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The Master Gunner's Page; - both British and French commands -
Topic Started: Apr 27 2011, 04:12 PM (1,792 Views)
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fighting the Spanish Armada since Sir Walter Raleigh's time
Fleet Admiral
The Master Gunner Commands

Handle your rope spunge
Put your Spunge into your Gun
Take of your Apron
Stop your Vent with your Thumb
Put home the Spunge to the Breech
Turn it about thrice
Draw forth the Spunge. Keep it turning
Strike it on the Muzzle
Exchange the Spunge for the Rammer
Handle your Cartridge
Put it into the gun
Handle your Wadd
Put it into the Gun
Handle your Rammer
Put it into the Gun
Ram home Wadd and Cartridge
Give three strokes
Examine with your Priming Iron
Withdraw your Rammer
Handle your Shot
Strike it on the muzzle of the Gun
Put the Shot into the Gun
Handle your Wadd
Put it into the Gun
Ram home Wadd and Shot
Give too strokes
Draw forth your Rammer
Lay down your Rammer
Handle your Priming Iron
Prick or break your cartridge
Withdraw your Priming Iron
Handle your Powder Horn
Unstop your Powder Horn
Hold up your Horn
Prime your Gun, carrying the powder forward
Stop your Powder horn
Join your left hand to the small end
Bruise your Powder
Return your Horn
Cover the Priming with the Apron

Your Guns are now loaded, and ready to fire at Command. The Gunner says,

Man your Tackles
Handle your Crows and Hand Spikes
Hall up the Ports and Belay them
Run out your Guns
Lay the guns to pass in the Ports
Point straight
Point to Dismast
Point to Wind and Water [presumably either this command or the previous - Ed.]
Handle your Match
Blow your Match
Take of your Apron
See all things clear of the Reverse

From Francis Povey, The Sea Gunner's Companion (London, 1702) pp. 43-44 (credits to Mr. Foxe of Pyracy Pub who had taken it over)
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fighting the Spanish Armada since Sir Walter Raleigh's time
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Construction des vaisseaux du Roy, 1695
L'exercice du Canon. - [page 132]

Cannoniers prenez garde! Silence.
tapez vos Canons.
Démarez vos Canons.
Prenez la Platine.
Découvrez la Lumiere.
Prenez la Sonde.
Mettez-là dans la Lumiere.
Crevez la Gargousse.
Hors la Sonde.
Passez-la; sur la main.
Prenez le Poulevrin.
Haut le Poulevrin.
Débouchez le avec les dents.
Bouchez le Poulevrin.
Joignez la main gauche au Poulevrin.
Ecrasez la poudre.
Pendez le Poulevrin la ceinture.
Prenez la Platine.
Couvrez la Lumiere.
Prenez vos Pinces Anspects.
Canonniers pointez.
~ Pointez en avant.
Pointez en arriere. [Page R:133]
Pointez en belle.
Pointez à d'émâter.
Pointez à couler bas.
Pointez à l'horison.
Posez vos Pinces Anspects sur le pont.
Prenez le Boute-feu
Prenez la Platine.
Souflez la méche.
Boutez le feu.
Piquez le Boute-feu sur le Pont.
Mettez la Platine sur le Canon.
Prenez l'Escofilon.
Passez le pied gauche par dessus les Palans Brague.
Mettez l'Escofilon dans le Canon.
Mettez le pouce sur la Lumiere.
Poussez l'Escofilon au fond du Canon.
Virez-le trois fois.
Hors l'Escofilon en virant.
Frapez-le sur la bouche du Canon.
Acourcissez l'Escofilon.
Chargez l'Escofilon.
Prennez la Gargousse.
Mordez la Gargousse.
Mettez là dans le Canon.
Prennez le valet.
Mettez le sur la Gargousse.
Mettez le refouloir dans le Canon.
Poussez la Gargousse au fond du Canon. [Page R:134] Frape trois coups.
Sondez la Gargousse.
Hors le refouloir.
Prennez la bale.
&Mettez dans le Canon.
Prennez le valet.
Mettez sur la bale.
Mettez le refouloir dans le Canon.
Poussez la bale sur la poudre.
Frapez un coup.
Hors le refouloir.
passez le pied gauche par dessus les Palans Brague.
Changez l'Escofilon.
Posez sur le Pont.
Prenez la Platine.
Couvrez la Lumiere.
Rangez-vous sur les Palans.
Poussez le Canon au Sabord.

Cannoneers take guard position. Silence.
Remove the Tampion from your Guns.
Unmoor your Guns.
Seize the Lock.
Uncover the Light (touch hole).
Take up the Probe. (priming wire)
Put it there in the touchhole.
Burst the Cartridge. (make a hole in the cartridge with the piming wire down through the touch hole)
Take out the Probe.
Place it there in the hand.
Take up the Powder horn.
Present the Powder horn.
Uncork it with the teeth.
Fill the measure.
Cork the Powder horn.
Place the Powder horn in the left hand.
Place the powder in the lock/touchhole.
Hang the Powder horn on the belt.
Close the Lock.
Cover the touch Hole
Present your Grips (Handspikes. )
Canonniers aim.
-Aim forward
- Aim aft [ Page R:133 ]
-Aim carefully.
-Aim for dismasting.
-Aim low.
-Aim even with the horizon.
Restore your Grips (Handspikes to the Deck.)
Prepare the linstock. (or)
Preparet the lock.
Blow on the slowmatch.
Light the linstock.
Put the Linstock on the deck.
Place the Lock on the Gun.
Present the Linstock
Move the left foot over the Hoists and Tackle.
Place the linstock in the Gun.(fire)
Place the thumb on the touchhole.
Shove the Ramrod Swab to the bottom of the Gun.
Swab it three times.
Remove It each time while swabbing.
Tap it on the mouth of the Gun.
Wipe the Swab.
Present Ramrod.
Present Cartridge.
Cut the Cartridge.
Place it in the Gun.
Present the servage (wadding.)
Mettes it on top of the Cartridge.
Put the rammer in the Gun.
Seat the Cartridge at the bottom of the Gun. [ Page R:134
Hit the cartrdige with three blows of the rammer
Sound the Cartridge. (feel for it to see if seated properly)
Remove the rammer.
Present the cannon ball.
Start it in the Gun.
Present the wad.
Start it atop the ball.
Start the rammer in the Gun.
Press the ball down on the powder.
Give it a blow.
Remove the Ramrod.
Move the left foot over the Hoists and Tackle.
Present Ramrod
Place it on the deck.
Present the Lock
Cover the touchhole.
Take up the Hoists.
Pull the Gun to the Gunport

(credits to Captain Sterling of Pyracy Pub who had taken it over)
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A gunner’s tasks in battle

Given their size and weight, it took several men to get a gun loaded and ready to fire. It took skill, co-ordination and discipline to do it properly. A typical gun-crew consisted of five men: a gun-captain, who was in charge of aiming and firing the gun, and four subordinates, who were in charge of loading the gun and running it out. When the enemy was sighted and the order was given to prepare the guns, this is how they were loaded:

0. The powder boy, or powder monkey as he was known, would bring the powder and sometimes shot (sometimes the solid shot would be near the gun in holders). The powder would be in a cloth bag, and rammed down the barrel by the Loader.

1. The gun is charged with gunpowder, either loose gunpowder poured down the barrel with a special scoop, or a bag or pouch of gunpowder shoved down the barrel with a ramrod.

2. The gun is loaded with its ammunition. Depending on the size or type of ammo, it may need forcing down with a ramrod. The Loader would have a rammer that was commonly stored on the ceiling of the gun deck if there was one. Sometimes the Loader would have an assistant Loader to hand him the rammer, to help handle the powder load and/or shot, and to take his place if he was killed. Then the shot was put down the barrel, and would be accompanied by a wad if it were round shot.

3. The charge and shot are wadded down with wadding (usually old, ripped up cloth), to prevent the ammunition from rolling out or moving unexpectedly.

