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MH Ammunition Box
DaveRay


Joined: 04 Jan 2007
Posts: 2
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Hi

I donít know if anyone can assist me but Iím interested in constructing a Martini Henry ammunition Box from the Zulu war period. I would be extremely grateful to anyone who could supply me photos, dimensions or any details that may help me during construction.

Thank You

Dave
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diagralex


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 208
Location: Broomfield, Essex
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Dave

This is a subject which has been brought up several times before on this site.
If you log into the OLD Rorke's drift forum and type Ammunition box into the search facility, you should see the various threads which have previously been mentioned.
Hope that this helps you in your project.

Graham
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MH Ammunition Box
lavagna


Joined: 27 Dec 2005
Posts: 19
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Here are a few pictures of an authentic Zulu War Martini Henry Ammo Box.
Hope they help.
























[/img]
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DaveRay


Joined: 04 Jan 2007
Posts: 2
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Thanks guys, I really appreciate the help. I did do a search of the old forum prior to posting and your right there are a few threads on the subject but nothing that really helped. Thanks Lavagna for the pictures there fantastic, just what I was after. Out of interest do you have any dimensions to go with them?

Dave
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mike snook 2


Joined: 04 Jan 2006
Posts: 920
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And look how close to the edge the retaining screw is. Couldn't open the boxes - pah!! Very Happy

M
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Mikey29211


Joined: 26 Aug 2006
Posts: 226
Location: Central Nebraska, USA
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mike snook 2 wrote:
And look how close to the edge the retaining screw is. Couldn't open the boxes - pah!! Very Happy

M



"Look, it ain't my fault. All the tops are screwed down". Shocked Very Happy
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Neil Aspinshaw


Joined: 05 Sep 2005
Posts: 289
Location: Loughborough
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Hmm
Interesting that the Powder type is listed, The C & H stenciled on the top must be Curtis & Harvey, The original boxer round used C & H No 6 black powder. Just an note for the anoraks.

Neil

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Neil
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MH Ammo Box
Carl Daeche


Joined: 27 Jul 2006
Posts: 45
Location: Broadstairs
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Hi I made a number of boxes using traditional methods and materials about 18 months agao. The results were pretty good (modest as ever). A number of contributors to this forum now own one as do some Die hards. I did have all my research stored somewhere with sizes etc. I did the research at the NAM etc etc, all were very kind and helped significantly. Neil has got a photo of one on his Martini webpage. How I wish I had had access to those wonderful pics above when I did mine!!!

Please email me offline if you want to chat about the production.
Carl
PS I don't wish to start the ball rolling again but boy was the screw hard to get out when I recreated (as best I could) the situation at Isandhlwana.[/b]
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mike snook 2


Joined: 04 Jan 2006
Posts: 920
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Carl

Do tell more about your experiment. What did you try? Did you try the same technique as tried by Ian and Tony Pollard on that TV programme they did? The levered bayonet? The combined camp mallet and chisel (bayonet) ?

Of course we have no knowledge of whether Pullen and Bloomfield slackened off a proportion of their boxes (say their respective first line reserves) on entering Zululand which would seem a sensible thing to do. And as I pointed out in How Can Man Die Better, the regimental pioneers were the QM's boys and had a full array of domestic pioneering tools as well as those of the less 'subtle' type such as axes and picks.

The Knight/Pollard technique in case you didn't see it was to place the box on its side with the retaining screw upwards and smash a downwards blow against the wooden edge in which the screw sits. Although their reconstructed box looked a bit dubious in terms of materials, the essentials of the technique looked right to me. The two combined effects were splintering of the thin wooden edge and bending the screw in half.

As ever

Mike
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John Young


Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 923
Location: Lower Sheering, Essex
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Carl,

Could you please added the marks to the woodwork on my box please, as shown in Lavagna's photographs?

I could take it to Wellington House next month, if you're going? Then you can whittle while I work.

Regards,

John Y.
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MH Ammunition box
Carl Daeche


Joined: 27 Jul 2006
Posts: 45
Location: Broadstairs
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Hi John,

Please let me know what exactly you would like done to the box (work email). I am unable to stamp into the wood as yet - I am still searching for a reasonable period set of die stamps, know any property protection people!

I am sure we can sort something out if its stencils you want. I can make them up and post them to you. All you then need is some Black gloss.

Do get in touch - I return on Tuesday.

Hi Mike,

I watched those programmes and read through the lengthy historic forum on the subject. It was this and the rarity of the boxes that stimulated my project. I placed a box that had - as best - been made using material as original as possible - slow grown mahogany with close grain. Hand cut dovetails and solid brass screws (not the coated zinc ones now generally available). The only elements that I could not recreate where the zinc liner and the six hundred rounds of ammunition inside.

You would be amazed as to the weight of the finished item even without the liner or ammo. I managed to obtain real hemp from the original supplier to the Victorian military and had the handles hand spliced.

OK the experiment. I left a box out in the elements during our wonderful British summer. We had rain and sun in equal measures, then we had heat and alot of it. On a particularly hot day I tried using a standard correctly sized screwdriver - I was reluctant to use my lunger! and unscrewed the brass retaining screw as quick as I could - whilst listening to the zulu soundtrack on headphones at the same time ofcourse.

The result - The screw was hard to shift it had settled nicely into the timber and the more pressure I placed on it the more friction the greater the heat and yes the brass started to bend. The box was slow to open as the screwdriver kept slipping out of the groove ( no posi then you know) and by the time I had extracted it - well over 2 minutes it was clearly distorted in shape.

