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Artillery and Ammunition 5 months 1 week ago #80267

  • Neville_C
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Two 75 mm QF cartridge cases with "MN" headstamps for "Maxim Nordenfelt".

The first engraved "MAFEKING SIEGE 1899-1900", and recovered during works at the private chapel on the Vyvyan estate, Trelowarren, Cornwall. Brought home by Major Courtenay Vyvyan, one of B-P's staff officers during the siege of Mafeking. This example is from a shell fired by Dr Jameson's captured 75 mm QF Maxim Nordenfelt, Serial No. 4116 (see Artillery of the Jameson Raid below)

The second engraved: "MODEL / 75 M/M FIELD GUN / AMMUNITION / AS USED BY THE / C.I.V. / SOUTH AFRICA / PRESENTED TO CAPTAIN PIGOU / INDIAN ARMY / 1904".
The Maxim Nordenfelt headstamp dates this cartridge to pre-1897, when the company merged with Vickers to form Vickers Sons & Maxim. The guns used by the C.I.V. Battery are described as Vickers Maxims, rather than Maxim Nordenfelts.
This cartridge case was almost certainly a gift from 474 Private Harold John Pigou, C.I.V., to his brother, Captain Frederick Pigou. The 1901 Census describes Harold Pigou as "Assistant Manager, Explosives Works", and living at "Bignores", Darenth Road, Dartford (demolished in 2005 to make way for the Princes Park Football Stadium).
Until 1897 Harold worked at Messrs Pigou, Wilks, Laurence &Co (Limited) [the Dartford Gunpowder Mills]. The Pigou family works were sold to Messrs Curtis and Harvey, gunpowder makers, in 1897. I have been unable to ascertain whether Harold retained his job at the works after their sale, but the location of his residence in 1901 indicates that he was working at a gunpowder company in the vicinity.
It is worth noting that the Maxim Nordenfelt Gun Works were located in Erith, about 4 miles north of "Bignores", the Pigou family home.










Maxim Nordenfelt 75 mm QF gun, on display at "FIREPOWER", Royal Artillery Museum, Woolwich. Described as "one of two captured from the Transvaal army at the Battle of Elandslaagte, South Africa on 21 October 1899. It was subsequently used by the British against the Boers during the Siege of Ladysmith".



Artillery of the Jameson Raid

MC Heunis, O.V.S.A.C. Study No. 13, Jul-Sep 2005

The 75mm/12½-pr Maxim-Nordenfelt QF gun consisted of a 2.24 m (7-ft 4-in) long steel barrel with an interrupted screw type breech. The gun was mounted on a light yet sturdy steel field carriage with two axletree mounted seats. The carriage track width of 1.48 m (4-ft 10.3-in) was slightly larger than its wheel diameter of 1.44 m, which, combined with the low mounting of the gun on the carriage, made the assembly extremely stable.
Mounted to the field carriage, the gun could be elevated between 5 and 15 degrees and also traversed 4.5 degrees both ways - something very few field guns of the period could do. This gun was a pioneer of recoil controlled quick firing as it was equipped with a rudimentary recoil system, consisting of two hydraulic buffers, and used brass cartridge casings to fire its ammunition.
The gun’s ammunition consisted of common, shrapnel and case shells with copper driving bands. The projectiles were fitted to the brass cartridges, i.e. single-piece or fixed ammunition. The cartridges were loaded with smokeless powder, making the gun very easy to conceal and ideal for camouflaged gun tactics. The ammunition and fuses, probably imported from Germany or made under licence to a German design, were reliable and effective and in some instances of a better quality than the fuzes of other better known field guns of the era.
Compared to other guns of its complexity, it was an extremely reliable piece requiring very little attention. Both the gun and carriage performed well in the South African veldt and could easily be transported over uneven terrain without capsizing. Although primitive in comparison to newer continental long recoil guns of the same period, the gun’s recoil system ensured that it recoiled less than other guns then in use in South Africa.

The Transvaal captured one 75mm Maxim-Nordenfelt QF gun, (serial No.4116) from the Jameson Raiders at Vlakfontein. This was one of two guns specifically ordered for the Raid. The second, No.4115, was left behind at Bulawayo because its carriage did not arrive in time for the expedition. The original Maxim-Nordenfelt Guns and Ammunition Company Limited (MNG&ACL) order book, which is today kept at MOD SATIC in Leeds in the UK, states that both guns were dispatched on 6 June 1895 to the British South African Co.
Interestingly a year after the Raid the Transvaal imported a further two guns of this design from MNG&ACL in Britain. The agents were Messrs. Beckett & Co and Mr. J van Zwieten. The MNG&ACL order book identified these guns as Nos.4381 and 4408. MNG&ACL proof firing sheets in the Pretoria National Archives, dated 30 April 1897, confirmed these numbers and also identified the field pieces as Mk M guns mounted on field carriages (gun No.4381 on carriage No.2277 and gun No.4408 on carriage No.2585). The pair was dispatched to Delagoa Bay for the Z.A.R./Transvaal on 14 May 1897. After arriving in the Transvaal they were tested by Erasmus, by now a major, on 9 October 1897 and shortly thereafter approved for service with the Transvaal Staatsartillerie.

