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Ammunition & Jutland

Ammunition & Jutland

Battleships / World War 1

Ammunition Point No.1

A shell-hole in the side of HMS Chester sustained at the Battle of Jutland. 31 May 1916. Visible on deck is a 5.5-inch gun.

Both the British and the Germans used cordite. In PRACTICE, the German cordite proved more stable when subjected to flash, while, in THEORY, prewar modifications to the British formula should have rendered it the more stable of the two. In the event, the changes to the British formula caused dangerous decomposition over a relatively short period of time, in storage.

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A sectioned British 18-pounder field gun shrapnel round, World War I. With bound string to simulate the appearance of the original cordite propellant

It should be emphasized that this is all relative. By comparison to good quality, properly stored HE, any propellant is a work of the Devil, and should always be treated with the utmost caution.

Diagram of “Cartridge 3-oz 10-drms Cordite, M.D. size 4 1/4” for British 2 inch Medium Trench MortarWorld War I. Cartridge consisted of 1 x 1oz 10drms and 2 x 1oz bundles, tied round with silk sewing.

As the ex-Army officer who first introduced me to explosives told me, you can play cricket with a ball made from plastic explosive, but that-he pointed to a paper cartridge of blasting powder- will try to kill you if you just look at it funny.

As events in the Caribbean demonstrated, German cordite proved that it could be just as dangerous in unfavorable circumstances.

With the Karlsruhe succumbing to spontaneous deflagration of her propellant charges. I have little doubt that, if the British hadn’t been able to bring about the decisive closure to her siege in the Rufiji delta, Konigsberg would probably have gone the same way, in those hot, humid conditions.

Ammunition Point No. 2

IWM caption : A photograph taken from inside the hull of the light cruiser HMS Castor. After the Battle of Jutland. Showing a large shell hole. Her crew suffered ten casualties during the battle. Castor was the flagship of the 11th Destroyer Flotilla. (Kempenfelt, Magic, Mandate, Manners, Marne, Martial. Michael, Milbrook, Minion, Mons Moon. Morning Star, Mounsey, Mystic and Ossory)

While not, in a technical sense, a very efficient explosive, as a shell filling for HE/Common rounds, Lyddite was extremely powerful. Indeed, the Germans, while dismissive of the performance of the British APC rounds, were prepared to acknowledge the destruction wrought upon their ship’s light structures by the British Common rounds.

Diagram of British QF 12 pounder 12 cwt Cartridges. Mk II and Mk III, 1914. Shows the original separate-loading QF cartridge. Later cartridges became fixed QF. For use in the following guns :- QF 12 pounder 12 cwt naval gun QF 12 pounder 12 cwt AA gun Mark II : 2 lb Cordite M.D. size 11. The “Mk V Adapter” allows a V.S. (Vent Sealing) percussion or electric tube to become used for firing. Replacing the original electric primer. Used with cordite cylinder igniters. The “Mk II igniter” consists of 10 drams (10/16 oz) R.F.G. 2 powder in a cylindricsl shalloon bag. Stitched to the inside of a cordite cylinder 4 inches long x 1 inch diameter. Mark III : 2 lb Cordite M.D. size 11. The “Mk VI Adapter” allows V.S. (Vent Sealing) percussion or electric tube to become used for firing. Replacing the original electric primer. Used with metal igniters. The “Mk I igniter” consists of a flanged metal thimble and a hexagonal sheet brass container. Sides pierced with flash holes, lined witrh paper, contains 1/2 oz (8 drams) R.F.G. 2 powder (a form of gunpowder).

They did, however, note there were extensive deposits of unspent Lyddite, that coated their ship’s decks, after being hit by Common rounds. This greenish, crystalline formation left the decks a potential death trap, and not just because of the disturbing sequence of micro-(and sometimes, not so micro) detonations that could occur when you stood on.

The German poster proudly boasts of German achievements in the Battle of Jutland

The Lyddite residue would fuse into an icy sheet which made keeping your footing almost impossible (although, ironically, one German sailor apparently became the sole survivor of his ship, because he slipped on the deposit, and fell overboard).

What Lyddite was not suitable for, but was used as, was the charge in the fuse for the APC round.

Written by Hadrian Jeffs

No photo description available.

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