My contribution to this arguement is that the distorted screws found on the battlefield are distorted by the unscrewing process and not therfore -I think many have perhaps assumed that coupled with some eye witness accounts ( the early leavers) - distorted from the box being smashed open.

You mention the re-enactment by IK. I have to say having made many boxes last year that anything made of a soft wood such as the inferior pine box featured on the programme would not give anything like a true comparison. Having made the boxes I could not find it within myself to smash it open - even in the interests of science. Perhaps John you want to have a go at yours!!!

What do you all think?

Carl
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mike snook 2


Joined: 04 Jan 2006
Posts: 920
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Carl

Thanks for the reply - I quite understand why after that labour of love in handcrafting a box you couldn't bring yourself to do it. As for axes - perish the thought!!

As ever the real point is just how long, given the strict drills of company and section volley firing, 70 rounds would last - and the whole idea of well trained troops ceasing to fire very much at all when there is no target to fire at. The really interesting experiment would be to get 4,000 young men together in the wet season with the long grass, muster them 50 yards short of the donga (by which time their forbears would have had four or five volleys from each of the companies to think about) and give them 5 seconds to hide themselves from effective enemy fire. And I'll bet my pension we wouldn't 'see a bloody one now' to quote a certain screenplay.

In the meantime I'm still tinkering with my time machine. One day!

As ever

Mike
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Michael Boyle


Joined: 12 Dec 2005
Posts: 595
Location: Bucks County,PA,US
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Carl,I believe you may be on to something here. As ubiquitous as wood screws and screwdrivers are today they were still rather novel in the 1870s and individual's exposure to the using of same may now be taken anachronistically.

The modern 'wood' screw (as opposed to 'wooden' screw) was invented in the 1840s by George Nettlefield in Birmingham which led to it's widespread use in joinery work in the 1850s. Prior to that screws were predominately found only in mechanical devices such as clocks, locks and machinery where only trained craftsmen would be readily familiar with them.

The hand held screwdriver itself (as opposed to drill or brace bits) dates only to the early 1800s and prior to Mr. Nettlefield was used primarily for small mechanical as opposed to carpentry work. There is actually very little history on what became the last hand tool to be added to the carpenter's tool kit after thousands of years in development! For an interesting article on the subject see -

http://www.nytimes.com/library/magazine/millennium/m1/rybczynski.html

After only some twenty-odd years into their use it should not be seen as surprising that what to us seems an intuitive function would seem at that time something much less so. Even today if you've ever watched a child (or the odd adult) attempt the act of 'unscrewing' a slot-head for the first few times you can attest to the comedy of the situation and the many bitten tongues! (Or if you're one the multitude who even now find themselve's frequently reciting "Righty tighty, lefty loosey"!) If the act of screwing and unscrewing were intuitive then it would stand to reason that screws and screwdrivers would have entered the human toolkit millenia ago.

From the photos above it would appear that the screws used in the box construction are flatheads. Is this the case with the compartment retaining screw? I notice the inset hole in the slide and was wondering if a roundhead screw was used (admittedly unlikely as roundheads are predominately machine screws). If so then that adds another wrinkle as roundheads offer the highest available torque on the outside where the head is thinnest and the lowest available in the center where the head is thickest and results in the ease in which they strip. (Another case of counter-intuitiveness prevailing!)

Regardless, you're spot on about brass screws, even admiralty brass is soft and strips easily and it's use has always been intended for inclement conditions due to it's slower erosion qualities and is probably why brass was used in this case. One should remember that ammo boxes are designed to withstand enormous abuse in transport and storage and the weakest link on the M-H box is the retaining screw so it would not have been manufactured if the screw was easily dislodged. Not to mention that even close grained hardwoods will swell when exposed to moisture and the tongue-in-groove construction of the slide would offer both additional strength as well as a sticking point.

To me the bottom line is that after the first invasion ammunition was redistributed to more than just the ammo wagons, that every wagon containing ammunition was to have a few pre-opened boxes as well as a dedicated screwdriver.To be fair though in Lord Chelmsford's pre-invasion papers there is reference to his being unable to procure many screwdrivers and in all honesty I've been unable to find any previous British battle where more rapid ammunition supply became a factor and as this campaign proved to be the litmus test for the M-H no one seemed to have had yet connected the dots between rapid fire and rapid resupply.

Best

Michael
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mike snook 2


Joined: 04 Jan 2006
Posts: 920
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Extracts from the 1877 Regs for interest.

'There are two descriptions of firing - volleys, and independent firing. Volley firing may at the discretion of the commander be by battalion, half-battalions, companies, half-companies, or sections; the numbr of rounds to be expended being, in all cases specified. In independent firing the number of rounds to be expended will also invariably be stated...'

'...The requirements of the moment can alone determine the description of fire which will be most effective; but it may be assumed that, except under extraordinary circumstances, no firing should be permitted when smoke or other causes, prevent such a view of the enemy being obtained as would ensure a reasonable certainty of an effective result.'

Mike
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mike snook 2


Joined: 04 Jan 2006
Posts: 920
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And this from the 1877 Regs - the killer blows to the ammunition doubters!

Part II Sect 5. 'The subaltern officers and sergeants will be formed in a third or supernumerary rank as will hereafter be described. Their duties are to control the expenditure of ammunition, correct any mistakes that may occur while manoeuvring, and take note of any awkward men. Too much attention cannnot be paid to these points.'

Part III Sect 44. 'Serving out ammunition from the regimental reserve must be carefully and frequently practiced.'

Mike
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MH Ammunition Box
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