Unable to tell your falconet from your falcon? Would you know a basilisk if you fell over one? You are not alone. They’re all types of cannon dating back to the 17th century. Nor were these the only types of cannon used by the military of the time, there were so many others — demicannons, bastard cannons and Rabinets to name but a few.
And therein lay the problem. Lack of standardisation made warfare troublesome. Differences in weight, projectile type and range did little to simplify the logistics of war. Worse — each armaments factory added their own idiosyncrasies to their designs.
Standardisation was required, championed by John Armstrong, who, in 1722 became Surveyor General of Ordnance, a role very much like that of a Quality Inspector today. It was his job to ensure that cannons were ‘fit for purpose’.
By all accounts, Armstrong was a fire-cracker of a man, whose seemingly boundless energy eventually led (through countless wars and campaigns – some successful and some not quite so) to a ‘blueprint’ for cannon manufacture which set precise dimensions for every part of the cannon. His goal was to ensure that Cannons were produced to strict manufacturing guidelines. Any foundry, anywhere, would be able to produce such cannon simply by following Armstrong’s blueprint.
It must be added here that the design was improved a number of times after his death (in 1742) by successive Surveyor Generals of Ordnance, first Thomas Lascelles and secondly Charles Frederick up until the final adoption as the regulation design in 1764. The design was also improved again, a little at a time, for the next 100 years or so but due to the little changed external appearance they were almost all still recognisable as an Armstrong in essence.
Armstrong-designed cannons were still being used into the late 1800s, testimony to Armstrong’s lasting legacy. These big guns played a key role in many colonial theatres of war and saw action the world over.
These days the Wyvern IV rotationally moulded cannon barrel from Cannons Direct (www.cannonsdirect.com) for instance is instantly recognisable as an "Armstrong" in its design and appearance, but is unique in its physical dimensions, construction and incredibly light weight. Ornamental by nature, yet incredibly robust and long lasting, the Wyvern IV four foot long cannon barrel has been proudly displayed, presented and featured with pride of position in countless forts, on ships, on battlements, on pirate ships and in museums, theme parks, theatres and front gardens all across the world.
Armstrong’s legacy truly lives on.
Modern collectors, history buffs, weaponry aficionados and "Pirates" of all creeds and krewe will find full details of the Armstrong Pattern Cannon Barrel from Cannons Direct at www.cannonsdirect.com
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