Elizabethan ship

Navy's secrets surface

By Reg Little


Cannon brought up from a sunken Elizabethan ship by Oxford archaeologist Mensun Bound have offered up new secrets of English naval successes in the age of Drake.

Mr Bound recovered two guns from an Elizabethan ship that went down in 1592, off Alderney, in the Channel Islands, while carrying munitions to an English army fighting in Brittany.

After conservation work, one of the guns has now been replicated and tested to reveal the true firing power of English ships, just four years after the defeat of the Spanish Armada. And the results left Mr Bound and his team hailing the guns as our “first weapon of mass destruction”.

Mr Bound, a fellow of St Peter’s College, Oxford, said: “No gun of this type and period had ever been tested before and the results were surprising.

Muzzle velocities were achieved that were almost the speed of sound and the shot that was fired was able to punch through four inches of oak with ease.

“The weapon was also remarkably accurate and was able to hit the target every time.”

The testing was carried out at a quarry, owned by the explosives company Alford Technologies, where the police send specialist units for explosives training. The actual discharging of the gun was undertaken by a specialist from the Royal Armouries.


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