Wednesday, 28 September 2011
During a dive on the armed trawler Balfour last September we came across the head of a large shell sticking out of the wreckage in front of the winch. This got us all thinking as the Balfour, also known as the Two Gun Trawler, is well documented as having a 3pdr gun. This shell was quite obviously not a 3pdr!
A rummage about behind the shell and a brass rifling band that would have attached to the bottom of the shell was found. The band measured 7.5”.
Kendall McDonald of Dive Sussex writes;
“She was hired by the Royal Navy as an armed trawler, and a three-pounder gun was mounted near her bow”
“Very soon another gun of slightly smaller calibre was mounted on her stern”
The gun that is on the wreck now would have been mounted in front of the wheelhouse. A look at John Liddiards Wreck Tour of the Balfour in Diver magazine shows this quite clearly next to the collapsed helm.
“The stubby three-pounder gun is still attached to its mount and pointing forward and level, though the steel deck-plate below is angled up, so the gun is actually directed towards the surface.”
So, if that’s the three pounder and the gun that was mounted on the stern was a smaller calibre, where has this shell come from!?
The brass band was a good clue and it didn’t take too long to find the answer. John’s picture he took of the gun was a good match for a 7.5” Howitzer we found after a quick look around the web.
First issued in June 1917, these were short-barrelled, rifled howitzers that fired a projectile that looked much like a conventional artillery round. The projectiles used a special fuze that delayed detonation for two seconds after impact, which would allow them to sink about 20 feet (6 m). The round was designed to penetrate the outer casing of a U-Boat and then detonate on contact with the pressure hull. The 7.5" (19 cm) howitzer fired two types of projectiles. The first was a 100 lbs. (45 kg) projectile with a 43 lbs. (19.5 kg) charge with a maximum range of 2,100 yards (1,920 m) while the second was a 500 lbs. (227 kg) projectile with a 250 lbs. (113 kg) charge and a maximum range of 300 yards (275 m).
Was the original 3lb gun mounted on the bows not removed when the Howitzer was fitted, thus giving the wreck its nick name, the Two Gun Trawler!?