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:The baton itself can be seen poking out of the top of the casing and is a black rubber cylinder with a slightly rounded end:The base of the cartridge has a brass insert where a .38 blank would be located to launch the round:This can be clearly seen in a cutaway:The baton round is marked in white on the main body with the words ‘ROUND 37mm AEP L60A1:A further letter code of ‘BBB’ is on the opposite side of the casing in much smaller white letters:The 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.
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:This particular clip is particularly impressive when laid alongside a charger of five .303 blanks:These 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:This charger is stamped ‘CHP’ and the date of 1941:CHP 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:The 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.
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:This webbing case is secured up the front with three hook and staple type quick release tab pull fasteners:Inside is space to hold six two-inch mortar bombs:The underside of the top flap is marked to indicate it was made by MECo in 1943:It is on the rear however that things get really interesting:A pouch is fitted for the drop line:A 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:These 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:The frame attached to the leg was this one, the wire being the quick release pull:In 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.
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:This 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:The fuze as it was originally manufactured can be seen in this diagram:The model of fuze and the manufacturer ‘Scovill’ are stamped into the main body:Scovill 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:This fuze is dated, I believe, 1917:The 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:The 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.
Last year we looked at a 30mm Aden Ballast round here. Since then I have been able to pick up a second ballast round, but this time for a 20mm Vulcan cannon:In appearance this is very much like the other ballast round, being made of a solid piece of cast white metal. The shape is identical to a live Vulcan round with an extractor groove at the bottom:And the top having the shape of the actual projectile:The weight of the round is identical to that of a real Vulcan round, being used to safely test the weapon and its timing, allowing adjustments to be made on the ground in a controlled environment. Here we see a dismounted Vulcan with a belt of this ammunition:The Vulcan is a six barrelled 20mm rotary cannon used on fixed wing aircraft. It was developed in the United States but saw service with the British on aircraft such as the F-4 Phantom. The need for the weapon came out of experience in the Second World War and the realisation that with the speeds jets were becoming capable of, there would only be a split second when rounds would actually connect with their target. This therefore required a weapon with a very high rate of firepower and a round that had enough mass that a few strikes would destroy a plane. 20mm had proved effective in the Second World War and by pairing this with an electrically driven Gatling type of gun extremely high rates of fire could be achieved, in the case of the Vulcan 6,000 rounds a minute. The new cannon was designated the M61 by the US.Each of the cannon’s six barrels fires once in turn during each revolution of the barrel cluster. The multiple barrels provide both a very high rate of fire—around 100 rounds per second—and contribute to prolonged weapon life by minimizing barrel erosion and heat generation. Mean time between jams or failures is in excess of 10,000 rounds, making it an extremely reliable weapon. Most aircraft versions of the M61 are hydraulically driven and electrically primed. The gun rotor, barrel assembly and ammunition feed system are rotated by a hydraulic drive motor through a system of flexible drive shafts. The round is fired by an electric priming system where an electric current from a firing lead passes through the firing pin to the primer as each round is rotated into the firing position.
One RAF Phantom pilot explains the advantages of the cannon over radar guided missiles:
Being unguided, bullets are not susceptible to Electronic Counter Measures (ECM – although the radar used to aim the gun, of course, is) and the gun has no technical minimum range, although there are some practical reasons (e.g. arming of high explosive rounds) why you wouldn’t choose to fire from too close to the target. Also some pilots didn’t like the idea of large aircraft blowing up in their face. In my day, the closer you got to a target, the bigger it looked in the windscreen making it easier to hit! I say ‘A kill’s a kill!!
An RAF Phantom carried 640 rounds for its Vulcan canon and it seems to have been a popular weapon amongst aircrews, combining high rates of fire with impressive hitting abilities. My thanks go to Gary Hancock for his help in identifying this round.