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DateOriginal Topic
13th April 2004Fuse setting on N5 guns
By Neil Aspinshaw
Can any of our artillery specialists enlighten us to how the fuses were set on the artillery shells. Also the loading proceedure.

I noticed at the Telana museum at Dundee (SA) they have a 7pr shell reputedly from isandlwana. There are two noticeable features (I think an image of it also can be seen in "then and now" (Knight/Castle).
Firstly the shell itself has raised panels, presumably to follow the barrel rifling?, but how difficult would that make to muzzle load? surely ity would alow for leakage of propellant around the shell itself during firing.

Secondly, as the RA were slow to adopt breech loading, how was the propellant packaged and ignited, and what was an efficient rate of fire, with that in mind?
13th April 2004John Young

I am no artillery specialist, but the fuses were screwed into the shell to set the timings, the number of turns determined the detonation time. I've actually got one of the fuses in my collection, recovered from Isandlwana after the relief of Ladysmith in 2nd Anglo-Boer War.

The Royal Artillery Museum, "Firepower!", have examples of the studded shells on display. When I was involved in the filming the documentary "The Zulu Wars", I spent a day at the old museum - The Rotunda, Woolwich. The then director of the museum had no trouble at all demonstrating the loading of the studded shell, in fact he stated it made it easier, as I recall.

Have a look at the article I recommended the other day on your posting about rockets.

As to the Royal Artillery being slow to adopt breech-loaders, the Whitworth & Armstrong guns used by the R.A. pre-date the Anglo-Zulu War by some years. There were breech-loaders in the field in the Anglo-Zulu War, but these were Krupp guns, we had "acquired" following the annexation of the Transvaal.

John Y.
13th April 2004David Gardner

Can I refer you to Mike McCabes previous excellent answer recently to my question on the 7 pounder.Apprently the fuse setting comprised of a wooden cone, with the time being detrmined by how many holes were "pricked" on it
13th April 2004John Young

Far be it from me to contradict Mike's comment, but he is actually alluding to the fuse invented by the then Captain E.M. Boxer, R.A. in 1849. Boxer's fuse is described as; '...a wooden cone with a centre channel of powder and side channels (filled with pistol powder) with radial holes bored into them at close intervals, representing fractions of time. These holes were stopped with clay and the whole fuse covered with paper, numbered at the appropriate holes.'

However, by 1879 these fuses were obsolete (Boxer was then a Major-General, as an aside) having been replaced by nose & base fuses, like the pattern I have. I did mean to say something at the time but I couldn't find the reference.

John Y.
13th April 2004David Gardner
Hi John,

It's funny you should say that, I was wondering myself because today I had a look at the 7 lb shell pictured in The Zulu War Then And Now, and could see no signs of what Mike spoke of.The shell I saw had a couple of " raised rectangular" parts on it.

Again, your subject knowledge is spot on.
13th April 2004Mike McCabe
I'm only repeating the gist of explanation and 'show and tell' demonstrationgiven by one of the assistant curators at the South African Museum of Military History in JNB in early 2000. He appeared to know what he was talking about, and demnstrated the functioning of the 7 pdr gun and its loading drill for all gun numbers.

13th April 2004David Gardner
Mike-I think if you take a look at one of the 7lb shells,- what John refers to seems to be spot on.
There is a part of the top of the shell missing where John says the fuse was screwed into to set the time-there is no wooden cone, or room for one, although I think I know what your referring to and have a memory of seeing such a fuse to which you referred.