The author was one of a handful of historic novel writers who were the best at writing stories set in the Napoleonic Wars, covering naval history, His best selling Ramage series sits with the best writers of the genre. He did however write a number of stand-alone books, both fiction and non-fiction. This book was a landmark publication that traced the development of the gun from its earliest days to the mid 20th Century. Long out of print, it requires diligence to search out a copy and the price may be high. Some years ago, a copy was sold at auction for the equivalent of £1000. This is a book that any gun enthusiast would value and well-worth the effort of searching for a copy.
AUTHOR: Dudley Pope
PUBLISHER: Spring Books
BINDING: hard back
PRICE: Original cover price £6 6s (pre-decimal pounds and shillings)
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: Gunne, canone, gunne powder, Han, Mongol, Friar Roger Bacon, gunsmiths, blacksmith, bronze casting, Medieval warfare, Edward III, battleships, cruisers, tanks, AFVs, aircraft guns, smashers, Carronades, pistols, rifles, muskets, muzzle-loaders, cartridges, self-loading, automatic, machine guns, sub machine guns, anti-tank guns
DESCRIPTION: The author was one of a handful of historic novel writers who were the best at writing stories set in the Napoleonic Wars, covering naval history, His best selling Ramage series sits with the best writers of the genre. He did however write a number of stand-alone books, both fiction and non-fiction. This book was a landmark publication that traced the development of the gun from its earliest days to the mid 20th Century. Long out of print, it requires diligence to search out a copy and the price may be high. Some years ago, a copy was sold at auction for the equivalent of £1000. This is a book that any gun enthusiast would value and well-worth the effort of searching for a copy.
Pope has written the text in a straight forward manner that makes it easy to follow without any prior knowledge of the subject. The work is lavishly illustrated and includes many fine drawings by Max Millar. When the book was published, in 1965, there were relatively few large format books being produced and full colour illustration was largely avoided, or confined to a small photo plate section. In this book, monochrome and full colour are used as appropriate to the subject and availability of sources and illustrations are reproduced through the body of the book.
The author has not missed any stage in the development of guns and their ammunition. From a technical point of view this is probably the most comprehensive work ever produced. All of the early hybrid infantry weapons are included in the opening chapters and also every size of gun. In the early days guns of any size were very expensive and one weapon could equal the cost of a company of archers. When Edward III routed Scottish invaders with an artillery bombardment at night, it was the first time that any gun had commanded a battlefield. Smaller personal firearms were very rare and although even early firearms could penetrate armour, the accuracy left much to be desired and the consistency of gunpowder was very variable, with damp conditions proving a major risk. Where guns came into their own was in direct fire at fortifications and this rapidly made castles obsolete. City walls fared no better and the gun brought armies out onto a battlefield away from civilians.
The main difficulty in using heavy siege canon was the weight of the gun and the need to produce and deliver large quantities of powder and ball over notoriously bad roads and in poor weather conditions. As a result, canon were often delivered by boat if at all possible and larger siege guns were manufactured in several parts that were assembled within range of the target. The success ashore also encouraged the development of guns for use aboard ship. The difficulties of mounting and firing guns on deck led to the early use of breech loading guns that were mounted on sledges. Some canon were mounted on land carriages but, eventually naval muzzle loaders were the common type, mounted on four wheel carriages.
The exact history of the gun is shrouded in the mist of history. Friar Bacon left documentary proof that he knew of gun powder but not of the gun itself. When the first guns were produced it was at several points in Europe at around the same time, so the probability is that several traders brought back knowledge of gun powder from China where it was used mainly for entertainment as fireworks and occasionally as bombs delivered to besieged towns and fortifications by catapult or trebuchet. Several individuals then independently developed guns that were broadly similar. Trial and error then led to bronze guns as the quality weapons and iron guns at a lower price but with a generally shorter life and more limited in weight of projectile. Smaller balls were cast in lead but most early canon used stone balls until later when iron canon balls became common.
In the long history of development, it was not until the mid-19th Century that repeating weapons and breech loading guns started to become common. All of this is covered in the book and there is coverage of modern turret- mounted guns as fitted to the last of the battleships and cruisers, together with description of the fire control systems and delivery of ammunition from the magazines.
This is a book in its own class and there will probably never a similar book published. There may be a number of books produced that cover parts of the story and take the developments on from 1965. It is a shame because it requires an understanding of the development of the gun to understand the key stages of the history since the 14th Century.