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Old 27-11-2010, 03:34
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Default The Royal Marine Artillery in the Crimean War

I don't know quite where to place the following, so I suppose I'll put it here.

The Royal Marine Artillery in the Crimean War-Part I

The Royal Marine Artillery (RMA) was formed as a seperate unit in August, 1804 to man the artillery in bomb vessels and to man ordnance ashore in support of naval operations. This had been done by the Royal Artillery Regiment, but a lawsuit by a Royal Artillery officer resulted in a court decision that Army officers were not subject to Naval orders. As their uniforms were the blue of the Royal Regiment of Artillery, this group was nicknamed the "Blue Marines" and the Infantry element, who wore the scarlet uniforms of the British infantry, became known as the "Red Marines", often given the derogatory nickname "Lobsters" by sailors. A fourth division, the Woolwich, was formed on August 15, 1805 which soldiered on until abolished in 1870. An artillery company had been added to each division at the time of the fourth division formation and in 1854 the seperate title of Royal Marine Light Artillery was conferred and the old artillery companies, by that time increased in number, were constituted as a seperate corps under the name of the Royal Marine Artillery. This corps headquartered in Portsmouth with fourteen companies.
The various siege operations during the latter Napoleonic period, Calais in 1810 and other operations along the various coastline points of Europe. established a tradition within the RMA that kept it a cohesive, functional command while other military organizations across the continent began to lose orientation due to internal hubrus and an aging command hierarchy. The value of the Mortar had made it an integral part of the inventory of the Royal Marine Artillery, bores of 5.5, 8, 10 and 13 inch being the accepted requirers of munitions during the Crimean War period. The 13 inch bore was introduced into RMA service after British forces tasted the receiving end of this large projectile during the Siege of Calais. Engineer James Atkinson Longridge designed the ordnance as used in RMA service during the period in question, one accomplishment among many that spanned the engineering of steam and civil construction works.
Tensions between the governments of Russia and the Ottoman regime of Turkey began to move towards a critical diplomatic mass in 1851, the conflict between the states being conflicts between the Latin and Orthodox factions of Christianity. Precedence in the Holy Lands and the demand that Russia be allowed to protect Orthodox pilgrims in the region with a military force, points unacceptable to the Suleman Turks, led to the breaking off of diplomatic relations on May 18, 1853. An underlying condition that led to the conflict was the fact that the Concert of Europe, the diplomatic accord passed in 1815 with the ending of the Napoleonic wars, was being undermined by Austrian interests in trying to force European conditions to something of a form prior to the French Revolution. These attempts by Austria increased nationalist sentiments in several European nations. When push came to shove Austria and Prussia declared their neutrality on April 20,1854. Those powers of Central Europe declaring neutrality is, I believe, the major factor in the conflict developing into a naval war, the usual paths toward the invasion of Russia being closed to the Allies. The Russians had entered the Danubian Principalities at the end of July and the Sultan, Abdul Medjid, had been forced by Turkish public opinion to declare war on October 4th, 1853. This at a time that initial engagements between Russian and Turkish forces were occurring in Bulgaria and Romania. A battle occured between Russian and Turkish naval forces at Sinop, a seaport of Northern Turkey, the first naval engagement of the conflict. A Russian victory ensued the November 30, 1853 , four hour duration battle; Russia fielded Paixhans shell guns, the use of which destroyed eleven ships of Pasha Osman's navy with no Russian losses. The development of explosive shells for use by artillery firing at low levels of elevation was that of Henri-Joseph Paixhans, a French Artillerist born at Metz in 1783. The use of the shells in this battle spelled the end of the wooden navies of the world and the realization of the need for more robust construction techniques, French usage of exploding shells dating from 1827; British usage from 1829 after initial tests of his development of the explosive shell by Paixhan in 1824. The battle was used as justification for British and French declaration of war against Imperial Russia in support of the Ottoman Empire. France declared war on March 27, 1854, with Great Britian following suite the next day.

