1911 Gunners at West Battery
When: The sign they're holding shows the date the photo was taken, and will help answer several other questions too:
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:
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.
I think it is a 6-inch gun, based on the similarity with this diagram:
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:
- Kowloon West Battery, Tsim Sha Tsui [c.1880- ]
- Lye Mun West Battery, Lye Yue Mun [1887- ]
- 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:
Answers to previous weeks' questions:
If you can add any information to the above pages, please go ahead and leave a comment there.