'Lancaster Bullet'

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

Re: 'Lancaster Bullet'

Postby stenoyab » 23 Jan 2016 20:55

Not been squashed, all the sides are beveled in keeping with a very similar mold I have with a perfectly round ball, so its not been distored.
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Re: 'Lancaster Bullet'

Postby terrylee » 23 Jan 2016 21:22

A Pattern 1851 Lancers Carbine marked to the 12th lancers and recovered in Lesotho during 1972. Possibly a relic of the Battle of Berea. If a shipment was lost with the Birkenhead, there were obviously more than one.
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Re: 'Lancaster Bullet'

Postby mike snook » 24 Jan 2016 03:32

Hello Terry

Not necessarily. Could have been the regiment was partially backfilled in the Cape. The evidence that not all 12th Lancers had carbines in late 1851 when they deployed into the field is rock solid. The issue of carbs in England was deferred by a late decision to go for rifling not smooth. The shipment was meant to catch them up. Birkenhead went down in Feb 52. Is that one smooth or rifled?

There isn't any such thing as 'P1851 Lancers carbine'. By default lancers were armed with pistols. The issue of DB carbines to the 12th was a one-off expedient to reflect the unusual mode of warfare at the Cape.

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M
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Re: 'Lancaster Bullet'

Postby terrylee » 24 Jan 2016 08:51

Mike, The barrels of my carbine are rifled. My use of the term "Pattern 1851" merely refers to the official order date.

As I previously indicated, this carbine can never be conclusively be linked to the battle of Berea. However, the fact that it is marked to the 12th Lancers and was purchased from a tribesman in Lesotho suggests that it might have been. There is a similar carbine in the Cape Town Castle Museum which may have been one of those later reissued to the Cape Mounted Rifles. It appears that the butt-plate markings have been removed. Finally, there is an entry in the 12th Lancers order book (of which you have a copy) dated the 17th December, 1852 which indicates that carbines were carried by the 12th Lancers during the Berea Campaign.

My view that there was either more than one shipment of carbines or, perhaps, that some may have been offloaded in Cape Town before the Birkenhead sank, is based on another entry in the order book dated the 14th March, 1852, a matter of weeks after the sinking. This also refers to the carbines. Maybe I read too much between the lines, but I feel that its wording perhaps suggests the novelty of something newly issued??

" Order No. 2: No firing of guns of any description in or near the camp and no discharging of carbines will be allowed without the special permission of the officer commanding the division."

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Terry
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Re: 'Lancaster Bullet'

Postby mike snook » 24 Jan 2016 15:04

Hi Terry

I agree that there is no question but that at least some of them had carbines at Berea. I can't show that they all definitely did. I suspect that they all did, but can't prove it. I add the proviso that they might have had a blend of rifled and smooth. I'll explain.

There is a significant gap (a year) between source materiel relating to them taking the field in late 1851 and going to Basotholand in Nov/Dec 1852. In the former period it is beyond all cavil that not all of them had carbines. This dovetails with the notion that they left England without their new rifled carbines. The data I have suggests 350 newly made carbines about to go aboard the Birkenhead to catch up with the regiment. From memory she sailed in the New Year 1852. Certainly she foundered on 26 Feb 1852. In my data there is a named officer accompanying the carbines with an squad of instructors who had been newly trained by the Rifle Brigade at Woolwich. That officer certainly died when Birkenhead foundered. The size of the regimental detail on board dovetails with the description I have of the squad of instructors - one sergeant and a 'few'. A second officer and one private were the only regimental survivors. (Sad to say after surviving such a trauma, the private was almost immediately killed in action. Ain't life cruel.) There is no earthly reason why the carbs (if on board) would be disembarked in Cape Town when the regiment was serving in the Eastern Cape. I forget now whether she was bound for PE (Algoa Bay), thence Graham's Town, or East London, thence King William's Town, or was going to stop at both. In any event nobody and nothing bound for a war in the Eastern Cape got off in Cape Town: 'Illogical captain', as Dr Spock would say!

What I have is the intention to put the carbs and the instructors on the Birkenhead. That is not the same thing as being able to say it definitely happened. Hence my remark about the manifest. (Do you know any divers! If I'm right they're still down there, although I daresay they won't be quite as immaculate as yours!) But something strange would have to have gone wrong, for the men to have gone, but the weapons not to have done so. That is notionally possible, but does not seem a particularly likely scenario. If the guns didn't make the boat, the men would surely have been delayed to wait for them. I think it is possible that some small number, the very first off the production line, might have gone with the officers of the regiment or some such scenario.