The British Mediterranean fleet, then under the command of Vice-Admiral James Whitney Deans Dundas, C.B., was ordered to assemble at Malta; soon afterwards directed to proceed to Besika Bay to join with a French Squadron under Vice-Admiral de Lassusse, who had left Toulon on March 23rd, 1853. Lassusse was replaced by Vice-Admiral Ferdinand Alphonse Hamelin due to slow movement in rendezvous. Hamelin having a British line in his family might have been a consideration of his appointment, also. Apon Turkish invitation the combined fleet began to move through the Dardenelles on October 22nd, 1853. On 16 March, 1854 the British fleet, under Vice-Admiral Sir Charles John Napier, cast anchor in the Kiel Bight. After receiving fresh reinforcements, Napier approached Gangut with nineteen ships of the line and 26 steamers. The blockade of Russian ports and coasts began. The Russians chose not to attack the Anglo-French forces poised to strike in the Baltic in May, this decision based on lack of organization, the fact that many of the vessels were still in poor condition from being winter ice-bound and the Russian commander in the Baltic, General-Admiral Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolayevich, had insufficient experience in command to decisively operate the Baltic fleet. Vice-Admiral Napier and French Vice-Admiral Parseval-Deshen rejected the idea of attacking the Russian fortresses in the Baltic, their decision based on a lack of troops available for movement ashore.
Unsatisfactory results during the Crimean War operations of 1854 were mainly due to French and British maritime naval forces being ill-equipped for the job before them, the reduction of Russian strongpoints along the Baltic coast, in order to move towards St. Petersburg. The requisite vessels for effective operations in the shallow waters of the Baltic and the shallow outlying parts of the Black Sea, shallow draught steam-powered gunboats and mortar vessels, did not exist in the numbers needed. After the initial attempt at reducing the fortress at Sweaborg by Admiral Dundas the London Times reported that, "Sweaborg is no more." Two days afterward it was proved that the fortress was untouched. Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Napier fired up his pen and responded to the Times stating, "We are defeated by our own triumphs, and all for want of mortars." The Royal Navy in the Baltic at that time did not have a single large mortar in the fleet worthy of use, the few available rusted and subject to bursting apon firing. Napier's caustic use of the press caused him to be superceded by the Admiralty under pressure from First Minister of the Crown Lord Palmerston. Mention is made in some detail in another post on this topic of the effort made by British yards to supply the needs required in a timely manner. Russia utilized the time granted them by British inability to mount decisive attacks by building sixteen screw-propelled gunboats. The French constructed five Mortar Vessels for use in Crimean operations using the designs of naval constructor Pastoureau, the Bombe class, and all vessels constructed at Lorient in 1855. Each vessel had armament comprised of two 32 cm mortars. All five of these seventy-nine foot length vessels were stricken from the active list before 1860, four became water barges.
The dearth of Allied equipment usable in the required Crimean operations, plainly made evident by the first Baltic operations, put the spur to Allied building effort. The two former adversaries conversed freely regarding operations and requirements. Sir Baldwin Wake-Walker, Chief Surveyor of the Royal Navy apon appointment in 1848, visited France in the spring of 1854 to exchange ideas concerning gunboats and the British Chief Constructor, Isaac Watts, went over in the autumn to inspect construction. French naval constructors Molle, Mangin, Garnier, Guieysse, Sabatier and Pastoureau, as well as the French Captain of Naval Artillery Sapia, made tours of inspection in England in 1854 and 1855.
The entire Russian Navy in 1853, divided among five fleets, consisted of ninety-five warships. The number of personnel in service of the Imperial Russian Navy consisted of 91,000.

The concept of the Bomb Vessel, fleet support vessels intended to work against shore installations, had been a part of the Royal Navy since the 1680's. Brigadier General Sir Samuel Bentham is known to have used a 13 inch bore mortar in 1788 as a low-angle fire weapon, "either point blank or with very little elevation, never, I believe, exceeding ten degrees." This acceptance of a French tactical development was reinstated in naval planning for use in the Crimean War, with contracts being let to three yards for construction after vessels for conversion proved unobtainable.Two types were eventually developed, the mortar vessels, divided into 60-, 65-, 70- and 75-foot types, and the mortar floats. The mortar vessels carried a basic rig on a signal mast, and were armed with a single 13in mortar. The mortar floats had no sails and had to be towed into position, many of the fifty floats constructed becoming dockyard craft after loss of requirement for their primary mission. The nature of the Mortar ordnance caused them to be placed under Royal Marine Artilley responsibility, though at naval command discretion. Four obsolete Frigates that had been converted to steam propulsion were planned as bomb vessels, only one, the Horatio, being completed in 1855 before the success of the Allied operations negated the completion of the remainder.
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Old 27-11-2010, 15:19
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Default Re: The Royal Marine Artillery in the Crimean War

Many thanks for an interesting account Hank. I often wondered what the difference was between the Royal Marine Artillery (RMA) and the Royal Marine Light Infantry (RMLI).
Looking through the 1881 UK Census, many ships complements comprised both RMA and RMLI members in the crew.

