Thursday, October 7, 2010


Cannons have always fascinated me. While I've always built model airplanes, ships and tanks, I've seldom built artillery. I mean, I have made a few pieces, notable amongst them the classic Hasegawa 1/72 155mm US Army Long Tom (built that model several times, at least thrice). In late 1978, I set out to build a model of the that Long Tom in 1/18 scale, using the Hasegawa kit as a guide. The results weren't really half bad, though I never got past the wheels

Where military artifacts are concerned, cannons are perhaps the most accessible. Many towns throughout the United States and abroad have them on display in parks, along the roadside, maybe at museums, almost always at military bases. And sometimes, they are foreign; for some reason, Connecticut has been gifted with a number of German Great War pieces. As for my current home here in northeast Florida, there appears to be a smattering of American made plus some odd Spanish and possibly one French made piece.

My first acquaintance with cannons were with replica French pieces at the Fort Caroline National Monument, a small replica of the original 16th century settlement. I had only seen cannons from a distance, never up close. They were impressive, imposing to my seven year old mind. A few years later I bought a book by Albert Manucy at the Fort, "Artillery Through the Ages". It was a simple book, not particularly large, more an introduction to the science of the cannon. I wanted so badly to build a model of one afterwards.

My first attempt was a mess. Twelve year old me did not understand modeling techniques as well as he would have liked to.

Flash forward to today. I had not build a cannon since 1978, and suddenly I'm struck with the fever. Oh, such joy, these deadly toys. My first cannon, one of those wooden craft kits, turned out just barely okay. My second cannon, though, the de Bange 155mm, really surprised me, especially when compared with the original craft kit from which it evolved. Once it was completed, I decided to try my hand at an 8-inch Mark I, a cobbled together British beast of early 1916.

But I stopped, thinking to myself, can the original kit be made to resemble anything in 54mm-1/32 scale?

With that in mind, I set out to find a prototype. The closest I came was the British RML 64 pounder 71 CWT, at least for the barrel.

These were rebuilt cannons, repurposed from larger guns. They were really meant as secondary weapons, usually used on second line ships or for sea coast defense. They didn't have anything resembling a normal carriage.

But, if they did, how would it be done?

Which brings us to my model.

The carriage is purely fiction, using all of the components of the kit but built with the improvised carriages used during the Second Boer War in mind. The carriage was built pretty much per the instructions, though detailing was added. I drilled out four holes in the wheels, as equidistant as I could, being as the wheels are not only off center, they are also not quite perfectly circular. These in turn were detailed in a fashion similar to the Percy Scott carriages on the Royal Navy 4.7 inch cannons used during that conflict.

I gussied the barrel up to more resemble the 64 pounder's, though, as typical with these kits, there were problems with the bore (yes, this model will fire). The wraps were made from index card stock, the touchhole being built up from basswood.

The final model looks decent, a bit of early 19th century crossed with late 19th century.

May have been purely fictional, but it looks effective. This was really a rather rushed job, meant to be simply fun more than anything else. I've picked up yet another one of these kits (after checking the bore), thinking about another 64 pounder 71 CWT, this one on a garrison mount.

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