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Artillery and Ammunition 3 months 4 weeks ago #81948

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Fragment of 6.3-inch shell, found close to the "Klapperkop Tom" (a.k.a. "The Meddler") gun emplacement on Middle Hill (opposite Wagon Hill), Ladysmith, on 23 July 1981.

Thickness of walls: 0.78 inches. Thickness of base: 1.25 inches. Base hole threaded to take gun-metal plug (14 threads to the inch). Base has two (of eight) radial saw-shaped grooves to take saucer-shaped gas-check (see Treatise on Ammunition 1902, pp. 239 and 259). Wall intact to 7.5 inches. Identifiable as Shell, R.M.L., Common, 6.3-inch Howitzer, Mark I or Mark II, Cast Iron (ibid, p. 578).

MARKINGS: broad arrow to base, between two radial grooves.








Handbook for the 6.3-inch R.M.L. Howitzer, 1895, Plate VII



Two 6.3-inch R.M.L. Howitzers (the property of the Cape Government) were despatched to Natal from King William's Town and arrived in Ladysmith just in time for the siege (Official History 1906, Vol. I, p. 422). These obsolete guns had a range of only 3000 - 3500 yds. However, in the hands of Capt. H.W.A. Christie, R.F.A. and a scratch crew of gunners from No 10 Mountain Battery, they were able to keep down the fire of any gun that was pushed within their range (Amery 1905, Vol. III, p. 152). To this end "Castor and Pollux" (as the two howitzers came to be named) were moved to the nek between Wagon Hill and Wagon Point to counter a 155 mm Creusot ("Klapperkop Tom") which had been positioned on Middle Hill on 27 November 1899. After a duel of two days a lucky shot found the Boer emplacement, killing and wounding nine gunners and damaging the gun (ibid, p. 163). This fragment is one of three similar partial bases that were found at the north end of Middle Hill, close to a large gun emplacement with sangars running to east and west.
After the above incident the Boer gun was withdrawn from Middle Hill, reappearing on Telegraph Ridge on 11 December. In response the howitzers were moved to Ration Post on 12 December (ibid, p. 163). They returned to Wagon Hill Nek on 8 February 1900, after "Klapperkop Tom" was removed to oppose General Buller from Doorn Kop (Official History 1907, Vol. II, p. 580). During the siege Castor and Pollux fired 776 rounds (ibid, p. 655). A similar shell fragment was found on Surprise Hill on 20 August 1981.

The above fragment is part of a shell that was fired between 28 November and 12 December 1899. Its discovery close to the large Boer gun emplacement on Middle Hill reflects the great accuracy with which the men of the 10th Mountain Battery worked these obsolete artillery pieces. This is even more remarkable given that the hidden position of the howitzers meant that there was no line of sight between the guns and their target. "All has to be done by calculation of angles, and a fraction of error may make all the difference" (Pearse 1900, p. 96).




6.3-inch R.M.L. Howitzer No. 48 (Castor), and gun crew (with thanks to MC Heunis).
Note: this photograph was taken after 18th December, the day on which a percussion shrapnel shell from "Klapperkop Tom" hit the breast of Castor's carriage. Damage caused by the shell can be seen in front of and below the left trunnion.




Looking south-west across Middle Hill from the Klapperkop Tom gun position, with Spion Kop in the far distance (23 July 1981)





One of the guns positioned in front of Ladysmith Town Hall in 1981.




Photograph taken in 2019 showing recent "restoration" work to the wheels. The felloes are no longer flush with the edges of the steel tyres, and spacers have had to be inserted at all the straight joints due to wood shrinkage. The original commemorative plaques have also been removed/lost.
With thanks to Balkan Wargamer



Handbook for the 6.3-inch R.M.L. Howitzer, 1895, Plate V


SEE ALSO: Oom Paul's Howitzer by MC Heunis


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Artillery and Ammunition 3 months 4 weeks ago #81949

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THE TWO HOWITZERS, LADYSMITH.
Greening & Co., Printers, Ladysmith.

When it became apparent in October, 1899, that the Boers were moving heavy ordnance, such as 6-inch Creusot guns (‘Long Tom’) and 4.7 Howitzers for the attack of Ladysmith, every effort was made by the authorities in the Cape Colony, and in our own Colony, to meet them with such a nature of guns as would be equal in metal and range, and as was also available at the time. Thus two 4.7 Q.F. Guns and three 12 Pr. Q.F. Guns with special mountings, improved by Capt. Percy Scott, R.N., were despatched with 200 men of H.M.S. Powerful, under Capt. the Hon. H. Lambton, R.N., just in time before communication with the south was cut off by the enemy.