Jim
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Old 27-11-2010, 23:21
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Default Re: The Royal Marine Artillery in the Crimean War

You're welcome, Jim. Then, in 1881, as now the Marines constitute a large part of effective waterborne deterent. I'll post details, as much as can be found by me that is pertinent, of the actual Royal Marine operations in the Crimea.

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Old 28-11-2010, 12:52
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Default Re: The Royal Marine Artillery in the Crimean War

Hank an interesting post , i look forward to part 2, i was especially interested to read of French /English military cooperation , very topical at this time ,
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Old 01-02-2011, 04:59
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I'm still working on the order and events that transpired during the operations of the Crimean War. It's a massive undertaking, even understanding that I am attempting to keep my written words focused on the actions of the Royal Marine Artillery and specifically those who manned the Mortars. It really can't be so narrowly focused. Were it not for the Naval Brigades under Lushington many of the pieces of ordnance would not have been manned. Please consider the following extract and addendum regarding the British effort to produce the ordnance planners considered necessary for the push into St. Petersburg, Russia that did not occur due to the resignation of the Russians to the effort. Rather raw, but informative. The lesson I learn from the following extract is to always keep a weather eye on the contractors. Regards

On June 7, 1855 it was determined to expand the inventories of those Royal Navy forces involved in the operations in the Baltic and Black Sea areas. The proposed rapid expansion led to many contracts being let to firms in order to gain the required material in a timely manner. Two circulars were given to manufacturies in order to increase the available manufacturing ability. I include their text here.

No l Circular
No 1 Inspector of Machinery's Office, Royal Arsenal,Woolwich 14 June 1855
Gentlemen
As the Ordnance are in immediate want of a large number of heavy mortars we have taken the liberty of requesting your assistance. Hitherto mortars have been supplied with the outside surface turned and nicely finished in all respects it is proposed to dispense with this for the present and to receive them as they come from the foundry. They will of course have to be bored and if possible have the trunnions turned they have to be cast of the strongest quality of iron that can be found and capable of resisting the ordinary proof. The sizes required vary in weight from one to five tons and from 10 to I3 inches in the diameter of the bore. The price which is usually paid for the service mortar is from 21 to 23 per ton. If other arrangements will permit you to assist in this matter we have to beg the favour of an early reply when I shall do myself the honour of waiting upon you with a drawing and full particulars. I am &c Inspector of Machinery

No 2
Firms written to on the subject of making Iron Mortars the Gospel Oak and Moor Works being at work to their utmost, June, 1855. Messrs Perm & Co Engineers, Greenwich, Millar & Ravenhill, Blackwall, Maudsley & Field, Lambeth, London, Rennie & Sons, Holland street, London, Mare & Co, Blackwall, Scott Russell & Co, Millwall, Butterly Iron Company, Alfreton, Derbyshire, Carron Iron Company, Falkirk, Messrs R Napier & Sons Engineers, Glasgow, Todd & McGriggor Engineers, Glasgow, W Fairbairn ,Manchester, Smith B & Tannett, Leeds, Peel Williams & Peel Solio, Iron Works, Manchester, J Nasmyth & Co, Patricroft, Hick & Son, Bolton, Haigh Foundry near Wigan, Messrs Fawcett & Co, Liverpool, Sharpe Brothers & Co, Atlas Works, Manchester, Hawks Crawshaw & Co, Newcastle, Los h Wilson & Bell, Walker Iron Works Company, Newcastle, Neilson & Co, Hyde Park Foundry Company, Glasgow, Scott Sinclair & Co, Greenock Armstrong & Co, Elswick Works, Newcastle, Omrod & Son Engineers, Manchester, J Whitworth & Co, Portland street, Manchester, EB Wilson & Co Railway Foundry, Leeds, DY Stewart & Co, St Rollox, Glasgow, Mr Hall Dartford, Kent, Messrs W Collier & Co, Salford, Manchester, Stephenson & Co Engineers, Newcastle, Bellhouse Engineers, Manchester, Dunlop & Co, Marlborough street, Manchester, Cochrane & Co, Woodside Iron Works, Dudley, Mr Sampson Moore, late Messrs Garnett and Moore, North Foundry, Liverpool, John Galloway, Galloway Brothers & Co Engineers, Manchester, Clarence Foundry, Liverpool, Not known in Liverpool
Messrs Daglish & Co, St Helens, Lancashire, Eddington & Co, Phoenix Iron Works, Glasgow, Bailey Pegg & Co, Bankside, London, Graham & Son, Thames street, London, Downie & Co, Woodside Iron Works, Glasgow, Blackie & Co, Footdee Iron Works, Aberdeen, Abernethy & Co, Aberdeen, Bryan Donkin & Co, Engineers, Bermondsey, Humphreys, Tennant & Dykes Engineers, Deptford Pier, London, Gouriey Brothers, Machinists, Dundee Beyer Peacock & Co, Gorton near Manchester, Seaward & Capel Canal Iron Works, Poplar Wright & Brown, Regent street, Newcastle, W Muir & Co, Britannia Iron Works, Manobester, Hood & Cooper Iron Works, Leeds ,TS Begbie, 4 Mansion House Place, London, Tipton Works, J Walton Partner to Mr Begbie, J Buckton & Co, Well House Foundry Leeds.

