Side Arms for Smooth Bore guns:
During the period up to the introduction of Rifled Muzzle Loading Guns these general rules were applied to the provisiion of side arms for working smooth bore guns:
The many items required to load, aim and fire a gun did not pass through as many changes as did the weapons for which they were intended. They were few in number, simple in design and effective in their utility.
The side arms which accompanied a piece of ordnance included a rammer, sponge, wad hook, hand spikes, levers and until the use of cartridges for the powder became universal, a powder ladle.. They varied in size and only slightly in design for the different classes of gun.
The staves of each were made of ash and about 14 inches longer than the bores for which they were intended. Rammer heads, hollowed to receive the ball with its fuse in place, were made of elm and fastened to the stave with wooden pins. On the other end of the rammer was often placed another elm head covered with lambs wool which was fastened with glue or nails. This was used to swab out the barrel after firing and extinguish any powder or fragments of the cartridge which might ignite the next charge.
Wad hooks, which correspond to gun worms in the small arms field, were designed for the removal of wads from the breech of the piece. When paper cartridges or occasionally when cloth cartridges were used, the base of the cartridge was left in the breech after firing the gun. This would normally be extinguished by the sponge, but in a very short time they would build up to the point where they blocked the vent and prevented ignition of the powder of the next round. To eliminate this problem, the wad hook was used to remove the residue of the earlier shots.
Side Arms for Rifled Muzzle Loading Guns 1874
Following the introduction of Rifled Muzzle Loading guns the side arms were more specific for each calibre of gun.
The sponge head is of elm covered with fleecy hosiery, for M.L. guns, glued and choked on with a string, and for Breech Loading Rifled guns with a coating of woven hemp and canvass tied on. For the 7” M.L.R. and up, the total diameter of the head is I” less than the bore of the gun, while for the 80-pr. and below, the head is of the same diameter as the bore. The head is secured on its stave with a copper pin, and has the nature of gun for which it is intended marked upon it. The sponge staves are of ash, except for the Moncrieff guns, when they are of tarred rope, and are made of such length that when the sponge is home to the bottom of the bore the end of the stave shall project 15” from the muzzle. The B.L.R. sponge staves are marked with a copper ring to show when they are home in the powder chamber.
The rammer head is of elm, cupped to allow of a wad being rammed home and recessed to protect the fuze; it is bound with copper, in the 9” M.L.R. and upwards with two bands, and in the lower natures with one. In the former natures it is secured on the stave by a copper rivet, and in the latter by a wood pin. The rammer staves are of ash or rock elm, except for the Moncrieff guns, when they are of tarred rope, and are made of such length that the total length of the rammer is somewhat less than the total length of the sponge.
From the Treatise on Military Carriages 1874
M.L. guns are marked by the insertion of a metal screw with rounded head at the point which meets the muzzle of the gun when a service charge and common shell is rammed home. The head of the screw only projects sufficiently to be felt, the lower part being countersunk.
The 10", 11", and 12" rammer staves are each fitted with an iron band with loops, to which are attached guide ropes for use in loading. The ropes are of 2" white, and of such a length as to reach the front of the carriage bracket when the rammer is placed over the head of the projectile and entered 3" in the bore of the gun.
The wadhook consists of a wrought-iron socket with worm head riveted on to a stave of ash.
From the Treatise of Military Carriages of 1888
The sponge head is of elm, covered with fleecy hosiery, glued on for M.L. guns, and B.L. guns. For R.B.L. guns the head is covered with a coating of woven hemp and canvas tied on. For the 7” R.M.L. and upwards, the total diameter of the head is ½ inch less than the bore of the gun, for the 80-pr. and lower natures the head is of the same diameter as the bore. The head is secured on the wood stave with a copper pin and has the nature of gun for which it is intended marked upon it. The heads of 64-pr. and 80-pr. sponges are also marked with the letters denoting the form of chamber for which they are suitable. The wood staves are of ash; they are made of such a length for the R.M.L. guns, that when the sponge is home to the bottom of the bore, the end of the stave shall project 15” from the muzzle. The R.B.L. sponge staves are marked with a copper ring to show when they are home in the powder chamber.
Two natures of sponges are issued for B.L. guns to be used respectively for the bores and for the powder chamber. The only difference being that the heads of the chamber sponges are of slightly increased diameter to suit the chambers of the guns for which they are respectively intended.
The staves of the 16” and of the bore sponge for B.L. guns, are lengthened by end staves, as described for the piasaba brushes. The sponge for the 9” Moncrieff is also fitted with an end stave, connected by a screw joint in a similar manner.
For the R.M.L. guns the rammer head is of elm, cupped to allow of a wad being rammed home and recessed to protect the fuze ; it is bound with copper, in the 9” R.M.L. and upwards with two bands, and in the lower natures with one. In the former natures it is secured on the stave by a copper rivet, in the latter it was secured by a wood pin, but since March 1886, all rammer heads have been secured by copper rivets. The rammer staves are of ash or rock elm, and are made of such length that the total length of the rammer is somewhat less than the total length of the sponge. The rammer staves of R.M.L. guns are marked by the insertion of a metal screw with rounded head at the point which meets the muzzle of the gun when a service charge and common shell is rammed home. The head of the screw ‘only projects sufficiently to be felt, the lower part being countersunk. This screw is to be inserted after issue.
