Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The White Elephant - Witte Olifant

The Dutch Fleet under Sail is believed to be a depiction of the Dutch battle fleet prepared to set sail for the Medway and Sheerness in 1667. This expedition commanded by Admiral De Ruyter resulted in a stunning success. Much of the English navy was destroyed or captured. The Dutch ships that took part in that attack are represented on this painting. At the right is the Witte Olifant (built 1666) easily recognizable by a white elephant on her stern. Further right is the Vrijheid (the Freedom, built 1651, blown up in action 1676). To the left of the Witte Olifant is the Zeelandia with the coat of arms of Zeelandia on her stern. The center of the painting is occupied by the Gouden Leeuw (built 1666), with the image of a rampant golden lion on her tafferel. In the left foreground is the Huis Tijdverdrijf. In the left background the Zeven Provincien is seen. Her stern is decorated with the coat of arms of the seven Provinces of the Republic.

The English whom the Dutch were at war with quite frequently during this time gave their first rates and flagships grand names like Royal Charles or Sovereign of the Sea.

The White Elephant was built in 1667 in anticipation of a new war with the English. With 82 cannons it was heaviest class of ship in use and became one of the flagships of the Dutch navy. Personally, I think it’s hilarious the Admiralty of Amsterdam decided to call their newest and most fearsome ship the white elephant.

Length of Gundeck 134' 0"Amsterdam Feet 37.9354 (124′ 5″ Imperial)
Breadth 29' 0"Amsterdam Feet8.2099 (26′ 11″ Imperial)
Armament 1652Broadside Weight = 113 Dutch pound (123.057 lbs 55.8333 kg)
Gun Deck 7 Dutch 12-Pounder
Gun Deck 7 Dutch 8-Pounder
Gun Deck 12 Dutch 6-Pounder
Gun Deck 2 Dutch 4-Pounder
Gun Deck 2 Dutch 3-Pounder
Commanding Officers
11.1652 - 1653Kapitein Sijbrant Janszoon
1654 - 2.1654KapiteinHeyn Claeszoon Catt
Service History
4.3.1652/53 Battle of Leghorn
26.3.1654 Took the Merchant Ship Saint George in the Mediterranean Sea

75-mm field gun - Cannone da75/27 modello 11

Italian Field Artillery
Although its Turin Arsenal manufactured a limited number of mountain guns, before World War I, Italy acquired its artillery from foreign sources, including Krupp of Germany, the Austro - Hungarian Skoda factory, and the French Deport firm. These included the Krupp-designed 75mm 75/27 Mo. 06, which also saw service in World War II, and the 75mm Gun Mo. 11 Deport. Designed by the prolific Colonel Albert Deport of France and adopted in 1912, the 75mm Gun Mo. 11 Deport introduced a dual recoil system as well as the split trail carriage. The latter innovation incorporated twin hinged trails that could be closed for limbering and then spread apart to stabilize the piece and allow greater recoil at higher elevation. The Mo. 11 was acquired by other powers as well as Italy, and the split trail carriage quickly became the standard for nearly all field pieces worldwide. 

Italy also fielded the 75mm Gun Mo. 06/12 and a howitzer designated the Obice da 100/17 Mo. 14. An Austro-Hungarian design, the quick - firing caliber 100mm Mo. 14 howitzer was adopted in 1914, and numbers were also captured from the Central Powers at the end of World War I. The 100/17 saw extensive Italian service during World War II and was also used by Polish and Romanian forces.

Cannone da75/27 modello 11
Although the Cannone da75/27 modello 11 was designed by a Frenchman it was produced only in Italy and may thus qualify as an Italian weapon. The designer was named Deport, who conceived the idea of a recoil mechanism that could stay fixed in a horizontal plane while the barrel could be elevated to any angle desired. The advantages of this system are rather obscure, but the Italian army certainly took to the idea to the extent that they produced the modello 11 in large numbers.
The modello 11 was a relatively small field piece, as a result mainly of the fact that it was originally ordered for cavalry use, In time it was issued to other arms and became a standard field gun, Apart from the unusual (an uncopied) recoil system, the modello 11 also had one other novel feature for its day. This was split trail legs which gave the gun an unusually wide traverse by contemporary standards, and also enabled the barrel to be elevated to a maximum of 65* allowing the gun to be used in mountainous areas if required, In action the trails were spread and instead of the more usual tail spade the legs were held in place by stakes hammered through slots at the end of each. This certainly held the gun steady for firing, but there were two disadvantages to this system. One was that any large change of traverse could not be made until the stakes had been laboriously removed from the ground; the other was that on rocky or hard ground it took time to hammer in the stakes. For all these potential troubles the Italians used the stake securing method on many of their artillery designs, large and small. 

The modello 11 was a handy little weapon with a good range; its 10240-m (11200-yard) capability was well above that of many of its contemporaries. However, for its size it was rather heavy, which was no doubt a factor in its change from the cavalry to the field artillery, In action it had a crew of at least four men although a full detachment was six, the extra two looking after the horses. 

It is known that some of these guns were used by the Italian maritime artillery militia within the Italian coastal defence organization. The modello 11s appear to have been used as light mobile batteries that could be used for close-in beach defences of likely landing spots. Many of the modello 11s were still in use in this role after 1940, and many other modello 11s were in service with the field arti1lery. In fact so many were still on hand in 1943 that many came under German control, with the designation 7.5-cm Feldkanone 244(i), for use by the German occupation forces in Italy. By that time many modello 11s had been modified for powered traction by conversion of the old wooden spoked wheels to new steel-spoked wheels and revised shields; these modernized equipments used pneumatic tyres.