The above addressees were sent the following circular as explanitory of expectations.

Circular No 2
Inspector of Machinery's Office Royal Arsenal , Woolwich, June, 1856
Gentlemen
I have to thank you for the ready reply given to my letter of the 14th instant on the subject of mortars. As a large number are required immediately it has been deemed advisable to apply to most of the leading engineering establishments in order to secure if possible the whole delivery within the month of July. With this view I take the liberty of enclosing a drawing of a inch 13 service mortar supposing that you are already provided with most of the tools or appliances necessary to produce it and request that you will have the goodness to inform me of the number which you can make certain of in the time named stating also the price per ton at which they will be delivered at the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich. While we are desirous of affording every facility towards obtaining mortars it is at the same time most essential that in certain points they should be as perfect as those now received. This remark applies more especially to the quality strength and perfect soundness of the casting to the truth and correctness of the bore with regard to its shape and dimensions to the diameter of the trunnions and their correct relation to the bore and also with regard to the size of the vent and its positive position.
In other respects the present rigid examination on points which may be considered non essential will be dispensed with providing the mortar withstand the usual proof and have an ordinarily smooth exterior surface. So far as relates to the quality of iron employed we do not insist upon any mixture but merely state that none but the strongest mixtures will resist the effect of proof charge. Several have attempted to cast mortars with a core but nothing satisfactory has therefrom on the contrary it is considered best by those who have large experience their manufacture to cast them solid with the breech downwards and a dead head several feet. This remark is made not to dictate but merely to avoid the chance of failure at the present time. The enclosed drawing will convey the necessary instruction to prepare the castings far as the exterior dimensions are concerned but probably it might be advisable to have sheet iron template of the bore and exact position of the vent made to a pattern mortar which may be seen in the Royal Arsenal. If you have the means of casting and have lathes suitable for boring cannon that can be made available at the present time I shall feel obliged by your informing me of the same. I have &c Inspector of Machinery

Grissell's responded in the affirmative to the request posed in the circulars. Specifications were then forwarded to the contractor as follows.

Specification for 13 inch Sea Service Mortars 19 November 1856 To be cast of the strongest cold blast iron that can be obtained. The particular mixture is left to the judgment of the contractor. With a dead head of not less than 36 inches. It is recommended that the casting remain in the jacket at least 72 hours. It is a growing opinion that guns and mortars are strongest when cast on a core. It is recommended but not insisted on that this method be employed.
The proof will consist as regards firing of two rounds Charge 21 lbs shot a solid cylinder 15 inches long. The mortar will be received unturned if preferred provided it is not smaller than the given dimensions. The following parts only will require to be rigidly accurate the bore the vent the dimensions of the trunnions and the straight edge of the breech where it fits on the bed. This last is very important as the beds are prepared to scale.
signed F. Eardley Wilmot Lieut. Col.

Problems surfaced with the proof of the contract ordnance as related by the superintendent of the officer in charge of acceptance at Woolwich.

