Saturday 23 May 2015

USS Nautilus and the Nemo connection

I recently had the opportunity of visiting the US Navy's Submarine Museum, which includes the historic ship USS Nautilus: the world's first nuclear powered vessel and the first submarine to transit across the Arctic and the North Pole.

Its always wonderful to visit a historic vessel and Nautilus was no exception.
During the visit I made three key observations:
- Submarines haven't really changed in design at all since WW2, and even then there only was modest evolution from WW1
- Some of the exact same equipment in Nautilus is still used today (e.g. sound powered telephones)
- In 1957 the French Navy presented the Nautilus with a unique gift which is displayed in her main deck passageway:
And yes, its an authentic French!

Captain Nemo and a certain French author would be proud I think!

Monday 18 May 2015

It's Nautilus What You Think

If you missed update on the new edition of Nemo's War, here it is off VPG's website.
I'm really looking forward to this!

This is just a quick update on some of the game project in the queue at Victory Point Games.
Nemo cardsAmong the most requested game updates is Nemo's War second edition. This project is currently with its art and graphics director, the amazingly talented Ian O'Toole. It you have followed this new edition of Chris Taylor's ingenious solitaire game design, after completing alpha and beta testing, off this game went to Ian where he has been painstakingly adding polish to enhance the gameplay and appearance of Nemo's War. As his "passion project," Ian has been hand-drawing every illustration and building the look of every component with the exquisite detail of a true artiste.
For this update, Ian has sent us more sketches to ogle, this time for the Nautilus upgrade cards, and sends these words: "I'm still working away on finishing off the Adventure Cards (I'm sketching them all, then tightening up the drawings, then colouring, so they're all being done concurrently)." Now, it's easy to understand gamer impatience for this game, but Ian's work is so worth waiting for! We anticipate having this game ready later this year (depending on the breaks), and just can't wait for everyone to take the new Nemo's War for a spin!

Thursday 14 May 2015

Hotchkiss Revolving Cannon

Second in this series of period machineries of death...

A step up from the Gatling Gun (see here), which fired small arms ammunition, this Hotchkiss Revolving Cannon fired 37mm projectiles from its 5 barrels.  This version is mounted for field work, but it was frequently used on naval platforms, especially lighter craft and gunboats.  With the gun shield discarded, it could also be packed onto two mules.
Manufactured in France, 1880
Capable of around between 45 and 70 rounds per minute, it was accurate out to around 2,000 yards.  Shrapnel and canister ammunition was available but these appear to have been restricted to defensive mounts in fortifications and bursting ammunition was more standard.
 Detail of the business end

Here is an example of a Naval Deck mounting (not my pic)

The Hotchkiss also came in larger calibre - 40, 47 and 53mm with increasing weight and reduced portability.


Additional detail from Old British Guns website, here:
The Hotchkiss revolving cannon was a 37mm hand operated machine gun that was considered light enough to travel with cavalry, although not for the British Army. A light (well sort of, around 1000 pounds) , mobile and fast firing artillery piece, it could fire up to 40 explosive or steel shot rounds per minute. With a range of 2000 yards (practical range, max was 4000 yards but wind and other things could upset accuracy), it could easily outrange rifle fire. The British Navy also adopted it around 1875 for use against the ever present torpedo boat threat, but the caliber was considered too small to be effective. It was felt to be comparable to the Nordenfelt and as in that gun larger calibers were later adopted.

It was developed by an American, Benjamin Berkeley Hotchkiss, living in France. He was approached by French officers looking for a fast firing gun, and it was soon adopted by all the major Powers, including the U.S., which went for it in a big way.

The mechanism differed from the Gatling Gun in that there were multiple barrels but only one striker, bolt and extractor. A center cam wheel is turned by the hand crank, which both rotates the barrels and holds them in place during different phases. Each rotation of the crank loads one shell, fires one shell and extracts one shell. The cam gear is cleverly shaped to turn another gear in the left side of the breech block which is pinned to 2 toothed shafts. The upper toothed shaft strips off a shell from the magazine and loads it in the chamber, while the bottom toothed shaft extracts a shell and dumps it out the bottom. The firing pin strikes the shell when the barrel is at the bottom of it's rotation.

The ammunition for the gun is a self contained cartridge, made up of brass wrapped into a cylinder with a solid center primed head, as in early British rifle bullets. An explosive shell and a canister shell were available, Canister consisted of steel shot, not unlike a giant shotgun shell, and was murderous against groups of the enemy. The shells weighed around a pound, were 5 inches long, and the tin or zinc magazine held 10. To unload the gun after firing consisted of removing the firing pin, rotating the barrels backwards with the handcrank and prying out the shells with a screwdriver, or pushing them out with a ramrod. Standing downstream from the gun had to give the gunner a moment of pause, as with unloading the Gatlings.

Some Hotchkiss guns were mounted on British ships, although they really preferred the Nordenfelt gun. Some guns were used in the Boer War, and at least one was present at the seige of Mafeking.

Friday 8 May 2015

Mr Gatling's Patented Revolving Battery Gun and other fun

In recent months I've visited more than a few places in which historical artefacts are stored, so I have taken the opportunity to take pictographic records all sorts of inventions. I shall present them here for your edification but let me start with a bit of trivia: Edgar Rice Burroughs, the creator of John Carter of Mars and Tarzan, started life as a Gatling gun instructor while serving as a soldier in the 7th US Cavalry Regiment.

In the foreground we have a Colt Bulldog Model 1877 Gatling Gun, and in the background is the US Navy variant of the Colt Gatling Gun (1884), both are .45-70 calibre.  Note the robust pedestal mounting and different barrel and magazine arrangements on the Naval variant.

Detail of the rear of the US Navy model

Naval variant in profile
 Rear view of the Model 1877:
Manufacturer's stamp detail

Authentic packing crate for the Model 1887 - clearly it took a little time to bring into action off the march

“It occurred to me that if I could invent a machine — a gun — which could, by rapidity of fire, enable one man to do as much battle duty as a hundred, that it would, to a great extent, supersede the necessity of large armies.”
    — Richard Gatling, inventor of “the first reliable machinegun,” 1877 (as quoted in The Economist, June 14)

Foreground: not a Gatling gun but a 2 barrelled Gardner Gun, .45 calibre, used from 1874

Background: Colt Gatling Gun Navy Model 1900, .30-40 calibre, mounted on a modified M1895 Naval Landing Party carriage

Gatling Battery Gun Model 1866, .50-70 calibre, on an original carriage mount:

This is a Model 1883 Gatling, used in the movie Gunga Din

This one is one with the barrel casing removed but is unmarked for design or patent date.  It was used in the movies War Wagon and The Outlaw Josey Wales

Hope you find this of interest, I certainly did!  More period weaponry pics to come

"Whatever happens we have got,
the Gatling gun and they have not."

- Hillaire Belloc

Friday 1 May 2015

Zeppelin attack routes

I was perusing some of the many fantastic tomes at the library this week and found a great German account of WW1 Zeppelin raids on Britain which included this chart of 'standard routes'.  Should a set of such plans fall into British agents' hands, an aeronef ambush could be set to pounce on the would be attacks.  All the makings of a neat scenario!

Just some for the great books available - frustratingly, I don't have time to absorb them all!

An exploration of debauchery, vice and other reasons to be a man!

An exploration of debauchery, vice and other reasons to be a man!