A few weeks back I looked at a Second World War blank 6 pounder shell casing. Tonight I have another 6 pounder casing used as a blank, but this one is much earlier, and although I cannot provide an exact date, my gut is suggesting it dates to before the Great War:The first thing to notice about this casing is how short it is. It was typical to cut down spent full size cartridges into shorter version to use for a blank round- the lower power needed less propellant so a shorter case would suffice. The rough edge is typical of these cut down blank rounds, the modifications being done at a unit level. The base of the casing has a profusion of markings:My thanks go to Jeremy Churchill for his help in interpreting the markings:I suspect that this cartridge was originally for a 6 pounder quick fire naval gun such as this one:These guns were obsolete by the end of World War One, but continued in use as saluting guns, for which a cut down blank cartridge such as mine would have been ideal.
The 6 pounder anti-tank gun was the main towed British anti-tank gun of the middle years of the second world war, replacing the puny 2 pounder in 1942 and freeing up the 25 pounder field gun to return to its main role as an artillery piece. Development of the new weapon had started as early as 1938 and the calibre was well established as the Royal Navy had been using it since the late nineteenth century. Despite this, due to the rearming of the British Army after Dunkirk, it would be May 1942 before it entered service:The following description of the Anti Tank gun comes from the US Army’s handbook on the British military:
The 6 pounder anti-tank gun, with a muzzle velocity of 2,700 feet per second, has been designed by the British for use against enemy armoured vehicles that are not vulnerable to the 2-pounder at distances over 200 or 300 yards. A 57-mm gun, the 6-pounder will be able to engage tanks at much greater ranges than the 2-pounder, although the latter will still be important to the anti-tank defence of individual formations and units. The 6-pounder is usually mounted on a low 90-degree split-trail wheeled carriage, but it is also being installed in certain tanks. In order to facilitate the quick adoption of the proper gun for the circumstances, the wheeled carriage of the 6 pounder is designed that the 2-pounder may be mounted alternatively. It is intended that the 6-punder be standard in corps and army anti-tank organization.
Tonight we are looking at a shell casing from the 6 pounder anti-tank gun, this example being a blank cartridge:It is made of brass and is impressively large, as with all British shell casings there is a profusion of markings on the base:I have interpreted these as well as I can:These shells are always impressive things, and the markings make them fun to interpret. Sadly they do not come up at a price I am willing to pay too often, so when they do I always snap them up.
Now can I persuade my wife it’s a flower vase…
Arguably the best all round field gun in use by the British Army in the Second World War was the 25 pounder. The 25-pounder fired “separate”or two-part ammunition—the projectile and the propelling charge in its (usually brass) cartridge case with its integral primer were loaded separately. The following description of the case comes from the 1940 handbook for the gun:
The Mark II case is of solid-drawn brass slightly tapered from the base to within 1.1 inch of the mouth, where it is cylindrical. The base is recessed, bored centrally and screw-threaded to receive the percussion primer; it projects circumferentially to form a rim by means of which the extractor of the breach mechanism automatically ejects the case when the breech is opened after firing.
I have just one of these cases in my collection:There were two types of cartridge. The “normal” cartridge contained three cloth charge bags (coloured red, white and blue). White or blue bags would be removed from the cartridge to give “charge one” or “charge two”, leaving all three bags in the cartridge case gave “charge three”. The cartridge case was closed at the top with a leatherboard cup. The second type of cartridge was “super”, which provided one charge only. The cup could not be removed from the cartridge case. In 1943, an incremental charge of 5.5 oz (160 g) of cordite (“super-plus”) was introduced to raise the muzzle velocity when firing armor-piercing shot with charge super; this required a muzzle brake to be fitted. Adoption of “upper-register” (high-angle) fire needed more charges to improve the range overlap. This led to the development of the “intermediate increment” of 4oz cordite, which was introduced in 1944. The bags were striped red and white to indicate that they should only be used with charges one and two. When one bag was used with charge 1 it provided charge 1/2. When one was added to charge 2 it provided charge 2 1/3, and two bags, charge 2 2/3. This allowed a range of seven different charges instead of four.Like all British shell cases, mine has a wealth of headstamps on the base:From these we can see that the shell casing was manufactured in 1942 and includes the lot number so a faulty batch of ammunition and casings could be tracked down later by the markings. In this photograph of an Australian 25 pounder at El-Alamein in 1942, a large pile of discarded shell casings can be seen in the foreground:
Tonight we have a pair of small brass shell casings:These casings are both from a naval 2 pounder ‘pom pom’ gun, the cases identity being easily determined by the head stamps on the bottom:From this we can see that they were manufactured in 1944 and are 2 Pounder No1 round. The manufacturer is ‘S&S’ which is believed to be Sidney Silversmiths of Sheffield.
