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French canons
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PMarione
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Joined: 26 Mar 2007
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Post Posted: Sat Mar 31, 2007 7:28 pm    Post subject: French canons Reply with quote

The major provider of new ships to the RN for the period certainly was the French Navy.
A lot of prizes were put in service.

A question that I am asking me for a long time is: "what was done with the canons of the prizes?"
Due to the difference between the English and French pound, the caliber of the French canons were larger that the one of the English canons, and as such useless for the RN.
We can assume that brass canons were recast as brass was very valuable, but what happened to the iron ones.
Possibly some were used as ballast, but there were thousands of them.

Where they simply stored at some Ordnance yard?
Where they resold? recast?

Has anybody some ideas?
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David H



Joined: 29 Mar 2007
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Post Posted: Sun Apr 01, 2007 8:44 am    Post subject: French cannons Reply with quote

The subject of what happened to captured cannons is mentioned by Adrian Caruana in vol.2 of "English Sea Ordnance":

"... at the end of the War of Jenkins' ear, in 1749, the Board of Ordnance sold all the captured French cannon back to France, and solved its financial problems at a stroke. This financial coup, whilst undoubtedly founded on sound business principles, was not particularly popular in political circles, for it meant that when the Seven Years War started in 1756, the French had a surplus of artillery. Consequently the Board (of Ordnance) was actively encouraged by its political masters to recast French guns into shot, to fire back at the French, who would then received them, albeit free of charge, but no doubt in a less welcome manner than by acquiring them at bargain basement prices...."

Caruana goes on to state that the recasting of captured cannon into shot then became the preferred method, but it proved to be costly, so that "... in later waters, captured ordnance was used to arm domestic fortifications, to act as gate posts, bollards and a variety of other uses, including recasting into shot".
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PMarione
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Post Posted: Tue Apr 03, 2007 9:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks.

Probably some are still in use as bollard, etc..
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Devenish



Joined: 06 Apr 2007
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Post Posted: Sun Apr 08, 2007 5:00 am    Post subject: French Canons Reply with quote

I addition to the above, I believe their may be another reason for the removal of French guns from their captured ships. I have read, although I don't have the source to hand, that the British were rather wary of them because of their manufacture and that they were considered as not being so well-made as British guns and were more liable to explode in action.

By comparison, guns of Swedish manufacture were also thought to be superior and I believe were sometimes to be found on British ships. How they came to be there is open to question!
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PMarione
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Post Posted: Sun Apr 08, 2007 10:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Before the Revolution, the French canons manufactures were certainly up to the British ones, at least in theory and according to the various treaties of the period.

During the Revolution, the French iron industry did go down like most of their industries. Specially because iron manufacture was one of the scarse trade that an aristocrat could do without "derogate" (and loose all the taxes advantages).

During the "Cultural Revolution", the Chinese government at some point decided that every Chinese had to have a blast furnace in his garden to boost the production of iron. One can imagine the quality of such a production.

The French did come with the same idea two centuries before and opened a lot of small manufactures.
I have a treaty by Monge on how to convert a church into a canon factory.
One can imagine that the quality was no more up to the standards.
This was specially true with the canon balls which were cooled too fast and thence brittle. It was reported that they broke into pieces in flight or against the hulls.

I have no idea how the things evoluted during the Napoleonic period but Napoleon was an artillery man so one can imagine that they improved.
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Langstone



Joined: 30 Mar 2007
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Location: England

Post Posted: Tue Apr 10, 2007 11:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is a fascinating topic, and many cannons at the end of the war were certainly used as bollards, and no doubt many captured ones were used as such as well. I have come across a reference to French cannons captured at the battle of Trafalgar that were used in London as bollards on either side of a lane that possibly passed between Edith Cavell Street and Philpott Street. This seems to be in the Spitalfields/Stepney area - does anybody know this area? And do these cannons/bollards surive?
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Roy Adkins



Joined: 28 Mar 2007
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Location: Devon

Post Posted: Tue Apr 10, 2007 6:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have come across another mention of a captured French cannon reused in London, though this one dates to 1747, but I hope you donít mind me mentioning this occurrence. It is supposed to be in St Jamesís Square, opposite the head office of the Canada Life Assurance at no. 2, once the town house of Lord Falmouth. It was apparently captured by Admiral Edward Boscawen, the brother of Lord Falmouth, in a battle off Cape Finisterre [3 May 1747], and the captured cannon was used as the base of a gas lamp post. The information is from a letter published in the Naval Review of 1940, which took facts contained in H V Mortonís book ĎGhosts of Londoní. I wonder if this cannon is still there? Iíve just done a bit more checking, and Lord Falmouthís house was actually no. 2 St Jamesís Square, and there were several of these cannon bases, not just the one.
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Roy Adkins



Joined: 28 Mar 2007
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Location: Devon

Post Posted: Fri May 04, 2007 8:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can now reply to my own previous posting, as I have recently been in St James's Square in London (to use the London Library at no. 14). Alas, no sign of those cannon bases, and in fact the buildings in that part of the square have been replaced by a modern structure - was it all destroyed in the war, or was it all destroyed by subsequent developers? Does anyone know if the cannons were salvaged?
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