Baltonsborough War Memorial - Shell Case Provenance
War 1 & 2 - Detailed information
and Copyright © Colin J. McNamee 2004
Photographs and Copyright © Colin J. McNamee 2004
my research into the War Memorial very little information was actually
obtained from within the village as the relevant first 30 years of the
Branch Minutes of the (Royal) British Legion were not available and
the Parish Council Minutes (read 1898 - 1999) do not record the detail
of the War Memorial. Separate organisations are referred to in the Parish
Council Minutes, ie ‘Baltonsborough War Memorial Committee’,
whose members included representatives of the British Legion, Parish
Council and the Vicar of St. Dunstan’s Church but no Minutes appear
to have survived.
research therefore developed outside Baltonsborough and included the
County Council Archives, Taunton, Imperial War Museum, London and Ministry
of Defence Pattern Room, Nottingham.
The shell case at the War Memorial, mounted on a circular quarry stone
and supported by a mill stone on a circle of bricks, was installed when
the site was created. Both it and the Memorial Cross were draped with
the Union flag for the Service of Dedication and Unveiling ceremony
in August 1922. (Source: original photograph of the ceremony).
following information was received from enquiries, photographs and case
dimensions sent to establish the provenance of the shell case to which
is attached the Roll of Honour 1914-1918 and forms an integral part
of the War Memorial site.
shell case is 14.965in diameter x 52.29in long and contained 1400lb
of high explosive for the Carriage Siege 15in BL Howitzer MK1.
‘British Artillery Weapons and Ammunition 1914-18’ :
15in howitzer, like many other weapons in both World Wars, was never
planned by the military. It just happened. When the Coventry Ordnance
Works produced their successful 9.2in, they began a private venture
with the intention of producing something bigger and better. By taking
the 9.2 design and enlarging it, they arrived at a 15in, and proceeded
to build one. The Carriage Siege 15in BL Howitzer MK1. Once it was built
and had been privately tested, the next question was one of getting
it accepted. One of the directors of the Works was Admiral Bacon, retired
from Naval service, and he decided that his service contacts would enable
him to bring the weapon to the notice of the proper authority. He informed
the Admiralty, more or less expecting them to pass the news on to the
Army, but instead of this, the First Lord, Mr Winston Churchill, decided
that here was a method of getting some of the Navy into action. Things
were relatively quiet on the Naval Front, and Mr Churchill liked to
have the Navy well in the public eye. So the Admiralty took the 15in
howitzer and, manned by a detachment of the Royal Marine Artillery,
it went to France. Further, eleven more were ordered and duly constructed.
Admiral Bacon by some legerdemain managed to become a Marine Colonel
and command the weapons in action.
By 1916 the Navy found they had enough to do without getting themselves
embroiled in a soldier’s war, and they withdrew their Marines
and presented the howitzers to the Army, who perforce had to find men
to man them and look happy about it. In accordance with precedent the
Director of Artillery approached the Ordnance Board to ask them what
they knew about this sudden gift, and the Ordnance Board were a trifle
caustic. ‘These equipments were obtained by the Navy in direct
negotiation with the manufacturers, and the Board were not consulted
at the time. In view of the poor range achieved, it is felt that these
weapons are a waste of money and material’. They had a point.
Ten thousand yards from an equipment of this size was simply not worth
the effort of emplacing it. The Director of Artillery asked if the Board
would care to begin development of a lighter shell which might enable
a better range to be achieved, even if with a lesser lethal effect,
and the Board duly put some ballisticians on to the study of possible
alternatives. After some six months of work they reported back that
a lighter shell would be possible, but the increase in range would be
no more than about 2000yd and that they suspected that the accuracy
of the howitzer would suffer. The Board decided that it would be a waste
of effort to go any further and recommended that the Artillery carry
on using the weapons as they were, wherever the circumstances allowed
them to be put to good use. This was done, and the 15in howitzers passed
their time away quietly, shooting here and there when their short range
was acceptable. Once the war was over they were rapidly declared obsolete,
not, one feels, without some sighs of relief ”.
Carriage Siege 15in. Breech Loading Howitzer details: