Here's a chunk of 155 mm Creusot shell from Ladysmith, which I'm sure will have been keenly fought over when it pitched into the ILH camp. The faded ink inscription reads: "Long Tom Shell which went into the Orderly Office of the Imperial Light Horse during the siege of Ladysmith".
Gibson 1937, p.119 - "On the 15th [December, 1899], a shell from a big gun came through the I.L.H. orderly room door, breaking a chair and table at which the Colonel usually sat, and which he had left only a few seconds previously."
I've noticed that some fired 15 pr shells have different numbers of grooves in the copper driving band. Neville's photo shows this - in the attached photo, see the shells on either side of the horse's hoof
One explanation I've heard is that the RHA [who supported the cavalry] and who generally fired 12 pr shells [I've never seen one] also fired 15 pr shells. But whereas the RFA [supporting the infantry] had 15 pr guns which engraved the driving band with 18 grooves, the RHA12 pr gun only had 12 rifling grooves; hence some 15 pr shells having 12 grooves on the driving band.
Is this correct?
The past is not dead. In fact, it's not even past.
Absolutely right, Rob. The RHA would have been able to use 15-pdr ammunition "on emergency". See final paragraph of description of 15-pdr QF & BL shell below (Treatise on ammunition, 1902, pp. 216 & 217).
It is worth noting that the two weights of shell were almost identical in construction (Mk for Mk), "differing only in length and weight", so difficult to identify from fragments alone. The nomenclature of the shell was, however, stamped into the wall and base of the body of the projectile.
For comparison, a 12-pdr Mk I (Service) shell next to a 15-pdr Mk III.
Both are shrapnel. However, with the 12-pdr Mk I (Service) shell, the base detached to release the shrapnel bullets, rather than the head. Hence the different constructions.
The 12-pdr Mk I (Service) shell was more or less obsolete by the time of the ABW, so it is odd that one was found in South Africa. The rifling grooves are also unusual. Could this shell have been fired by a Boer field gun? [added 02/04/2023 - the 16-groove rifling with "plain" or "crenelated" profile is indicative of 12-pdr Naval QF rifling].
The 12-pdr no longer retains its base, so I have added this in Photoshop to give it its original length (pre-edited version included as an attachment at bottom of post).
And ignore the brass ring on the top of the 12-pdr - this was added when the shell was converted into some form of screw-topped container.
Transcript:LIVE SHELL FOUND AT LADYSMITH. RELIC OF THE SIEGE. "OURS OR THEIRS?" An unexploded shell, weighing about 50lbs., a relic of the siege of Ladysmith in the South African War, was discovered at the back of the Presbyterian Church there, by children playing in the vicinity —over thirty-six years after the town was relieved in 1900. The inevitable question: "Ours of Theirs?" has not yet been answered, and it is not known whether the shell was fired by the forces of General Louis Botha at the garrison, or by the garrison at the investing Boers. This is the second live shell that has been unearthed in a few weeks in the district. The shell was discovered about the spot where it is intended shortly to build the vicarage."