It is theoretically possible that there is still time for a second consignment to arrive in advance of the Basotholand expedition. But not if they only manufactured 350 and paused production. Let us assume that the decision was made to keep making them with no break in production, so as to re-equip the CMR with the new rifled version, as a follow on serial to equipping the 12th. I work on three months for sail and two months for steam. This is the age of steam. Let us say news of the loss arrives in England on or about 1 May. Allow two weeks for buggering about, getting a N/K qty of carbines (the number that can be manufactured in 2 months of rolling production) ordered down to Southampton etc. A new steamer sails therefore on or about 14 May. It arrives at the Cape on 15 July and King on about 25 July. That's a best case scenario but you will appreciate that there are still several months to the right of that point. Plenty of time for some rifled carbines to end up with the regiment in time for Berea. But not I fancy 350. So we could be in a scenario where some part of the regiment had been issued with CMR carbines (as an adjunct to its pistols) on first arrival in SA and that some other portion was later issued with rifled carbs newly arrived in the summer of 1852, those two events being separated in the middle by the loss of the Birkenhead.

Yes on 17 Dec The regiment is ordered to parade at 3 'with Carbines and Pistols'. The dress of the day is watering order. So they don't go anywhere. I suspect this may have been a weapon inspection, because there is nowhere for a pistol to be carried on the person. They go in saddle holsters as you know.

On 18 Dec. They are ordered to parade in marching order 'with swords and lances'. No mention of firearms, though they must be taken as read. That order is rescinded later in the day and they don't go anywhere.

On 19 Dec, the key day, there is no discussion of weapons - only marching order and 3 days' rations.

I think you are indeed reading too much into the order of March 1852. That is a divisional order to stop people causing false alarms by clearing their weapons by discharging them, either for cleaning, or for safety around camp (after returning from patrol), or possibly to stop the officers riding out to shoot at critters, repeated regimentally to incorporate the word 'carbines'. It doesn't prove anything except that some part of the regiment had carbines, which is not in any way in doubt.

There should somewhere be a documentary trace of the second lot of carbs being either despatched from England or arriving with the regiment. Maybe some kind of confirmation will turn up some day.

Interesting eh.

Best wishes

Mike
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Re: 'Lancaster Bullet'

Postby mike snook » 27 Feb 2016 23:13

For the sake of anybody wot's interested, further to this discussion, I now have corroboration that the carbines did indeed go down with the Birkenhead, as I earlier surmised.

I can also add that the private soldier survivor was Private John Dodd and that actually it was 10 months before he was killed in action....he died at the Battle of Berea. The cornet who was lost at sea is sometimes reported as Rolf, but appears to have been called Rolt.

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Re: 'Lancaster Bullet'

Postby terrylee » 29 Feb 2016 15:46

Mike,
I am very interested to note that you have confirmation that some of the carbines were aboard the Birkenhead when she sank. Further details would be greatly appreciated.

The Birkenhead was professionally salvaged (scavenged) during the 1980s. it appears that a very thorough job was done and many minor artifacts were recovered, photographed and later sold. For obvious reasons this event was of interest to me.

So far as I'm aware the only firearm which the "salvors" reported at the time was the remains of a cased sporting rifle which I expect had belonged to an officer.

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Re: 'Lancaster Bullet'

Postby mike snook » 29 Feb 2016 20:31

Hi Terry

Either barrels degrade very quickly on the bottom of the sea (well outside my ken, although I imagine they do) or they couldn't have been in quite the right place! After looking for a long, long time I eventually obtained a copy of A Deathless Story; the Birkenhead and its Heroes (London, 1906), which doesn't even break stride in saying that the carbines were on board. The authors (Addison and Matthews) set out to get to the bottom of the Birkenhead story and even interviewed all the survivors they could get their hands on...old men by then obviously....who all feature in photographs. It is a well illustrated book by the standards of that time, running to more than 300 pages. They even describe the curious placing of the cap nipples on the carbines which they say was somewhere other than centrally positioned, slightly offset to the side of the barrel with a correspondingly long hammer it seems, although that bit sounds a bit odd. They say that this had been found unsatisfactory. But the point is that it's so odd that they couldn't have just made up the proposition that the 12th Lancers carbines were on board. From what I see of yours, the nipples and hammers are conventionally and centrally positioned, (although if they are not - bingo!). I am inclined to think this might well support the idea of a subsequent batch, with hammers corrected to reflect the aforementioned doubts, [perhaps raised by the Rifle Brigade when they were training the 12th Lancers instructors], bound for the CMR, (an organization which by 1852 had a long shadow hanging over its loyalty), being diverted on arrival into the hands of the lancers.

Alternatively, and here I go well beyond my field of expertise, I wonder how easy or difficult is (is it is even possible?) to groove formerly smoothbore barrels. I do so only the basis of wondering whether the old smoothbore CMR carbines could have been re-engineered to be like the one you presently have. The underpinning assumption (based on Howard Blackmore) is that there were no grooved DB carbines in the hands of the CMR, before the newly designed Lancasters were shipped in the Birkenhead.

I will scan the pages concerned and email them to you.

