Ammunition & Jutland
Ammunition Point No.1
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.
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.
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
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.
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 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
Ammunition & Jutland