Britain 4.7 inch Naval Gun four versions.

Posted by: GunnerJim in Member Blogs

Overview history on the development of the British Naval 4.7 gun converted into field artillery at the outbreak of the Boar War of 1899-1900's.

This handcrafted silver wooden model shows what the gun conversion would have looked like.

Was it all over gold in the end. The Second African war or Boer War of the 1899-1900's was believed to be initiated from the mining Tax capitalisation by the British Foreign Office over the English Colony of South Africa. Or was it really the Dutch immigrants or the Boers seeking independence from the overlord British Empire.  Britain needed to strengthen their limited forces in South Africa from the insurgence revolt occurring by the Boers from the introduction of this Tax on the rich gold resources that they the Boers disliked.

 The Boers attacked British controlled areas using guerrilla tactics to success and laying siege to towns of the Mafeking and Kimberley bordering on the rich gold soils of the Transvaal area. It was when the Boers laid siege to the British Town of Ladysmith that re-enforcements were desperately needed to defend town. With the nearest Army Troops stationed in India and in Britain which would have taken weeks for them to arrive and defeat was eminent. Britain had to act swift and fast.

Britain sent the order by telegraph for the Naval Brigade of South Africa Station to go into action.  Captain Percy Scott initiated relief by using the guns from HMS Terrible with makeshift gun carriages that were made from heavy wooden beams and wheels made from heavy plate steel formed these guns into mobile field artillery.  Captain Percy Scott of HMS Terrible who designed the gun carriage was able to send within 48 hours a detachment of guns and 180 sailors to the besieged towns.  These 4.7 inch breach loading guns had a longer range being 4115 meters using time fuse and 5121 meters using percussion fuse than the Armstrong 12 and 15 pounders which could not reach the Boars artillery.  All British Field Artillery could fire carrier type shells that contained canister shot (200 metal balls) for aerial burst using time fuses over massed attacking troops or High Explosives (HE) using percussion fuse for impact rounds.

Here is a very good example or the original gun carriage in action. Note the use of wheel recoil chocks.

William Britain and Sons would have been inspired by the Boer War of the early 1900's  thus by copying this gun to be included with those soldiers of the day.  William Britain jnr was the main model maker for Britain toy soldiers from about 1889 or early as indicated by his son Dennis and most probably modelled the 4.7 inch Naval Gun in the early part of the 1900's. 

As the 4.7 inch Naval Gun has the word Depose (French for registration)  written on the barrel of this gun and continued with this word Depose on the two versions through out the moulds life.  Following the word Depose, the number Rd 388707 is also casted on the wheels, box trail and sighting mechanism.  This number could be the Art Model Number or registration number that France required when Britain set up their  office in 1905 and later when they established their factory in 1912 until 1920 when all the moulds were returned to England. William Britain jnr had retired from artist and model maker from ill-health having been confined to a wheelchair due to diabetes which would also have affected his eye sight in 1915. So this could have been the last toy of Williams jnr having the modification to the box trail.

The first design by the looks of it.

This picture shows the first moulding has the enclosed firing mechanism spring that was moulded into the box trail when the casting was done.  These springs often broke off and the lead antimony and tin (white metal) would often cool in the mould before most of the spring was covered when the hot metal was poured in leaving some small holes in the casting from air traps on-top of the box trail. As one can see in this picture. I have seen others with this problem.

This particular 4.7 inch Naval Gun was in a sad and sorry state when I required it.   So with some cleaning up and paint with a new handmade  brass adjustment elevating screw fitted, the gun is now presentable.  Unfortunately, the encased spring is broken and no way can it be replaced.  The fortunes of war I suppose it wont firer anymore matches.

Second version with the top one in the picture having the Patent number on the side of the box trail.

As this picture shows, the exposed spring is held in place by a pin across the box trail near the towing eyelet.  One only has to remove the pin and slide the flat spring steel out and replace it if broken.  This same method would improve assemble time instead of placing the metal flat spring in the mould before pouring the hot metal, resulting in many failures.   All the parts are the same, apart from this modification including the word Depose and the number Rd 388707 on all parts.

 Here on this gun, the wording, Patent is written on the side No 1216 and 1915.   Some have this, while others don't.   A set number was given in 1933 which may have included the Naval gun team.

The 1915 version may have lasted until it was replaced by the third version with a complete different boxed trail in 1960's, having a number of 9730.   Lead being used in Toys was fazed out by 1966.   In almost all manufacturing after World War Two they all changed over to Zalmac and Britain's would have done the same.

How they compare along side of each other.

Looks like they used the same designed wheels on all three.


Side elevation and notice the casting on the barrel. There is an early model of this gun where the barrel end or muzzle flash is casted the same as the early versions instead of the separate casting for the muzzle end.


1915 plus.

Front view.

Take Post,  Number One Gun ranging, HE,  5,000 yards, elevation 36 degrees bearing 10 degrees left, fire, adjust all guns and firer for effect.

Manning the drag ropes and looks like they are pushing too, this rather large gun.   By the looks of it this gun it would be close to the size of the 5.5 inch BL British gun that I trained on in the mid 1960's.

Thanks for reading and please leave any comments. Gunner Jim.

Tags: Figures and Toy Soldiers

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