The two 6.3 Howitzers, belonging to a class which is now obsolete, were discovered in Cape Colony and were dispatched at the same time, together with 800 shell and fuses of different patterns with a proportion of black powder cartridges, many of which were subsequently found to be damaged by damp and old age. This last defect was rectified by Major W.C. Saville, R.A., and his Ordnance staff, who utilized a number of cartridges deemed in excess of requirements belonging to the Mountain Battery, to mix with the powder of the undamaged and so make the whole of the cartridges with a uniform mixture of powder. The men of No. 10 Mountain Battery furnished the detachments for these Howitzers, and Capt. H.W.A. Christie, R.F.A., from 5th Div. Ammunition Column, assisted by Capt. A.E. Gordon, R.A., of the Indian Ordnance, commanded them. Nearly the whole of these officers and men were mentioned in despatches by General Sir George White. Their duties were arduous and incessant, and were most creditably performed by all concerned. From the short range (3,500 yards) to which the Howitzers were effective, they had to be placed in emplacements in the front outpost line, from which they were (in one position) withdrawn at dusk and placed in position again at daybreak. By the fact of their firing black powder their positions, though selected for being unseen, were located, and they constantly became the object of a severe artillery cross fire. Happily, the casualties list throughout was small – 1 man killed and 3 wounded.

At first the Howitzers were placed in position in the defence of Devonshire Post, on the ridge overlooking Helpmakaar Road. Here one day (November 9th, 1899) the Howitzers opened fire on considerable numbers of the enemy collected in the bush at the foot of Umbulwana Mountain with such effect as to scatter what appeared to be preparations for an attack from that direction. In doing so, however, they drew such a heavy cross fire from the enemy’s artillery, from Pepworth’s Hill, Gun Hill, Lombard’s Kop and the Umbulwana, that the gun detachment and the infantry in the neighbouring trenches were withdrawn under cover, and it was decided not to fire from that position unless the enemy were actually committed to an assault. On the 27th November the enemy opened fire with a 6-inch gun from Middle Hill (opposite Wagon Hill), and as this plan threatened to be very destructive to the King’s Post Division, besides commanding Wagon Hill and Caesar’s Camp, a position was selected for the Howitzers on the reverse slope of Wagon Hill, from which they opened fire on November 28th, as soon as the enemy’s 6-inch gun began to fire. It is believed that it was on this occasion that General Joubert, the Boer Commander-in-Chief, met with injuries which resulted in his death. He rode up that morning to watch the effect of the bombardment by the 6-inch gun. When the return fire came as a surprise to the Boers the third shell fell in the Boer emplacement, and native scouts reported that night that General Joubert had been killed. What really appears to have happened was that the General’s pony reared over on him, and he received internal injuries from which he appears never to have recovered. The enemy’s fire from this position was kept so completely under control that the Boers shifted their guns a few days afterwards to Telegraph Hill. When it began to get troublesome from its new position the Howitzers were moved down in front of Ration Post on the 12th December, from which they kept its fire under control until it was finally removed to meet Sir Redvers Buller’s attacks from the south.

On the 18th December, the breast of the carriage of one of the Howitzers was struck by a percussion shrapnel shell from the 6-inch Boer gun on Telegraph Hill. The whole detachment was standing round serving the piece at the time. Only one man was slightly wounded.

The carriage had to be sent down to the Ordnance Depot to be repaired. It was patched up and put in action on the 20th of the same month, but it was found that nothing but a completely new breast transom would do. It was taken in hand by the Ordnance officers again at 6 a.m. on the 21st December and completed at 10.30 p.m. on the 22nd inst. The left bracket had to be cut away from the front of the travelling transom, holes and a steel plate inserted, many other repairs to elevating gear, sights, etc., were executed. Shoeing-smith Ford, A.O.C., and four men worked steadily for 40 ½ hours without sleep and without breaking off for meals. They were assisted in drilling rivet holes and other work by three mechanics belonging to the N.G. Railway Ladysmith Workshops, who on this, as on many another occasion, rendered the most willing and much useful aid.

On the 15th February ‘Castor’ and ‘Pollux’, as these Howitzers were affectionately called by the garrison, fired their last shots at the 6-inch gun on Telegraph Hill. The close of this lengthened artillery duel was characteristic of the Boer methods. ‘Castor’ had made an exceedingly good shot, his shell appearing to burst right in the Boer emplacement, when a Boer was seen to run forward on to the front slope of the emplacement and violently wave a white flag. Capt. Christie thereupon debated whether he should order ‘Pollux’ (who was ready) to fire. While doing so the Boer gun fired off his last round, probably in the hopes of finding the detachments out of their emplacements and breaking off in response to the white flag. ‘Pollux’ then spoke. That the Boers actually suffered casualties appeared probable by the movements of an ambulance behind their gun emplacement.



In 1981 each gun had a plaque, commemorating Castor & Pollux's contribution during the siege. These have now been removed/lost.


