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I'm putting together the Panart Gun Station kit and got to wondering. Most of the tools used to load a gun are something on a stick and maybe about 4'-5' long. Gun crews were counting on the recoil to get the gun into loading position, and the breech rope to stop it at some point.

 

So how far back would a gun be when the reloading begins? Obviously the answer is however long the breech rope is. It seems like it would have to be pretty far in order to be able to use the tools.

 

I've been trying to find a video or Youtube showing the entire process from loading to firing. And I don't mean the little pop-gun loads - those don't even move the gun half the time.  Not as easy as it sounds.

 

Thanks for any feedback you can provide.

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Mike,

 

I think Russ means the bore length, not the bore :)

 

The handles of the tools had to be long enough to reach into the entire length of the bore plus have enough length for a sailor to hold with two hands.  With the gun run all the way in, there was not enough room to get the tool into the barrel unless it was taken outside the hull, presumably through the gun port.   The sketch describes it better than I can put in words.  The gun has a 9 foot barrel and the beam is 40 feet on a 70 gun ship of 1706.  The handle of a tool is shown extending outboard of the hull.

 

Allan

post-42-0-64564100-1482062039.jpg

Edited by allanyed
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weren't the guns turned to the lenght of the ship to reload?

Seems close to impossible to properly clean the barrel and ram in the next shot otherwise.

Edited by Robin Lous
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The object was not to clean, it was to swab with a wet sponge to extinguish any embers and to force out any remaining explosive gasses, then to load, ram, run out, prick and prime. Being forced to stand alongside the barrel to do these things was a safety measure, even used ashore, so there was no difficulty or anything unusual in serving the guns from the sides. If an individual was handicapped, the gun captain would not place that individual in a position to slow or disrupt the working of the gun.

jud

 Greasy hand in RVN

 

post-5330-0-01003100-1482093492_thumb.jpg

Edited by jud

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OK Allen - you cleared it up for me. I guess they stick the non business end of the tool thru the port as far as needed until they can get the business end into the barrel. Had not thought about the length but you are right. A 9' barrel would require a similarly sized tool.

 

Ahww Mark - you gonna make me go watch my favorite movie again :)

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I love the small film of the Constitution, gives a rough idea, but the details - all participants should be keel hauled :-)

 

First, no breech line installed, then too, the gun could be retracted 2 more feet, thous giving a inside clearance for the muzzle. So those two acrobats would not have to sit outside the gun port. Also handling the heavy shot hanging out - possibly dropping it in rougher seas - if one would have the possibility to do this in a safer (for the shot) and faster to handle environment on the inside. 

 

Also the working attitude looks very relaxed ;-) And nice of them turning away from the firing gun - and basically looking at the gun beside that is fired possibly the same moment, jumping exactly onto them. Better move behind the gun, stay clear and a bit more safe. Best to be seen on Master and Commander the bonus disc, were the gun drill for the actors is shown.

 

XXXDAn

 

Victory-Guncrew_1259.jpg

 

Victory-Guncrew_1234.jpg

 

Victory-gunportlids_0325.jpg

 

                                          #1154                         

Edited by dafi

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Perhaps you wait for a near miss to knock a big hole in the hull right next to your gun. More clearance and some ventilation. :P

 

I think the general idea (and the piece I was missing) was that someone had to stick the tool out thru the port and THEN into the barrel. I'd still like to know how far then gun recoiled inboard before the breech rope stopped it. Doesn't look like the gun even moved after the shot on the video. I would have expected something a little more violent.

Edited by mikiek
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Special message to 'dafi' who made a post today. I tried sending you a PM but I received a message saying that was not possible. Can you send me a PM so I can respond ? Just need a little assistance from you.

