1911 Gunners at West Battery

1911 West Battery

 

When: The sign they're holding shows the date the photo was taken, and will help answer several other questions too:

Sign

 

Who: The sign says they are the "D. Grs.". The "Grs." stands for "Gunners", but I'm not sure if the "D." is short for another word, or if they were split into groups A, B, C, D, etc. Suggestions welcome.

The text on their jumpers shows they were part of a larger group. Here's an enhanced view of the jumper on the man at the left of the back row:

87 Coy RGA

 

It reads "87 COY RGA". The RGA were the Royal Garrison Artillery, and one of their jobs was to man the coastal defence batteries around the British Empire. These men were part of the 87 Company of the RGA.

 

What: They're standing next to one of their guns.

Gun breech

 

I think it is a 6-inch gun, based on the similarity with this diagram:

BL 6 inch Mk XII gun breech mechanism outside view diagrams

 

6-inch guns were widely used in British coastal defence batteries.

Both views show the back (breech) of the gun, where the shell is inserted. After inserting a shell, the gunners have to seal the back of the gun by closing the breechblock. The photo shows the breech open, with the breechblock swung across to the right. In the diagram the breechblock has been closed and the gun is ready to fire

At the right edge of the photo is a pole with what looks like a woollen cylinder on the end. I guess it was used to clean the inside of the gun barrel - can any of our artillery experts confirm?

A couple of other questions:

  • There is a "D/Q" mark at the 11 o'clock position on the breech. Does anyone know what it means?
  • It looks as though the breech is mounted in a wooden frame. That wouldn't survive the recoil of the gun being fired, so is this a training setup?

 

Where: Looking at Rob's list of batteries, I see three possible locations for this photo:

  1. Kowloon West Battery, Tsim Sha Tsui [c.1880- ]
  2. Lye Mun West Battery, Lye Yue Mun [1887- ]
  3. Stonecutters West Battery, Stonecutters [1890- ]

If you click through to the page for any of those batteries, you'll see that Rob has generously shared his research to give us a timeline for each battery. Since we know the date of the photo, they may help narrow down the location. Here are extracts from the timeline for each battery.

Kowloon West Battery:

  • 1906: 2 x 6" BL Mk VII guns, 1 x 10" RML mounted but not approved.  (CAB 11/57).
  • 1907: 2 x 6" BL Mk VII guns. 2 x 6" BL Mk VII guns to be reduced.  (CAB 11/57).
  • 1909: Not listed.
  • 1915: Magazines being used to store ammunition for mobile artillery.  (WO 32/5316).
  • 1917: 2 x 12 pdr QF guns.  (WO 78/5354).
  • 1935: 1 x 6" BL gun (Training gun).  (WO 106/111).  (Referred to as Whitfield Bty).

 

Lye Mun West Battery:

  • 1906: 2 x 9" RML guns, 2 x 6 pdr QF guns mounted, only 6 pdr QF approved.  (CAB 11/57).
  • 1907: 2 x 6 pdr QF mounted, to be reduced.  (CAB 11/57).
  • 1908: Not listed.
  • 1914: Proposed revision for 2 x 4.7" QF guns.  (WO 78/5352).
  • 1917: 2 x 4.7" QF guns. (Listed as Lyemun Pass, West Bty).  (CAB 11/58).

 

Stonecutters West Battery:

  • 1906: 2 x 10” BL guns, 2 x 6” BL guns. (CAB 11/57).
  • 1907: Revision of the whole of this Bty to take 5 x 6” BL Mk VII guns. Estimated cost £6,500.Work on emplacing the two flank guns was proceeded with immediately. The provision of No. 3 emplacement was commenced in 1908 and completed later that year. The provision of the remaining two guns was not considered advisable until three of the 9.2” guns at Mt Davis were mounted. Work on these two guns was not commenced until July 1911. (WO 78/5343).
  • 1910: 2 x 10” BL guns mounted, not approved, 3 x 6” BL guns approved, not yet mounted. (CAB 11/57).
  • 1911: 3 x 6” BL guns, 2 x 6” BL guns to be added. (CAB 11/58). 
  • 1912: Construction completed in February. Actual cost £3,886. Armament 5 x 6” BL Mk VII guns. (WO 78/5343).
  • 1917: 5 x 6” BL guns. (CAB 11/58).

 

The guns at the Lye Mun West Battery don't match, so we can count that one out. The Kowloon West Battery doesn't look to have been active around 1911 so I'd count it out too, except for the later mention of it having a "Training gun".

I think Stonecutters West Battery is the likely location of this photo, with a small chance that it shows the Kowloon West Battery instead. If anyone recognises the location (eg from the shape of the brickwork?), please let us know in the comments below.

 

Greetings from sunny Britain.

We're on our family vacation, so though I'll still be checking the site daily, I won't be posting as much as usual over the next few weeks. Fortunately there is plenty of interesting new content from Gwulo's contributors to enjoy ...

New posts, pictures & comments:

Readers' questions:

Answers to previous weeks' questions:

If you can add any information to the above pages, please go ahead and leave a comment there.

Comments

D - my guess is D troop? 

Looks like a training set up for recruits - getting to know the parts of the gun. Very common in the army.

 

David,

It's just the breech mechanism on a wooden horse for practising the loading drills. No gun.

The woollen jobbie on the pole is, I think, the sponge. If so it would have been wet and, when the breech was open after a round had been fired, one of the team will have shoved it into the breech and rotated it to make sure there were no small fragments of glowing detritus (remains of the silk bags in which the cordite came) that could cause an accident during the next loading sequence.

I'd suspect that D may have been D gun within a battery of four. The Q would perhaps have been 'Quick', as in Quick Firing, since (working from UK where I'm researching just now (the Tamar)) since, memory suggests, 1911 is round about when 6" QF guns first make an appearance and maybe D gun in the battery was going to be upgraded to a 6" QF, so the gunners had to be familiarized. Just a thought.

Stephen

I suggest that thing isn't a gun, but probably a mocked up breech block to allow new gunners practice with its operation. The mount certainly couldn't take the shock of gunfire and as it appears non-moveable, has no field of fire. "The rammer" adjacent would normally be doused in a water bucket and pushed through the breech after each firing, to extinguish any burning particles left before the next cordite bag is inserted. Again, part of the training.

More likely at Kowloon West than Stonecutters West. The latter did have a training gun, but this was at an obsolete 3pdr position, unlikely to have all that structure behind.

Found this list on Flickr (and uploaded it):

Defended Ports 1946
Defended Ports 1946, by Okehills
Defended Ports 1946 - Hong Kong
Defended Ports 1946 - Hong Kong, by Okehills

This might help to identify guns and batteries. 

More images on flickr here

I joined Phil for a look around the Kowloon West Battery site in Kowloon Park earler in the week. Sorry to say we couldn't find any spot that matched the walls in the background of the photo. I can't say it definitely isn't the site in the photo though, as the area has been re-developed and the walls concreted over during its conversion to a public area.