Page 21 - Moncrieff's Disappearing Guns
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Moncrieff’s Disappearing Guns                                                                            David Moore


            The Moncrieff carriage is one of the most ingenious inventions connected with artillery of modem times. Everybody has
            heard of the great penetrative power of rifled guns-how projectiles can nowadays be sent through many inches of solid
            iron armour, and through earth  works a dozen feet in thickness ; and day by day, as our artillery grows heavier and more
            powerful, it is becoming a matter of the utmost solicitude on the part of those entrusted with the care of our defences, our
            fortresses, and our ships, to render these qualified to withstand the terrible fire that may be brought against them. Indeed,
            as  most  people  are  aware,  for  the  last  dozen  years  a  most  desperate  battle  has  been  waging  on  the  Essex  coast
            be-tween  heavy  guns  and,  armour  plates.  The  bloodless  combats  that  have  been  fought  are,  in  fact,  too  many  to
            mention, and we must be content to say that sometimes the victory has rested with the one and sometimes with the
            other.  When  the  War  Department  brought  forward  a  bigger  gun,  the  Admiralty  defended  itself  against  an  iron-plated
            target of greater thickness ; and so they have gone on, bringing heavier guns and stouter targets into the field, until at last
            we have come to use weapons which throw shot three to the ton, and iron plates for our fortresses and ships a dozen
            and  eighteen  inches  in  thickness.  Recently,  however,  our  defences  have  found  a  firm  ally  in  the  person  of  Major
            Moncrieff,  who  has  shown  us  a  plan  of  defending  a  town  or  establishing  a  battery  without  having  recourse  at  all  to
            expensive armour-plating or big earthworks of twenty or thirty feet, such as would be necessary to shelter one from the
            violent doings of that ‘enfant terrible’, the Woolwich Infant.
            Major Moncrieff’s invention may be easily understood on reference to the illustrations we have given of his- remarkable
            carriage. When we recently received visits from the Czar and the Shah, these potentates were, as a matter of course,
            taken to the splendid workshops at the Royal Arsenal ; and while there, no novelty excited their attention so much as a
            model Moncrieff carriage that was set in action in their presence : the idea was so ingenious, and the importance of the
            invention so manifest, that no one possessing the slightest military experience could fail to be impressed with its great
            The Moncrieff gun is sometimes called the rocking-horse gun; and this is certainly the best name that could be given it,
            for it at once expresses the principle of its action. Suppose a trench or hole to be dug in the ground, about ten feet deep ;
            into this recess is placed the rocking-horse gun and carriage, the weapon being loaded by a dozen gunners located in
            the pit for that purpose. Being below the surface of the ground, they are obviously in a very safe position, and it would be
            a very clever shot indeed on the part of an enemy to drop a projectile of any  kind just into the narrow hole occupied by
            the gun. Our gunners, then, have loaded the Moncrieff gun in safety at the bottom of the pit, and it is ready for firing. By
            means of a counter-weight at the back of the carriage, the gun is suddenly swung into the air, and up it goes, so that it
            stands a few inches above the level of the ground. In this position it can be fired at the enemy, being on the same level as
            he is ; and a reflector placed at the back of the gun allows those in the pit to take as good aim as if they too were above,
            beside the cannon. Finally the gun is fired, and the shock, or recoil, occasioned by its discharge has the effect of rocking
            back the weapon, and bringing it down again into the pit, where, of course, it is loaded once more without delay.

            It is the happy idea of making use of the discharge of the gun to bring the latter back again under-ground which forms the
            main feature of the Moncrieff invention; and this principle, it is hoped, may be made use of not only on land, but also at
            sea ; for it is evident to all that if we could but manage to carry the guns of a vessel down in her hold below the water-line,
            only to raise them for firing purposes, we should not only have our armament constantly protected, but the craft would be
            far more steady and seaworthy. A Monitor vessel, for instance, built but a few feet above water, armed in this way, would
            be a most formidable antagonist, offering as it would but a small mark to the enemy.

            The use of Moncrieff guns would also render the building of heavy stone and iron fortresses quite unnecessary, for a few
            trenches dug in the ground would then do quite as well for cur heavy guns as the costly masonry we now make use of to
            protect them. Unfortunately we have not yet been able to perfect the rocking-horse carriages to our complete satisfaction,
            and the war authorities therefore have only authorized the manufacture of a limited number on trial, until their working
            capacity  is practically  proven ; for  it stands  to reason that it  is only after  a  thorough trial has  been given to  such an
            invention, and it has been subjected to the rough usages of war, that its feasibility can be implicitly relied upon.
            Note: In the original  article from ‘Pictorial World 1875 Moncrieff ‘s name is spelt as Moncrieff throughout.

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