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Sunday, 8 December 2013


No one knows where artillery is first used, but The Heilongjiang hand cannon or hand-gun is a bronze hand cannon manufactured no later than 1288 and the world's oldest surviving firearm. The Heilongjiang hand cannon was excavated during the 1970s in Banlachengzi, a village in the province of Heilongjiang in Manchuria.

The Heilongjiang hand cannon. Wikipedia Commons

The earliest surviving illustration of artillery is a drawing of a crude form of cannon in a manuscript dated 1327 (now in the library of Christ Church, Oxford).

The 4th Earl of Salisbury became the first Englishman to use cannons in battle in 1428. He later became the first Englishman to be killed by a cannon.

One of the most remarkable of early cannon was a proud possession of Mehmed, the Turkish conqueror of Constantinople. Before his final attack in 1453 he terrified the inhabitants by trundling close to their city a massive 19-ton bombard of cast iron. It required 16 oxen and 200 men to manoeuvre it into its firing position. Once there, it settled down to a slow but devastating bombardment of vast stones weighing as much as 600 pounds. The rate of fire was seven stones a day.

The Medici rulers of Florence fled in 1494 after Charles VIII of France invaded Italy with 60,000 men and modern innovative artillery made of bronze.

In 1625 Ordnance factories in Sweden begin producing light but powerful field artillery, which was easy to move on the battlefield.

The cannon that shot Nelson’s arm is thought to have been one known as ‘Tiger’.

A ship’s cannon balls used to be stacked on a brass structure called a ‘monkey’ – the brass would contract in cold weather and the cannon balls would fall off. From this comes the phrase 'Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey’.

Sailors used Edam as a makeshift cannonball in a battle between the Uruguayan and Argentinian navies in 1841. One of the cheesy missiles killed two men.

There is one double barrel cannon in existence. It was forged in the spring of 1862 in Athens, Georgia, according to the design of John Gilleland. He was a 53-year-old private in the Mitchel Thunderbolts, a homeguard unit for men too old for active duty. The weapon was intended to fire simultaneously from side-by-side barrels two balls linked by a chain, intended to scythe down enemy soldiers like standing wheat.

Big Bertha was the name of a type of super-heavy siege artillery developed by the armaments manufacturer Krupp in Germany on the eve of World War I. When firing the huge cannons during the war, its German operators had to move 300 yards away and fire it electrically. They were still so close they required cotton wadding in their eyes, nose and ears, and fired it with their mouth open to prevent the gun from blowing out their ear drums.

Big Bertha in action

Jim Bristoe, an American, invented a 30-foot-long, 2-ton pumpkin cannon that can fire pumpkins up to five miles.

Sources Daily MailHistory World

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