Best wishes

Mike

PS. Ooh I don't know though - those are quite long hammers aren't they? Do they fall dead square or offset? Also is it a heavy old beast?
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Re: 'Lancaster Bullet'

Postby RobD » 01 Mar 2016 10:20

Terry, I am in Cape Town with time to kill - would it help in some way if I had a good look at the Lancaster carbine in the Castle?
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Re: 'Lancaster Bullet'

Postby terrylee » 01 Mar 2016 14:43

Mike,
Many thanks for your kind offer to scan and send me the relevant pages of " A Deathless Story..." This would be greatly appreciated. I shall respond more fully once I have had a chance to study the contents. My e-mail address is as before.

Rob,
It would be of great interest to me if you could have a good look at the Castle Museum carbine. It appears to be identical to mine. My main interest would concern your opinion on the markings on the tang of the butt-plate. Are they original or have previous markings been deleted and replaced? If so, it would suggest that it could have been previously marked to the 12th Lancers.

Natie Greef the ex-curator informed me that it was a C.M.R. carbine and it is recorded that they received 1851 carbines from the 12th lancers when that regiment left for India. Unfortunately, I am uncertain whether the carbine will now be accessible to you. Natie recently married an Austrian girl and has left the country.

I attach some photos of the Castle carbine which Natie sent me several years ago.

Terry
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Re: 'Lancaster Bullet'

Postby mike snook » 01 Mar 2016 16:02

Those housings on both weapons are over vents in the side of the barrel are they not? So surely that's exactly what Addison and Matthews are on about. That's good because it suggests a second consignment (but perhaps fewer than 350, depending on rate of manufacture, as I postulated before) of exactly the same style, being whipped out on the next possible trooper as previously discussed.

Lancaster/Lovell would have to set out to make more than 350 in the first instance, because the establishment of the CMR was up around the 850 mark at that time. So if I was a treasury penny pincher I'd pay for 850 on the proviso that only 500 men of the CMR would be Lancaster armed at first, the other 350 making do with their old smoothbores, until such time as the 12th Lancers departed the colony and handed theirs over.

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Re: 'Lancaster Bullet'

Postby A.Roads » 03 Mar 2016 06:10

My main interest would concern your opinion on the markings on the tang of the butt-plate. Are they original or have previous markings been deleted and replaced? If so, it would suggest that it could have been previously marked to the 12th Lancers.

The D / 52 marking could potentially be a 12th Lancer marking, if so it has simply been marked at a different time & by a different hand than the example at the top of the thread page. It does appear to be original.

Perhaps of interest is a list of the contracts for double barrel carbines:
Birmingham - 600 D.B carbs contracted & all received in 1847 & 1848.
London - 350 D.B Carbs contracted for the Cape Corps. 242 rec'd in 1851 & 108 in 1852.
Birmingham - 550 D.B. carbs contracted for, were being set up in 1854. 50 are noted as being for Cape Corps. 50 are noted as being rifled & sighted. There is a detailed list of all the various parts makers for these 550 carbines.
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Re: 'Lancaster Bullet'

Postby mike snook » 03 Mar 2016 12:02

Adrian

That's interesting. If the 350 consignment was split, as the data you offer suggests, that would provide a neat and logical explanation: 242 go down with the Birkenhead in the New Year of 1852 ('received' I take it means by the government from the manufacturer?) leaving 108 to arrive later in the year and in good time for the Battle of Berea in December. Of note however is that you do not annotate these as a rifled consignment, which I believe they were. Also can you explain 'London' - Was Charles Lancaster a London gunmaker?

The CMR defections of March 1851 and the standing down from active duty of the KWT-based wing of the regiment, more than 300 men, provide a ready enough explanation for why cutting edge rifled carbines would be diverted away from the CMR.

What is the source of the data?

Best wishes

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Re: 'Lancaster Bullet'

Postby mike snook » 03 Mar 2016 21:00

Terry,

The wreck was dived for salvage in 1854 and 1894, by permission of the authorities, so whoever went down in the 1980s was a tad late on the scene. I have no data on what was recovered.

As ever

M
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Re: 'Lancaster Bullet'

Postby A.Roads » 03 Mar 2016 21:38

Hi Mike,
The contract for 350 was dated 29th May, 1851. There is no date nor month even for the receipt of arms, merely recording 242 in 1851 (presumably quite late in the year) & 108 in 1852. Received means accepted for the Ordnance. The arm descriptions are very brief, whether rifled or smooth bore is not always mentioned as the tabular list is simply compiled to show the numbers & types of arms produced in ten years, contract by contract. Likewise the contractors are not named in this tabular list, though arms made up from parts in Store are noted as such.
The source is the Small Arms Select Committee Report of 1854, Appendix No. 6.

A separate document, not immediately at hand, cites Lancaster (who was a London gunmaker) as having been paid a large sum, in 1851, for double barrel carbines. The sum was just over 1000 pounds, which, though I don't have the figures per carbine at hand either, does seem to be about right for 350 carbines. This document is via PRO & is from Ordnance Select Committee Minutes.
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