (caustic soda), or other substances, so that it would simply smoulder and glow hot. The glowing end was applied to priming powder in the vent hole, which then ignited the main charge. Loose priming powder was obviously dangerous, and its ignition also caused erosion of the vent hole. Vents had to be periodically repaired by having them bored out and re-bushed.

To overcome this, ‘quills’ were introduced in the late 15th Century. Originally porcupine or goose quills, later made of wood or metal (copper), they were pre-filled with ‘mealed’ (granulated) powder and inserted into the vent. The tubes were sealed with paper caps which were removed prior to use. The powder would be damped with alcohol and made into a paste which was used to line the inside of the quill such that after ignition with the linstock, the quill would burn down and cause a flash that would ignite the cartridge. Ships would carry literally thousands of pre-made quills, many made on board, and usually would be of the goose quill variety; metals one were not favoured because fired tubes lying on the decks could injure sailors' bare feet.

By 1800 Century the linstock method of firing was virtually obsolete. The flintlock device, used on small firearms since the early 16th Century, was developed for use with cannon. The gunlock had arrived.

Gunlocks were first used by the Royal Navy in 1745 in experiments attempting to improve the accuracy of gunnery afloat. In 1755 an Admiralty letter dated October 21st states 'quarterdeck guns of all his majesty's ships now fitting and refitting for sea to be fitted with locks, and the gunners may be supplied with a sufficient number of tin tubes for priming them'. A letter from the Board of Ordnance, on the 17th August 1757 notes the decision fir cannon locks to all of his Majesty’s ship’s in commission. However, the progress in achieving this was slow, with many at the Admiralty still not convinced at the benefits of the gunlock

Captain Charles Douglas, took command of the 90 gun HMS Duke in 1778, and at that time, the ship only had 8 guns fitted with locks (two locks for 24-pounders, four locks for 12-pounders, and two for 6-pounders). He had such great confidence in the efficiency of the gunlock, that he repeatedly asked the Admiralty that the rest of his ship be fitted with locks. He also made other recommendations for improving and quickening naval gunnery, including the use of flannel cartridge cases rather than parchment, which left a residue in the gun which required more cleaning out, and hence lengthened the firing cycle. With a lack of response from the Admiralty, Douglas took matters into his own hands, and equipped the rest of his battery, buying, at his own expense, musket flintlocks which he let into pieces of timber and attached them to the guns with iron wire.

In April 1872, Douglas became captain of Lord Rodney's flagship HMS Formidable (90 guns), which he similarly equipped with locks. On the 12th April 1782 at Battle of the Saints in the West Indies, victory over the French was , in part, due to Formidable’s superior rate of fire and hitting power. It was so conspicuous that all further opposition to the introduction of locks was dispelled once and for all.

In 1790 new brass locks, incorporating Douglas’s recommended modifications. Were finally provided throughout the fleet, and used up until 1818, when Douglas's son, Major General Sir Howard Douglas, improved the gun lock system by introducing a double headed hammer to house the flint. This made it unnecessary to change flints frequently during action as this new form of hammer could be turned through 180 degrees to engage the second flint.

The gunlock was ultimately superseded by the friction tube around 1853.

DESIGN & OPERATION
There were numerous patterns of gunlock, but they were all of the same basic design. The body of the lock was made of brass with a steel hammer and frizzen plate (priming pan cover). The priming pan had a small hole on the left (the flash hole).The lock was fitted to the right side of the vent by means of two bolts, which passed, through transverse holes in the vent patch and secured by two wing nuts. A steel trigger eye at the rear of the lock, was activated by a the trigger line (lanyard) attached using a wooden toggle.

When the pan was primed, the frizzen was closed, and the hammer, with it's flint, was cocked. When the lanyard was pulled, the hammer was released and flint struck the frizzen causing a spark which lit the powder in the pan, (the priming pan). The flash then passed through the flash hole straight to the entrance of the vent and ignited the head of the quill tube. The lock pan was primed with small grained pistol powder, this was usually crushed with the butt end of the powder horn for better ignition. Like musket and pistol locks, gunlocks could be put to half-cock as a safety precaution when priming the gun.

A first rate ship of the line like HMS Victory carried 108 locks and approximately three thousand flints, roughly thirty per gun. Many of the flints used at sea in the eighteenth century were manufactured by a William Levett of Northfleet. They were made by highly skilled workers called "knappers". Flints cost 4s 6d per thousand, although the larger cannon flints were more than three and a half times the price of musket flints.

Initially, the Navy found there were problems with the gunlock getting wet and failing to fire, but this was solved by the placing of a lead apron over the gunlock. Most of these were a simple 8 x 10 inch rectangle; others were shaped to cover a gunlock. Generally, lock firing did not do well until the gun was hot, and the linstock and powder train was used initially.


NavalGuns_24: Early English gunlock fitted to a cannon and showing the mounting bolts through the vent patch.
NavalGuns_25: Drawing of a linstock typical of those used on board ships of the English fleet.
NavalGuns_26: Drawing showing lock fitted to a cannon.
NavalGuns_27: Various types of English gunlocks as detailed in the picture.
NavalGuns_28: Drawing of English double headed gunlock
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emason
17-10-2010, 20:51
Again, first class Clive. Thanks for an informative and continually interesting series of posts.


When the pan was primed, the frizzen was closed, and the hammer, with it's flint, was cocked. When the lanyard was pulled, the hammer was released and flint struck the frizzen causing a spark which lit the powder in the pan, (the priming). The flash then passed through the flash hole straight to the entrance of the vent and ignited the head of the quill tube.