During the Anglo-Boer War both Jameson’s 75mm QF guns saw active service. The captured gun, No.4116, saw service on Boer side under command of the German artillerist Lt. Alfred Von Dalwig and formed part of Capt. Sarel Eloff’s forces on the Northern (Rhodesia-Transvaal border) and the North-West (Mafeking) Front. Ironically, Eloff was taken prisoner by the Raiders in 1895. The second gun, which stayed behind in Bulawayo in 1895, saw service on British side with Lt-Col. Plumer’s Rhodesian column. In yet another strange twist of fate the two guns were to meet on opposing sides in the Metse Mashoane Valley in February 1900.

No.4116, the Boer gun, arrived at the Rhodesian border between 31 October and 2 November 1899. On the 2nd November it took part in a Boer cross-border attack and, with the help of two Pom-poms, was instrumental in driving Plumer’s forces back to Tuli. The very next day the gun was almost lost to the British when a false alarm forced the Boers to retreat back to the Transvaal, leaving their field guns behind. A few volunteers later retrieved the pieces. On 18 November a large part of the Boer forces on the Northern Front were ordered to other fronts and it is suspected that the gun was moved to the Mafeking area where it probably saw action during the siege of Mafeking. In December it took part in a punitive expedition when Eloff and Von Dalwig were ordered to punish the native tribe responsible for the attack on Boer forces at Derdepoort earlier in the war.

After the siege of Mafeking was lifted Von Dalwig with seven artillery pieces were ordered to Johannesburg where he arrived just in time for the Battle of Kliprivierberg (south of Johannesburg). In June Von Dalwig also fought at the Battle of Donkerhoek and in August at Bergendal (Dalmanuta), presumably still with Jameson’s gun. At Geluk, near Bergendal, Von Dalwig was severely wounded by shrapnel on 23 August 1900 which cost him an arm and invalided him for the rest of the war. What happened to his gun after this is not clear and whether it was recovered by British troops during the Boer War is still uncertain.

Although British War Office documentation on captured Boer guns (WO32/8111), today kept in the Public Records office (PRO) in London, do mention two 75mm Maxim-Nordenfelt guns recovered in the months after Bergendal, none of these are conclusive. In the first instance a 75mm Maxim-Nordenfelt gun was found destroyed at Hectorspruit in September 1900, but this was a smaller mountain gun (serial No.4541). A second inscription suggests that Jameson’s gun may have been blown up at Haenertsburg as amongst the remnants of carriages found there some time later, one “may” have belonged to this gun. Boer sources however make no mention of this type of gun being destroyed at Haenertsburg and it is believed that its remains might still be hidden somewhere in the Eastern-Transvaal...

During the Boer War the two guns imported by the Transvaal after the Jameson Raid (Nos.4381 & 4408) became the first Boer guns to be captured by the British, at Elandslaagte on 21 October 1899. After their capture they are said to have seen action against the Boer forces on 30 October and were also used in defence of Ladysmith. On 31 May 1900 advancing British forces also found a limber for a 75mm Maxim-Nordenfelt, fully packed with 44 shells, as well as 200 more shells in boxes, abandoned in the Johannesburg fort. The fuzes on the captured shells were manufactured by Krupp and marked “Made in Germany” - presumably imported into England by MNG&ACL before being sold to the Transvaal.

After the war, as with most captured Boer pieces, the two Elandslaagte guns were shipped to England before being allotted as war trophies. PRO document WO32/7028, which lists the distribution of most of the Boer trophy guns, contains one 75mm Maxim-Nordenfelt and states that it was issued to the Officer Commanding of the 11th Regiment, District Exeter (Devon Regiment) on 15 July 1904. The MNG&ACL order book contains a note, dated 3 September 1902, next to Nos.4381 and 4408: “Guns now in posession of British Govt”.

Fortunately both Elandslaagte guns survived and can still be viewed today. No.4381 is held by the Devonshire and Dorset Regiment, currently at Catterick in Northern Yorkshire, while No.4408 rests at the Royal Artillery Museum in Woolwich. Both guns are beautifully preserved and are still mounted on their original carriages. Unfortunately plaques incorrectly identify both guns as Jameson’s re-captured field pieces!

