The Hotchkiss Quick Firing 3lb gun was introduced in 1886 and was the first modern quick firing gun adopted by the Royal Navy. It was used as a secondary armament on capital ships to combat fast moving, lightly armoured craft. It was also to see extensive service aboard small vessels and merchantmen in both World Wars. The design was obsolete by World War One, but of the 2950 guns purchased, 1948 were still in service at the outbreak of World War II aboard small auxiliary vessels and for port defence.
A quick firing gun used fixed ammunition- in other words the projectile was fixed to the shell casing rather than being two separate pieces. This allowed the guns to be reloaded faster and a quicker rate of fire to be maintained, 30 rounds a minute being the prescribed rate of fire. Today we are looking at the shell casing for a 3lb gun from the 1920s:
The complete casing and projectile weighed 6.6lb, and for most of its life the projectile was of steel, weighing 3.3lb. The charge used was lyddite which gave it a muzzle velocity of 1,870 ft/sec and a range of up to three and a half miles. This period illustration shows a cut away of the shell:
If we turn to the base of the shell casing we can see that this was manufactured in 1925. The large ‘N’ above the date indicates naval usage. Also to be seen are the lot number, which allows any faults to be traced to a batch of shells, the /|\ government property mark and the letters EOC which indicate it was made by the Elswick Ordnance Company:
The primer in the base is marked as having been made by Royal Laboratories in 1922. Unusually this casing seems to have been used only the once and there are not the series of strike throughs and reissue marks that you often see on the base of naval shell casings.
The 3lb Hotchkiss remained in limited service into the 1950s before being withdrawn. Two examples remain in service in the Falkland Islands as saluting guns and are used at military parades and civic events.