Duties of the Gunner in a naval ship “In Ordinary”?

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    Malcolm Lewis

      The Gunner’s duties aboard a ship in ordinary is sometimes queried as no explosives or armaments were stored. The Standing Officers aboard usually included the bosun. carpenter, gunner, purser and cook. These were key personnel retained to be on call should the ship be required to be returned to Sea Service. It also permitted these officers to qualify for a pension after 15 years service. The bosun and the carpenter had obvious duties for general maintenance and it has been suggested to me that the gunner had duties as a blacksmith. A blacksmith as such is not usually listed in a ship’s complement but would this job usually come under the Gunner’s department?
      Malcolm Lewis

      Nicholas Blake

        The blacksmith’s duties on board ship (in Ordinary and in sea service) were carried out by the armourer and his mate; the armourer’s team, like the gunsmith’s if present, belonged to the gunner.


            Hi There.
            I quickly consulted my copy of the 1808 Regulations for Service at Sea.

            It appears that repair of small arms was the duty of the armourer, not the gunner, although the armourer reported to the gunner.

            The gunner was a standing officer and one of the first duties once a ship was put into commission was to order the correct calibre of guns for the rate of the ship, also to examine the condition of the magazine, to ensure it was dry in order not to spoil any delivery of powder.
            The Gunner kept accounts of consumables, just as a Boatswain would and would have them passed when a ship ended a commission, in like manner.

            Chris Donnithorne

              The larger ships in Ordinary were valuable assets, there was a need for ship-keepers to look after such vessels and, in their wisdom, their Lordships had decided that certain Warrant Officers could fulfil this function. It was an important position. Certainly for the first half of the C18th, formal watch-keeping was required (usually amounting to a one in three [and sometimes shorter] roster), the whole being overseen by the Master Attendant who was expected to be afloat in one of the ships in his port every night to ensure the Standing Officers were doing their duty. Three Standing Officers had to be onboard every night (of which two shared the watches), and the Cook was only allowed to keep certain daytime watches – what an existence.

              In the circumstances, little maintenance was demanded of the Standing Officers in their professional capacity. For senior Gunners, there was an expectation that they would be involved in the training and examination of new people. For most ships, a small amount of powder and shot was usually kept onboard and care of this would naturally fall to the Gunner. But as to blacksmithing duties, I have seen no evidence to support such an idea, nor any evidence that any inferior warrant Officers served onboard in these conditions.. I hesitate to say it never happened, having found exceptions to virtually every rule, but I think it extremely unlikely.

              Ken V

                I’m a bit confused about the role of the men charged with firing guns during an actual engagement, such as Trafalgar. Did each gun crew have a gun caption?
                What was the role of a quarter gunner? Was there one officer/individual in charge of a gun deck? Did the gun captain decide when and at what to fire?
                Many thanks in advance.

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