The 10”, 11”, 12”, and 12.5” rammer staves are each fitted with an iron band with loops, to which are attached guide ropes for use in loading; the hooks of the latter, Mark II, have spring clips to prevent their becoming. detached. The ropes are 2” white, and of such a length as to reach the front of the carriage bracket when the rammer is placed over the head of the projectile and entered 3” in the bore of the gun.
The jointed rammers for under cover loading, are similar to those for siege guns.
The heads for the rammers, for the R.B.L. and B.L. guns are flat ended. The 40-pr. R.B.L. rammer head is of ash in one piece with its stave.
The wadhook consists of a wrought iron socket with worm head riveted on to a stave of ash.
Handspikes for garrison service were designated as “common,” “ metal roller,” or “ wood roller.”
Common handspikes were of ash, the lower ends square and bevelled off at the point, the upper or small ends oval in section, in Mark II, and round in Mark I. They were of three lengths 5’, 6’, and 7’ respectively.
Metal roller handspikes or truck levers were used for running up wood sliding carriages on traversing platforms. They were of ash, 7’ long, and were fitted at the point with a plate of iron with a hook and pawl, also two metal trucks one at each side. At the small end they were fitted with a fall of white rope.
Wood roller handspikes were used in running up rear chock carriages. They were of ash, 6’ long ; the stave was fitted into an iron socket having two flanges with two rollers of lignum vita, working between them on an axle bolt, and secured by a split key. Upon the upper side of the socket a projecting knob was formed which fits into the handspike iron on the carriage.
Iron-pointed Levers are of ash with wrought-iron points, and are used in running up wrought-iron sliding carriages ; they are inserted in the sockets, and the small ends being borne down the rear rollers of the carriage are brought into play.
Iron-shod Levers are short levers shod with iron and used for traversing platforms, but not fitted with traversing gear ; they are applied under the front or rear trucks according to the nature of pivot.
From the Lists of Changes:
Rammer for 12.5inch RML Mk II
Length 11ft 11in including portion in the head.
Length 12ft 6in in total
2.5inch diameter at head 1.75inch at point
2inch of stave in head
The MkIII was the same in every respect but heavier in the head.
Rammer 64pr L wood stave MkIII 24 Feb 1894
It was decided that the stave twas o be grooved for rammer ropes .75in across .375 in deep.
In all future manufacture the staves of rammers of the above description were to have a semicircular groove cut across the end in order that when rammer ropes are used the latter may be prevented from slipping when fastened by spunyarn near the end of the stave.
This alteration was to be applied locally to such existing rammers as used with 64pr RML guns mounted on blocked-up slides.
Preventor ropes were of 3½ tarred rope 30ft long for iron platforms and of 3in tarred rope 33ft long for wood platforms. Each rope was fitted with a hook at one end.
for garrison service were of wood with rope handles.
were made of canvas waterproofed. Each cap was fitted with a string to secure it over the sponge head.
Side Arm Stores
According to Colonel Lewis writing in 1880:
Side-arm and Tackle Store.
The stores for side-arms and tackle were intended to hold the sponges, rammers, handspikes, tackle, and other appliances of that nature intended for working the guns.
They must be near the guns they are intended to serve, in order that there may be no delay in getting ready for action.
The fittings they require are a rack for side-arms, about 14 feet long, 5 feet wide, and 6 feet high, with cross bars at every 2 feet in height; bays for handspikes, one per gun, each bay about 1 foot 6 inches wide, and formed by a wooden projection from the wall, 4 feet above the floor; hooks for brackets, one per gun tackle brackets, two per gun, in two rows, 3 feet and 6 feet above the floor, respectively, each bracket of round. or half-round iron, 1 inches long : and some shelves for brushes.
Care should be taken that there is an easy way by which to remove the long side-arms from the store.
No side-arm store should serve more than eight guns.
No side-arm store is required for guns mounted in casemates, the side-arms are kept with the guns; except that there must be some convenient place for keeping the wadhooks, shell extractors and brushes, which are allowed at the rate of one for three Guns.
Side-arms for single guns are often kept on hooks on a wall with a pent roof over them, if necessary, to protect them from the weather.
They may also be conveniently kept on bars, fixed across a passage at a height of from 6 feet 6 inches to 7 feet from the ground so the the heads of the side-arms may be clear of the heads of persons passing under, while at the same time they may not be too high for convenience in taking them down.
Some assistance in determining the amount of artillery store accommodation may be obtained by consulting the Manual of Siege and Garrison Artillery Exercises.
Land Front Forts
Side arms were provided for but these were generally stored on racks in the centre of the artillery store or on hooks against a wall.
Coast Defence Batteries
A side arm and tackle store was required which had to admit of easy withdrawal of the long side arms. Sometimes pegs and hooks along a passage were provided instead of a separate store, or the general store could be utilized.
From the Aide Memoire for the Use of Officers of Royal Engineers 1876
Store for side-arms and tackles.
For larger stores, not less than 1 to every 8 guns. Dimensions for 8 guns, 22’ x 13’ x 8’ high to wall plate. Contains—rack for side-arms;
1 bay for every gun for handspikes, levers, &c. ;
2 tackle brackets for each gun;
1 hook for brackets for each gun;
shelves for brushes. Doors should be 4’ 6” wide.
In casemated batteries the side-arms are kept on hooks in the walls and arches. Longest side-arm of a 12’5” gun 18’; of a 12” 25-ton gun, 13’ 6” ; of a 10”, 13’ 5”
Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna -
National Heritage Foundation - at Malta have constructed a set of Side Arms for their Artillery Store.