4. The gun is primed and made ready to fire. On earlier cannons, this meant shoving a metal spike into the touch-hole at the top of the cannon-breech and feeding in either a burning match-cord (for a fuse), or a burning taper, to set off the charge. In later cannons, the gunlock (a type of flintlock firing-mechanism adapted for cannons) would be charged with powder and prepared to fire.

After the powder and shot was rammed down the barrel, a spike would be put down the touchhole, and the powder bag would be opened by this, and exposing powder. A priming horn with fine priming powder would be poured down the touchhole. Usually 100 to 120 grains would be poured down the barrel.

This was all done by either a independent primer man, or someone in the gun crew could multi task. Many of the jobs on a gun crew could be multi tasked. The gun would be run out with breeching ropes attached to the guns. For smaller guns it was easier to pull out a gun, but the bigger the gun, the more manpower it would take to pull out into threw the gun port hole in the side of the ship. Some of the big guns would need 9 or 10 extra hands to be pulled out. But for smaller guns, the gun crew loading and operating it would be simple enough to do it.

5. The gun is run out on its gun-carriage, pushing open the gun-port in the side of the ship. As cannons could weigh several hundred pounds, even when empty, running out a gun took a considerable amount of strength. Smaller guns could be pushed out by hand, but larger, 36 or 42-pounders would have to be winched out by ropes and pulleys, requiring the efforts of the entire, five-man gun-crew.

Then the gun captain would aim the gun, and a handspike man (or sometimes there were two for bigger guns) would adjust and elevate the gun according to the gun captain’s orders. On bigger guns, there would be a second gun captain to help operate the gun.

The order of ‘fire!’ is given. At this point, either the match-cord is lit, the taper is put to the touch-hole, or the lanyard operating the gunlock mechanism is pulled. The gunpowder explodes and propels the ammunition out of the muzzle, directly at the enemy.

Then everyone would clear away from the gun, so when it was fired the gun rolling back on the recoil would not smash anyone. Someone would take a slow match and light the powder on the touchhole.

The recoil of the gun going off was significant. For safety reasons, sailors never stood directly behind a cannon, as the recoil could throw the gun back and either knock them over, or even worse, the wheels of the gun-carriage could roll over their shoes, crushing their feet! The ropes attached to the cannons didn’t just make it easier to run the cannons out, they controlled the powerful kick of the recoil, once the gun had discharged.

6. The gun is then swabbed with a sponge, to douse any embers inside the cannon, and the process from 1-5 is repeated all over again. The Sponger might have an assistant like the loader.

Any burning embers and residue would be swabbed out. On the other end of the sponging stick, there would be a “worm”, which could grab scraps of cloth from the powder bag or big amounts of residue. Without doing this, the gun would build up residue from gunpowder, and become too dirty to operate. Iron guns commonly suffered from “honeycombing” which is what happened as gunpowder ate away at the barrel, and the inside of the barrel would look like a honeycomb.

Source: Handling naval artillery
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Cannons were simple to operate, even if they weren’t very easy to maneuver. But their simplicity-of-design allowed for a wide range of ammunition to be fired out of them, creating all kinds of hell for the enemy being fired at. While in theory, anything that could fit down the muzzle could be considered ammunition, there were several purposely-manufactured types of ammo which gun-crews used.

Roundshot. This is your basic iron ball that was used to punch holes in a ship’s side, to dismantle guns, and to shoot down masts and yards. These came in various sizes, the smallest being six pounds, the very largest being forty-two pounds. Roundshot was used to blast holes in the hulls of enemy ships. Roundshot was the mainstay of most battles, and the damage it could cause was considerable, to say the least. At thirty yards, roundshot from an 18-pounder cannon, could blast a hole straight through the hull of a ship three feet thick.

