Francis Liardet: Professional Recollections on Points of Seamanship, Discipline, &c., 1849.

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Firing bow guns when in chase.

It appears to me that the fear so often entertained of retarding the ship by firing bow guns in chase is much overrated, and that the hope of accelerating the ship's speed by firing stern-chasers is equally, if not more doubtful. But in both cases when the ship is large, and the breeze commanding, I cannot understand how a single gun fired at intervals can possibly retard or accelerate a ship's speed. Yet we have often seen the first of these points much canvassed when in chase, and sometimes when the ship was going nearly her full speed; but it was generally decided that the bow guns would most surely retard the ship. As these points appear to admit of a doubt, it would be a desirable thing to prove it in a practical point of view, by trying it with two vessels of equal force and as nearly equal speed as possible; and when right abeam of each other, let one fire her bow guns, and try its effect compared with the other, and then try the effect of the stern guns. As the same case theoretically may differ widely when tried practically, it would be well to give this subject a good trial. While on the subject of the effect of the bow and stern guns on large vessels, with the usual sized guns of this class, we think it cannot be doubted that small vessels, with very heavy guns at their extremes, must be in some measure impeded or accelerated while keeping up a quick fire at either extreme. We have often seen boats fitted in the following manner, to prevent the sudden recoil of the guns coming on the boat. Two holes, like hawse-holes, were made one on each side of the stem of the boat; the breeching was then rove as usual to the gun; the two ends were then rove through the hole on each side of the stem; to each end of the breeching was attached a weight in proportion to the size of the gun, so that when the gun was run out, the weights were close to the water; but the moment the gun was fired, the weights ran up to the holes, consequently brought little or no sudden jerk on the boat. Perhaps a large frigate, sailing at the rate of eight or nine knots, would be about as much retarded by firing bow-chasers as a launch would be in firing an equal number of muskets in the same direction, going at her full speed. What we wish to observe more particularly is, that when it is required to fire bowguns, that the size of the ship, compared with the size of the guns to be fired, is not sufficiently taken into consideration; for the same difficulty appears to exist about firing a bow-gun in a three decked ship, or a vessel not above one-fourth her size, carrying the same metal on the decks where bow-guns are usually fired from. Before quitting this subject, it appears that when our ships of war have been obliged to retreat from a superior force, and a stern chaser has ensued, that it would have given them a much better chance of a good retreat had they substituted two of their main-deck guns for two of the quarter-deck carronades.
Francis Liardet: Professional Recollections on Points of Seamanship, Discipline, &c.
William Woodward, Portsea, 1849. 8vo, frontisp., (6), x, 319 pp, 1 col. plate of signals.

Transcribed by Lars Bruzelius

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