12 inch Shells Postcard

This week’s postcard is an artistic rendering of a set of 12” shells on the deck of a British Battleship:

This postcard is almost certainly Edwardian in origin and the shells and their prodigious size are the main focus of the image. The enormous size of the projectiles was very impressive to people at the time (as indeed it still is today), even if the shells were to be eclipsed by even larger rounds in the next few years. The rounds can be seen here lined up waiting to be moved down into the battleship’s magazines:

The black painted shells with red bands indicate that these are shrapnel rounds rather than armour piercing rounds. Shrapnel was used for clearing the decks of an enemy ship, rather than trying to pierce its armoured citadel, and they could also be used for bombardment of softer targets such as troop transports or land based units. The figures in the postcard emphasise the size of these shells, to the right we have a Royal Marine in his white working dress tunic and wearing the Brodrick cap:

The sailor inspecting the shells wears the standard blue serge uniform, whilst his companions behind are dressed in the white duck uniform used for fatigues and messy jobs, such as storing ship:

The 12” gun had first seen service in the late Victorian period and a number of different versions were developed with a variety of barrel lengths. It was to equip pre-dreadnought and early dreadnought battleships until the last of the Indefatigable battlecruisers were launched in 1913 after which it was replaced in service by larger calibres. The guns would remain in service on older ships until the end of the Great War, but by 1923 the ships bearing the guns had been sent to the breakers yards in favour of more modern vessels with larger calibre guns.

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