Category Archives: Ordnance

Anti Aircraft Fuze Cover

Artillery shell fuzes are fairly delicate, with finely tolerance clockwork parts within them to ensure that they work correctly. These fuzes need protection when being transported and in the Second World War a simple brad cone was provided that slipped over the fuze to prevent it from being knocked. These cones were designed for specific fuzes and marked as such and tonight we are looking at one cover that was originally issued for use with a No207 fuze:imageIt is a simple pressed metal cover, with a thicker lip soldered on around the base to protect a vulnerable area:imageThe cover is stencilled around the bottom half of the cone, this indicates that this was produced in 1942:imageAnd is for a No 207 fuze:imageThis fuze was a clockwork fuze, highly conical in shape, and used with the 3.7 inch anti-aircraft gun:783879_-_photo_1_1442403291_bigThe 3.7 Inch AA gun was Britain’s major anti-aircraft gun of the Second World War and remained in service until 1957 and underwent development throughout the war with better fuzes, settings and predictors to enable it to keep up with improvements in German aircraft.800px-The_British_Army_in_the_United_Kingdom_1939-45_H40431Tom Overs was a small boy during the war and remembers:

I was nine when war broke out and growing up in the village of Cranham, near Gloucester.

As a young boy I was fascinated by all things military, and enjoyed the excitement of the arrival of men from an artillery battalion to set up their headquarters at Cranham Corner. Their job was to man the anti-aircraft batteries high on the Cotswold escarpment at Brotheridge and a smaller one close to what is now the Hatton Court Hotel.

The four guns at Brotheridge were 3.7 anti-aircraft guns, these were later supplemented by four Lewis guns which were capable of attacking the ‘lone raiders’ which used to fly low up the valleys. When fire was aimed south over the village it resulted in a hail of shrapnel falling on the common. Following such an attack this shrapnel was collected by the village children and a playground pastime was the swapping of pieces.

The main reason for the location of the batteries was to fire on enemy aircraft going on up to the Midlands, but they also protected the Gloster Aircraft Company factory at Brockworth. There were many barrage balloons surrounding the site, and when attacks were anticipated as added protection smokescreens would also be lit. I remember the thick black smoke from these, which used to stretch out over the factory. Some of these drums, I remember, were also placed ready to be lit at the side of the A46 and the Cross Hands roundabout.

5.56mm Blank Rounds

When the. 5.56mm round was introduced into British Army service for use with the new SA80 rifle there was of course a blank round introduced alongside it. Initially the British Army used the L1A1 blank which was boxer primed and had a load of 0.5 gr as of NPP30 double-based propellant. This came into service in 1985 but was replaced by the L1A2 blank in 1992 which had 0.48 grams of nitro-cellulose single-base propellant. Around the turn of the 21st century the specifications changed again and the British Army now uses L18A1 blank ammunition, although I have been unable to find out exact specifications for this ammunition. The rounds themselves are made of brass, with. The same overall length as a live round:imageThe heads of each round are crimped, with a waterproofing agent to seal the end of the round from moisture entering:imageThe head stamp of the round indicates it was made by Radway Green in 2011 and is the L18A1 round:imageThese rounds were issued in cardboard boxes, each holding twenty rounds. These boxes were broken open and magazines loaded from these. The SA80 has specialist blank magazines that only work with blank ammunition and cannot take ball rounds for safety purposes. In order to load it was typical to empty the rounds out into a safe receptacle such as a helmet or beret so they didn’t get lost or dirty before the magazine was filled.

GPMG Ammunition Belts

For many decades the General Purpose Machine Gun, or GPMG, has been the main infantry support weapon for the British Army. This machine gun fires 7.62mm NATO standard ammunition from metal linked belts. We have previously looked at the manufacture of the 7.62 ball round itself here and the corresponding blank rounds here. Tonight however we have two sets of belted ammunition to look at, firstly a fifty round ball belt (inert rounds):imageAnd a belt of blank ammunition:imageAmmunition for both belts is held together with small stamped metal spring clips:imageThese interlock with each other:imageThe casings of the rounds themselves hold each together with its neighbour:imageThe action of the GPMG draws each round out in turn to fire and as each is pulled out a link falls free, disintegrating the belt into its constituent parts.

The GPMG manual describes the issuing of links as:

Ammunition is supplied in belts of 200, the belts are of metal disintegrating links and can be readily broken or joined to give belts of any length. Belts may be issued as follows, four ball and one tracer (4B/1T), this is the standard issue, one tracer to one ball (1B/1T), normally used in the turret mounted role, and finally belts of all ball ammunition for use when tracer is forbidden, i.e., on the 30 metre range.

 To Separate a Belt. Hold the rounds on each side of the point at which it is desired to separate the belt, twist them in opposite directions. The links at that point will become disengaged. 