If the main charge did not ignite, it was called a "flash in the pan". Hence the meaning of the expression. (But you knew that anyway.)

oldsalt
18-10-2010, 12:57
Clive that was very informative & interesting.

Dreadnought
18-10-2010, 16:10
Thanks guys, much appreciated. The post somewhat delayed as the drawings seemed to take forever .. to the point at one stage where I wished I hadn't started them ...!!

More to come soon ...

vernoncoffee
16-11-2010, 16:05
I enjoyed reading the first 2 sections. Are there any other sections published?

Dreadnought
16-11-2010, 16:15
Hi Vernoncoffee, welcome to the Forum. Hopefully you will introduce yourself in the New Members section where you be officially welcomed.

I am glad you have enjoyed this thread so far - four main topics to date. Yes there will be more to follow - as soon as I find aome time; too many other topics under way ..!!

In the meantime, you may be interested in this:

http://www.worldnavalships.com/forums/showthread.php?t=8018

INVINCIBLE
16-11-2010, 18:01
Clive,

Many congratulations - your series on the evolution of the British Naval Gun is excellent and is particularly useful for those of us working in 'EXPLOSION' the Museum of Naval Firepower and Naval Warfare, where we have a fine collection of all these naval guns (in fact we have everything from crossbows, pikes and cannons to Exocets and Polaris missiles). I hope you don't mind us copying your work for our library. We also have all the gun manuals and handbooks. If you need any photos of any guns, ammunition or other ordnance just let us know.
Keep up all the good work - it is certainly much appreciated.

Wellbran
21-11-2010, 20:37
Do not know if this would of interest here but will link it anyway

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xsp0Mr5Lcl8

John Odom
21-11-2010, 23:01
Nice film, Welbran. Thanks.

INVINCIBLE
03-01-2011, 15:41
Clive,

Your posts on the evolution of the British Naval Gun are most informative and provide an excellent introduction to this important subject. I have downloaded them for "Explosion", the Museum of Naval Firepower and I hope that is OK. Many thanks and much look forward to more on this subject in due course.

Bob Fraser
25-04-2011, 06:56
Hi Clive.
Very informative articles indeed. Thank you.

I needed some research on the 61b cannon used on a sloop of war, 1756 - 1776 (HMS Bonetta), and your articles fit the bill very nicely.

Looking at picture 3 of your first article, the cannon decoration on the top centre one seemed to fit the (quite blurred) Amati decorated cannon for the 18th century that may have been fitted to this type of ship as a "we've got them in stock so we'll use them" type of thing, rather than the Armstrong pattern either plain or with the GR decoration. The book, Arming and Fitting by Brian Lavery, only shows plain or GR crests. Do you know if English cannon of that period would have had a full coat of arms on the barrel please?

I want to get this right, as while the ship type was pretty generic, as you have so ably pointed out, cannon changed and evolved rapidly from the early 18th century.

When I looked closer at your picture, and read the Latin inscription, that particular cannon seems to be a Spanish one, Charles III (1760 - 1788). Latin inscription Carolus III D.G. Hispano Et Ind Rex. Would English ship be using captured Spanish cannons and this is why it appeared on an English ship? (This one would be wrong dates for my ship anyway!)

Hopefully you can help me choose the right cannon for the model.
Many thanks,
Bob

Dreadnought
26-04-2011, 22:00
Hi Bob,

You pose quite an interesting question.

Firstly, we have to determine what type of cannon might have been on HMS Bonetta. We are in the period of the Armstrong gun, before the Bloomfield gun became the RN standard in 1794. Also, the service life of the ship overlaps the reigns of King George II, and King George III.

Ships of this time could, and most probably would, have had a mixture of ‘brass’ (bronze) and iron ordnance. The famous Vanbruggen at the Royal Foundry was producing his acclaimed guns. And the iron guns were in their ascendancy.

Brass casting allowed much finer casting, and many were emblazoned with very intricate detail; Royal cyphers were more likely to be the full Coat of Arms, plus crests of the owners in some cases.

Iron casting did not allow such fine detail and cyphers were much simpler. Both the George II and George III cyphers on iron cannon comprised the “GR” surmounted by a crown.

I am sure this information doesn’t help you one bit …!! In addition, HMS Bonetta was a sloop that I believe just carried about fourteen six pounders. Due to its small calibre, the emblazons would have to be quite small, and may not be have been the same as cast into the larger 24 and 32 pounders.

Best bet - as a sloop, I don't imagine there was a huge urgency to re-arm her to the latest spec, and she probably retained 6lb brass ordnance. If emblazoned at all, I would therefore go for the full coat of arms ... but I am just guessing here ...!

By way of interest,The Royal Cypher of King George II and III, was encircled by a crowned Garter and cast into the first reinforce of the barrel. It denoted the cannon as being the property of the British Crown, symbolised in the person of the King as Head of State. Markings such as this have been used to denote the ownership of cannons in Britain since the sixteenth century.

The crown that surmounts the Garter symbolises the monarchy, the Royal Cypher GR stands for Georgius Rex ("King George" in Latin, the formal language traditionally used in the Royal Style and Titles of the monarch) and the Garter is used to denote the fact that King George was both the Sovereign of The Most Noble Order of the Garter and the Principal Knight Companion of the Order, the senior Order of Chivalry in the British honours system.

It is also mentioning some of the other markings that were inscribed on guns.

Bloomfield guns generally had the manufacturers names, in the abbreviated form marked on the left trunnion. For example
W.Co. - Walker & Company, of Rotheram, Yorkshire.
H.Co. - James Henckle & Company, Wandsworth, London
ACB. - Alexander Brodie, on the River Severn

The right trunnion would bear the registry number, in Arabic numerals, and might also appear elsewhere in Roman numerals – position dependent upon the period of manufacture and maker.

