The Christie Amphibious Tank

The footage featured in the video above was filmed at the 1923 US Army Ordnance Exhibition of Ordnance, where John Walter Christie demonstrated his latest amphibious vehicle.

Christie’s amphibious vehicle is one of the earliest. It follows the amphibious variant of the British Mark IX tank, essentially an amphibious armoured personnel carrier (armed only two machine guns) and preceded by the Vickers-Carden-Loyd Light Amphibious Tank in the early 1930s.

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Christie’s amphibious gun carrier returns to the land (US National Archives)

More of a gun carrier than a tank, as the vehicle was open topped, it was, however, equipped with a 75mm field gun. During the footage it not only seamlessly operates on both land and water, it also fires four rounds as it crosses a body of water at the Aberdeen Proving Ground.

Very little is known about the vehicle but it is believed to be the second of three amphibious vehicles developed by Christie during the 1920s. None of the vehicles were purchased by the US military and no major international orders were made either.

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Christie’s amphibious gun carrier opens fire with its gun as it travels across a body of water (US National Archives)

The vehicle itself is manned by two people during the demonstration, presumably one steering while the other mans the gun. It appears to have narrow tracks over its four sets of wheels and a pair of propellers at the rear.


Bibliography:

Demonstration of Ordnance Materiel at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, 1920-1926, US National Archives, (source)

Update!

This week TAB hit 4,000 subscribers! Thanks for all your support over the last couple of years. I filmed this update on Tuesday during a recent research trip in the south of England. I visited Fort Nelson near Portsmouth and thought I’d film a quick update while I stopped for a break.

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Fort Clinch, Florida

Today, we have a short video looking at Fort Clinch, a fort built at the mouth of the St Mary’s river in North eastern Florida. The pentagonal masonry fort defends the strategic position on Amelia Island, at the mouth of the river and Cumberland sound.

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Fort Clinch (Steve Moss)

While the site had been fortified by the Spanish in the 1730s, construction of the present fort began in 1847 after the end of the Second Seminole War. Built as part of the Third System of coastal defences, which began in the 1820s and was characterised by building thick masonry walls. Clinch is one of the smaller forts that were built to defend less important harbours. Named after General Duncan Lamont Clinch, the fort wasn’t fully completed until 1869.

During the civil war it was originally held by the Confederacy before they abandoned it and it was taken over by the Union in spring 1862. The Union then set about finishing the fort. While some sources suggest it was designed to mount as many as 70 guns, it was never fully equipped but we can see that it has mounts and barbettes for around 40 guns on its ramparts.

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An illustration of the incomplete Fort Clinch featured in a March 1862 copy of Harper’s Weekly

Today, the fort has a handful of Rodman guns in place. The guns appear to be mounted on front-pintle barbette carriages. Beneath the guns are ammunition casements; powder rooms and shot stores, the holes for bringing up ammunition can still be seen.

Rodman guns were a staple of US coastal forts during the late 19th century, designed by Thomas Jackson Rodman, they were hollow cast and much stronger than earlier, traditionally cast guns. They were produced in a variety of calibres ranging from small 8 and 10in guns to huge 15 and even 20in guns. They were designed to be fired from behind a parapet, giving the crew some protection, the parapet at Fort Clinch is missing. The guns themselves were smoothbore and were designed to fire round shot and explosive shell. They would have been manned by an 8-man crew and, depending on calibre, had a range of over 4,000 yards.

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An 8 or 10 inch Rodman Gun (Steve Moss)

In 1864, Major-General John Foster, a veteran of the Siege of Fort Sumter, reported that the fort was poorly sited and its design was flawed. It’s clear to see that the fort’s brick walls certainly wouldn’t have withstood fire from rifled artillery for long.

The fort never saw action and once finished wasn’t garrisoned again until 1898 during the Spanish-American War, when a 8″ Rifled Cannon Emplacement with a concrete gun shield was built. The fort was subsequently abandoned again and began to deteriorate until the 1930s when it became part of a state park and was renovated by the Civilian Conservation Corps.


Bibliography:

September 3, 1864: Foster relates the “main defects” of Fort Clinch, Florida, To the Sound of the Guns, (source)

Map of the Entrance to Cumberland Sound Ga. & Fl., Tampa Bay History Centre, (source)

Fort Clinch, Florida State Parks, (source)

A Visit to Fort Clinch, KF4LMT, (source)

A series of photographs taken in the 1930s, Amelia Island Museum, (source)

Live Fire: Shooting the M1917 at 700 Yards

A month ago I posted a short video from a range trip shooting the Remington M1917 at about 100m, getting a feel for the rifle and checking zero. I said in that video that I was planning on stretching the M1917s legs in the near future and last week I got the chance. I had the opportunity to shoot the rifle out to 700 yards (640m) which was a lot of fun.

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The view down range from the firing point (Matthew Moss)

With some 147gr S&B I managed a half decent score only missing twice out of 20 rounds. I’ve never shot out to 700 yards especially not with iron sights so it was a fun challenge, amazingly my last round was a bull, which was a real bonus!

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Webley-Bentley Percussion Revolver

During a recent visit to my local gun shop, I was having a look through one of their cabinets when I spotted something interesting. A Webley-Bentley Revolver from the mid-1850s.

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Right side of the revolver (Matthew Moss)

The Webley-Bentley was a double-action only, or as it was then known ‘self-cocking’, percussion revolver and a contemporary of the Adams revolver. Based on lock-work designed by Joseph Bentley the revolver was offered in a series of calibres. The Webley-Bentley was introduced in the mid-1850s and continued to be produced into the 1860s. This particular pistol was sold by R. Jones of Liverpool – remarkably the gun has stayed local for 160 years.

