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Old 16-04-2010, 15:03
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Default Evolution of the British Naval Gun

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)
Attached Images
File Type: jpg NavalGuns_1.jpg (1.03 MB, 118 views)
File Type: jpg NavalGuns_2.jpg (762.1 KB, 141 views)
File Type: jpg NavalGuns_3.jpg (1.48 MB, 85 views)
File Type: jpg NavalGuns_4.jpg (1.05 MB, 89 views)
File Type: jpg NavalGuns_5.jpg (663.3 KB, 84 views)
File Type: jpg NavalGuns_6.jpg (635.7 KB, 72 views)
File Type: jpg NavalGuns_7.jpg (695.0 KB, 84 views)
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Clive Sweetingham

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Old 16-04-2010, 16:43
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Default Re: Evolution of the British Naval Gun

Good and interesting report, Clive

Dave
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Old 16-04-2010, 17:48
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Default Re: Evolution of the British Naval Gun

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?
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Last edited by emason : 16-04-2010 at 18:03.
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Old 16-04-2010, 18:03
steve roberts steve roberts is offline
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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
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Old 16-04-2010, 21:15
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Default Re: Evolution of the British Naval Gun

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.
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Old 16-04-2010, 21:19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dreadnought View Post
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.
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Old 16-04-2010, 21:27
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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
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Old 16-04-2010, 21:53
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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.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg NavalGuns_8.jpg (1.55 MB, 64 views)
File Type: jpg NavalGuns_9.jpg (1.39 MB, 68 views)
File Type: jpg NavalGuns_10.jpg (1.24 MB, 72 views)
File Type: jpg NavalGuns_11.jpg (540.2 KB, 46 views)
File Type: jpg NavalGuns_12.jpg (349.7 KB, 32 views)
File Type: jpg NavalGuns_13.jpg (508.3 KB, 21 views)
File Type: jpg NavalGuns_14.jpg (1.21 MB, 85 views)
File Type: jpg NavalGuns_15.jpg (418.7 KB, 47 views)
File Type: jpg NavalGuns_16.jpg (315.0 KB, 49 views)
File Type: jpg NavalGuns_17.jpg (291.5 KB, 53 views)
File Type: jpg NavalGuns_18.jpg (453.1 KB, 29 views)
File Type: jpg NavalGuns_19.jpg (470.4 KB, 43 views)
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Old 17-04-2010, 10:35
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Default Re: Evolution of the British Naval Gun

All interesting information Clive and from a period which I know little about.

Many thanks for all of your efforts.
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Old 17-04-2010, 17:20
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Clive,

Thank you - truly excellent and most useful for "Explosion!", the Museum of Naval Firepower. We also have some naval guns in Fort NELSON.
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Old 17-04-2010, 17:39
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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?
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Old 17-04-2010, 20:42
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Originally Posted by INVINCIBLE View Post
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.
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Old 17-04-2010, 21:07
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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
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Old 17-04-2010, 21:36
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"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!
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Old 18-04-2010, 08:52
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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.
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Old 18-04-2010, 16:32
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Wonderfully refreshing thread this, Clive.

Well done, can't wait for the rest of it.
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Old 19-04-2010, 19:18
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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.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg NavalGuns_20.jpg (409.4 KB, 19 views)
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Old 10-05-2010, 15:33
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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)
Attached Images
File Type: jpg NavalGuns_21.jpg (1,015.0 KB, 126 views)
File Type: jpg NavalGuns_22.jpg (1.19 MB, 149 views)
File Type: jpg NavalGuns_23.jpg (1.37 MB, 116 views)
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Old 10-05-2010, 16:21
steve roberts steve roberts is offline
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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.
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Old 30-05-2010, 17:08
steve roberts steve roberts is offline
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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.
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Old 30-05-2010, 18:17
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Default Re: Evolution of the British Naval Gun

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 ...!!
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Old 18-06-2010, 20:59
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Default Re: Evolution of the British Naval Gun

Naval Gunnery
Article published in The Times on 14th October 1851
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File Type: jpg 1851 October 14 Naval Gunnery(ii).jpg (1.55 MB, 39 views)
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Old 09-09-2010, 23:26
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Default Re: Evolution of the British Naval Gun

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
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Old 10-09-2010, 00:13
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Very interesting! Wonderful illustrations. The newspaper account was also most informative.
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Old 13-09-2010, 16:00
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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.
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