The weight of the gun would be marked on the bottom of the cascabel, in the format 32 - 3 - 12 (a weight of 32 hundredweight, 3 quarters of a hundredweight and 12 pounds).

After around about 1813, when guns were being fitted with copper vent bushes, (a liner screwed into the vent to avoid erosion from powder gases when the gun fired) they were stamped CVC, and those with iron bushed IV. These marks are found on the top of the of the cascable. Later guns fitted with copper bushes were not marked.

There would also have an inscribed vertical line on the right trunnion which, used with a plumb line, enabled the gun to be layed horizontally or levelled.


Cypher_1: George III cypher typically used on brass ordnance

Cypher_2: George III cypher typically use on iron ordnance - in a form able to be used for generating graphics/model.

NOTE: George II cypher would have been the same, except that instead of the interwoven ‘3’, it would have been a ‘2’ – I cannot find any good examples of this by way of illustration.

I (well not on my own) have built a three-quarter scale model of a bloomfield cannon (HMS Victory) - not the whole ship ..!, and hand cut the cypher from this diagram. Made in wood, it was then steamed and formed round the first reinforce. I will one day submit photos. The 'model' ... two were built, are about six feet long and three feet high, and are presently in my garage, in the process of being fully rigged. They form part of a larger scale 'model' of the quarterdeack of HMS Victory, Described here ...

http://www.worldnavalships.com/forums/showthread.php?t=4997&highlight=Trafalgar
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patroclus
27-04-2011, 07:49
From Rif Winfield's "British Warships in the Age of Sail 1714-1792" the BONETTA was a 10 gun sloop armed with short 6pdrs plus twelve half-pounder swivels.

As she was completed in early 1756 she would presumably have been issued with Armstrong's guns. However, given the failure rate of these during the Seven Years War and the gun re-design of 1760, I would think that she would have been re-armed, during her large repair of 1766/7, with the Armstrong-Frederick guns.

I would have guessed that her 6pdr guns were of iron and the only ornamentation the Royal crest; but that really is a guess and of no help to you.

Is this to be a fully rigged model? I notice that David Lyon has her as a snow.

Dreadnought
27-04-2011, 07:57
Hi Peter,

Nice one. I was unaware of Bonetta's re-arming, and therefore concur with your theory of her being equipped with iron cannon bearing the simple GR cypher.

Cheers

patroclus
27-04-2011, 10:03
Hello Clive:

All speculation about rearmament. The Board of Ordnance records would, I think, be the only way to prove anything. David Lyon referred to the guns with which this class were originally equipped as "short, light, 6pdrs". These sound to me like iron guns but perhaps someone with more knowledge of the period could comment.

Bob Fraser
04-05-2011, 08:07
Hi Guys.

Many thanks for the most informative replies. They have been very helpful.

Having seen Rif Winfields books quoted in a number of places I took the plunge and bought a copy for myself.

He has the Bonetta down as a snow too, built with the same sheer as the Unicorn class ship HMS Lyme 1748.

Other sources have the Bonetta down as a ship or sloop of war. Now I need to find out if she was ship rigged after the refit (Going on the amount of info the he includes, I would imagine he would have mentioned this?), or remained a snow, if she flush decked or not (Lyme shows a quarterdeck, and if the tiller was internal or external.

I'm interested in the time period 1767 - 1770 as a distant relative was 1st Lieutenant on her during that time.

All the best,
Bob

MODERATOR NOTE:
The ensuing evry interesting posts regarding HMS Bonetta have now been moved here ... http://www.worldnavalships.com/forums/showthread.php?t=9992&highlight=bonetta

Cheers
Clive

Dreadnought
22-06-2014, 19:13
Evolution of the British Naval Gun - The Carronade

Introduction
The carronade was probably the most important innovation in naval ordnance since bronze guns were used as ship borne armament. It was a short, light cast iron gun with a large bore, capable of firing relatively heavy shot at low velocity at short range. It was first produced in 1776 by the Carron Company, an ironworks located on the north bank of the River Carron in Falkirk, Scotland.

The Carron Company started life in 1759 as Roebuks, Garbett & Cadell, an ironworks set up by three partners; Dr. John Roebuck, a chemist, Samuel Garbett, a wealthy merchant, and William Cadell, a shipowner. In 1760, they installed a blast furnace and started producing cast iron goods, including an experimental six-pounder gun.

In early 1762, they made an offer to the Board of Ordnance to supply them with guns of various calibres, trucks (gun carriages) and shot, but at the time, the quality of their casting was inferior and the Board rejected the offer, other than the manufacture of shot.

In 1764, however, Carron made another attempt to manufacture dependable cannon, at the same time lowering its price to undersell competing firms. The Board, tempted by the cheaper price, placed a number of ordnance orders with Carron, despite the fact that a higher percentage of its guns burst in proof than those from other companies, and a number of Carron-cast guns were bursting on board ships. Matters drew to a head in 1773 after the Board of Ordnance's brassfounder, Verbruggan, found that the Carron guns were made from badly refined metal. As a result, the company lost their contract to supply guns, and Carron made pieces were systematically removed from Royal Navy vessels.

Carron’s were determined to be a manufacturer of high quality guns. The company began casting solid guns and then boring them out in attempt to produce greater strength. As mentioned in previous posts, it had been the practice to cast the guns around a central newel (a pole covered with clay, resembling a gun barrel) and then boring them out. In 1771, John Smeaton, who acted as the company's technical advisor, had been drafted in, and his new cylinder and gun boring mills were erected within the Works. In addition, a new assay furnace was built in 1774.

