Question About Gun on HMS Victory

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  • #22591
    Bob F
    Participant

    Hello – New member here. I’m delighted to discover this site and to join the membership.

    I have a photo that I shot on HMS Victory in 2019 of a gun belowdecks. I would like to nail down exactly what we’re looking at here. (I will attach the photo — I hope correctly.) Thanks, in advance, for any help.

    The gun is located on the deck immediately below the main deck — i.e., I walked down one flight of steep stairs, from the open-air deck to the deck where I shot this photo.

    1. Is this a 12-pounder? Or larger? Perhaps a 24-pounder long gun?

    2. The fire bucket above the gun — would it have been filled with sand? Was it basically a fire extinguisher?

    3. The bucket and tray that we see on the deck — what was their function?

    4. Is the function of the ropes/lines to keep the gun from kicking back too far when fired, and hurting people?

    5. Is it known where this gun might have been manufactured?

    6. Was the word “cannon” ever used at all, circa 1805, or were these weapons always referred to (then) as “guns”?

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    #22608
    Malcolm Lewis
    Participant

    Welcome, Bob to the SNR Forum. The gun illustrated is a Bloomfield Medium pattern 24 pounder. One of 28 on the middle deck. The Blomefield gun design replaced the 24pdr Armstrong gun in 1794 following a disastrous period of gun barrels bursting open when fired causing casualties amongst the gun crews. General Thomas Blomefield had been appointed Inspector of Artillery and Superintendent of the Royal Brass Foundry at Woolwich. He designed a new “hot proof” gun, strengthening the walls of the barrel at the breech end and with the barrel bored out from the solid instead of cast. The Navy Board adopted the new gun although rearming the Navy was a massive task. Some 500 old guns were condemned.
    There were various buckets around each gun with water for swabbing out the barrel after each firing to remove wads and burning debris as well as a match tub with linstocks and a slow match. A bucket of sand was handy for spreading on the deck to absorb water and blood. The gunners were barefoot.
    The strong breech rope through the cascabel loop restrained the gun and its carriage when fired. It recoiled some 11 feet according to Peter Goodwin, one time curator of Victory.
    The Blomefield guns were cast at Woolwich which put the Wealdon gunmakers out of business. Carronades were manufactured at the Carron Iron Works on the Firth of Forth.
    Guns was the usual term used for a ship’s armament. Maybe “cannon” was more frequently used for land artillery.
    Malcolm Lewis

    #22609
    Nicholas Blake
    Participant

    Is this a 12-pounder? Or larger? Perhaps a 24-pounder long gun?
    This deck is called the upper deck (the highest of the three gundecks) and this is a 12pdr. It weighed 3,475lb and had a bore of 4.403in.

    2. The fire bucket above the gun — would it have been filled with sand? Was it basically a fire extinguisher?
    The bucket was called a water bucket, and was used to wet the swab that was used to extinguish any sparks or embers etc in the gun after firing, or that fell on the deck. This was a task given to boys. “Fire bucket” meant a bucket used by men on the lower yards to dampen the sails in case of fire.

    3. The bucket and tray that we see on the deck — what was their function?
    These are modern and not part of the reconstruction.

    4. Is the function of the ropes/lines to keep the gun from kicking back too far when fired, and hurting people?
    Exactly. The breeching rope was used to control recoil, the side tackles were used to haul the gun back to reload, and the train tackle was used to stop the gun moving forward while reloading.

    5. Is it known where this gun might have been manufactured?
    RN guns were made at iron works in Scotland and northern Ireland.

    6. Was the word “cannon” ever used at all, circa 1805, or were these weapons always referred to (then) as “guns”.
    Cannon were referred to as guns or “great guns” (ie not small arms), and as cannons.

    Here’s a diagram from Mark Adkin’s “Trafalgar Companion”, which is highly recommended.

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    #22611
    Bob F
    Participant

    Thanks!!!

    #22607
    Robert B
    Participant

    1. Is this a 12-pounder? Or larger? Perhaps a 24-pounder long gun?
    The second deck had 24-pound guns
    2. The fire bucket above the gun — would it have been filled with sand? Was it basically a fire extinguisher?
    Everything I can find says it would be filled with water used to extinguish small fires started by fragments expelled from the gun during its recoil.
    3. The bucket and tray that we see on the deck — what was their function?
    The bucket contained water to keep the sponge wet – after the barrel is wormed to remove debris, the sponge is inserted to extinguish any flames in the barrel that could set off the next charge when it is rammed home.
    I’m not sure about the tray. My first thought was round shot ready to be loaded but it seems small for that purpose.
    4. Is the function of the ropes/lines to keep the gun from kicking back too far when fired, and hurting people?
    Yes – they are also used to run the guns back in after reloading. Also, while exercising the guns, they are used to pull the gun back to simulate the recoil.
    5. Is it known where this gun might have been manufactured?
    Most of the guns are replicas made of wood or fiberglass. Only 8 of the original Blomefield-pattern survived, one of which is displayed on the second deck. Without seeing the maker’s mark the manufacturer can’t be identified. In my second cite, it says “About 80 of the 105 guns aboard HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar were cast by the Walker Company.”

    Deciphering “The Cannon Code”


    https://theromneymarsh.net/martellocannon#markings
    6. Was the word “cannon” ever used at all, circa 1805, or were these weapons always referred to (then) as “guns”?
    I believe at the time cannon was used more to refer to land-based artillery, although I’ve seen some authors put the term in the mouths of their naval characters. More commonly I see the term “great guns” used.

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