 

Pete

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I would think that the goal would be to have the recoil be enough for

the gun to be sponged, cleared, loaded, and rammed while inside the

ship.  Plus, anyone outside the ship would make a tempting target for

the Marines of the opposition.  But, since the gun had to bet returned 

to brace the trucks against the spirketting,  it would be inefficient to

have the hauling distance be any more than was necessary.  Keeping

the work of hauling at a minimum and having the load and fire interval

as short as possible -  both important?

 

It seems likely that there were tables giving breach rope length for

each caliber or barrel length of gun.

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Hi Gentlemen;

 

Further to Jaager's remark in the previous post,  Adrian Caruana,  who was an expert in smooth-bore artillery,  and had fired many of them experimentally,  wrote an excellent book about 18th century (and another on 17th century) cannons.  This is called 'A History of English Sea Ordnance',  and for those who can get hold of a copy,  it answers most things.  He carried out extensive research into the archives of the Ordnance Board,  which was actually responsible for Naval cannon,  and was nothing to do with the Admiralty or Navy Board (much to the frustration of these bodies)

 

He gives a table dealing with breeching ropes,  and discusses the variations in how they were attached to the cannon's breech,  and ship's side,  over time.  His table gives various measurements from official sources (although there are not many of these)  

 

His conclusion is that the rule quoted near the beginning of this thread (which is taken from Simmons'  'A Sea-Gunner's Vade-Mecum',  published in 1812,  although parts of its descriptions only apply to earlier periods)  that the breeching rope length is 3 x the bore (length) is correct enough.  Although the resulting measurement should be rounded up to the nearest foot.  

 

All the best,

 

Mark P

Edited by Mark P
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That's a help Mark - and I was mis-reading Russ's post. I think I know the answer to my next question but to be sure. Say the bore length is 8' . 3 x 8 = 24'.  Would the breech line be 24' - from eyebolt in hull, around the rear of the gun, to the hull eyebolt on the other side? Or would total length be 48' - 24' on each side?

 

One last one. I have my gun loaded and ready. Guys use the outhaul to get the barrel out the port. Are the outhaul ropes left taught in the blocks or do they get loosened up before firing?

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Part of the restraining action after firing is the training tackle having to run through the blocks.

A video of reenactors where the gun doesn't recoil merely indicates there was no ball involved.  Equal and opposite, remember?

For tight quarters they had flexible rammers where the handle was stiff rope.

 

For live fire, try this:

or google vasa cannon.

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Mike,

 

I also see the ambiguity with the breach rope length, but

when thinking about it - do the experiment with the scale

model - if the recoil distance is 24 feet?  Is it so far as to

smash gun crews on the opposite side or roll the gun over

a hatch opening  ( as much as those guns weighed, there is

a chance that only the sea floor would stop it.)

 

The tackle -  left taut - it would slightly restrain and spread out

the recoil stress.  It would also stress the tackle gear and probably

shorten its working life.  In the ciaos of battle - I wonder if fingers

could be lost if the gun were fired before crewman loosening the gear 

finished.

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The tackles left to run would act as a shock absorber, and a good one, as anyone who has pulled blocks apart  have discovered. I suspect that the breaching ropes were there as an emergency stop and never intended to bring the gun to a sudden stop. To service the gun, the rear set of blocks were probably used to pull and hold the gun at the limits of the breaching ropes until it was time to return the gun to battery. Any mass like a gun and carriage brought to a sudden stop would cause damage, experience would have taught even those uneducated seamen that, and they would have quickly  done something to prevent it.

jud

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- if the recoil distance is 24 feet? 

 

That is not the recoil :-)
 
24 feet is the length of the pure rope. Divided by the middle for left and right minus the "knot" around the eyebolt on the ships side. 
 
This makes 24 feet divided by 2 = 12 feet
12 feet minus bores length of 8 feet makes 4 feet left
 
These 4 feet minus 1 or 2 feet for the knot as the rope is quite stiff makes not too much distance towards the hulls side. Fits more or less the model shown in my last post :-)
 
XXXDAn
Edited by dafi

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For live fire, try this:

or google vasa cannon.

