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Unread 07-29-2011, 08:59 PM
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KG_Jag KG_Jag is offline
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Default Braodside! Naval Warfare from 1500's to World War I

From the just issued (and very late) Shrapnel Games July Newsletter:

"The concept of broadsides, or firing a salvo of cannons at once, can be traced back to the 16th century. The birth of broadsides came out of the necessity for fire control. Battles between ponderous sailing ships were slow and methodical affairs. Attacking enemy ships in a piecemeal fashion would serve little purpose; what was needed was control over the discharge. This was especially imperative when one considered all the noise, smoke, and confusion of combat.

By unleashing the guns at once (firing a broadside) a ship was able to control their attacks. The downside of a salvo is that a ship was only as good as its slowest gun crew. Navies around the world constantly drilled their crews in an effort to be the best in battle. The Royal Navy had a standard set of orders for broadsides, which essentially formed the backbone of naval gunnery theory around the world.

The first order was to cast loose the guns. Gun ports were opened, muzzle plugs were unplugged, lashings were freed and the cannons were initially moved up or down, or side to side, depending on the situation.

Next, the order was given to run out the guns. This is literally pushing the guns so they stick out of the gun-ports. Additionally, the gun is prepped for firing by piercing the powder charge bag, attaching a lanyard to the flintlock, and adding a touch of gunpowder to the hole that leads to the pierced powder charge bag.

Point was the next order. As you can imagine, it involved the final lining up of the guns, moving them as necessary. Essentially, pointing the guns.

Fire was the final order. The lanyard would be pulled, the flintlock would spark the powder, and with a mighty roar the gun would fire. Considering the recoil standing behind a firing cannon was not recommended.

The drill would then repeat. Between firings the barrel had to be swabbed out, and of course everything reloaded.

The type of projectile fired by cannons depended on the type of target. There were four main shot types, half of which were specifically designed for anti-personnel work. The shot types were:

Round shot - A solid ball that was the most accurate of the shot types. Did great against wooden hulls and anything else that got in its way.

Chain shot - Two small spheres connected by a chain (hence its name). Was meant to tear through sails and rigging. Not very accurate, it was only really good at close range. If you’ve seen the Mythbusters pirates episode then you know how nasty a chain fired from a cannon can be.

Case shot - Multiple small spheres in a metal can, that broke up when fired and spread the orbs across the enemy's deck. Huge freaking shotgun shell.

Grape shot - Another anti-personnel shot, this was a multitude of small spheres, like case shot, usually encased in a canvas sack. Another shotgun shell, essentially different from a case shot in how the ball bearings are housed.

The gun crews who manned the cannons were rather large. Typically there would be six men actually crewing the gun, and several others who manned the breaching ropes and tackles. A gun crew consisted of the captain of the gun, the second captain, a loader, a sponger, an assistant sponger, and assistant loader. When you consider that some ships of the line had up to a hundred guns, it's easy to understand why crews could number almost 900 men on a ship.

The era of broadsides came to an end in 1861 when the British floating battery, the Aetna class HMS Trusty, was fitted with a rotating turret. From that point onwards most ships mounted turrets, although a few retained hull cannons but these were phased out by World War One. With radar, fire control systems, and different tactics the need for broadsides went the way of the sail."
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