The 35-ton Gun, called ‘the Woolwich Infant’

The 35-ton Gun, called ‘the Woolwich Infant’. 1871. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

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The now Woolwich great gun, of which we give an illustration, is without exception the most formidable firearm that has ever been constructed; for, though by no means the largest and heaviest in existence, there is every reason to suppose that its capabilities will far exceed those of any other gun, not excepting even the celebrated Krupp cannon of the Prussian artillery. This weapon is built up of six separate pieces, upon a system invented by Mr. Fraser, one of the chief officers of the Government factory at Woolwich; each portion of the gun being carefully wrought and separately finished before the pieces are fitted together to make a perfect whole. The core of the gun is of steel. and round this are fitted strong jackets of wrought iron, which, as a matter of course, increase materially the strength of the guy, and render it of a tougher and less brittle nature than if manufactured entirely of cast steel. One of these jackets, termed the breech coil, alone weighed twenty-five tons, and required to be heated in a furnace for more than a day, before it was in a state ready for manipulation under a heavy steam-hammer. The finished gun measures 16 1/4ft. in length, and 56 in. at its greatest diameter.

The operation of proving this gun. which was recently performed in the Woolwich-marshes, leads us to expect some very advantageous results from its employment. The shot projected weighs 700 1b, and this was fired with different charges of gunpowder varying from 75 lb. to 130 1b. The gun withstood the trial successfully, and, with a charge of 100 lb of powder, sent the big iron bolt upwards of 30 ft. into the earthen butt, with a velocity that was estimated at 1320 ft. per second. This speed was further increased by employing a still larger charge, and it was computed that, at an angle of 30 deg., the gun would be capable of projecting a shell of the same weight as the solid shot to a distance of 10,000 yards, or nearly six miles; while, at a range of 2000 yards, the bulwarks of the heaviest ironclad afloat could be pierced. In our engraving the cylinders lying beside the gun are the shot-bolts which were afterwards used'in its proof. They were cast of the same weight (700 lb.) as that proposed for the pointed projectiles to be used in the service.

It is contemplated by the Admiralty to employ guns of this description in the Navy. and the success of this first specimen has caused the authorities to proceed at once with the manu- facture of ten more of similar dimensions. They are intended to be used in the three large breast-monitors new building. Two of these ships, the Thunderer and Devastation, are of 4400 tons burden, and the other, the Fury, is of 5000 tons. Each vessel is to carry four of the 35-ton guns, in two turrets, two guns being placed side by side in each turret.

These guns are to be mounted upon Captain R. Scott‘s patent turret carriages, of which a large number are in course of construction at the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich. Three or four of the 35-ton gun-carriages will be ready in about two months, but the vessels will not be completed till some time later. Our second illustration, on the same page, shows an 18-ton gun, mounted upon Captain Scott’s patent broadside carriage, which has been adopted for all heavy naval guns. The arrangements for pointing and working the 18-ton gun are also applied to all heavy broadside guns, from 9 tons weight up to the single 25-ton gun mounted in the Hotspur. By these means two men can point with the greatest nicety either the l2-ton or the 18-ton gun, in moderate weather ; but in very rough weather four men are necessary for laying the larger gun with accuracy. The safe handling of these heavy guns in a seaway is secured by means of a powerful brake.

The largest turret-guns now afloat are those in the Monarch, which has four in number, each of 25 tons weight ; while the turret- guns of the Cerberus and other monitors are of 18 tons weight. The only other 25-ton gun afloat is that in the Hotspur — making a total of five 25-ton naval guns afloat. As yet. there are only two broadside vessels which carry guns of greater weight than 12 tons. These are the Hercules, attached to the Channel Squadron, and the Sultan, lately described, each of which mounts eight l8-ton guns in its central main-deck batteries. The Sultan's four upper deck carriages for her l2-ton guns are of a similar pattern to those described.


“The New Great Gun and Naval Gun Carriage.” Illustrated London News (11 February 1871): 143-44. Hathi Trust Digital Library version of a copy in the University of Michigan Library. Web. 16 January 2016.]

Last modified 15 January 2016