FOUR MONTHS BESIEGED
H.H.S. Pearse

November 29.
The night has been passed in preparing a surprise for the big Creusot gun on Middle Hill, which, because of its propensity for throwing shells into everybody’s mess, has come to be known as the “Meddler”. Deep gun-pits are dug on the northern slope of Waggon Hill, where on a nek they are screened by the higher spur from view of Middle Hill. In these pits two old-fashioned howitzers, throwing shells with sixty pounds of black powder for bursting charge, are mounted. Captain Christie, R.A., takes command of them and waits his chance, which does not come for a long time, the cannonade being at first confined to a duel between Captain Lambton’s pet, “Lady Anne”, and “Puffing Billy” of Bulwaan. At length, however, the “Meddler” chimes in, and Captain Christie immediately looses off his two howitzers in succession. They cannot be laid by sights on the object aimed at, which is hidden from view. All has to be done by calculation of angles, and a fraction of error may make all the difference. So we watch anxiously while the shell – a long time in flight – follows its allotted parabola. One bursts just short of the work; but its companion, a second later, goes over the parapet and sends debris flying upwards in a mighty cloud. Thereupon the howitzers are christened promptly “The Great Twin Brethren”, “Castor and Pollux”, and “Puffing Pals”, everybody selecting the name that appeals to his imagination most strongly. It matters little by what name men call them, so long as they can throw shells truly into the enemy’s battery, and this they do steadily. The “Meddler” cannot reply to them effectively, and other Boer guns try in vein to reach them.

November 30.
Our howitzers and the “Meddler” began it with a merry little set-to between themselves, doing no harm

December 1.
Middle Hill gun only fired a few rounds today, and was promptly silenced by our “Great Twin Brethren”, the howitzers on Waggon Hill.

December 4.
Our batteries here have for once been most aggressive, shelling the enemy’s position on Rifleman’s Ridge vigorously, while the howitzers directed their fire on Middle Hill without drawing a reply from the 6-inch Creusot, which Captain Christie and his gunners believe to have been put out of action completely.

December 12.
The big gun on Middle Hill, which the great “Twin Brethren” had put out of action some days before, was taken to Telegraph Hill and mounted in a strong position, whence its shells reached Cove Ridge, King’s Point, and other defensive works with unpleasant persistency. Captain Christie’s howitzers were therefore removed to a bend in the Klip River, with the object of subduing this gun’s fire again, if possible.



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Artillery and Ammunition 3 months 3 weeks ago #82006

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More on friction tubes.
Below is a photograph showing three types encountered on South African battlefields.

A. 2-inch "Tube, Friction, Copper, Solid Drawn, with Ball, Mk II" (Telegraph Ridge, Ladysmith).
Although of British origin, this example was found near a Boer gun position.

B. Although remarkably similar to tubes used by the German army, these were found in the 155 mm (French) Creusot gun emplacement on Umbulwana. Identical tubes have been found on the site where "The Jew" (another Long Tom) was destroyed on 30 April 1901 (Louis Changuion 2001, p. 167). It therefore seems highly likely that these rather rudimentary tubes were used with the large Creusot guns.

C. Tube, Friction T, Mk III (Naval Hill, Tugela operations).
See Rob's earlier post HERE


















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Artillery and Ammunition 3 months 3 weeks ago #82008

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It is worth noting that the flat square end of the British T-friction tube allowed it to be used as a key when removing caps from fuzes of the type "Percussion, Direct Action". The cap and tube below were found in a gun position on Naval Hill, just to the south of the Tugela River.









This is the only drawing of the Direct Action Impact (Lyddite) fuze that I have been able to find. It was drawn as an annotation in a copy of the "Handbook on Ammunition, 1901" by a Lieutenant in the Royal Marine Light Infantry during training. He notes that this fuze is “confidential".
This appears to be the only DA fuze that had the domed cap as shown in the photographs above. The caps of other marks had flat tops, but retained the square hole to take the head of the T-friction tube.

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Artillery and Ammunition 3 months 3 weeks ago #82018

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Regarding the destroyed Long Toms, here are two photos from an officer's album.
I don't know whether either of these was "Die Jood".



The past is not dead. In fact, it's not even past.
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Artillery and Ammunition 3 months 3 weeks ago #82030

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Great photos Rob,

They show the remains of "Klapperkop Tom" (a.k.a. "The Meddler" or "Fiddling Jimmy"). It was blown up on the farm "Rietfontein", near Lydenburg, on 16 April 1901. The gun was removed by the British, but the tangent sight can still be seen in the Lydenburg Museum. Another photograph of the same scene can be found in Changuion 2001 (p. 151). Prof Changuion's caption reads "The remains of the Long Tom that was destroyed at Rietfontein (Lydenburg) being removed by the British".

This is the gun referred to in my post about the 6.3-inch howitzers ( Castor & Pollux ). It saw action at Ladysmith, first positioned on Middle Hill (27 Nov - c. 3 Dec 1899), and later, after being repaired in the Pretoria NZASM workshops, on Telegraph Ridge (12 Dec 1899 - 15 Feb 1900).

Below are three photographs taken by Lieutenant Alexander, Scots Guards, of "Wonderboom Tom" (a.k.a. "Puffing Billy", of Umbulwana fame), after its destruction near Komatipoort on 22 September 1900. This was the first Long Tom to be destroyed by the Boers.

The Komatipoort gun was taken by Lord Roberts, and after being exhibited at the Glasgow Exhibition (2 May - 9 Nov 1901), was added to his private collection at Englemere in 1906. Here it remained until June 1940, when the entire Englemere collection was donated to the nation by Countess Roberts (Lord Roberts's daughter) and smelted as part of the war effort.

Note that the Scots Guards officer (Major McGregor) in the second photograph carries a captured Mauser carbine and Boer bandolier.







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