Hotshot. That is to say, a cannonball (roundshot), heated until it was smoking, red hot, before it was loaded into a cannon and fired at the enemy. Hotshot was both very effective and very dangerous, for obvious reasons. Hotshot required fires to heat the cannonballs red-hot. Onboard a sailing ship made of wood in the middle of the ocean, fire is the last thing you want. Hotshot was usually ‘baked’ on the galley stove, before being loaded into the cannon with a special scoop. Extra wadding was placed inside the cannon, to prevent the shot from setting off the gunpowder charge prematurely. Once loaded, the hotshot was fired just like any other cannonball, but with significantly more damage.

Once the ball had smashed through the enemy hull, it would roll around, too hot to touch. If it stopped anywhere for a long enough period of time, it would set the entire ship on fire, causing absolute chaos and distracting the enemy, probably long enough for you to blow the hell out of them.

Stone Shot: Basically round shot only made of stone, shatters on impact, but does not pack the punch of Round shot. It is also cheaper than round shot.

Case-shot and grape-shot (more-or-less the same thing), consisted of several dozen musket-balls, chain-links, nails, bolts, shards of glass or whatever else you could find, shoved into a metal can (case) or into a cloth bag (grapeshot), and loaded into a cannon. When this was fired, it turned the cannon into one hell of a massive shotgun, spraying musket-balls (or other shrapnel) all over the place. It was particularly effective against groups of enemy soldiers or sailors, huddled together onshore or on the open deck of a ship.

Chainshot and bar-shot. Chainshot and bar-shot were two small cannonballs (or iron bars) linked by a length of chain and loaded into a cannon. Once fired out of the gun, the chain links unravelled, turning the shot into nothing short of a bolas from hell. It was generally used for ripping holes in sails and rigging or dismasting an enemy ship, and could do damage to the crew. Chain shot’s full length is longer than bar shot or expanding shot. These whirring, whizzing necklaces of death could render a ship totally immovable once they had put the rigging and sails out of commission.

Expanding Shot: It is sort of a cross between Bar and Chain Shot. A iron ball is put on a bar, which is coupled together to another ball with a bar, and so when fired, it expanded out, and was expanded twice the area of Bar shot, and would rip holes in the sails and rigging, and do damage to the crew. But it was never a long as Chain Shot.

Canister and Langridge : It was a can filled with small iron balls, and made the gun into a big shotgun, and was in primary use against crew. Langridge was a more scrap together version of canister. It was just loading anything like old nails, scrap iron, and anything that could do damage.

Explosive shell. The explosive shell was a hollow cannonball filled with gunpowder and stoppered with a match-cord fuse. Once the cannon was fired with this inside it, the ball would whizz through the air, the fuse (ignited by the gunpowder in the cannon) would burn until it reached the gunpowder inside the shell, blasting the thing open and sending metal everywhere.

Source: Naval warfare in the Age of Sail
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Winning a Battle - Where to Aim?.

While cannons could pack a hell of a punch, it was a slow punch at best. To make the most use out of his cannons, the captain or commanding officer of the attacking ship, would be sure to target various weak-spots in the enemy ship, to get the biggest bang for his buck, so to speak. The four best places to shoot at were:

The rigging and the masts. Blowing them apart with chainshot and bar-shot rendered the enemy ship unable to move. You could now blow it to pieces as you wished.

The hull. Blowing holes in the enemy ship’s hull at, or below the waterline, would cause it to sink. Game over. While easy in theory, it took a fair bit of skill and timing to achieve successful destruction of a ship’s hull and make it sink. Most cannons could not be angled far down enough, to shoot into the hull on their own. They needed the help of the ship which they were mounted on. And the ship needed the help of Mother Nature.

On a ship rocking and rolling around at sea, if the ship was broadside to the waves, it would cause one side of the ship to be higher than the other, as it slid up and down the crests and troughs of each wave. Captains used this angling of their ships to their advantage, and would call out one of two orders, to fire ‘on the up-roll’ or ‘on the down-roll’. To fire on the ‘up-roll’ meant to fire when your side of the ship was angled upwards. Firing in this position meant that you could blow the masts off the enemy ship. On the other hand, firing on the ‘down-roll’ (when your side of the ship was angled downwards), meant that you could send your shot down, closer to the waterline, blasting holes in the enemy’s hull and sinking it.