In about 1775, John Wilkinson, the celebrated English ironfounder, and as mentioned in previous posts, invented his new cannon boring machine, where the casting sat in a horizontal position and turned, whilst the boring bit or cutter advanced into it. Smeaton apparently explained the principle of this machine to those at Carron, and it was then adopted. From then on, all guns at Carron Works were then cast solid and then accurately bored out on this new machine.

As again covered in previous posts, the much improved accuracy in boring led to the reduction in windage, i.e. the gap left between the sides of the gun barrel and the face of the shot. Because of the inaccuracies of previous methods of boring, and before that casting, of the bore, a larger windage had been required to prevent the possibility of the shot jamming in the barrel. This consequently led to a certain amount of energy being lost from the charge. The reduction in windage therefore resulted in less powder being required for the charge, and hence less metal necessary in the gun itself. Carron's first gun made as such in 1776, was known as the 'Light New Constructed Gun'.

In January 1777, the Board of Ordnance ordered that no guns were to be accepted unless they were bored from the solid, and although the Board tested a number of Carron’s new guns, it decided not to buy any from a firm with such a poor record. Despite this, Carron produced increasing quantities of ordnance for the private market, supplying British and Spanish private merchants who had to arm their own vessels.

Charles Gascoigne was a partner in the Carron firm who had taken over from William Cadell in 1769. In the autumn of 1778, he contracted with Captain William Elphinstone, a relative, to transport Carron products to London. As part of the contract, Carron agreed to arm Elphinstone's ships with a new type of gun that it had developed, known as a gasconade.

The guns mounted on Elphinstone's ships were largely experimental, but, as news of them spread, orders came in from merchant firms, and in December 1778 the name was changed to carronade. In addition to arming merchant vessels, the new weapon was also in demand for privateers sailing against the rebellious American colonies.

The credit for inventing the carronade is variously and controversially attributed to either Charles Gascoigne, General Robert Melville, or Patrick Miller.

Gascoigne, partner and manager at Carron, was certainly involved with the early development, and it was he, in 1779, that applied for the patent. At the same time, the Carron Company sent letters to several founders, warning them not to imitate "our C.G. Esqrs invention."

Melville was a British a Army officer with a keen interest in gunnery. There is evidence of him having extensive correspondence with Gascoigne regarding the development of the Carronade and it was his suggestion that the gun be chambered.

Patrick Miller was a banker and merchant, and self-acclaimed inventor with an interest in artillery. He had some involvement with Carron in 1778 when he acted as agent in buying sixteen 18-pounder carronades for the 200 ton privateer Spitfire. He claimed that the guns were cast according to his own directions, but this has not been substantiated. Miller was certainly interested in the development of a very heavy carronade and records of the firm indicate an order for a 132-pounder.

Like so many inventions it is probably the case that the final article was the result of combined thoughts and knowledge. Miller’s claim seems to be the most fragile, but Gascoigne and Melville appear to have a somewhat equal claim in my opinion. There are those eminent in ordnance history that give credit to Melville.

Early carronades were of 18 and 24-pounder bores. The 18-pounder was short lived, with 24 and 32-pounder carronades becoming preferred. Larger ships carried 42-pounders and some with 68-pounders. This greatly increased a vessel’s broadside weight of shot. They could also be served by a smaller crew, a great advantage at a time when Royal Navy was very short of manpower. The disadvantage was primarily the shorter range in comparison with the long guns. Problems were also caused by the short barrels giving rise to fire hazards, especially to both the running and standing rigging.

Merchant ships, having more ports than guns, preferred carronades on trucks as they could be much more easily moved from port to port. The Practical Sea Gunner's Companion recommended that warships have a carronade on a truck carriage elevated at an extreme angle and breeched on ringbolts in the deck for harassing the enemy's fighting tops.

From 1795 the largest ship's boat was fitted with a 12 to 24-pounder carronade, depending on the ship's rate, mounted on a slide. This was of great use in amphibious operations/cutting-out expeditions, compared with the one pounder swivel guns that boats previously used. From 1809 12-pounder carronades on swivels were supposedly fitted to fighting tops, again superseding swivels.

Construction
Many short guns are referred to as carronades, and although there is evidence that the very early carronades had trunnions, the true carronade had no trunnions as they were difficult to cast. Trunnioned short guns are more properly known as gunnades (possibly a combination of "gun" and "carronade").

From the 1780s carronades were usually manufactured with a loop cast underneath the barrel through which a bolt was passed for attaching the gun to its mounting (Bed). Carronades were short, only about seven calibres in length, and had no muzzle swell, but there was a cup or enlargement of the bore at the muzzle to allow space for fingers when the shot was loaded.

Early carriages were scaled down standard naval truck carriages, but the Carron Company developed a unique design that consisted of two parts, consisting of the bed and a slide. Early slides used a modified gun carriage with quoins for elevation. The later ones used an elevating screw through the cascabel. The bed had a pair of trunnion brackets at the front, a recoil pin, and a plate to take the butt of the elevating screw. The bed recoiled along the slide, held in place by means of another bolt in a slot. The slide pivoted on a bolt in the ship's side and traversed on small rollers at the rear end of the slide. This allowed the guns to be stowed against the bulwarks when not in use.

The carronade was the first gun to have a dispart sight cast into the first reinforce ring – some early ones having the sight cast into the muzzle. The gun was trained by means of traversing bars or training ropes. When fired, the carronade recoiled, pushing the bed back along the slide and against the breeching ropes. After reloading the carronade, the crew would use the side tackles to return it to firing position.

