Sunday, October 1, 2023


Cannons to the left of them, Cannons to the right of them, into the valley of death , rode the five hundred.. into the valley of death rode the five wrote Alfred Lord Tennyson in the poem ..The Charge of the Light Brigade.

Recently I was on a trail within the Mysore palace to the office of H R H Smt.Pramoda Devi Wadiyar  and on the way spotted some Cannons.I have always wondered how they worked and thought of doing some study of them.

In the past Cannons formed an important component of Artillery and was also used on board ships. The smaller versions can be moved from one place to another with ease.The uncle of Tippu Sultan was hit by a cannon ball in the Second Carnatic war in Cuddalore leading to his death the ball hitting him on his chest.. his grave exists at a place called Gurram konda in Chittoor.  Cannonore in Kerala bears its name to Cannons as many Cannons jut into the sea from the Cannonore fort and recently a large ammunition dump was recovered from within the fort with hundred of Cannon balls.

What is a Cannon ? Basically it is a fire-arm.It has a conduit made of bell metal with bronze being a key ingredient. This conduit is called the barrel which is totally closed on one side and open on the other. It has a targetting device a suspended pin on the open side and a viewing aperture on the closed side. They have limited mobility and can be swayed up and down and to the sides. When a Cannon fires there is a back-lash taking the entire set up backwards by a few feet.The cannons are sometimes tied with ropes to limit this back lash. At the closed end of the Cannon there is a small hole or aperture leading to the barrel.

To fire a cannon two things apart from the above are needed.The Charge or the fuel which is a very highly inflammable material like gun powder..a small spark will create explosion.

The barrel is cleaned first by inseting a cleaning device and into the system goes the charge packed properly and pushed down the barrel.When peirced at the aperture at the closed end of the Cannon a wire directly goes into the charge. The next step is loading the cannon ball.Preferably this is done by keeping the Cannon as horizontal as possible.Now inside the Cannon is the explosice charge which is connected through a wire to the outside of the Cannon and the Cannon ball close to it.In the design of Cannons it is ensured that the Cannon ball does not damage the charge.

The next step is to aim the Cannon..and when the charge is lit through the wire or wick..the explosive material  inside sucks the flame into it creating a deafening explosion the the large energy released sending the Cannon ball some five to ten kilograms in weight to its destination with disastrous consequences.

Some modern day cannons use sparking device instead. The projectile comes ready made with charge attached to it..and is inserted into the barrel. When a rope is pulled it creates spark that ignites the charge creating a projectile.

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