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traverse vs effectiveness, 15-inch gun, land defense

May 5 2012 at 1:57 AM
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Nelson  (no login)
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Response to Re: HE vs AP rounds at Singapore


> As for bore life, I'd consider this of secondary importance with the Japanese army about to assault Singapore Island. >

The scenario you describe is that of the enemy at the gates, and of course under that extreme circumstance, facing the bitter reality of being overrun by the enemy, one would fire any gun and any ammunition at hand. What I was attempting to do was formulate the reasoning why the British coast artillery--quite inexplicably in our eyes--did not beforehand provide high explosive projectiles to its two big gun batteries defending Singapore, even after the outcome of the battle to the north had become unmistakable and inevitable (in the same drift as why not at that ineluctable moment order your engineer troops to start laying wire and preparing other defenses along the north shore of the main island). I think all or some of the four reasons I came up with provide that explanation, however lame we may consider them in retrospect.

While I think your point of the third gun crew being available to spell the fatigued crews of the other two 15-inch guns in Johore Battery is a quite valid one, I don't buy the two rounds/minute rate of fire for a gun of this size after the first very few minutes. Do remember that it is HOT in Singapore in February--I was there during that month in 2002 and walking along the sidewalk near Mount Serapong, 60 years after the events presently under discussion, I thought I was going to fry like an egg on the concrete--that factor thus diminishing crew performance. Things jam, things break: I suspect that one round per minute would soon enough become one round every two minutes. These big guns were insufficiently reactive to make them good weapons to use against attacking infantry. In World War I, railway guns at the front were a great deal more common than in the second war. But even under the more confined and relatively static conditions of that conflict, these big guns, with bores ranging from 8- to 14-inches (the latter caliber guns manned by American sailors commanded by Rear Admiral Charles Plunkett), the targets were almost always reserve troop concentrations, railway yards, matériel storage areas, road junctions, etc., all being well behind the front lines. Normally, the only infantry fired at and hit effectively by such big guns were those unfortunates riding in troop trains. For information on Admiral Plunkett, see

> Re Buona Vista, I get the impression that the traverse could have been modified, but at the expense of the guns no longer being able to engage naval targets at all (correct me if I'm wrong). >

This is a good question and one for which I have only a partial answer. Two certainties, then into the black hole: (i) The decision to "mess with" the 15-inch gun carriages was an enormous one, so the Brit coast artillery command, one assumes with input to/from Percival, decided--probably wisely--to split the difference, in the event the Japanese came at Singapore by sea. Thus modify the two modifiable carriages in Johore Battery, nearest to the land fighting, and retain Buona Vista Battery for its original purpose in the event the enemy did just that, along with No. 1 gun of Johore Battery, which had no choice in the matter. (ii) I'm going to correct you only to the extent your implied question posed is the wrong one: It should be "at the expense of the guns no longer being able to engage naval targets to good effect". The strong suit of coast artillery and its trained gunners was in its ability to follow rapidly moving targets, with carefully sited--and sighted--optical instruments (later radar), fast data transmission, plotting crews with all of their paraphernalia, etc., designed to meet this end. If ya got all that, but your bloody guns traverse at the speed of cooling molasses and can't keep up with the target--indeed can't get to the set-forward point ahead of that target--not to mention firing once every blue moon, you're not satisfying the tenets of a coast defense battery. So, yes, even stripped of all carriage stops and power cables, such that your lads at the guns have to manhandle 15-inch projectiles, and elevate and traverse these big guns by hand, all the while confined in a steel box becoming hotter and hotter, you can still shoot at the ships offshore--just don't expect to do so very often or very effectively. Thus reserved as a compleat coast artillery battery, Buona Vista remained silent awaiting the seaborne enemy that never came, until overrun by those attacking from behind.

The black hole: In a previous posting in this thread I described what needed to be done with the Mark II 15-inch gun carriage to loose its fetters and increase its traverse and arc of fire. The first step was merely one requiring caution and some ingenuity: pull the carriage stops, but still have a care NOT to overrun and crush the cables (with the live rollers on the revolving base?). The carriage stops, after all, were there for a purpose. I would assume there was some way to bundle the cables to keep them out of harm's way even with the stops gone, but still gain more degrees of traverse so'z one could achieve a better field of fire, both up Johore-way and west along the main island. The second step was the BIG one, and I cannot believe that would have been done: removing the power cables and doing things manually, as described above. But if'n ya wanta get appreciably more traverse, that was the decision and the consequence. I'm not entirely convinced that step would have been taken and that's the black hole.


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