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Naval Guns: manning and working

Catalogue number 115002

American gun crew

The gunner is wearing the headgear and microphone that connect him by wire to the fire control position. It looks like a voicepipe lying on the deck at his feet. The gun layers are on the sights left and right of the gun barrel. The man bottom left is holding a charge cannister, the gun is firing semi-fixed ammunition. There are shields to keep the layers off the hot gun barrel. Note that the gun crew are bare foot. If we gauge the size of the charge by the size of the man’s hand, this would appear to be a 5-inch gun. Note also the photographer’s name, Shaffer (see below).

8.7cm x 13.9cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 115041

5-inch gun on U.S.S. Idaho

Note the voicepipe held on to the sights with string and the two officers noting down the performance of the gun crew during this training drill. The gun fires semi-fixed ammunition - see the two gun crew holding shells - and it is mounted on a pedestal. Note the two gun layers on the sights left of the gun barrel and, right, the man on the two-hand training drive. This may be one of the 5-inch unshielded guns that Idaho had on the upper deck. Just right of top center is a pedestal mounting of maybe one of the 3-inch guns that were on the same deck.

Recto: “Aboard the U.S.S. “Idaho”

Credit: G. Sullivan

13.2cm x 8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 114046

6-inch gun crew H.M.S. Isis

H.M.S. Isis (Eclipse-class cruiser, commissioned 1898) carried eleven 6-inch guns with separate shell and silk cloth cartridge. Note the foot-plates either side of the breech and the shield protecting the gun layer from the hot barrel. The gun is on a shielded pedestal mounting. Photograph from between 1904 and 1918.

Verso: “H.M.S. Isis” in black ink

12cm x 8.7cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 115055

Pedestal mounting of 4.7-inch gun, Argentine Navy 1925

The Presidente-Sarmiento (launched 1897) was classed as an unprotected cruiser in service as a training ship in the 1914 edition of Jane’s Fighting Ships. This photograph shows one of the 4.7-inch pedestal mounted guns positioned amidships, note the two padded shoulder rests for the gun layers although the sights are not in place.

Verso: “Argentine Navy training ship here to pay New York ten day visit. Aboard the President Sarmiento, Argentine Naval Training Ship, now docked at the 80th Street Dock on the Hudson River, photo shows one of the Instructors, explaining gunnery technique to some of the future Naval Officers. 6/24/25.”

Credit: Underwood and Underwood

24cm x 19cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 114070

U.S.S. Olympia, 8-inch twin turret

This is a good view of inside one of the twin 8-inch turrets of U.S.S; Olympia (commissioned 1895) prior to their replacement with open 4-inch gun platforms in 1916 and then in 1917 with 5-inch guns. The righthand breech is closed whilst the lefthand breech in swung open. Ammunition was brought up from the magazine in the tray, note the rollers to protect the breech thread when loading.

Verso: “U.S. Flagship, “Olympia”. Inside the turret showing pair of 8in. Guns.”

Credit: Gale and Polden

13.4cm x 7.6cm Printed image


Catalogue number 112100

Mexican torpedo gunboat

The Mexican torpedo gunboat Nicholas Bravo was built by the Odero shipyard in Italy and launched in 1903. This is the forward 4-inch gun made by the Bethlehem Steel Company, U.S.A. Note the muzzle bell and the anchor chains.

Credit: Latapi & Bert, Mexico

13.2cm x 8.1cm Printed image


Catalogue number 112077

British-made 4.7-inch gun on an Italian warship

This is a photograph of a British-made (Armstrong/Elswick Ordnance Company) quick-firing 4.7-inch naval gun mounted on a turntable and with a shield. As the pattern M, this gun was provided to Italy from 1886. The muzzle is slightly belled. The pattern EE also went to Italy but to equip its dreadnoughts, we have a much small vessel in this photograph, maybe a light cruiser. Note the incomplete gun crew (normally ten) who are bare-foot. A rammer is lying on the deck. There is a padded shoulder rest for the gun layer to the left of the barrel, just visible behind the sailor. Note also the footplate and light gun on the torpedo locker, top just right of center.

