'Lancaster Bullet'

For all discussions relating to military weapons and tactics of the Victorian period.

Re: 'Lancaster Bullet'

Postby mike snook » 04 Mar 2016 03:03

Adrian,

Many thanks for that. Most interesting. It is my understanding that after the contract was laid, the specification was changed to a rifled barrel for the conical bullet; as a result the carbines were not ready when the 12th L sailed in the high summer (northern hemisphere) of 1851. So if 242 were delivered - it would seem by Lancaster - and paid for in 1851, that would be consistent with part-delivery in year, leaving the 108 balance to complete and follow on at some point in 1852.

And more generally....if I may be allowed to hypothesize....

In autumn 1851 the 12th L were operationally committed in the E Cape with only part of the regiment carrying carbines. The CMR defections occurred in March 1851, at which point 330 CMR men in King William's Town were disarmed by Sir H Smith - result = 330 DB smoothbores lying around in 'King'. Horses were also removed. The 46 odd mutineers took their carbines but not their horses. To compensate for the sudden shortfall of mounted troops, a new mounted unit was immediately formed in King from loyal Western Cape 'Hottentot' levies who had been mobilized into the Eastern Cape, as a matter of course, on the outbreak of war. I believe this unit to have been at least 100 strong and to have been regarded as a great success. I speculate that as a result there would now only be 230 surplus carbs left in King. When the 12th L, c. 400 strong, took the field towards the end of 1851 a significant proportion of the regiment did not have any sort of carbine at all, (the proportion is unclear, but certainly significant), and had to make do with lances (of course) and the P1842 pistol. Those that did have carbines can only have had either P1841 Victorias left lying around at the Cape from the days of the 7th DG, which seems to me highly improbable (surely they had taken them with them on departure, after binning the Brunswick Rifles they had at first been expected to carry), or misappropriated DB smoothbores which had once been in the hands of the CMR. The picture is complicated by a rolling programme of rearmament of the disarmed CMR, who eventually return to duty and then to active operations - whether that was all 330 or a proportion of them is unclear. The CMR was under strength against its much-expanded establishment (7th CFW 1846-7) - which is what the big carbine order of that slightly earlier period will be about, so there is theoretically a surplus of DB smoothbores anyway. With whatever that surplus quantity amounts to, and my impression is that it was not more than 100, plus the 230 weapons earlier taken away, they have to rearm the CMR (call it 300) and equip the newly arrived 12th L (400) who are under the impression that their shiny new carbines are not far behind them. But in the meantime there is a problem....the total requirement is 700 (or 800 if you count the irregulars). Hence nowhere near enough carbs to go around. They can recover the 100 in use with the irregular troop and make those lads go back out with muskets. That gives about 430 carbs to split between whatever proportion of the KWT wing of the CMR is rearmed and the newly arrived cavalry regiment. That it seems to me is why 12th L take the field in the (Northern) autumn of 1851 only partly equipped with DB smoothbores. But it'll be alright because in 4 months 242 rifled carbs will arrive aboard the Birkenhead....

But they don't do they....Fortunately there are 108 others which missed the boat but which would have to have arrived at the Cape in good time for November 1852 when the Basotholand expedition is about to march - eventually to Berea. I postulate that Terry's carb and the one in the Castle are two of the 108 (if, that is, they are both rifled and both of the same pattern - ie. both have vents offset from the top of the barrel under that housing. If they are not quite the same, but are both rifled, then the lighter of the two is the improved version from the final DB carbine order itemized by Adrian).

If this all holds water, then it seems to me that the 12th L would most likely have carried a combination of smoothbores and Lancasters at Berea, and that there remains a likelihood that even then not everybody in the regiment had a carbine. Through all this we shouldn't forget that Lancer regiments just didn't have carbines - so whatever number they did have was, (theoretically at least), a bonus. Of course in practice a carbine was essential in frontier warfare, when the opportunity to charge things just didn't present itself, (except by a miracle of circumstance...vide 7th DG at Gwanga River....and, ironically, at Berea).

Anyway, that's where I think we (probably) are; though as I ever I remain open to persuasion.

As ever

M
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Re: 'Lancaster Bullet'

Postby A.Roads » 04 Mar 2016 08:09

I have the Lancaster document in hand now & can verify that Lancaster was paid the following sums for double barrel carbines:
19th December 1851 ~ 1,400 pounds plus small change.
21st January 1852 ~ 245 pounds plus change
17th February 1852 ~ 385 pounds plus change.

Also, in addition to the other contracts I mentioned, there was one other, an order for 247 double barrel carbines for the Cape that were ordered & provided in 1836.
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Re: 'Lancaster Bullet'

Postby mike snook » 04 Mar 2016 11:20

Adrian

More useful data Adrian. Thanks very much for that.

As ever

Mike
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Re: 'Lancaster Bullet'

Postby roconn » 29 Nov 2016 20:42

The only cylindro-conoidal bullet used in any British side-arm was cast in a bore-matching fashion was the Whitworth .451 calibre percussion musket that did not have cut rifling as such -- its hexagonal bore, like the Lancaster's, was twisted to provide the necessary spin. Even in the fired state the bullet it is quite easy to from spot due to its lack of grooves.

Whitworth also produced some quite excellent BL artillery pieces that saw service in the US Civil War.
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