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You can just make out the faint remains of the merchant’s mark – ‘R. Jones Liverpool’ (Matthew Moss)

The pistol is a .36 calibre open-top revolver, with a 5-shot percussion cylinder and a hexagonal barrel. On the left side of the pistol is a James Kerr-style rammer for loading. It’s hammer is spurless and the action is double action only. The revolvers also came in larger calibres like .40 and .45.

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Left side of the revolver (note the rammer and spring catch) (Matthew Moss)

The overall condition of the revolver wasn’t great, but it had that worn patina of a gun that’s seen some use, which is a charm in itself. The cylinder pawl was a little worn and the timing was a little off, but it still worked and the main spring was strong. On the left side of the revolver is a flat spring catch, held to the frame by a screw, that enables the hammer to be set at half cock, for loading. In this example the post that interfaces with the hammer has long since worn. 

Of course Webley have since become best known for their line of top break, centre-fire revolvers which were used extensively by the British Army but it was interesting to get a look at one of their earlier pistols.

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Bibliography:

Webley Revolvers, G. Bruce & C. Reinhart (1988)

The Webley Story, W.C. Dowell, (1962)

‘Improvements Aplicable to Fire-Arms’, J. Bentley, UK Patent #960, (04/12/1852)

Car vs Train (1919)

Following on from last week’s episode on massive US Railway Guns, I thought we’d stay with the railroad/railway theme but stepping away from our figurative Armourer’s Bench for a moment to appreciate some really incredible contemporary footage.

While I was doing research for our earlier video on the M1918 Ford Light Tank, I came across this amazing footage filmed by the Ford Motor Company in 1919. It shows what appears to be a Ford Model T Touring car being hit by a train. The result, as expected, is carnage.

The footage, which is clearly staged, was filmed for a traffic safety film by Ford in 1919. While the scenario might be staged, the results certainly are not.

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Bibliography:

Traffic Safety and Ford Automobiles, US National Archives, (source)

US Military Railway Guns In Action

While doing some research in the US National Archives’ online catalogue I came across a very interesting video composed of footage from a couple of US Army Ordnance demonstrations so I thought I’d take the opportunity to talk about some very big guns.
Railway guns emerged during the late 19th century as a way of moving massive, large calibre guns which had a reach far beyond that of field artillery. Before aircraft were able to effectively attack behind enemy lines railways allowed armies to bring huge guns within range and harass their enemies lines of communication and supply.
This footage comes from Ordnance demonstrations at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in the early 1920s.

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16in Coastal Gun (US National Archives)

First up we have a US-built copy of the French 305mm Canon de 305 modèle 1893/96 à glissement, which according the original footage notes, was a 10in sliding mount for a gun firing a 150lb projectile. I also found some contemporary images of the gun being built at the US Watertown Arsenal, in Massachusetts, which describes it as the Model 1919. It may be the only example built by the US, Schneider built 8 of these guns for France during the war.  When the gun fires we can see the whole gun and carriage recoil back a meter or so. Guns on sliding mounts cant be traversed and have to be aimed with specially laid track.

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M1895 12in Coastal Gun in a ‘disappearing#’ mount (US National Archives)

Next we have a 12 inch M1895 gun, mounted on a M1918 railway carriage which was based on the French Batignolles mount, with 360-degree traverse. Originally designed as a coastal defence gun, here’s a photograph taken in 1918 of the gun firing from a disappearing mount.
The M1895 had long been used as a coastal defence gun, and with US entry into the war surplus or unnecessary coastal guns were remounted as railway guns. The railway mounted M1895s had a large recuperator to mitigate the gun’s recoil. 12 were mounted, however, none reached France before the end of the war. We also get a nice shot of the shell hitting its target in the distance.

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A 14in Railway Gun in Bassens, France c.1919 (US National Archives)

The 14 inch railway guns were the only big US guns to see action during WW1. Taking spare US Navy 14in naval guns, the 14″/50 caliber Mk 4 gun, which had been mounted in the New Mexico and Tennessee-class battleships, and mounting them in a carriage built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works. Once in position the guns had to have a recoil pit dug out beneath the carriage to allow space for the gun to recoil when it was at high elevation. They had a range of up to 25 miles.
Five Mk1 guns made it to France operating as single gun batteries manned by US Navy Sailors. The guns fired a total of 782 shells during the war, with Battery 4 firing its last shell at 10:57:30 a.m. on 11 November 1918.

Unlike the MkI guns that made it to France in this footage we see the gun without an armoured gun house, with the gunners working the gun in the open.

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An M1919 16in Coastal Gun in a Barbette mount (US National Archives)

Finally, we have the truly massive 16 inch M1919 coastal gun . Designed for the Army Coast Artillery Corps to defend the US’ major coastal ports the 16-inch gun could throw a 2,340 lb shell up to 28 miles. In this footage we can see the gun mounted on an M1919 barbette carriage which could be elevated up to 65-degrees.
This second piece of footage dates from between 1929 and 1931, with dozens of West Point cadets gathered eagerly to see the gun in action.

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Bibliography:

Demonstration of Ordnance Materiel at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, 1920-1926 (source)

Railway Artillery: A Report on the Characteristics, Scope of Utility, Etc., of Railway Artillery, Vo.1, H.W. Miller & US Ordnance Dept. (1921) (source)

Railway Artillery: A Report on the Characteristics, Scope of Utility, Etc., of Railway Artillery Vol.2, H.W. Miller & US Ordnance Dept. (1922) (source)

The United States Naval Railway Batteries in France, E. Breck (1922) (source)