Big Bertha

Big Bertha
Circa 1940, on the streets of Rochester New York, Bertha does her work.
"I don't make hell for nobody. I'm only the instrument of a laughing providence. Sometimes I don't like it myself, but I couldn't help it if I was born smart."

1st Sgt. Milton Anthony Warden.
"From here to Eternity"

Paul Valery

"You are in love with intelligence, until it frightens you. For your ideas are terrifying and your hearts are faint. Your acts of pity and cruelty are absurd, committed with no calm, as if they were irresistible. Finally, you fear blood more and more. Blood and time."

The Wisdom of the Ages

"When a young man, I read somewhere the following: God the Almighty said, 'All that is too complex is unnecessary, and it is simple that is needed',"

Mikhail Kalashnikov
"Here lies the bravest soldier I've seen since my mirror got grease on it."

Zapp Brannigan

Monday, February 20, 2012

Where the hell have you been? It's been over a month!

Re last post: Ya missed out. The crane sold for scrap.
The good news for the sellers though; it went for $35,000.
R. Lee Ermey is, of course, full of shit. It's one of those things you don't really have to say out-loud.
Old Ron tends to run far afield vis-a-vis accuracy but I'm softening in my view of him.
He is who he is, it's his writers that have got me tight-jawed.
Old R. may actually know when he's spouting garbage but... it's a paycheck and a nice one too I would imagine so why nitpick?
Ride that gravy-train, shipmate. You're performing a vital service for a much overlooked demographic.
Anyway, as as a reality-TV star, he's far better than "Cake Boss".
By the way, on this post, we'll also be addressing an oversight pointed out by faithful reader, Andy during our earlier discussion of the 75mm Pack Howitzer.
Back to the GySgt Ermey, I caught an episode of his show, "Lock'n Load".
"The History of Field Artillery". The old guy did really well - right up to the point that things got too complicated.

"Chauvinism, in its original and primary meaning, is an exaggerated, bellicose patriotism and a belief in national superiority and glory.[1] It is an eponym of a possibly fictional French soldier Nicolas Chauvin who was credited with many superhuman feats in the Napoleonic wars."

Advances in design came forth from people who... just weren't our sort.
Gunny can't catch a break. Not only does he perfectly embody one of our less-admirable, human traits... said trait is named after a French guy.
Also; one of his big "game-changers" in ARTY development actually came out of Europe.
He dealt with what was probably the most important step in field-piece design by ignoring the gun that is universally recognized to have changed the game and focusing instead on the very obscure; all to gain some (pretty pathetic) pro-America points.
It starts at about the 5:40 mark in this, the third video.
"1881, Mk XII, caliber: 1.65 inches...."
Well, I'd never heard of this thing, not that that matters. There's bunches of things I'm clueless about and I don't need reminding of any. Thank you very much.

If you watch the vid, there's a nice little graphic showing how the gun's recoil system works - as well as its patented, breech block.
The breech block is one of the salient features of this gun, listed on the one place where I even found mention of it.
That being a list of 1.65 caliber guns put together by navweaps.com:
"Mark 12 was a monobloc gun with a Driggs sliding and rotating drop breech block"
Let's recap. The recuperator that Ermey was gushing over wasn't important enough to come up in the above, brief description... while the breech block, which was mentioned, was patented eleven years after Gunny claims this gun was doing its thing.
See illustration.
1892.
So, taking into account the existing holes in the story, there's still that weird, shoulder-yoke on it. No other field gun seems to have had one.
As it turned out: I wasn't alone in my suspicions.
What Ermey shot looked to be a Hotchkiss Mountain Rifle lacking only the "recuperator" (I love that word). Before we deconstruct Gunny's torturous path toward America having designed the first, "real", rapid-fire artillery piece, I'll have to expand upon my earlier statement that Gunny's gun looked like a Hotchkiss.
Being that it had the patented breech block, it was probably a Driggs instead.
There are a couple of guys by that name on the patent documents relating to Naval guns. The breech block was designed by W. H. Driggs while a L. L. Driggs came up with a new ignition system.
Both were Annapolis graduates and held, at the time of their patents, the rank of Commander.
Sooooo... what about the shoulder yoke?
This next next picture is of a Driggs, one-pounder - with a recuperator (The photo is of an 1897 gun, a bit later than Ron's).
Pretty boss, non?
Notice, it's got the same shoulder yoke as the TV gun but no carriage. 'cuz it's a Naval gun.