In addition to the absence of trunnions, all carronades had chambers and, as mentioned previosly, much less windagethan contemporary guns. For example, a 32-pound shot had a diameter of 6.105 inches for both guns. A 32-pounder long gun had a bore diameter of 6.41 inches, whilst a carronade of the same size had a bore of only 6.25 inches. The carronade's vent was also smaller so that the coarser cannon powder could not be used, but a quick match sufficed. Later, locks were used to fire the guns. See post #32.

Carronades used approximately one-third the powder charge of its counterpart long gun. This varied from one-eighth to one-sixteenth the weight of shot. The normal charge for a carronade was one-twelfth, but this was still proportionally higher for its metal than the charge for a long gun, which was usually a third the weight of shot. It was this reduced charge that made it possible to make the gun far lighter than ordinary cannon.

The cannon balls fired by carronades moved at a relatively slow velocity. At its highest initial velocity of 1,500 feet per second, the momentum (weight times velocity) of a 9-pound shot from a long gun was 13,500 pounds. A 32-pound shot from a carronade, with an initial velocity of 750 feet per second, was 24,000 pounds, or nearly double. The low muzzle velocity allowed a sharp reduction in windage. This generally produced greater accuracy at shorter ranges of fire, especially in yardarm-to-yardarm actions so preferred by the Royal Navy and typified by the remark attributed to Admiral Horatio Nelson, "If you lay your enemy alongside, you cannot be out of your place."

Low velocity shot fired from the carronade against a wooden ship at close range would produce a large irregular hole difficult to patch. It also produced considerable splintering, splinters being the chief cause of human casualties in a ship battle of the time. It was for this reason the carronade had the nick name “The Smasher”, or the “Devil Gun”

Although the carronade was ideally suited for close action, it did have had its disadvantages. One was its excessive recoil. In 1812, Robert Simmons, noted that its recoil was "almost ungovernable." This was especially a problem when the carronade was double shotted, something that could easily occur in the heat of battle, and was. likely to dismount the carronade when it was fired. For this reason, double shotting, whilst common for long guns, was prohibited for carronades. Also, if the breeching stretched too far, the vertical connecting bolt could strike the end of the slide, break off, and put the gun out of action. Care, therefore, had to be taken by the gun crew to ensure that the breeching ropes did not stretch too much. Another disadvantage was that, as the carronade was so short, burning powder from it could ignite its own ship's side or rigging. Captains of 32-gun frigates, in particular, complained that one pair of their quarterdeck carronades was in the way of the rigging so as to endanger the lanyards of the shrouds, and asked to have the number of them reduced from six to only four. This was later rectified by adding a thin projection of metal at the muzzle "to carry the explosion of the charge clear of the ship's sides and rigging," but gun crews still had to take care to run it out as far as possible prior to firing. Gascoigne noted that this threat would be minimized and power increased if the shot was placed directly against the charge without the use of a wad. Once loaded, the carronade was wadded in the usual manner.

Because the windage was so slight, shot for the carronades had to be carefully sized, and stored separately from that for other guns. Care also had to be taken to adequately protect the shot from the elements to avoid rusting, which was always a problem aboard warships.

The chief weakness of the carronade, however, was its lack of range. Carronades were employed at point-blank range (about 450 yards for a 68-pounder and 230 yards for a 12-pounder). If the fighting was at long range, the carronade became a liability.

Probably the most famous carronades were the two 68-pounders mounted on the forecastle of HMS Victory.

These carronades are 7 feet 2 inches long, with a diameter at the breech of I foot 10 inches, and 1 foot ½ inch diameter at the muzzle. The bore is 8 inches. The prommelion is exceptionally long at 1 foot 5 inches, and has a diameter of 6 inches. The fixing loop under the barrel is 18 inches long with a diameter of 4½ inches.

The bed is 5 feet long, 2 feet wide, and 4½ inches thick. The slide is 7 feet 8 inches long, 2 feet 6 inches wide, and 5 inches thick. The front of the slide is fixed to a solid block of wood 2 feet 9 inches by 3 feet, and 7 inches thick, which is bolted to the deck.

It was the port side carronade that HMS Victory fired through the stern of Bucentaure at the Battle of Trafalgar, causing complete devastation. The gun was loaded with a 6½ lb powder charge, a 68 lb round shot, and a keg of 500 musket balls. For more details of this action see the thread The Battle of Trafalgar: Engage the Enemy (http://www.worldnavalships.com/forums/showthread.php?t=8273&highlight=trafalgar)

Adoption by the Royal Navy
It was in1779 that the Board of Ordnance made reference to the carronade in their minutes of the 29th of February. A memorandum from Captain Bloomfield, Royal Artillery, stated that Carron was casting 12-pounders 3 feet in length for the use of privateers. These guns, he said, were served by two men and loaded with "half the real charge of powder."

The Board approved the request of Master General of the Ordnance Lord Townshend to have one of the new guns shipped to Woolwich for trial. The carronade was first tried at Woolwich on March the 13th, but the Earl of Dunmore persuaded the board to conduct a "full trial" in which the carronade (now referred to in Board of Ordnance minutes as such) would be matched with a 12-pounder long gun, but the carronade had already been put on board ship and sailed when the directive arrived. The Board then authorized a trial aboard HMS Berwick. At the same time King George III authorized a full trial of 12 and 18-pounder carronades.

In July 1779 the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty were at last won over. On July the 16th, they decreed that as ships came in for refitting they would be equipped with differing numbers of carronades according to their rate, and that carronades for the Royal Navy were to be fitted with sliding carriages. The Board, however, still remained sceptical and indeed preferred the old long gun, perhaps because of its greater range. The Navy Board did however point out some of the advantages of this gun, especially for a smaller vessel. It cited as example the frigate HMS Flora, the first vessel to fight with carronades.

