THE GRAND FLEET IN THE NORTH SEA during the war of 1914-
IN every type of man-
By the end of 1936 the only intermediate gun was the 8-
Unless and until some other weapon demonstrates its supremacy, the Navy will continue to regard the gun as the decisive arm. It is the principal factor deciding the tonnage of battleships and cruisers, for both categories are essentially floating gun platforms. Monster guns breed monster ships. It was the rise in gun calibre from 12 in. to 15 in. and 16 in. that doubled the size of battleships in little more than fifteen years.
During the war of 1914-
In the table below the principal details of the Navy’s more important guns are set forth.
Guns down to and including the 6-
To obtain the greatest possible muzzle velocity, and therefore the maximum range, accuracy and penetrative power, the modern naval gun is built of remarkable length, this being stated in terms of calibre. Thus, the 16-
Most British naval guns belong to the “wire-
When Nelson was approached by an inventor who wished to enlist his interest in a new gun sight which would enable accurate fire to be opened at a range of half a mile, the-
Nowadays the guns of practically all ships, down to and including destroyers, are “director controlled”. This means that the guns are laid and discharged by an officer working the director from a central position high up on the foremast or from a lofty tower abaft the bridge. When the director itself is trained on the target its movements are automatically transmitted to pointers on the elevation and deflection dials in the gun turrets. Accordingly, the gunlayer has only to “follow the pointer”, that is, to keep the dial in step with the movements of the pointer, and if that is done efficiently the gun will be kept steadily bearing on the target. As soon as he receives a report that all guns are loaded, the director officer satisfies himself that his sights are correctly adjusted for range and deflection, and then presses a button that closes the firing circuit. In a ship with four twin turrets it is customary to fire four-
IN H.M.S. DREADNOUGHT ten 12-
When “rapid fire” is ordered, as it would be immediately the target is “straddled” (when some projectiles of the previous salvo have pitched over, and others short of, the target), right and left salvos are discharged as quickly as the gunners can load their pieces. The ship’s armament is brought to bear on a moving target at long range by a rather complicated system. The heart of the system is the “transmitting station”, a room situated below the water-
Every report which affects gunnery control, such as own ship movements and direction of wind, is at once applied to the table, which modifies its diagram accordingly. As the transmitting station is in constant communication with the director tower, the officer working the director is kept supplied from moment to moment with the data necessary for keeping his sights on the target.
In addition to the fire-
When a battleship is about to engage in long-
FIRING A BROADSIDE of nine 16-
Immediately below the bridge are the two bow turrets, A and B, trained on the starboard beam, their huge 15-
Let us presume we are on the bridge. Being in an exposed position, we insert little wads of cotton-
wallowing and plunging in the wake of the towing vessel. Indistinguishable with the naked eye, the target stands out clearly through high-
Now a low buzzing noise is heard. This is the “salvo gong” that sounds a few seconds before the guns fire. Out thunders the first broadside in a sheet of orange flame and tawny smoke. The great ship reels under the tremendous concussion. There is a blast of hot air, as though from a suddenly opened furnace door. The steel casing of the funnel ripples as if it were brown paper, and clouds of dust rise everywhere. From somewhere below comes the tinkle of breaking glass, for every object that is not secured is likely to be flung to the deck.
Meanwhile, the ponderous 15-
A BATTLE PRACTICE TARGET at Gibraltar. The target is a lattice structure mounted on a raft. Targets are generally towed by a fleet tug of the Saint class. These tugs were built in 1918-
This time the four left-
Pandemonium follows. Every thirty-
All this time firing ship and target have been moving at high speed on a continually changing course, and the guns have been pointed not at the target itself but at the place where, according to the calculations in the transmitting station, it was likely to be nearly three-
Odd as it may seem, one of the quietest places in the ship during a shoot is inside a turret. As the muzzles of the guns are forty feet outside and a thick armoured shield is interposed between the turret interior and the outer air, the noise of the discharge is muted to a dull thud, and but for the fact that the massive breech recoils two or three feet on its slide one would hardly know that the gun had been fired. On the other hand, a good deal of noise is made by the loading cages which bring shell and powder charges up from below, and by the chain rammer which thrusts them into the breech of the gun.
Immediately after a gun has tired one hears a loud hissing sound. This is caused by a jet of air which is sent through the bore at high pressure to expel the cordite gases and any smouldering fragments from the cartridge bags that may remain in the gun. Otherwise the turret would be filled with noxious fumes and, possibly, scraps of burning silk as soon as the breech was opened.
The most spectacular “shoots” are those in which the target is represented by the radio-
The Centurion figured in a particularly interesting shoot by the First Cruiser Squadron — four 10,000-
Visibility was fairly good, but there was just enough swell to impart a certain liveliness to the motions of the London, Devonshire, Shropshire and Australia as they steamed in line ahead at 18 to 20 knots. The firing of the whole squadron was controlled from the flagship London. At the appointed time her sides rippled with flame, and a few seconds later came livid flashes from the
three ships astern. Sixteen 8-
Salvo after salvo thundered over the sea, and so accurate was the shooting that the battleship appeared to be continually straddled. Every now and then a cloud of dust would shoot up from her decks or topworks, indicating a direct hit, for the shells used for practice are loaded with sand instead of with high explosive.
One hit tore away half the forward funnel casing, others punched holes in the side above the thick armour belt and gashed the decks. Had the shells been “live” the ship would have suffered terrible punishment, for she was hit repeatedly and was at times entirely hidden by splashes. Even as it was the old battleship presented a sorry sight when the firing was over.
For reasons of economy, the expenditure of ammunition in naval gunnery practice is strictly rationed, and no ship is allowed to shoot until her gunnery department has worked up to a high standard of efficiency. This is understandable when it is realized that a three-
Novel Gunnery Devices
A tube with a bore of 1 in. or thereabouts is inserted in the big gun and loaded with a miniature projectile and a small charge of cordite. Firing is then conducted exactly as it would be in a full-
One of the outstanding features of this establishment is a miniature range where young officers are taught to control a big gun shoot just as it would be held at sea. The targets are model ships and the splash of a salvo is most realistically reproduced by a mechanical device. Similar ranges are installed in the gunnery schools at Chatham and Devonport.
At all these schools there are novel methods of instructing rangetakers (ratings who work the big telemeters or rangefinders) and gunlayers. A rangefinder is mounted on a stand which by an ingenious arrangement of cams is made to perform all the motions of a ship rolling and pitching in a seaway. In this way the rangetaker learns to keep his cross-
The development of anti-
GUNNERY PRACTICE BY THE NEW ZEALAND DIVISION in the Hauraki Gulf, North Island, N.Z. This photograph shows H.M.S. Diomede firing one of her six 6-
“The Ship and the Gun” on this website.