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‘Gunnery is funnery...’

HMS GLOUCESTER gave her big gun a run-out with 50 salvoes in support of routine exercises in the South Atlantic, writes Lt Cdr Eleanor Webb, the

ship’s Logistics Officer. Exercise Cape Bayonet a


insertion by the Resident Infantry Company (RIC),

Coldstream Guards, in the Falklands. And a Type 42 is just the ticket for Naval Gunfire Support. A high-effect round

currently the practice troop

getting the troops ashore. Gunnery was a little less funnery

by a 4.5in shoot is the Buffer. CPO Wayne ‘Rattz’ Rattenbury

at this point for those manning the Direct Aiming Sighting (DAS) stations for eight hours. AB James Duffy said: “My job was to follow the fall of shot and report back, based on the plumes as the target itself was out of sight. “Even with ear-duffs

was spotted forlornly kicking the empty casings that had dumped directly from the turret onto his fo’c’sle instead of the shot-mats. A Buffer’s life is one long, hard- enough struggle with the elements, without a conspiracy of gunners to make dents in his paintwork. He said: “It’s like cleaning my

leaves the muzzle of a 4.5in gun at 2,800 metres per second – no wonder it looks a little blurred (above). Gloucester’s Deputy Weapon

Engineer Officer (DWEO) Lt Andy Dowse provided us with a “super-simplified” reason for the double bubble as the shell leaves the barrel – all to do with the way the gun is designed to reduce recoil by controlling the super-heated,

generated on firing, apparently. “The muzzle brake at the end of

spotters to report back on accuracy, trusting that they would have it in their own best interest to give the right directions. Gloucester’s Gunnery (and Ops) Officer, Lt Tom Rowley, said: “Shoots don’t

pressurised gases

the barrel contains baffles, which, as the rush of gases hits, split it into two puffs,” said Lt Dowse. “The grille shape of the guard

technical than this. “It was a tactical shoot, so all about responding

disperses the fumes at right angles, in the mushroom shape, which also means that some of the pressure disperses at right angles and halves the recoil.” The exercise also involved HMS

Clyde, who embarked the Guards and put them ashore in her boats. Gloucester had already taken

station in the bay, and then waited for the troops to move into position and make the request to fire. And waited, and waited, and

waited – 45kt winds, snow and hail can interfere with the best of plans, and there was some delay in

● (Above left) LETWE Mark Nolan and ETWE Terence ‘Knocker’ White return spent casings to the Gun Bay

● (Left) ETWEs Richard Urwin and Andy Hammond clean hot cordite off the muzzle brake before it cools, hardens and has to be chipped off

troops wanted. And if you’re wrong, you can be very wrong. “They can see where all your rounds are falling, and they’ll walk you in closer and closer if they’re happy.

salvoes on target, they’d brought us in to about 600 or 700 yards of their position, so they must have been feeling the love.

“By the time we’d fired 30

“A high-effect round will really do some damage, as it’s explosive, either on contact or in the air, depending on the type, so you definitely do not want it dropping too close.” Lt Rowley was

with himself a couple of days later, when he received the official feedback from the spotter – several grids of tightly-spaced Xs. “I’m chuffed to pieces with that,”

he said. “If that had been a tank detachment, we’d have knocked seven bells of something out of it.” The spotter’s overall assessment

was less colourful, but consisted of two words to send a Gunz to his bed with a smile on his face: “Good shoot”. One person not always so excited

● Two ecstatic PWOs survey their handiwork on the fo’c’sle on completion of the shoot – Lt Tom Rowley (left) and Lt Cdr Craig Woodhead

still pleased to what get much more the

The target area was a 200m square, eight miles inland and over a hill – invisible to the ship. Gloucester

relied on RIC

on, the gun makes this massive ‘whumphf’ noise that vibrates straight through you – proper steely.”

kids’ bedrooms. Stuff everywhere. “Cordite is a horrible, smelly substance that coats everything it can get to. “And don’t get me started on the drop-nosed pins from my guardrails. Heaven only knows where they all go.” But he’s a cheerful chap really, not to mention efficient, and stand fast one splodge of paintwork that will be getting some TLC when the weather clears up, the fo’c’sle was looking its usual (reasonably) pristine self within hours. CO Cdr David George said: to a

“There’s more

that goes on all the time, even when there are no rounds in the breach, to ensure that RN gunners are simply the best. “There are the WE and the part- of-ship lads who are up there for hours before and after the shoot, preparing the gun and the fo’c’sle. “Ultimately though, there is nothing – nothing – that gladdens a captain’s heart more than ‘firing for effect’ on the 4.5. “Gunnery is the heart and soul of the Royal Navy. “Fifty salvoes, troops calling it in on the ground, the ship majestically settled on her firing run – magic!”

● Buffer Rattz Rattenbury surveys his fo’c’sle after the shoot

shoot than counting down and pushing a button. “There’s the training and drill


● AB James Duffy follows the fall of shot from the DAS station while ETWE Terence

gathers casings from the 4.5in gun ‘Knocker’ White (above)

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