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New Zealand Society of Gunsmiths Inc.
Promoting Excellence in Gunsmithing
PO Box 52, Kaitaia, 0441, New Zealand. Tel/Fax + 64 9 409 3835
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Four Inch Noble Print E-mail
Auckland War Memorial Museum    by Terry Walsh FSG
Restoration project by RNZ Navy Staff at Kauri Point


HMS New Zealand was New Zealand’s first and only capital ship, paid for by public subscription then broken up under the Washington Treaty after approximately ten years service. The ship Honours Board and other artefacts are housed in St Christopher Chapel and Navy Museum at HMNZS Philomel, Devonport.

The 4inch Noble Guns are assumed to be ex HMS NEW ZEALAND removed prior being scrapped about 1923 in the same manner as guns (3 & 6 pdrs & 2 pdr Vickers Maxim) were removed from HMNZS Philomel. The gun is one of a number of designs built by Sir Wm. George Armstrong, Mitchell & Co at his Elswick Ordnance Company. It is a Welin type interrupted thread breech screw design .42 cwt. P11 Mounting. 50.3 calibres barrel. Working pressure 18 tons.

RNZNAD Kauri Point staff approached the Auckland City Council (contrary to popular opinion Auckland War Memorial Museum are not responsible for these guns) with information on their historic background and an assessment of their condition and required refurbishment work. A.C.C. not only agreed to the work but also funded the wet blasting, painting and replacement.

Markings still obvious can be interpreted as follows:

E.O.C. – muzzle end.

Elswick Ordnance Co. Newcastle-on-Tyne. This firm acted as auxiliary cannon founders to the government until 1863. In 1864 they offered 600 pounders for 4000 English pounds each. Armstrong was born at Newcastle-on-Tyne on 23 March 1810. His first rifled cannon was produced in 1854 and he served as Superintendent of Woolwich Arsenal 1856 – 63, assisted by Dr John Anderson. Much of the machinery employed at Woolwich was designed at Armstrong’s Elswick works. He was knighted in 1858. The Sir W.G. Armstrong, Mitchell & Co exhibited cannon at the World Fair Chicago 1893. Armstrong died 27 December 1900.

Woolwich Arsenal – Woolwich borough in County Kent. An arsenal existed here during the reign of Henry the VII. The land for the present arsenal was probably selected as sites for the batteries to protect Woolwich from the Dutch fleet in 1667. In 1695 the laboratory was moved from Greenwich to Woolwich. In 1716 following an explosion at Moorfields Foundry, a foundry for casting brass cannon was built at Tower Place or King’s Warren Woolwich.

Prior to 1885, this small foundry for brass cannon was all that existed here but during the two years following extensive works were established. The adoption of the Armstrong gun 1859 – 1862 required a costly investment in additional workshops and equipment. During the period 1859 – 63, Armstrong produced 3,500 pieces of ordnance. No heavy guns of this type were made after 1860 as a result of experience during the Chinese and Japanese wars. The system was complicated and required many tools for its repair. Serious accidents were likely to occur from the breech screw not being correctly closed, the vent piece being weak or ill fitting etc. Naval and Land services reverted to Muzzle loading guns 1863 – 1878.

No 68950 & 68741 – muzzle end.
Tube number at time of forging and machining.
Vertical & Horizontal engraved lines – muzzle end.
Centreline of bore for measurement and alignment.
WIRE – breech end.
Barrel construction is a barrel tube with wire layers varying from breech to muzzle.

In a typical 15 inch gun of 100 tons, length 650 inches, there will be 79 layers at the breech to 29 layers at the muzzle end. Wire tension will vary from layer to layer, commencing 40 tons square inch and finishing 28 tons square inch. There are 185 miles of 3/8" – 3/16" wire. There were two designs of wire winding machine R.G.F. or E.O.C.

Broad Arrow & JG & EC in oval.
Broad Arrow is War Dept. acceptance ‘serviceable’ mark after proof testing. JG & EC are the initials of the accepting Inspector.
T in oval – not known, assumed to mean "Tested"
TW in oval – not known, assumed to be E.O.C. inspectors mark.
928 & 927 Gun serial numbers.
4PII 1910 gun mount type and year manufacture.
38F Broad Arrow – not known.
Noble – Designers name. Two possible individuals – Captain Noble I.O.M., A.O.D. or Sir Andrew Noble.

Reference:

Chinn G.M. LT. COL.    "The Machine Gun" US Bureau of Ordnance 1951 vol 1 of 5 pp688.
Gardner R.E.    "Five centuries of Swordsmiths and Armourers" W.F. Heer, Columbus Ohio 1948 pp241
Hintz Lt    "HMNZS PHILOMEL A History of the Training and Depot ship of the Royal New Zealand Navy." Wilson & Horton Auckland 1944 pp38.
HMSO    "Textbook of Service Ordnance" 1923 pp222.
H.G.M.P.    "North Head a History" D.O.L.S. Auckland NZ Nov. 1983 pp59
Veart D.G.    "North Head : The Development of a Fort" D.O.C. Wellington NZ August 1990
NZ Army    The Fort Record Book 1912, 1940, 1941.
4 inch Noble Gun Emplacements:
1912    Secondary armament HMS New Zealand
1932    Sent to NZ after HMS New Zealand paid off. New Zealand Government purchased 20
1932    Museum (1) No 2 gun of saluting battery
1932    37 Saluting Battery Tennis court eastern entrance South Battery North Head 6 guns
1937    No. 1 gun Artillery Yard North Head instructional purposes
1940    Fort Takapuna No. 1 gun of saluting battery 6
1941    North Battery No. 1 of saluting battery 6
1959    Many cut up for scrap and sold
1959?    Two guns placed at Museum.

 

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