/ Firing a Cannon
Whilst in Malta we watched the firing of the mid-day cannon. Very interesting and spectacular. We got up close and the guide was explaining the firing process - making sure the firing hole was clear, opening the breech, inserting the charge etc.
On point I noticed and forgot to ask about was that, when it was fired, the chap doing the firing with a lanyard attached to the trigger mechanism faced rearwards.
Does anyone know of the reason for this?
Protects your eyes in case some hot gas escapes from the firing hole. I seem to remember facing away as well when firing a 203mm howitzer back in my army days (done it a couple of times only, as my main job was to drive the ammo truck).
There's a famous anecdote about firing canon at the Edinburgh Tatoo, when a member of each gun crew had to raise his arm. No one knew why; until a very old veteran explained that the drill was to hold the team of horses as the canon fired; and even though horses hadn't been used for 50 years they were still doing that part of the drill. Perhaps that's the same.
> There's a famous anecdote about firing canon at the Edinburgh Tatoo, when a member of each gun crew had to raise his arm. No one knew why; until a very old veteran explained that the drill was to hold the team of horses as the canon fired; and even though horses hadn't been used for 50 years they were still doing that part of the drill. Perhaps that's the same.
Sounds off to me. I think horses were held well to the rear and who would hold them while the crew were serving the gun?
More likely the crew held a hand aloft to show that their task was complete and that they were in position, clear of recoil and ready for firing.
I would guess protection from muzzle blast and flash, also to reduce exposure to any breech burst or if firing live, premature detonation. The lanyard ignites a friction primer which may also malfunction.
similarly we got to do it "as a treat", on the British 88mm better known as the "25 pounder" (that shows how old it was). Was known as "pulling the tit". Usually had mor boringly to load the charge casing and bang open the breech after firing to eject the empty case.
Assuming your taliking about a old fasioned black powder cannon, with a flintlock firing mechanism.
It would have been done from a health and safety point, if the hammer was released prematurely and the cannon were to discharge, the gunner could run forwards along with the path of recoil. ( otherwise he would have to run backwards..)
The raised hand was to indicate that the piece was ready for firing (and to indicate to the horse handler that they were about to fire and to every one else for that matter)Horses were about 40 meters away,
The oficer in charge could see the raised hand and then indicate by lowering of his sabre to the unit comander that he could fire, the unit comander would then give the order to fire.
(ex Dutch Royal Artillery ;which still uses horse drawn artillery for shows)
the large gunshield and flash eliminator (employed to allow more powerful propellant charge to increase the range) would have prevented burns on the 25 pdr.
gloves weren't allowed round the breech even in very cold weather and equipment sometimes works less cleanly when frosted so perhaps it is to allow a more positive force to be exerted and, very importantly, prevent injury? or blood getting into the mechanism in the event of having to fire while wounded like poor old Wakenshaw
I believe that the 25 pounder was a truly British gun, its propellant charge bags being red, white and blue in colour?
> Assuming your taliking about a old fasioned black powder cannon, with a flintlock firing mechanism.
Not too sure. Apparently they were originally muzzle loaders but modified to breech loading. The gunner had something of metal construction about 6cm long to which he attached one end of his lanyard. This was placed above the firing hole with some sort of ignition device attached to it and inserted into the firing hole.
> I believe that the 25 pounder was a truly British gun, its propellant charge bags being red, white and blue in colour?
What colour would they be were it to have been a French gun?
Someone more mischievous than me might suggest plain white to be appropriate.
I can't actually remember the colours, just that they allowed easy checking of the ordered charge by removing the fibre cap and presenting for inspection just before loading the charge. Worst moment was when someone remofed the protector cap from a live shell and then dropped it fuze first on to part of the gun trail - cue horror!
Just like the moment of thinking the harness, rope or tape would snap when abbing for the first time I was quietly waiting for it to explode in or on leaving the barrel but fortunately it seems the arming required more spintime than that!
snail, ortolan and frogleg coloured probably, to make them think of their stomachs
realistically, you probably don't want to be holding on to anything hard at the moment everything jumps on the recoil, hence lanyard, and I suppose you would protect your eyes from fragments and recoil by facing as the type of weapon required
That makes a lot more sense.
Someone less mischievous might draw your attention to the war memorials in every town and village in France.
> realistically, you probably don't want to be holding on to anything hard at the moment everything jumps on the recoil, hence lanyard, and I suppose you would protect your eyes from fragments and recoil by facing as the type of weapon required
I did notice a lack of recoil - presumably because of firing blanks.
As somebody mischievously but accurately described, the propellant bags of the French equivalent gun, the famous 75mm, were white.
Due to the propellant being contained within the permanently attached shell case there was no way to alter the propellant charge and therefore no need for different coloured bags.
But you knew that, didn't you?
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