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Artillery and Ammunition 4 months 3 weeks ago #80514

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Examples of headstamps on Transvaal Staatsartillerie 75 mm Creusot QF cartridge cases.

L.6 - "FROM THE BATTLE OF ELANDSLAAGTE" (not photographed)
L.8 - "BOER SHELL FROM LADYSMITH 1899"
L.21 - "Creusot Shell Cases taken from the Boers at Komati Poort Sept. 26th 1900"
L.24 - "KIMBERLEY 1900"
L.33 - "Creusot Shell fired by the Boers at Zand River"
L.34 - no inscription
L.43 - "Creusot Shell Cases taken from the Boers at Komati Poort Sept. 26th 1900"
L.51 - "KOOMATI POORT SEPT 1900"

The last photograph shows a Transvaal Staatsartillerie 75 mm Creusot in the field. Note the open ammunition limber on the right.



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Artillery and Ammunition 4 months 3 weeks ago #80515

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Staatsartillerie 75 mm Creusot QF gun (No. 420), now on display at Fort Nelson, The Royal Armouries.

The third photograph shows the battery of six guns, the “1ste Rijdende Battery”, on parade at Pretoria barracks before the war.

With thanks to MC Heunis.








Boer Artillery Trophies in Britain, Canada and India

MC Heunis, O.V.S.A.C. Study No. 5, May-Jun 2003

75mm Creusot QF (Matèriel de Campagne de 75 m/m a tir Rapide Système Schneider-Canet)
In 1896 the Transvaal imported six QF field guns from Schneider & Co to form the “1ste Rijdende Battery” (First Mounted Battery) or more commonly, the “French Battery”. A letter in the Pretoria archives gives their factory numbers as 3244 to 3249. Ironically in the Transvaal the guns soon became known as the “French Krupps”!
This gun was far ahead of its time and a pioneer of quick firing artillery. Not only did it use single-piece brass cased charges, it was also equipped with two buffer cylinders. The early buffers however only allowed 11.5 inches of recoil and therefore an axle spade and wheel brakes were also fitted. Also unusual for a gun of this period was its traversing system, which allowed two degrees of traverse either way. The gun was designed to fire shrapnel at long ranges with a flat trajectory and a high muzzle velocity. This strained the carriage and buffers, which often were in need of repairs. The gun is easily recognisable by its unusual low carriage and interrupted screw breechblock.
After their capture three of the six guns were shipped to the UK. Two of these, No. 420 and 423, were donated to the Royal Artillery, while No. 421 was allotted to the Royal Engineers. Of these No. 423 was sent to the RA Mess, Wellington Lines, at Aldershot, while No. 421 went to the School of Military Engineering, Brompton Barracks, Chatham.
Of above-mentioned pieces only No. 420 could be traced at Fort Nelson, Hampshire. According to Mr. David Moore of the Palmerston Forts Society, this was the piece discovered at Piet Retief during February 1901. As with the 120mm Krupp howitzer, it was discovered taken apart and buried to hide it from British troops. The same gun is said to have stood at the Tower in London for some time before being relocated to Fort Nelson.



Révue d’Artillerie, March 1897 (reproduced in “Black and White” magazine, Dec 9, 1899, p. 814).


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Artillery and Ammunition 4 months 3 weeks ago #80577

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During the Spioenkop campaign, the Royal Field Artillery placed 6 Batteries of 15-pounders on and around Three Tree Hill. I though forummers may enjoy this approximate "then and now" comparison. I'll try and match the scenes exactly soon.
The past is not dead. In fact, it's not even past.
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Artillery and Ammunition 4 months 2 weeks ago #80671

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Here's a photo of Lt Heinrich Grothaus of the ZAR Staatsartillerie, at the siege of Ladysmith. The field gun is a 75mm Krupp QF. The medic on the right is Dr Elsberger of the German corps. Note the tarpaulin over the epaulement under the muzzle of the Krupp: I understand this is to prevent a cloud of dust from rising up when the gun is fired, revealing its position.
The past is not dead. In fact, it's not even past.
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Artillery and Ammunition 4 months 2 weeks ago #80673

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Here's an original print of the above.
Note Lombard's Kop and Umbulwana just visible in the distance.

The artillerists with shells hold common shell (left) and shrapnel shell (right).

Note also the "SA" Staatsartillerie slouch hat badges, which were of two separate letters, each with a pair of flimsy brass strips for attachment. Active service was not kind to these and many pictures show artillerists with only one remaining letter or none at all. The pair below were taken from Pretoria barracks by Drummer H.E.J. Packham, Westminster Dragoons. Most, I'm sure, lie corroding on the veldt.







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