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Naval Guns: manning and working

Catalogue number 41149

Twin guns of IJN Sai Yen

An example of a Krupp horizontal sliding breech block, in the open position for the left gun and closed for the right gun – Krupp preferred the sliding breech to the screw breech. A shell on a small trolley has been brought up from the magazine and hangs from a small pulley on the left of the image. The recoil system seems to be that the gun mounting slides back on a rail, the friction between the two parts being adjusted by screws. The Japanese cruiser Sai Yen was completed in 1885 as the Chinese Chi Yuan but was captured in 1895. She was mined and lost in 1904 during the Russo-Japanese war.

Recto "Pièces Jumelles sur l'Avant du "Saiyen"(sic), Croiseur de 3e classe"

Verso "30 XI 16"

13.8cm x 9.1cm Printed image


Catalogue number 47307

Loading a gun on board MN Redoutable

Everyone seems to be standing to attention during this photograph of the loading of a 27cm gun aboard the Redoutable, commissioned in 1878. This particular gun was made in 1884 as engraved on the end of the barrel. The gun has a typical early breech mechanism in which the breech is rotated through 36° then bodily drawn back onto a support tray. The tray is pivoted to the right leaving the barrel ready for loading. Once loaded, the support tray is swung back in line with the barrel and the block is pushed forward into the breech and screwed back into place. The whole procedure could take up to 3 minutes. A light metal screen partially protects the gun crew and the breech block is open to allow the shell to be rammed home.

Verso Postal franked Toulon 1904

14cm x 9cm Printed image


Catalogue number 37192

A 5-inch gun on USS New York

Several gestures in loading a 5-inch gun on USS New York are shown in this stereo photograph of 1917. A sailor is holding the breach block open whilst the shell and its charge are rammed into the breach using the long rammer. The claw-like device on the deck is used to lift the shell up to the breach. Notice the civilian to the right of the gun crew, he may be a builders representative present during the gun trials.

Recto Gunners on board U.S. Battleship New York Loading 5-inch Gun

Verso Extensive text giving the characteristics of US New York, its guns and describing the procedure to fire the 5-inch gun. Dated 1917.

15.3cm x 8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 41132

Breech mechanism of a 12-inch gun from HMS Illustrious

The details of the breech mechanism of this 12-inch mark VIII gun of HMS Illustrious (commissioned in 1898) are clearly illustrated in the photograph. The breech required three separate manipulations to open the barrel – unscrew, withdraw then swing back and to the side. The curved structure just showing at the bottom of the photograph is the loading tray used to present the shell and its charge to the open gun barrel. The gas-tight seal between the gun barrel and the breech is obtained by the dome-shaped part of the breech and its asbestos lip – on firing the gun, gas pressure pushes on the dome and its lip. When open the hand-operated breech is free of the barrel and supported by a swing-back carrier. We can see the corresponding threads on the inside of the breech block.

13.3cm x 7.6cm Printed image


Catalogue number 55005

Loading drill on HMS Marlborough pre-1932

Good loading drill was all important to maintain a steady rate of fire and here a gun crew in HMS Marlborough are under scrutiny by officers and men whilst they serve a mock-up of a 6-inch gun. The sailor just left of centre is ready to push the shell into the breach and behind him is another man with the cordite charge. To the extreme right, a sailor is removing a shell from the mock-up. It is possible that the officer standing high up is timing the whole affair.

12.9cm x 7.8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 45045

Drill on a US Navy 6-inch gun

This American gun crew are serving a 6-inch gun during a practice shoot. The gun layers are adjusting the gun whilst the crew are ready to load the shell and then the charge in its metal case, see sailors just left of centre. Just right of centre is a sailor holding the rammer used to push home the shell and its charge. Additional shells can be seen on the deck at the bottom left of the photograph.

Verso Gun drill on a 6" cal deck gun

12.7cm x 7.9cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 44046

Training on an anti-aircraft gun, HMS Ramilies

This photograph shows the training procedure for serving a 4-inch anti-aircraft gun on HMS Ramilies in 1938. Everyone is in their right place – these guns were hand-worked and gun trainers and controllers of gun elevation are on their respective platforms but the gun crew are fully exposed to enemy fire. Quick-firing ammunition is being brought up from the magazine and the sailor runs to fit it into the breach, each shell weighed over 14 kg.

Verso Aero-naval exercises begin in the Channel. 28.3.38. Sailors manning an anti-aircraft gun on board the “Ramillies”, a ship of the Red Fleet, during the manoeuvres off Gibraltar recently.

19.2cm x 14.4cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 35217

Training exercise on the German ship Koenigsberg

The high angle of fire of these 8.8 cm anti-aircraft guns on the German cruiser Koenigsberg make loading difficult and the training exercise is complicated by the gun crews wearing gas masks. Fuse, explosive head and propellant case are clearly shown in this photograph from 1934. The small gun shield gives the crew some degree of protection from enemy fire. Notice the linoleum-type material covering the deck and held down with brass strips.

Verso Nazi gunners prepare for naval “war”. Berlin……with the Red government of Spain calling a showdown and threatening to shell the course of German ships patrolling the Spanish coast, the German Navy is preparing for a naval war against Loyalist ships. Gunners aboard the “Pocket-Battleship” Koenigsberg are shown manning the guns during a gas-mask drill. 1-5-37.

24.2cm x 19.1cm Gelatin silver print

Catalogue number 43077

A fighting trawler

Gun practice on the foredeck of an armed trawler, notice the forward gallow behind the gun platform to the left. Either side of the gun are ready-use shell holders. This is a 12pdr/12cwt quick firing mark 1 gun on a high angle/low angle IX mounting. The gun could be depressed to -10° and elevated to +80° which made it effective against low flying aircraft.

Verso Avec ceux qui nettoient les mers. A bord d’un drageur de mines anglais le personnel du canon qui tiendra en respect les sous-marins et les avions. 13 Janvier 1940 . With the men who clean up the seas. On board a British minesweeper, the gun crew are ready to combat submarines and aircraft.

17.4cm x 12cm Gelatin silver print