It was on August the 10th 1780 that Flora fell in with the French frigate Nymphe off Ushant. A boatswain, assisted only by a boy, was able to fire a number of rounds from a forecastle-mounted 18-pounder carronade, thus helping to secure the surrender of the French warship. In the engagement Nymphelost 136 of her complement of 291 men; while Flora sustained casualties of only 36 of 259 men.

In September the order for 390 carronades already placed by the Board, was increased to a total of 1,502 (1,034 12-pounders, 444 18-pounders, and 24 24-pounders). They were to be shipped to the dockyards of Portsmouth, Plymouth, Chatham, and Sheerness. On most of the Navy’s ships there was no more room for guns on the quarterdecks, but because of its lightness, the carronade were allowed it to be positioned on the poop deck, which was reinforced to take it, and on the forecastle. On the larger ships, the addition of the carronade did not alter the number of guns normally listed in the rating. On first rates of 100 guns, a pair of carronades was added on the forecastle and eight more on the poop. Second, third, and fourth rates had two on the poop, and six on the forecastle. Fifth and sixth rates had two carronades only on the forecastle. For the smaller ships, ports were cut in the forecastles and quarterdecks. Captains were also given some latitude in varying the proportion of long guns to carronades. Some carronades were also mounted on small common truck carriages so that they could fire from the poop or quarter-deck at high angles against the tops of enemy vessels. In such cases the breeching was longer than usual to allow for recoiling and had a hook at each end to allow it to be secured to a ring bolt or round the capstan.

Rearming with carronades meant a substantial increase in firepower. For example, prior to 1782, when the Admiralty rearmed the fifth-rate 44-gun HMS Rainbow, she had carried forty-four long guns (twenty 18-pounders, twenty-two 12-pounders, and two 6-pounders). In July 1782 she was armed with forty-eight carronades (twenty 68-pounders, twenty-two 42-pounders, and six 32-pounders).

By January 1781, 429 ships in the Royal Navy mounted a total of 604 carronades. In 1782 the Navy Board recommended allowing two 68 pounder carronades for the forecastles of all classes of ships capable of supporting them, and 32 and 42-pounders for lower rates.

For some time, the carronade remained exclusively British, both in the Merchant Fleet and the Royal Navy. The French did not adopt carronades until 1787, and the Dutch and Spanish and US navies even later.

Action
The first major action involving the carronade occurred on the 12th of April 1782 at the Battle of the Saints, between the fleets of Admiral Sir George Rodney and the French Admiral Count Francois de Grasse. Carronades on Rodney’s ships, mounted before they sailed to the West Indies, contributed to the heavy weight of shot that caused the French to surrender.

Perhaps the most dramatic victory ever attributed to the carronade occurred with previously mentioned HMS Rainbow, the 44-gun frigate experimentally rearmed in 1782 with forty-eight carronades (twenty 68-pounders, twenty-two 42-pounders, and six 32-pounders). On the 4th of September 1782, Rainbow under the command ofCaptain Henry Trollope, fell in with the large new French frigate, Hebe,, off the Isle de Bas. Hebe, commanded byCaptain de Vigney, and with a crew twice as large as Trollopes, was armed with forty guns: twenty-eight 18-pounders and twelve 8-pounders. Trollope lulled the French into a fight at close quarters, and owing to the bearing of the French vessel, one of Rainbow's 32-pounder forecastle carronades was the first gun fired. Several of its shot hit the French vessel, killing the first lieutenant and helmsman. Hebe's captain, who was slightly wounded, concluded that if such large shot came from the forecastle guns, he would not stand a chance against the enemy ship's main battery. De Vigney then ordered a broadside fired for the honour of the flag and surrendered. Hebe was immensely valuable as a model for future English frigates, but her captain was later cashiered and sentenced to fifteen years in prison.

The high point for the carronade came during the Napoleonic Wars, when they were used extensively at sea, and by Wellington on land, placing them in casemates. Captain Henry Trollope, who had commanded HMS Rainbow during her engagement with Hebe, won another engagement with the carronade during these wars. In 1795, he commanded HMS Glatton, one of a few East Indiamen purchased by the Admiralty that year, and converted into a warship. She was a fifth rate of fifty-six guns, and armed exclusively with carronades — twenty-eight 32-pounders and twenty-eight 18-pounders. On her way to join a squadron in the North Sea, Glatton fell in with six French frigates, a brig-corvette, and a cutter off the coast of Flanders. Believing Glatton to be easy prey, the French ships engaged her at close quarters, only to haul off one after another badly damaged.

The Anglo-American War of 1812 revealed the fatal weakness and heralded the end of the carronade. The Americans preferred the long gun, and their frigates were faster, stouter, and more heavily armed than their Royal Navy counterparts. Although the American ships carried carronades, they were not in such a high proportion. Royal Navy captains found themselves at a disadvantage when confronted by an enemy who could shoot with reasonable accuracy at long range. While a formidable weapon at close range, at longer range the carronade was no match for long guns, even of smaller calibre. This spelled doom for the carronade-armed British ships on Lakes Erie and Ontario. Commodore Sir James Yeo reported that in an engagement on Lake Ontario on the 12th of September 1813, the Americans had been able to stand off at long range and use their long 24 and 32-pounders. Light wind prevented the British from closing to employ their carronades. Yeo stated: “I found it impossible to bring [the Americans] to close action. We remained in this mortifying situation five hours, having only six guns in the fleet that would reach the enemy, not a carronade was fired. At sun set a breeze sprang up from the westward, when I maneuvered to oblige the enemy to meet us on equal terms. This, however, he carefully avoided.”

