Fire Control For Pre-Dreadnoughts

Home Forums Nautical Research: 1830 – Present Day Fire Control For Pre-Dreadnoughts

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    Andrew T

    Hi, all.

    In ships such as HMS Inflexible (1881) who had big old 16″ muzzle loaders as her main armament, and HMS Sovereign (1891) who had 2 twin 13.5″ guns – how did these ships direct their fire?

    I’m aware that this was before the days of the fancy fire control mechanical machines they used in the First World War, but there must of been a way to control the fire of these ships?
    Or – was it more a case of: Target is estimated to be at X distance travelling at Y speed and you consult a stats table next to the gun and just adjust for drop and windage and watch for splashes and try to adjust the next salvo?

    Were the secondary batteries of these ships controlled at all, or was is just: when in range, aim and shoot?

    Frank Scott

    Effectively gunnery remained relatively short range (less than 2 miles) until late in the nineteenth century, and guns were controlled by gun captains, rather than centrally. The wide variety of gun sizes fitted to pre-dreadnought battleships made spotting and correcting fall of shot incredibly difficult, which was the major reason for the adoption of the ‘all big gun’ dreadnought battleship concept.

    Percy Scott ‘Fifty Years in the Royal Navy’ (available free on-line at the excellent Internet Archive) is well worth a read for the period 1870-1910. Despite the fact that in his view he was ‘always right’, there is much a value in his book, and it is a good starting point. The Dreadnought Project, is a really good source for more in depth study.

    Andrew T

    Thank you, Frank.

    I’d not heard of that. I’ll have to check it out.

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