To Join Two Belts. Fit the projection of the end link of one belt into the gap of the end link of the other, making sure that the links are the same way up. If there is a round in position, press the projection so that it snaps into place over the cartridge case. If no round is in position, insert one as described later in this paragraph.

 The links are only to be re-used with drill and inspection rounds (used by REME). The only exception to this rule is in battle and then only in an emergency.

 The pamphlet advises that if drill belts need to be assembled the following method should be observed:

To Make Up a Belt. Take two links, both the same way up, and place them so that the projection of one fits into the gap of the other (see Fig 10 a). Then (in the manner shown in Fig 10 b), interlock them by inserting the nose of a round through both links and press the round for- ward till the projecting detent of the clip clicks into place in the groove at the base of the round. Connect further links and rounds in the same way.image

L60A1 Drill Baton Round

For non-lethal crowd suppression, the British army fired baton rounds that whilst painful should not cause long term injuries to those struck with them. Tonight we have an example of an inert practice round used with the L104A2 launcher, the current ‘riot gun’ in service with British military forces. The round is cylindrical and painted grey:imageThe baton itself can be seen poking out of the top of the casing and is a black rubber cylinder with a slightly rounded end:imageThe base of the cartridge has a brass insert where a .38 blank would be located to launch the round:imageThis can be clearly seen in a cutaway:s-l1600The baton round is marked in white on the main body with the words ‘ROUND 37mm AEP L60A1:imageA further letter code of ‘BBB’ is on the opposite side of the casing in much smaller white letters:imageThe official description of the weapons system is:

The attenuating energy projectile (AEP) forms part of the common weapon system approved for use by members of the police service or Her Majesty’s forces in the UK. Operational use of the AEP in the UK police service is limited to authorised officers who have been specifically trained in use of the system.

The approved AEP (designated as L60A2) is fired from a 37 mm breech loaded weapon. The approved launcher is the Heckler and Koch L104A2, equipped with an approved L18A2 optical sight.

The projectile has been designed with a nose cap that encloses a void. This design feature is intended to attenuate the delivery of the impact energy by extending the duration of the impact and minimising the peak forces. It thereby delivers a high amount of energy to maximise its effectiveness, while reducing the potential for life-threatening injury.

Reducing the rate of onset of the impact force and reducing the magnitude of the peak force, have both been shown to reduce the severity of injuries in human impact.

Clip of Boy’s Anti-Tank Rounds

The Boy’s anti-tank round appeared on the blog a few years ago here. I have recently been able to acquire a complete clip of five inert Boy’s rounds and so tonight we are revisiting the topic to look at this set:imageThis particular clip is particularly impressive when laid alongside a charger of five .303 blanks:imageThese clips were not used to load the rifle with like that of the Lee Enfield, but rather to hold a magazine’s worth of ammunition together in one easy to handle package. The clips are made of brass, with a flat spring in the base to provide some pressure to hold the rounds in place:imageThis charger is stamped ‘CHP’ and the date of 1941:imageCHP stands for ‘Charles Pugh’ who manufactured the clip. Other clip markings include ‘MS’ for Meyer & Sons, ‘MUL’ for Midland Utilities Ltd and a Canadian manufacturer ‘VEP’ which were Villas Enamel Products of Orillia, Ontario.

The rounds had to be removed from the clip in order to load the magazine, and the manual for the Boys explained the procedure to load:

The magazine- Holds five rounds. Inside is a platform and a powerful spring.

To fill- Hold the magazine in one hand, resting it on the knee or on a solid surface. Press down the platform and insert the base of the cartridge under the magazine lips. Push the cartridge into the magazine. Continue this action until the magazine is filled.

To empty- Push each round forward with the nose of a bullet and remove.

Interestingly the rounds in this set include both those produced at Kynoch and those from Radway Green:imageThe dates of these rounds indicate production continued into 1943, long after the Boys was obsolete as an anti-tank rifle. Its continued service came about as it was an excellent anti-materiel rifle that was effective against pill boxes, machine gun nests and lightly armoured vehicles and even the US Army borrowed a small quantity to use in this long range role.

These rounds are of course inert, and to comply with UK law where there are restrictions on the ownership of even inert armour piercing rounds, I am assured that the heads have had the bases cut to destroy their ballistic abilities and prevent them from being fired accurately- thus making them legal to own.