The quarterdeck. The quarterdeck was the main deck of most ships, where the captain and his staff would command from, and if the leader was killed the crew, especially if it were a merchant crew, could be thrown into confusion and maybe be closer to surrender. On smaller ships, it was also the gun-deck. Shooting at this area with case-shot and grape, would kill several dozen sailors, allowing you to board (if you wished) without fear of immediate attack.

The stern. Ships of the Age of Sail were notoriously vulnerable at the stern, where there were few cannons to protect it, and where there were large windows, letting light into the captain’s cabin. It is also where the rudder was. If you could disable the rudder, then the ship could not be steered. The only way to steer it would be if boats would get in front and pull, and to go with what direction the wind was going.

This lack of protection allowed the attacking ship to destroy the enemy in absolutely horrific ways, if they could pull it off successfully. To successfully attack the stern of another frigate, you had to execute the maneuver known as ‘crossing the T’, where your long axis crossed the enemy’s short axis at the stern. You then had to carry out the firing-procedure known as ‘raking’.

Raking fire was devastating, to say the least. It worked like this:
As each of your cannons passed the stern of the enemy, the gun-captain or officer in charge, would yell out the order: “Fire as you bear!”, which meant to discharge your cannon when you sailed past the enemy stern. This sent your shot smashing through the back windows of the ship and right down through the middle of it, destroying cannons, ripping through masts and killing and maiming enemy sailors, who had nowhere to run. Firing at the stern could also disable the enemy’s steering which meant they couldn’t come about (turn around) to face you, broadside-to-broadside, and give you a payback round. Firing at the stern could also sink the ship, leading to a decisive victory in your favour.

When the ship’s wheel was introduced in the 18th century, the poop deck would be were the ship was steered from, and if you knocked out the wheel, the only other way to steer would be by hand below. Also, just killing the men on the wheel might knock it off course for a minute or so until someone else went to the wheel.

The one place that would have been the most decisive place to hit in a ship, but hardest to hit, would be the powder room. Usually hitting the powder room was almost impossible, and when it was hit, was totally by luck. Usually,the powder room was in a more secure part of the ship, in the middle of the ship, away from places were shots would most likely be hitting the ship in battle. But this only rarely happened.

During battle, there were three basic outcomes: Sinking, burning or boarding.

Sinking a ship involved blowing its hull to pieces and then leaving it (and the crew) to drown. Any sailors you picked up would become prisoners of war.
Burning a ship (either with hotshot or flaming torches) meant that it would turn into a massive, floating fireball, probably killing most people onboard.

If you planned to board a ship, then trying to take down as much crew as possible was your best option. Not only did this make less resistance to you, but made jobs on a ship harder with less men. Shots like canister were the best option. When a ship used langridge that usually meant they were running out of ammunition, and/or were desperate to defend itself.

Grape shot was more commonly used by the Navy in bigger guns, because those 9 smaller balls would be size of small caliber guns in smaller ships, and made a broadside from a warship seem like a broadside from a handful of small ships, which meant that more damage could be dealt in more places, but it wouldn’t be as effective. Sure a grape shot ball could kill someone, but having smaller balls in more numbers, like in canister, were more effective as an anti-personnel round than grape.

The one thing that wasn’t commonly done was aiming below the water line. Firing at below the waterline, would let water into the ship. While it took men off deck so it could be fixed, in small ships it had a better chance of sinking. But in bigger ships, it was very hard to actually sink a ship.

It would take a lot to sink a warship. Most likely, before you could sink a big warship, it would be turned into a pile of splinters. And most attacking ships wouldn’t want to sink their opponent, due to it most likely meant prize money, or their country could use it, or for pirates it meant supplies.

The one thing that warships did the best was a devastating broadside. The broadside is just firing all the guns on one of the ships side all at once, creating a shower of metal on your enemy. But on smaller ships, it could inflict so much damage, maybe beyond repair, and most of the time an attacking ship would want to take a ship as a prize. So only in big ship-to-ship combats between navy warships would broadsides be used.
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