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COAST DEFENCE

die hard, and much money and brains were invested in the then existing system. But a modern school was gradually formed; a small group of engineer officers under the headship of Sir Andrew Clarke, the then inspector-general of fortifications, took the matter up, and by degrees the new views prevailed and the modern school of coast defence came into being between 1881 and 1885. Meanwhile important changes had been developing in the gun, the all-important weapon of coast defence, changes due mainly to the gradual supersession of the muzzle-loader by the breech-loader. The latter gave the advantages of quicker loading and more protection for the gun detachment over and above the technical improvements in the gun itself, which gave higher muzzle velocity, greater striking effect and longer effective range.

All this reacted on the general scheme of coast defence by enabling the number of guns to be reduced and the distance between forts increased. On the other hand, the ships, too, gained increased range and increased accuracy of fire, so that it became necessary in many cases to advance the general line of the coast defences farther from the harbour or dockyard to be defended, in order to keep the attackers out of range of the objective.

Another change resulted from an improvement in the method of mounting. Even in the older days discussion had arisen freely on the relative merits of barbette and casemate mounting. In the former the gun fires over a parapet, giving a larger field of view to the gun-layer, and a larger field of fire for the gun, with, however, more exposure for the detachment. The latter gives a restricted view and greater safety to the layer, but unless the casemate takes the form of a revolving turret, the arc of fire is very limited.

An important advantage of the barbette system is its cheapness, and thus in order to obtain with it concealment, suggestions were made for various forms of mounting which would allow of the gun, under the shock of recoil, disappearing behind the parapet to emerge only when loaded and ready for the next round. A mounting of this description for muzzle-loading guns, designed by Colonel Moncrieff, was actually in use in the defences of Alexandria and in H.M.S. “Téméraire.”

But with the increased charges and length of breech-loading guns, a further change was desirable, and after some trials a system of disappearing mountings (see Ordnance: Garrison Mountings) was adopted into the British service.

A word must be now said on the size of gun finally adopted. At first muzzle-loaders figured largely in the British defences, even though these were planned on modern ideas; and even in 1906 muzzle-loading guns still existed and were counted as part of the defences. The sizes of these guns varied from the 32- or 64-pounder, of which the nomenclature depends on the weight of the shell, to the 7-in., 9-in., 10-in., 11-in., 12.5- and finally 17.25-in., the size indicating the calibre. Such a multiplication of sizes was due to gradual improvements in the science of gun manufacture, each advance being hailed as the last word to be said on the subject, and each in turn being rapidly made obsolete by something bigger and better. But with the improvements in gun design which followed the introduction of breech-loaders, the types used in coast defence were gradually narrowed down to two, the 9.2-in. and the 6-in. guns. Of these, the 9.2-in. was considered powerful enough to attack armour at any practical range, while the 6-in. gun was introduced to deal with lightly armed vessels at shorter ranges where 9.2-in. guns were unnecessarily powerful.

A few larger guns of 10-in. calibre have actually been used, but though the British navy has now sealed a 12-in. 50-ton gun as the stock size for battleships, for the heavy armament of the coast defences the War Office remain faithful to the 9.2-in. calibre, preferring to develop improvements rather in the direction of more rapid fire and higher muzzle velocity.

The 6-in. has also been retained and is extensively used for the smaller ports, where attack by powerful vessels is for various reasons considered improbable.

The design of the forts to contain the guns necessarily varied with the type of defence adopted, and the duties which the forts had to fulfil. These duties may be said to be twofold, first to facilitate the service of the guns, and secondly to protect the guns and their detachments from damage by fire from ships, or by close attack from landing parties. The service of the gun is provided for by a system of cartridge and shell magazines (see Ammunition), well protected from fire and suitably arranged. The shelters for the gun detachments must be bomb-proof and fitted with some arrangements for comfort and sanitation. Formerly it was the custom to provide living accommodation for the full garrison in casemates inside each fort, but it is now considered better to provide barrack accommodation in the vicinity and to occupy forts in peace only by a few caretakers. The shelters in the fort itself can thus be kept at the minimum required when actually manning the guns. The protection of the guns and magazines against bombardment is provided, in the British service, mainly by an earthen parapet over a substantial roof or wall of concrete, but immediately round the gun an “apron” of concrete is necessary to withstand the shock of discharge or “blast.”

It has been already mentioned that in the old designs a large number of guns was put in each fort, but with dispersion and improved gun power this number was much reduced. At first the type of fort adopted was for four guns, of which the two in the centre were heavy and the two on the flank of medium power. Such a design was good from the point of view of the engineer; it gave an economical grouping of magazines and shelters and was easily adapted to varying sites, and the smaller guns helped the larger by covering their flanks both towards the sea and also over the land approaches. But from the point of view of the artillery officer the arrangement was faulty, for when the guns are too much separated, ranging has to be carried out separately for each gun. On the other hand, two guns of the same calibre placed near one another can be fought simultaneously and form what is known as a “group.” In the typical 4-gun battery described above, the flank guns had to be fought independently, which was wasteful of officers and staff. Further, in a battery of more than two guns the arc of fire of the centre guns is much restricted by that of the guns on either flank.

For these reasons it is now generally recognized that new works should be designed for only two guns of the same calibre, though 3- or 4-gun batteries are occasionally used in special circumstances.

Protection of the gun detachments against infantry attack is best provided by a line of infantry posts outside and on the flanks of the gun batteries, but as small parties may evade the outposts, or the latter may be driven in, it is necessary to place round each fort a line of obstacles sufficient to protect the guns against a rush and to cover the infantry while it rallies. This obstacle was formerly a wet or dry ditch, with escarp, counterscarp and flanking galleries; but with the new design of parapet a simpler form of obstacle was adopted. This was obtained by carrying down and forward the slope of the parapet to a point well below the level of the surrounding ground, and then placing a stout fence at the foot of the parapet and concealed from view. It is in fact the old principle of the sunk fence, and has this further advantage, that the fence, being visible from the parapet, can be kept under fire by men posted between the guns without any special flanking galleries.

Occasionally two or more batteries are placed inside one line of obstacles, but usually each 2-gun battery is complete in itself.

Cases arise, e.g. with sites on the top of a cliff, where no obstacle is required; in such places the parapet merges into the surrounding ground.

In old days the parapet was shaped with well-defined edges and slopes. Now the parapet slopes gently down to the front and is rounded at the sides, so as to present no definite edge or angle to the enemy, and concealment is furthered by allowing grass or small scrub to grow over the parapet and round the guns. In order to obtain complete concealment from view the background behind the guns must be carefully studied from the