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A Brig of War's 12 pdr Carronade

Date: 1829
Overall: 228 x 301 mm
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Etching
Object No: 00008402

User Terms

    This etching shows a twelve-pounder carronade on board a British brig of war. Nicknamed the 'Smasher' these guns had a short light chamber and a large calibre with the ability to fire a big shot of low velocity at close range. The model in this etching has a truck carriage instead of the usual slide.
    SignificanceThis is representative of weaponry that played a key part in Britain's sea power for over 350 years.
    HistoryThe smooth-bore ship's gun was the key to Britain's seapower for some 350 years from the 16th century. The reign of Henry VIII saw some of the first official mentions of guns, later described by the weight of the shot fired from them. They were developed from those used on land and used to inflict great damage to the hull of an enemy ship, in both defence and attack.

    Installing these big guns on board ships required great thought and design. Weight had to be distributed evenly and as low down as possible; tailored gun ports and carriages had to be designed to accommodate the variety of gun sizes. Room to load and reload was vital along with the issue of the explosion and recoil.

    From 1759 the Carron Company, Falkirk, Scotland supplied guns to the Board of Ordnance from its iron foundry. One of the guns they developed was a short, light chambered gun of large calibre. Nicknamed the 'Smasher' it is more commonly known as a carronade (after the factory). Its best feature was the ability to fire a big shot of low velocity at close range. It was deadly. The carronade shot ploughed into ships sending great splinters of timbers (often deadly) outwards and causing more casualties than those shots that went right through an enemy ship.

    It needed a smaller number of men to operate it (seven generally; or three in an emergency) and needed no time to sight (aim) as it was designed to use large shot at close range. The British Navy and British merchant ships found them most suitable, as did many of the British privateers. The navy used them as quarter deck guns for short range attack and defence.

    Edward William Cooke (1811-1880) is recognised as one of the great maritime artists of the 19th century. He came from a family of engravers and artists - his father George and uncle William Bernard (W B Cooke) were specialists in the field, engraving the works of many leading artists including J M W Turner, James Stark and Clarkson Stanfield.
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