13.8cm x 8.6cm Matt gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 111102

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Seneca

Here we can see a post-1918 4-inch gun on the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Seneca (commissioned 1908). Note the man holding a fixed ammunition round.

Recto: “Gun crew of cutter Seneca at target practice”

13.3cm x 7.3cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 108030

6 pdr Hotchkiss gun on U.S.S. New Hampshire 1916

On this 6pdr Hotchkiss gun, the gun sights are protected by cage-like guards. Below the breech appears to be a communication post linking the gun team to the bridge. The gun could fire armour-piercing and high explosive rounds. It was imported from France and also made under licence.

Recto: “Type of gun used to protect merchant ships from submarines”

Verso: “Aboard U.S.S. New Hampshire 1916” in pencil

13cm x 8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 108030

Detail, 6pdr Hotchkiss gun

U.S.S. New Hampshire carried four of these 6pdrs fore and aft on the upper superstructure. The gun fired fixed ammunition and was useful in keeping off torpedo boat attacks but despite the text on the photograph, it would only be effective against surfaced submarines that dared to attack a battleship. However, this gun was also mounted on auxiliary cruisers and armed merchant ships where it was more likely to encounter a surfaced submarine.

13cm x 8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 108010

U.S.S. Georgia, 3-inch guns

This and the following photograph were taken between 1904 and 1918 (as indicated by the type of stamp box). We can see the barrels of the two 3-inch guns mounted in the superstructure, each port can be closed up with the barrel protruding out. The arc of fire was restricted by the supports for the ship’s boats.

Recto: "The Port Gallery "Georgia"" in black ink

13.3cm x 8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 108009

Gun on the main deck, U.S.S. Georgia

This photograph may be of one of the 3-inch guns on the aft part of the main deck. Note the pedestal mounting. The writing on this and the previous photograph is similar to that on other photographs taken by L.L. Shaffer, musician and prolific amateur photographer on board U.S.S. Georgia at the time of the Great White Fleet World cruise, 1907 to 1909.

Recto: “Part of maindeck. “Georgia”

13.3cm x 8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 108019

Forward turrets and bridge, U.S.S. Georgia

This photograph was taken between 1904 and 1918, it shows the variety of guns on the pre-dreadnought battleship U.S.S. Georgia. The combined turret carries two 12-inch guns and two 8-inch guns. On the wings of the upper deck are single 3-inch 14pdr guns

Verso: “Looking aft from the bow showing the forward turret, the anchor chains and the bridge, marked x” in black ink

13.4cm x 8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 112116

12pdr/3-inch QF gun on a British armed trawler

Here we can see a 12-pdr/3-inch QF gun on a rotating mounting - note the handwheel. There are ready-use holders around the mounting and a voicepipe with it’s cover closed just left of bottom center. Dockyard workers are putting the finishing touches to the gun installation on a British trawler. Usually, the gun was mounted on the forecastle of a trawler forward of the mast although here the structure far right looks like the whisle steam pipe and funnel. In the background is the Grimsby trawler S.S. Riviere, built in 1915 and requisitioned for war service in 1916 and again in 1940.

Verso: “These are England's innocent fishing boats. Armed with heavy mg’s and cannons, they do patrol service. From England they are still shown as harmless fishing boats. 26-2-41 Presse Hoffmann, Berlin for the OKW.”

17.3cm x 12cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 103064

5-inch gun of U.S.S. New Mexico

The gun fired bag ammunition (although some marks were modified to fire semi-fixed rounds) at a cadence of 8 to 9 rounds per minute. The gun came into service in 1911 and battleships usually carried about 240 rounds per gun. U.S.S. New Mexico, following the rebuilding of battleships in the 1930s, had the 5-inch guns taken from casemates and placed in the superstructure without shields. By late 1942, U.S.S. New Mexico had replaced all her 5-inch guns for an extensive light AA armament. Elevation (left) and training (right) were by handwheels Photograph taken between 1910 and 1930.

12.7cm x 7.6cm Gelatin silver print


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