Naval guns have the yoke because the recoil that would break your sholder becomes less problematic when your stability exists in the form of many tons of ship.
It doesn't even need to be a lot of tons. Above pic: Forty-foot, CG cutter with a Hotchkiss one-pounder mounted in the bow. Hotchkiss as well as Driggs made Naval guns.
So yeah, I was ready to kick butt and take names re Ermey. "What the hell are you trying to pull old man?"
That recuperator was never used on a field piece. Or so I thought until I found this pic:

Pictured is a Driggs, 37mm, one-pounder, mountain rifle - still no shoulder yoke though.
Gunny referred to this recoil dampening system as "...the hydro-spring, recoil mechanism" and implied that it was new along with the Mark 12.
Fact is: all the European heavy-hitters had been working on it right along.
From Google book, "Field Artillery and Firepower" by Jonathan B. A. Bailey:

"The first gun with a modern recoil system incorporating hydraulic and spring mechanisms was the 2.5-inch piece of 1872 developed by the Russian designer V. S. Baranovsky."

That seems to clear things up a bit.
Sorry, Gunny.
In digging through Google patents, I found that virtually all of the folks who were working on it at the time were European - primarily French. All had patented their inventions in several European nations before doing the same in the U. S.
It's really no biggie who invented the thing - but the Gunny seems to think so and I just can't seem to keep from poking at him (Actually, it's all the Monster Hunter/Ogres I'm really meaning to belittle).
I don't know Ron's hard-on for the French is all about. I guess he's just xenophobic (Having a morbid fear of warrior princesses).
In reality, the game-changer wasn't the hydro-spring system which is essentially just an automotive shock absorber where the action is dampened by forcing hydraulic fluid through a small orifice against a spring.
The problem is: it takes most of the recoil but the action isn't smooth which makes me think that these recuperators wore out quickly.

What was needed was the hydro-pneumatic system where the fluid, having been forced through its orifice, compresses a chamber of air in another cylinder which serves as the spring.
The principle at work is that liquids aren't compressible while gasses are. A grasp of this concept will make you an invincible plunger of clogged toilets.
And the result was that the reflex action provided by the air-cushion vs the spring was progressive. At both the beginning and end of the firing cycle, the air pressure would absorb and release the pressure slowly. It was progressive. Maybe that's the problem.
The difficulty was that the fluid and air couldn't mix or foaming would occur.
Krupp thought they had it but chronic and systemic, impossible to eliminate, hydraulic fluid leakage made them lose interest.
They sold their rights to the French who solved the problem with silver-alloy, sealing rings between the air and fluid.
The final result was the watershed artillery piece that Ermey thought he was talking about.
The gun, the real winner of this controlled-recoil fight is so damned ubiquitous that during the walk-and-talk portions of his show, Gunny walked past the damned thing three times and at one point even leaned on it.
That would be the ">Matériel de 75mm Mle 1897 AKA: "The Soixante-Quinze".
The French 75.
I'm to close now with some basic, French 75 porn (Hint, I think the artist who did the postcard above may not have been drawing from a real gun).











On a St. Chamond tank, the 75 gets to sit up front.


Artsy-fartsy arty. Cubism if anyone's asking.

As an AA gun.

Finally, a short flick illustrating what quick-firing artillery really looks like.

4 comments:

JEG43 said...

Most interesting, as usual. Help me in my curiosity - tell me what the dewlap-looking thingy at the bottom of the barrel at the muzzle of the French 75 is.

Dan brock said...

No clue...
I am without clue.

Andy said...

Watching it in action it looks like it might be an overtravel stop?

"I want it blown to hell and gone, like it was hit by a French 75"
-Lee Marvin

S O said...

"(...) the muzzle carried a reinforcing band with two rollers beneath it; these engaged in the cradle slides during the latter part of the recoil stroke, and supported the gun in alignment with the cradle. Without these, the breech would have sagged down at the end of the recoil stroke, and the cradle guides would thus have been strained and deformed"

"British & American Artillery of World War Two", Ian V. Hogg, 1978

Locations of visitors to this page