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Cannon Armed Clipper Thermopylae

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Hi Guys


After weeks of what became an almost daily fix reading first Ed Tosti's fabulous build logs of Naiad and now both Young American builds my interest in clippers has significantly increased and I came across a model of the clipper Thermopylae on the Australian Power House Museum site (officially the Museum Applied Arts & Science I think) built by a gentlemen Cyril L Hume.


What caught my eye was the two cannon lashed to the deck which I have never before seen on models of this type. The accompanying information on the model states he built the model entirely from information gathered from ex crew during the 1930's Depression in Sydney. The information on the site quotes Cyril in part -

The coastline south of Hong Kong was often the location of pirate attacks from junks. Cyril said that "Thermopylae" was well prepared with two small guns lashed to the main deck and various other weapons including 20 Tower Hill muskets, 20 cutlasses, 20 boarding pikes, 20 round shot and 20 grape shot located around the mizzenmast below deck.”

For me this is the first I have heard of any of the clippers carrying anything bigger than small arms? There is some very interesting detail information on the Vessel and crew are well as some very nice photos of a beautiful model if you have a spare moment.



Cheers Pete

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I believe all ships sailing in Chinese waters up to the end of the 19th centurey had to be armed at least for insurance purposes. However, it seems that many captains/crews preferred not to put up a fight with the pirates, if they could not out-sail them, because then, in case of capture, the Chinese pirates would then just kill them. If they didn't put up resistance, there was at least some chance that the pirates would let them go. I recently read an account of a German vessel of around 1860 that got captured: the crew was put into one of the ship's boats and set adrift; when they landed on an island in the Chinese sea, the friendly natives stripped them of their clothing, this being the only thing they still had; eventually they were rescued. This lead to a German navy presence in the Chinese waters.


The pirate problem has never been resolved completely in these waters and as we all know, it is now a serious threat to shipping in some parts of the Indian ocean, resulting in commercial ships being armed again.

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  • 2 months later...

A signal gun intended to make noise is much different than a crew served defensive gun. Aboard the Helena CA 75 we had two saluting guns mounted in 1961 on the 01 level forward, cheaper to shoot than shooting a Bale of Hay from a 5", bale of hay is what firing a propelling charge only was called. The signal guns installed in 61 were the breach with breach block and a short section of a 40 MM barrel solidly mounted to a triangular stand with no recoil provisions other than mass. Think the signal guns used today on the Constitution use the same breach and barrel setup all placed in the breach end of a couple of cannon. The 40 MM cartridges fired on the Helena used Black Powder. They produced the boom, flash and smoke of the old guns.


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  • 4 years later...
19 hours ago, Blunty said:

I believe that most clippers in the 1800s had to 14 guns (probably for protection, although some cutters were used in the royal navy


Hello Blunty, as you can see your statement has caused some confusion among the members. Perhaps it is down to more than one vessel with the same name, and perhaps shifting rules and norms at different times in the same century.

Can you add a bit of detail for context?




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