Cannone da 75/27
Calibre: 75 mm (2,95 in)
Length of barrel 2.132 m (83.93 in)
Weights: in action 1076 kq (2,372 1b);
Travelling: 1900 kg (4,189 lb)
Elevation: - 15* to +65*
Traverse: 52*
Muzzle velocity: 502 m (1,647 ft) per second
Maximum range: 10240 m ( 11,200 yards)
Shell weight: 6.35 kg (14 lb)

Birmingham Small Arms - BSA

The Birmingham Small Arms company of Birmingham, England, was founded in 1861 to manufacture rifle stocks. In 1863 the company built their factory at Small Heath and in 1866 they obtained a military contract to convert 100,000 muzzle-loading Enfield rifles into Snider breech-loaders. Two years later came orders for the complete manufacture of various military pistols and carbines. In 1873 a factory at Adderley Park was acquired for the manufacture of small arms ammunition, trading as the Birmingham Small Arms & Metal Company. This facility was disposed of in 1891 to the Nobel Dynamite Trust. 

During the First World War, BSA factories produced 145,397 Lewis machine guns and 1,601,608 Lee-Enfield rifles. The company also began to take an interest in weapon development and in 1919 produced a -40 calibre military automatic pistol which failed to attract military attention. They then obtained a licence to develop the Thompson submachine gun patents in Europe and produced a number of prototype automatic rifles based on the Thompson designs, again without much commercial success. Another venture was the Adams-Willmott machine gun. Before the out- break of the Second World War the company had set up for production of the BESA tank machine gun and during the war developed the Besal or Faulkner machine gun. Anti-tank rifles, aircraft cannon and submachine guns, were also produced. 

In postwar years the BSA submachine gun was developed, as was a 7mm automatic rifle, but neither gained military acceptance. Some of the 7.62mm FN rifles adopted after Britain standardised on the 7-62mm NATO cartridge were made by BSA. 

After the First World War the company had entered the sporting gun field with an inexpensive shotgun, and they later followed it up with sporting and target rifles. Air rifles had formed part of the firm's output since the early 1900s, and they were the developers of an unusual air rifle modelled on the service Lee-Enfield rifle and intended for inexpensive training of cadets and militia units.
BSA started to pro- duce submachine-guns in 1924 when they flirted briefly with the Thompson design from the US. This came to nothing, as did another licensing venture in 1939 for a Hungarian weapon designed by Kiraly. BSA put some effort into this latter model, including an element of redesign work, and it obviously disappointed them when the War Office showed no interest. Throughout the Second World War the company made weapons to government order, including Sten guns, but did no original work.

BSA submachine gun
The BSA submachine gun, submitted for trials in 1946-1949, was a compact and ingenious design in which the cocking action was done by rotating the forward handguard, thrusting it forward and back, and rotating it again to lock into place. This system meant that the firer retained his grip of the weapon throughout the cocking action, which was advantageous in the event of a feed stoppage. Of 9mm calibre, the gun had a magazine which, with its housing, could be folded forward alongside the barrel giving compact dimensions for packing and, again, allowing rapid action in the event of a malfunction. But in competitive trials, it suffered from having had less development time than its competitors and was rejected for military service. The same fate befell the P-28 automatic rifle, a weapon of great promise. It was an exceptionally clean design, using a laterally-locking bolt, but the abandonment of the projected British .280 cartridge in favour of the 7.62mm NATO round put an end to its chances.

Cartridge9×19mm Parabellum
Calibre9 mm
Rate of fire600 rounds/min
Muzzle velocity1,200 ft/s (365 m/s)
Effective firing range100/200 yds
Maximum firing range200 yds
Feed system32-round box magazine

British submachine-gun. The Welgun was one of many British attempts during the Second World War to produce a very small and light submachine-gun. It was called for by the Special Operations Executive (SOE) which were at that time in Welwyn, hence the first part of the name. It was designed and built by BSA in Birmingham and the first military trials were in early 1943. From then on there seem to have been several trials, in all of which the Welgun fared quite well, but it was never adopted, not even for the SOE. 

The design used some Sten components. The barrel, magazine and return spring were Sten, but the design was most compact. The spring was around the barrel and two long plates ran forward from the bolt to a ring in front of the spring. There was a stop just in front of the breech and rear movement of the bolt compressed the spring against this stop. The plates had serrations on them, and these were gripped to cock the weapon. The Sten magazine fed vertically upwards and the barrel was enclosed in a tubular jacket. The trigger mechanism was very simple, almost crude, and the safety was an external rocking bar which held the bolt either open or closed. A simple folding steel stock was fitted.
The bolt had a floating firing pin actuated by a plunger and rocking bar. When the bolt closed on the breech the plunger was pushed in and operated the rocking bar. This pushed the firing pin forward to fire the cartridge. With a little development the Welgun could probably have been every bit as good as the Sten, and perhaps better, but by then the Sten was already in production.

Cartridge9×19mm Parabellum
ActionBlowback, Open bolt
Rate of fire~500 round/min
Muzzle velocity365 m/s (1,198 ft/s)
Feed system32-rd detachable box magazine