The Royal Navy had identified the need for a rapid-firing, multi-barrelled close-range anti-aircraft weapon at an early stage. Design work for such a weapon began in 1923 based on the earlier Mark II, undoubtedly to utilise the enormous stocks of 2-pounder ammunition left over from the First World War. Lack of funding led to a convoluted and drawn-out design and trials history, and it was not until 1930 that these weapons began to enter service. Known as the QF 2-pounder Mark VIII, it is usually referred to as the multiple pom-pom. The initial mounting was the 11.8 to 17.35 ton, eight-barrelled mounting Mark V (later Mark VI), suitable for ships of cruiser and aircraft carrier size upward. From 1935, the quadruple mounting Mark VII, essentially half a Mark V or VI, entered service for ships of destroyer and cruiser size.These multiple gun mounts required four different guns and were nicknamed the “Chicago Piano”. The mount had two rows each of two or four guns. Guns were produced in both right- and left-hand and “inner” and “outer” so that the feed and ejector mechanisms matched. Single-barrelled mounts, the Mark VIII (manual) and Mark XVI (power operated), were also widely used, mainly in small escorts (such as the Flower-class corvettes) and coastal craft (especially early Fairmile ‘D’ motor gunboats). An interesting feature was the very large magazine, from 140 rounds per gun for the eight-barrelled mount, to 56 rounds for the single mounts. This large ammunition capacity gave the eight-barrelled mount the ability to fire continuously for 73 seconds without reloading. A high velocity (HV), 1.8 lb. (820 g), round was developed for the pom-pom, just prior to World War II, which raised the new gun muzzle velocity from 2,040 ft/s (622 m/s) to 2400 ft/s (732 m/s). Many older mountings were modified with conversions kits to fire HV ammunition, while most newly manufactured mounts were factory built to fire HV ammunition. A mount modified or designed for HV ammunition was given a ‘*’ designation; for example a Mk V mount modified for HV ammunition would be designated Mk V*.
The following photograph shows the complete rounds, notice how short the brass case is compared to the rest of the round.The flaring visible on the ends of each casing seems to be a bi-product of the firing process as most examples seem to exhibit this feature.
Blank ammunition is used during training exercises to give a much safe round that still makes the same noise as a live cartridge. These are fired both by troops to get used to using their weapons and at them by instructors to simulate the chaos of battle. Tonight we are looking at a British Army L13A1 blank cartridge introduced in 1970:This cartridge is in 7.62mm calibre and replaced the earlier L10A2 cartridge which had been withdrawn as being 20% too heavy due to thicker than required casing walls. The L13A1 was 2g lighter than the earlier L10A2. Externally the round looks identical to its predecessor, with a long neck and an un-ringed Berdan Primer:As can be seen the headstamp has the cartridge type ‘L13A1’, the year of manufacture ‘1976’ and the initial ‘RG’. ‘RG’ stands for Radway Green, a Royal Ordnance Factory in Cheshire that was set up in 1940. The factory is still producing small arms for the British Army, but is now part of BAE Systems. The tip of the blank has green lacquer on it:This lacquer helped keep moisture out of the cartridge, ensuring it would fire successfully when needed.
Blank rounds do not have the same power as live rounds and do not have the expelled gases to recock weapons in the same manner as ball ammunition. To get around this blank firing adaptors are fitted that serve two purposes. Firstly they force enough of the expelled gases from the cartridge back down the gas parts of a weapon to recock it, but they also prevent small particles of wadding etc. from the blank being discharged out the front of the weapon. These blank firing adaptors are easily seen on training exercises as they are usually painted yellow, this example is on an SLR which would have used 7.62 blank cartridges like the example above:
Tonight we are looking at an eighteen pounder shell casing from the Great War:The eighteen pounder was the standard British field gun of WW1 and served from its introduction in 1904 until 1945. It was horse drawn throughout the First World War, but had pneumatic tyres fitted in time for WW2. The gun can be seen here being manned by Australians at Ypres in 1917:The huge number of casings lined up next to the gun indicate the voracious appetite for shells on the Western Front. My example has a wealth of markings stamped on its base:The ‘C’ surrounding a /|\ indicates the shell casing was manufactured in Canada:The type ’18 pdr’ is also clearly marked:Across the top are letter codes ‘D.C.P.C. B.A.’:This stands for the ‘Dominion Copper Products Company’ of Canada. These shell casings were produced in the colonies and sent to the UK and France for filling with explosives before being dispatched to the front. The filling date can be seen stamped here as 22nd November 1917:
Casings were often refilled many times, but this one has relatively few markings so I believe it was only used once. Sadly the primer for my case is missing, but after nearly 100 years, the case is still in excellent condition. These casings were made in the millions by factories all over the Empire, mainly by women, as in this photograph from Vickers in England in 1915:
Tonight’s item is a shell casing from a Nordenfelt 6 pounder, dating to 1901. The Nodrdenfelt Quick Firing 6 pounder was a 57mm short single barrelled gun used on board ships and for coastal defence by many different countries. Britain introduced the gun as the ‘Ordnance QF 6 Pounder Nordenfelt’ in 1885. They were used as a light gun for protection against fast moving, lightly armoured torpedo boats that were becoming popular with navies of the era. Below we can see examples on HMS Camperdown in the late 1880s:
Multiple Nordenfelt guns were mounted around the ship with clear arcs of fire to put down a large volume of shells to try and blow torpedo boats out of the water before they got into range to launch their weapons at the capital ship. The guns were light and handy to manoeuvre, easily operated and quickly reloaded by a small crew, making them ideal for close, quick firing protection. The gun had a range of approximately 4000 yards and could fire around 12 aimed shots a minute. The innovation which allowed this high rate of fire was combining the casing, propellant and shell into a single, easily handled unit. Up to this point most naval guns had used separate elements that slowed the rate of fire down. My case is approximately 12 inches high, with fairly straight sides and has traces of chroming on the outside:As can be seen the case has been modified at some point by having the top turned over, however the base of the case still has a multitude of markings:
From these we can see that the case was originally manufactured in 1901, was loaded with a Cordite Full Charge and refilled with the same charge at a later date (CFF Stamp). When it was reloaded the case was annealed (A in the circle). The gun was shortlived with the Royal Navy as the very similar Hotchkiss 6 pounder became widely adopted instead. The Nordenfelt was a simple gun to use an maintain, consisting of only 10 working parts for its breach and firing mechanism and was to be used by many navies across the world in the run up to WW1. The example below is in the Manege Military Museum, Helsinki, Finland: