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The Rockbuster










        On the 10th December 1882, the     English filled the holds with 100 tons   Europe. Cannon, basically
        Steamship Stanley, five days out of   of sand, rocks, soldiers and water.   unchanged since the 14th century,
        Falmouth, arrived at the New Mole in   Onlookers were treated to the   were not powerful enough to fire
        Gibraltar. On board was the gun    unusual sight of the ship sinking   cannonballs that would penetrate
        barrel of a 100 ton, rifled, muzzle   beneath the gun that could then be   the hulls of this new breed of ship.
        loading gun, the largest RML gun in   swung over and lowered onto the   Only 100 years earlier the largest
        the world. Captain English of the   sleigh. It took a further twenty-one   guns mounted on the Kings Bastion
        Royal Engineers had the task of    days to drag the sleigh to the    during the Great Siege (1789 – 1783)
        mounting the barrel at Napier of   battery. To put the weight into   fired a round shot weighing 34 lbs
        Magdala Battery about 400 yards    perspective. The space shuttle    and had an effective range of about
        from the Mole.                     Endeavour weighs 78 tons and can   1,000 yards.
        The operation did not go well from   carry a payload of a further 22 tons   In the 1870’s France and Germany
        the start. English had equipped    making its total all up weight 100   were edging in front of Britain in the
        himself with a specially built set of   tons.                        race. The French built a 16.5ins,
        iron sheer legs with which he      The need for such a massive       76-ton gun for their naval forces in
        intended to lift the barrel off the ship   weapon was a consequence of the   the early part of that decade. Then
        and place it on a purpose-built sleigh  arms race between Britain, Germany,   the German manufacturer Krupp
        alongside. Sixty men manned the    France and Italy. Each was trying to   started to make similar sized guns
        capstan, round which was the wire   surpass the other regarding the size,   for the Turkish navy. Both were
        that ran to the top of the sheer legs   speed and power of capital ships   superior to the largest gun in the
        and from there to the trunnions on   and armaments. The development of   Royal Navy’s arsenal a 12.75ins, 38.6
        the barrel to which it was fixed. As   increasingly powerful weaponry   ton, gun. The situation was
        the men turned the capstan, the    tended to keep pace with the      unacceptable to the United
        barrel lifted from the deck of the   development of the defences they   Kingdom, and the Royal Navy asked
        Stanley. As the enormous weight    were designed to breach. From the   the government to commission for
        was raised the Stanley lifted with it   middle of the 19th-century, iron-built   an 81 ton gun.
        making it impossible to swing the   ships were increasingly common in   In response, Sir W.C.Armstrong at
        gun outboard. Undeterred, Captain   the fleets of the major powers in   Newcastle Upon Tyne, the owner of


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