Two-Inch Mortar Bomb Parachutist’s Drop Case

The question of how to supply paratroopers with adequate munitions when they land in enemy territory is one that has long vexed military planners. The easiest method is to use supply containers parachute dropped alongside the men, however it is very easy for them to become separated and the last thing you want is to leave men in enemy territory, surrounded and unable to defend themselves. Carrying sufficient munitions on the body is also a possibility, but the weight and bulk of them makes landing difficult and a man who breaks his leg when he hits the ground is of no use in a battle. The British thought long and hard about how to overcome this solution and they developed a number of specialist pieces of webbing for paratroopers. These were designed to be worn on the upper thigh when jumping out of the aircraft. A quick release tab was then pulled in mid-air and the webbing pouch fell away, but was secured by a static line to the man. This then ensured he was unencumbered when he landed, but his supplies were only a piece of string away from him. We have previously looked at an example of the pouch designed for use with Sten gun magazines here. Tonight we are looking at the case issued for use with two-inch mortar bombs:imageThis webbing case is secured up the front with three hook and staple type quick release tab pull fasteners:imageInside is space to hold six two-inch mortar bombs:imageThe underside of the top flap is marked to indicate it was made by MECo in 1943:imageIt is on the rear however that things get really interesting:imageA pouch is fitted for the drop line:imageA cord was tied to the very heavy duty loop at the top, then coiled and fitted into the pocket, the other end being tied to the paratrooper. When the case was released, the cord payed out from this pouch before coming to a stop when all the cord was deployed. Four brass loops are also fitted to the rear:imageThese allowed the case to be attached to a webbing harness on the soldier’s thigh. When he pulled a quick release tab, these fastenings came undone and the pouch was free to fall. Webbing loops are fitted to the side of the case at the side of each loop as part of this securing process:imageThe frame attached to the leg was this one, the wire being the quick release pull:wiab1hIn the end these cases were dropped in favour of larger, more general purpose drop bags that allowed more than just the ammunition to be carried. Wilfred jones was a Sapper armed with a two inch mortar who parachuted into Normandy and he describes the amount of kit he had to carry:

I was the mortar bloke for the troop. I was jumping No 6 with a rifle and a two-inch mortar. In addition, I was carrying 110 rounds of .303, two pounds of PE, which is plastic explosive, two 36 grenades, one Gammon bomb and two magazines for the Bren, some two-inch mortar bombs, a change of clothes and twenty No 27 detonators and two ration packs.

No85 Artillery Fuze

It felt only right and fitting that the souvenir I brought home with me from my recent trip to Flanders was the fuze from a British Empire shrapnel shell. Artillery killed more men on the Western Front than any other weapon and the fuzes form exploded shells are still regularly ploughed up in the fields of Belgium. I am not a collector of relic, but this piece, that I knew had been fired over the trenches of Flanders seemed a very appropriate memento of my trip:imageThis fuze is a No85 and was used on 15 and 18 pounder shrapnel shells. It screwed into the nose of the shell, and the brass ring from the top of the main shell is still attached to the base of the fuze where it blew to pieces, showing up here as a slightly different colour due to the differing metals:imageThe fuze as it was originally manufactured can be seen in this diagram:post-671-0-73288900-1440513383_thumbThe model of fuze and the manufacturer ‘Scovill’ are stamped into the main body:imageScovill were an American manufacturer and this was produced under contract for the British Empire. The ring of the shell that has been left attached is, however, marked up with a Canadian acceptance mark:imageThis fuze is dated, I believe, 1917:imageThe No85 was a time delay fuze and could be set to fire after the shell had completed a certain number of rotations in the air. This occurred at a set rate so it was possible to set the fuze to go off after a certain time in flight, showering the ground beneath with small shrapnel balls. These fuzes were remarkably complicated little components, as can be seen in this cutaway diagram:post-1365-1250688653The following explanation of how the fuze works was given by ‘Max poilu’ on the Great War forum and sets it out far clearer than I could:

The fuze contains a number of overlapping rings burning in sequence. The relationship of each ring to the other determines how long the burning train of powder is. I believe the black powder used in the fuze time trains was a specially selected grade, all black powder is a ‘selected’ grade – but here a particularly fine and stable type.

From the fuze a hollow tube runs inside the shell to a base plate below the shrapnel balls – around 350 lead balls packed in resin in an 18 pounder. Below this plate is a small charge of black powder. The resin holds the balls stable to avoid an affect on flight and burns to give the puff of black smoke for observation. When the timed fuze triggers above the target a small flash is sent from the fuze down the tube igniting the black powder – this ‘explosion’ is a relatively small charge designed just to expel the balls – it is not an explosion in the sense of a HE shell. The shell casing itself is actually quite thin as it does not need to ‘resist’ the detonation as in a HE shell. The fuze is fitted to the shell with shallow threads so that it is separated from the shell casing easily.

This detonation pushes the base outwards ejecting the balls and the fuze head in a wide area over the ground. Think of the shell as a huge shotgun cartridge. The combined velocity of the forward motion of the shell and ejected balls produces an obvious lethal effect.

The shell casings are not designed to fracture. All the component parts; balls, casing, fuse, flash tube and plate are probably the most easily found and numerous objects in the battlefields today.