Following the decisive American naval victory on Lake Erie on the 10th of September 1813, the English commander, Captain Barclay, noted: “The weather-gauge gave the enemy a prodigious advantage, as it enabled them not only to choose their position, but their distance also, which they did in such a manner as to prevent the carronades of the Queen Charlotte and Lady Prevost from having much effect; whilst their long guns did great execution, particularly against the Queen Charlotte.”

In a battle fought at close quarters, 32-pounder carronades on USS Wasp inflicted heavy damage on HMS Frolic, also armed largely with carronades. The same was true in the victory won by Hornet over HMS Peacock, another contest in which carronades were the principal armament.

Late in the war, the tables were turned on the Americans when the United States Navy frigate USS Essex, armed almost exclusively with carronades, was defeated at long range by the British warships HMS Phoebe and HMS Cherub, both armed with long guns. The American vessel possessed superior speed - the essential for carronade armament - but Essex was damaged early in the engagement and her speed could not be used. The British warships were able to stand off at long range and pound the American vessel. After two-and-a-half hours of battle, with their ship disabled and on fire, Essex's crew surrendered. This engagement considerably tarnished the reputation of the carronade and reinforced the conclusion that vessels should not be armed exclusively with them.

Final Days
Carronades continued in service for some years. A French commission visiting Britain in 1835 found that although they were still part of the regular armament of older ships, carronades were being replaced "to a great extent by guns of newer construction."

By 1849 the Times observed that carronades were fit only for use by pirates. The last carronade was cast at Carron in 1852. Carronades continued to be used in the Dutch Navy at least until well into the second half of the nineteenth century. The United States Navy continued to employ them until the period from 1844 to 1848, when they were removed from most ships. There are frequent examples, however, of carronades being used during the American Civil War, many of them in land batteries.

Besides being a novel and easily recognized ordnance design, the carronade played an important role in the evolution of the British naval gun. It raised the whole issue of windage and led to its reduction in all types of guns. It also illustrated the advantage of more rapid firing and of uniformity of calibre aboard ship. With its introduction, the old swivels and howitzers were relegated to revenue cutters.

The relatively smooth lines of the carronade also had an influence on external gun design, especially on the Congreve gun, but also on other types.

The carronade did not lead to the shell gun, as might have been the case. Its large bore would have made it ideal for the projection of shells. This was evidently not considered because shells were inferior in range, accuracy, penetrating power, and the ability to stand double shotting and over-charging. Many captains and seamen feared the use of shell aboard ship, and the explosive power of shell against wooden warships was not really appreciated until the experiments conducted by French Colonel (later General) Henri Paixhans at Brest in 1822. Paixhans saw the weakness of a short gun firing shot and the advantages to be gained by firing explosive shell from them. As John Dahlgren wrote in 1856: "The idea of General Melville included incidentally all the elements of a naval shell system." This, if properly developed, "might have anticipated the Paixhans system by half a century …. The use of shells was, at best, little more than a vague conception; its formidable powers unrealized, unnoticed, were doomed to lie dormant for nearly half a century after the carronade was invented, despite the evidence of actual trial and service."



NavalGuns_Carronade_1: Clock tower entrance to the Carron Company – all that now remains of what was one of the largest ironworks in Europe. The base of the tower contains a display of carronade. Source of original photograph not determined. No copyright restrictions evident.

NavalGuns_Carronade_2: The display of carronade in the base of the tower. On the left is a 12-pounder carronade. Source of original photograph not determined. No copyright restrictions evident.

NavalGuns_Carronade_3: Close up of the explanatory plaque. Interesting to note that it quotes the date of manufacture as 1778, the year that the name “carronade” was introduced, and when Gascoigne arranged for Carron to arm Elphistone’s ships.

NavalGuns_Carronade_4: Charles Gascoigne. Painting by James Saxon 1800. Photograph in the Public Domain.

NavalGuns_Carronade_5: Drawing of early carronade on a slide mount.

NavalGuns_Carronade_6: Render of the carronade shown in previous drawing.

NavalGuns_Carronade_7: Joint Carronade – probably a 24-pounder. Taken from a drawing in the book Vaisseau de Ligne (Ship of the Lines) – according to Wiki, and rendered in Photoshop. A somewhat strange looking arrangement – no side mounted wheels to allow transversing. This would have to be done by using the training ropes and hand spikes, although even that method would appear to be impracticable from the drawing? Maybe there is some sort of pivoting arrangement not clear in the drawing?

NavalGuns_Carronade_8: The 68-pounder carronades of HMS Victory. These are replicas of the originals, which as far as I can ascertain, were installed during the 1923 restoration, and are made of teak. The originals were removed in March 1806 at Chatham.

Note that the replicas have not been fitted with elevating screws, and on one of the guns, the position of the quoin would actually prevent this anyway. Looks a bit odd to me. The dispart sight is clearly visible, cast into the reinforce ring.

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patroclus
22-06-2014, 21:17
HMS CHERUB was armed with carronades (apart from two long sixes as chasers).

Dreadnought
22-06-2014, 21:51
Thanks for that. As previously mentioned, by the beginning of 1781, 429 ships in the Royal Navy mounted a total of 604 carronades.

Also, as referred to previously, it was HMS Cherub, along with HMS Phoebe, that put USS Essex out of action in February 1812, but with their long guns at a range of half a mile. As you say though, Cherub carried mainly carronades - six 32-pounders on her Upper Deck, six 18-pounders on her Quarterdeck, and two 18-pounders on her forecastle.