 

Joel - That's a lot more like what I was expecting. That carriage slamming backwards an almost lifting up when it hit the end of the breech rope. Great video.

Edited by mikiek
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Jud - your point is well taken. And I was asking for that reason. Sure the tackles could help slow down the gun but there would be some extreme wear & tear on them as well. Of course, if the breech rope was the only thing stopping a carriage it would not take long for an eyebolt to tear out of the hull.

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The photos posted in post number 10 show two tail tackles being used to hold the gun against the breaching ropes for loading, what I would expect, much quicker and handier than placing blocks or other methods of fouling the carriage into submission so the gun could be serviced. Also I studied the Vasa footage and noticed that by the time the gun had traveled to the end of the breach rope limits, it was just coasting, still a large mass to stop suddenly. Those large wheels, clean deck and no rigging to cause drag one would allow for the long movement seen in the video, but it does not represent reality, only the physics of the forces at work on that setup. Going to stick with my opinion about how and what was done to control and disperse the forces of a recoiling gun, it was not the breach ropes that were relied on for that, they had other important uses. All the large guns I was around used distance and drag to control recoil while storing energy in a counter recoil system to return the gun to battery. The cannons of old required the same control, physics are the same, just used different technology to deal with potentially damaging forces. Time and resistance, not brute force, was proven to work long ago.

jud

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Hello gentlemen;

 

Thanks Spyglass;  that is an interesting book.

 

Mike: the length of the breeching rope is the overall length,  and would be the length issued from the stores to the ship's gunner.  It would therefore be slightly shortened by any splices in the ends.

 

When the gun was fired,  it ran back rapidly,  until it hit the limits of the breeching rope,  which would pull it up with a jerk.  This was confirmed by Adrian Caruana during experiments.  Without the breeching rope,  cannons,  when fired,  would recoil many yards:  I seem to remember about 40 feet for a 32 pounder.  Once the gun was run out,  ready for firing,  the breeching rope was laid out to each side,  in order to keep it as far as possible from the path the trucks would follow during the recoil. 

 

The gun-tackles were indeed left attached (it was not unusual to mouse the hook that held the tackles to the carriage,  which would have made it impossible to remove easily) and care was taken to lay out the fall of the rope in such a way that it would feed easily through the blocks during recoil.

 

All the best,

 

Mark P

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Thanks Mark - That's kind of how I imagined it although I had nothing to base it on. I do recall the Vasa video showing the quion come flying out as the gun hit the limit of breech line. That's quite a bit of momentum.

 

On this gun deck build, I've decided to place one gun what would be about 2' back from the inner hull with a little slack in the breech line - ready for loading. At the moment I'm planning to have the other one hauled out ready to fire.

 

This has been a really interesting thread. It's funny how one small detail in a build can bring on a good conversation. I've learned from this one.

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Hi Mike;

 

It is a large book,  about 2" thick and 12" tall.  It has a wealth of illustrations and scale drawings of cannon barrels and carriages,  as well as a detailed text.  It is written by a man who had a lifelong enthusiasm for cannon,  and who had extensive knowledge of the Ordnance Board's records.

 

I have not seen the earlier volume,  but the 18th century one describes the development of sea artillery,  and deals with every aspect of design,  manufacture,  use and maintenance.  It is broken up into chapters dealing with each separate period of peace and each of war during that century,  and covers the period from 1715 to 1815.  Some of the information is in tabular form,  but the book is far from a collection of lists,  and is interesting to read.

 

If you are keen on producing accurate scale armaments,  or trying to obtain an in-depth knowledge of the subject,  it is perhaps worth the cost.  I found one on Amazon.Japan for $250,  and snapped it up,  although the postage was horrendous,  as the seller did not normally ship to England (I managed to calm down the Admiral over the cost of the book,  but she didn't see the cost of the postage,  fortunately)

 

All the best,

 

Mark P

Edited by Mark P
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