Superintendent Royal Gun Factories relative to 13 inch Sea service Mortars which were supplied by Mr Grissell.
Westminster
Sir Woolwich 10 March 1856
I have the honour to report that two mortars, 13 in sea service, five tons, made by Grissell & Company were sent to Shoeburyness to be tried by firing the ordinary service charge after they had been subjected to the usual proof fire at Woolwich.
At the tenth round one of these mortars burst in a vertical direction through the centre of the bore and it was discovered that a plug had been screwed into the rear of the breech about two inches long 1 inch in diameter seriously weakening the mortar in that direction and thus rendering it more liable to burst.
The line AB shows the direction of the fracture and the thick line at A shows where the plug was a inserted.
This led to an examination of the rest of the mortars at that particular point. There were found three other mortars that had been plugged in a similar manner one of which had already been rejected on account of having plugs inserted in the face to fill up flaws in the metal. It is probable that the holes at the breech were made in the process of manufacture and were not flaws in the metal. Another of the mortars supplied by Messrs Grissell burst on the usual proof such being an extraordinary instance of inferior metal. The officer, Lieut Col Mitchell RA, under whose orders the mortars were fired at Shoeburyness writes that the screw had evidently been inserted with great care and could not be detected unless specially sought for.
I have &c signed F Eardley Wilmot Lieut Col RA Superintendent Royal Gun Factory
The Right Hon W Monsell mp &c &c &c

The firm of H. & M.D. Grissell, , responded with a long-winded rebuttal of Wilmot's discoveries regarding the defective ordnance to Lord Parmure, then Secretary of State for War in First Minister Palmerston's Cabinet. The correspondence from Grissell was dated, from London, March 14, 1856. I include point twenty-nine of the document

29 And lastly on the question of the real importance of the imperfections which have mainly led to this discussion. We retain our opinion my Lord as mechanical engineers that these lathe centre holes and our dealing with them were wholly alike immaterial to the strength of the mortars produced and in this opinion we are backed in every direction in which we have had time to inquire. Nevertheless we deeply regret that our want of experience in a kind of work wholly new to us should have led us to consider unimportant points which it now appears are considered by the proper authorities material defects and that we should have seemed to conceal that which we did not know to be objectionable otherwise than to the eye.

It is well that the ordnance constructed by those contractors involved in "a kind of work wholly new to us " were not committed to the field due to the success of operations negating their usage on the mortar floats being built for proposed operations closer to the Russian coastline. The most damning statements regarding the ordnance come from Director Coffin as stated below.

Sir War Department Pall Mall 2 April 1856 In accordance with your request I beg to transmit for your information the following observations which I have to offer after examining the 13 inch sea service mortars supplied by Messrs Grissell & Co with reference to the insertion of iron screw plugs into the face and breech with a view of filling up holes and cavities which are found to exist in the same 1 As to the hole which has been made midway between the trunnions and directly in the line of the vent and the axis of the mortar It is possible that this hole may have been made for the purpose of centering the mortar in the lathe for boring and turning but admitting that it has been done for this purpose it certainly is unnecessarily deep being about three inches from the exterior surface of the metal
In my long experience with guns and naval gunnery I have never heard of any such similar case as that of boring into that part of any gun or mortar a hole of such a depth nor can I conceive any person however ignorant of the explosive force of gunpowder not having some misgivings as to the effect of such a hole in reducing the strength of the piece of ordnance and rendering it more liable to burst. From the bursting of the mortars at Sweaborg and since we find that they invariably split in halves longitudinally in the line of least resistance, viz, through the vent. It consequently follows that this hole from being in such line and reducing the thickness of the metal at that point from about one calibre or 13 inches to 10 inches must decrease the power of endurance of the mortar in a very high degree and on no account should any hole have been there
2 With reference to that mortar which has several cavities honeycombs in its face most ingeniously converted into screw holes and into which plugs have been inserted it would have been impossible to say to what extent this mortar may be weakened from the difficulty of ascertaining how deep these flaws extend into the body of the mortar. They have, I believe, been traced several inches. But that the mortar ought to have been condemned by the contractor immediately he discovered these flaws there cannot be a doubt I have only further to remark that if as I have supposed the hole in the centre of the breech was made for the purpose of fixing the mortar in the lathe it implies great ignorance in the manufacture of ordnance. But with reference to the flaws or honeycombs in the face of the other mortar the excuse of ignorance cannot be admitted and in either case I cannot but feel the heavy responsibility which rests upon that man who could designedly send such defective pieces of ordnance into the service to be used against the enemy, in fact seriously endangering the lives of our own countrymen.
I have &c signed J Crawford Coffin Director general of Naval Artillery To the Right Hon VV Monsell mp

Parliamentary Papers, Volume 40 By Great Britain. Parliament. House of Commons
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Old 01-02-2011, 20:49
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Default Re: The Royal Marine Artillery in the Crimean War

another informative post , its interesting to see that they were concerned enough to run tests , rather than just rushing the mortars out, also that there only seemed to be one company that was interested in manufacturing them
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