I suspect that it was Phoebe that did the most damage to Essex using her thirteen long 18-pounders. Cherub only had the two long 9-pounders.

brian james
22-06-2014, 23:57
Thoroughly enjoying this Clive...more to come I hope....Regards Brian

patroclus
23-06-2014, 00:08
Thanks for that. As previously mentioned, by the beginning of 1781, 429 ships in the Royal Navy mounted a total of 604 carronades.

Also, as referred to previously, it was HMS Cherub, along with HMS Phoebe, that put USS Essex out of action in February 1812, but with their long guns at a range of half a mile. As you say though, Cherub carried mainly carronades - six 32-pounders on her Upper Deck, six 18-pounders on her Quarterdeck, and two 18-pounders on her forecastle.

I suspect that it was Phoebe that did the most damage to Essex using her thirteen long 18-pounders. Cherub only had the two long 9-pounders.




CHERUB's armament was 16 x 32pdr carronades on the upper deck, 6 x 18pdr carronades on the quarterdeck and 2 x 18pdr carronades on the forecastle plus 2 x 6pdr long guns as chasers. She attempted to get in close to the ESSEX but was knocked about by the latter ship's six long 12pdrs. The PHOEBE carried 14 x 32pdr carronades on her quarterdeck and forecastle in addition to her 26 x 18pdr and 4 x 9pdr long guns.
The USS ESSEX-JUNIOR (10 x 6pdrs and 10 x 18pdr carronades), a captured whaler, was also present and taken. She was subsequently used by the British as a cartel and, as such, was the only one of the ships captured by the ESSEX to reach an American port.

Carronades galore, you might say.:)

It is easy to understand Porter's wish to carry a long gun main armament, particularly given the nature of this long voyage.


Thank you for a very useful article on the carronade.

peteR09
23-06-2014, 18:09
...as referred to previously, it was HMS Cherub, along with HMS Phoebe, that put USS Essex out of action in February 1812, but with their long guns at a range of half a mile. As you say though, Cherub carried mainly carronades - six 32-pounders on her Upper Deck, six 18-pounders on her Quarterdeck, and two 18-pounders on her forecastle.

I suspect that it was Phoebe that did the most damage to Essex using her thirteen long 18-pounders. Cherub only had the two long 9-pounders.

The attached pages from 'Treatise on Naval Gunnery' support that.

The book is a fascinating read & mentions that due to the fire risk in the rigging, chains were sometimes used instead of rope.

It also points out the necessity of using lower 'weight of powder' when at point blank range, to increase the ravages provided by the numerous splinters (excess powder just makes a hole straight through the enemy vessel & doesn't kill as many people as the splinters).

Pete

Dreadnought
24-06-2014, 17:33
Yes Pete, and thanks for that. Douglas’s Treatise of 1855 is a reference source I refer to a lot, and as you say, a fascinating read.

The significance of the brief appearance of the carronade in the evolution of naval ordnance, in my view, is somewhat underrated; it was so much the opposite of the long gun, and hence regarded with suspicion by the notaries at the Admiralty. The comparably small caliber of the long guns was rendering them less and less effective as offensive armament as ship’s sides were made thicker and stronger, and it became increasingly difficult to sink ships by gunfire. The round hole made near the waterline of an enemy ship was insufficiently small to have a decisive effect; the fibres of the timber closed round the entering shot and, swelled by seawater, half closed the hole, leaving the carpenter an easy task to plug the inboard end of it. The large and irregular hole made by a carronade, on the other hand, left a ragged and splintered opening caused by the crashing of the large ball against the frames and timbers, and was quite likely to be the cause of a foundering. Again, the high velocity of the long gun's ball, while giving it range and considerable penetrative power, was actually a disadvantage when at close quarters with an enemy. The maximum effect was gained, as every gunner knew, when the ball had just sufficient momentum to enable it to penetrate an opponent's timbers. The result of a high velocity was often to make a clean hole through a ship without making a splinter or causing her to heel at all. Hence the practice of doubleshotting, although this was less likely to prove as effective as the larger single shot.

As for the relative powder charges, that of the long gun was wastefully large and inefficient, while that of the carronade was small and very effective. It was in this respect, perhaps, that the carronade showed itself to the greatest advantage.

I will be looking at the shell gun and rifled barrels in the subsequent submissions.

peteR09
24-06-2014, 18:48
I forgot to add in my post #53 what an informative & interesting read this thread is.

Douglas’s Treatise of 1855 is a reference source I refer to a lot....

As well as having a printed copy of the 1820 edition I have downloads (pdf I chose) of the 1829 (same as the 1820, but with longer Preface), 1855 & 1860 versions which I have made searchable (by adding a background OCR version underneath the page images). This is useful when looking (say) for a particular ship.

If anyone else is interested (& can't find them) I could dig out the links & post them here.

Pete

peteR09
27-06-2014, 09:56
Following a PM I'm supplying links mentioned in my previous post.

I can't find where I got the 1829 version from, but I could upload if necessary.

A general search on 'Naval Gunnery' at The Internet Archive produces:-

https://archive.org/search.php?query=naval%20gunnery%20AND%20mediatype %3Atexts

... and includes the Howard Douglas book for 1855 & 1860 viz:-

1855
https://archive.org/details/atreatiseonnava01douggoog

1860
https://archive.org/details/atreatiseonnava00douggoog

1860 postscript on 'Iron Defences'
https://archive.org/details/postscripttosect00dougrich

If you click on 'All Files: HTTPS' you can choose the format
(https://ia600209.us.archive.org/10/items/atreatiseonnava00douggoog/atreatiseonnava00douggoog.pdf if you want the .pdf)

The text versions are not usually worth bothering with as they are full of corruptions produced by the attempted OCR)

Pete