Page 26 - Moncrieff's Disappearing Guns
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Moncrieff’s Disappearing Guns                                                                            David Moore

              assault in time of war.                         be determined by the proper authorities. They did
           4. That as there will occasionally be detached pits  however recommend that the system would be
              supported by or in support of such works, the pits  particularly well adapted for : -
              themselves should, in such cases, be made       1. Mounting guns in salients of land defences.
              defensible by musketry, and the details of these  2. Mounting guns for subsidiary defence of existing
              pits and their carriages should be considered in  heavy sea batteries, e.g. Picklecombe and
              relation to the requirement.                      Bovisand, the guns of which being essentially
           5. That the arrangements for range-finding, and      armour piercers should have associated with them
              conjoint action between batteries in the same     guns of lighter calibre for shell fire.
              work, should be a primary consideration in its  3. The defence of the great commercial harbours. The
              design.                                           expense of mounting guns behind shields or in
                                                                casemates would be considerably more than the
           In the light of this Moncrieff wanted his system, in  cost of mounting a few guns of 12 tons or, possibly
           providing for future harbour defence, to obtain the  more, on Moncrieff carriages. The advantages in
           share of attention that was freely bestowed on iron  terms of protection for the crew over guns mounted
           shields and casemates which in all but exceptional   en-barbette would be  a matter of importance.
           cases were the only alternative that provided adequate
           defence against heavy naval artillery. He raised some  Once again the committee stressed that how the
           interesting points. Powerful artillery was not more  Moncrieff system should be applied was best left to
           effective than light pieces, unless the exact range was  those who were in a position to judge but they were
           known. He quoted from the last official report of the  ‘strongly of opinion’ that should new works or
           Committee appointed by the Secretary of State for  supplementary works be proposed then Moncrieff
           War to consider the comparative merits of the      should be afforded the opportunity of expressing his
           alternatives at the disposal of the country for    opinion officially on the plans.
           protecting harbours.
                                                              After the paper was read, in support of Moncrieff
           ‘In comparing the relative efficiency of guns mounted  Admiral Sir H. Codrington K.C.B. outlined the
           on Moncrieff carriages with guns mounted in the    difficulties experienced when the batteries defending
           ordinary way, the Committee have to remark the     Plymouth Sound were put to trial. He told how he was
           experience gained with the carriage for the 9- inch of  present when Fort Bovisand was tried. The object was
           12 tons, since the date of their report of  9th.   to fire at a ship supposed to be coming in. The guns
           December 1871, fully confirms the opinions they then  had been put in and were actually mounted and one
           expressed as to the superiority of the former in regard  was worked and fired for the purpose of the trial.
           to the following points :-                         When it was run out it did not project beyond the
           1. Facility of loading.                            outer face of the battery and the buffers had to be
           2. Facility of laying, and that the gun can be laid with  removed in order to allow it to go out, and even then
             sufficient accuracy without the exposure of No. 1.  it was just square with the outside face of the port.
           3. Rapidity, as compared with that of a similar gun on  The concussion when fired was very great and a good
             a dwarf or casemate traversing platform.         deal of smoke and fire entered the casemate. When
           4. The time the gun, when fully engaged, may be    the gun was trained to the extreme the muzzle was
             regarded as exposed compared with the time it is  within the port and when fired the quantity of smoke
             fully covered.                                   and fire that entered, and the strength of the
           5. The degree of protection afforded to men, shell  concussion were so great that no one could have stood
             rooms and expense magazines, as compared with    at that gun. Nobody did stand at it for they all retired
             that afforded by iron shields.                   to the next casemate. Upon entering the casemate they
           As regards economy and efficiency, therefore the   found the rope mats and mantlets a hanging mass of
           Committee consider the Moncrieff system compares   fire although they had been well doused with salt
           very favourably with that of the service, especially  water. The authorities deemed the battery to be
           when it is considered that from its extensive lateral  unsuitable. On a later visit the Admiral found that as
           range one gun mounted on a Moncrieff carriage      it was not expedient to alter the racers the carriage
           may do equal work with two or more guns mounted    had  its inner truck altered so as to get it further out.
           behind shields.’                                   This resulted in the carriage touching the sides of the
                                                              embrasure so that it could not be trained. The Admiral
           The Committee had added that how this method of    considered the batteries to be ‘beautiful batteries’ but
           mounting guns could be applied to the country’s great  only of use when the guns were not required to be
           defensive works, now that they were complete, should  traversed to extreme. He was concerned that an

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