Saturday, February 23, 2008

Royal Naval Brigade Completed

In finishing the Gardner Gun today I have finished the Naval Brigade. At the ratio of 1/33 I am using I should really only have 5 figures to represent the Brigade but with two guns with crews of four I am obviously going to be well over this. I have decided that as a wargaming unit I will add four sailors as well. So here is the complete Brigade ready for action.

The Bluejackets of the Naval Brigade were the first British Troops to land at Suakin in February 1884. At El Teb the 125 men, three Gatling Guns and three Gardner Guns were attached to the 1st Brigade and formed the front two corners of the square. When the Beja first charged it was three of the machine guns, that had been run out in front of the square, that fired first. Later Admiral Hewett led a charge of the sailors with fixed bayonets.

At Tamai the force was slightly larger at 163 men. They were in the 2nd Brigade in the left hand top corner of the square. When the Black Watch charged they left the Gatling and Gardner guns stranded outside the square. When the Beja charged some of the guns had to be abandoned and the Beja subsequently threw one of them down a ravine, although the sailors managed to pull it out later. Ten of the naval crew were killed and seven wounded but not before they had disabled the guns. It was whilst defending one of these guns that Private Tom Edwards of the Black Watch won the Victoria Cross.

Later about half of the Naval Brigade served with the desert column. But that is another story and another army!

Right, there is no excuse now, I have to start some Highlanders!

Royal Naval Brigade: Gardner Gun

The success of the Gatling Gun soon encouraged others into the market The Gardner Gun was invented in 1874 by a former Civil War Captain in the Union army William Gardner of Ohio.

Origninally it had only two barrels and a crank loaded and fired each barrel in turn.

Francis Pratt

He needed finance to produce it, however, so went to the newly formed Pratt and Whitney Company. Francis Pratt had worked for Colt and had a reputation for being one of the top gun designers working.

Mechanism of the original two-barrelled version.

It was developed in conjunction with Pratt and Whitney but despite successful trials from 1875 until 1879 the US Army declined to buy the gun, as they felt it was not an appropriate weapon for their only military activity at the time, against the plains Indians.

Inside the crank case for the five-barrelled version.

The Royal Navy, having already bought the Gatling Gun, were more interested, however and Gardner was invited to England to demonstrate the gun, which by now had a five barrel version as well.

The two-barreled version on board ship.

The Admiralty were impressed enough that they not only adopted the weapon but bought the rights to produce it. Gardner stayed in England to supervise the construction of the weapons in Leeds and lived there for the rest of his life, dying in 1886. The British Army bought the gun in 1880 but its actual introduction by them was delayed because of opposition by the Royal Artillery.

The gun was light, reliable and could fire over 800 rounds a minute.