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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Friction Tube

Terry Carter

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I should add, that during WW1 the sealing of the breach of a canon was one of the big differences between British artillery and Central Alliance artillery.

For light field guns everybody used a "quick fire" (QF) gun, where the breach was sealed with a metal cartridge case, like an oversized rifle cartridge. For larger guns and howitzers the shell the charge and the method sealing the breach were each separate. The Central Alliance used a short metal cartridge case to hold the primer and seal the breach. Most British guns (not the 4.5-in howitzer) used an obturating pad. A metal gauze and asbestos pad soaked in fat. When the main charge was ignited the obturating pad inside the chamber would squash down and provide the gas seal for the breach. As there was no convenient "primer" like in the cartridge case, the friction tube or an electric igniter tube or a percussion igniter tube was required. 


The mechanism could be extremely elaborate, like those used on the big 9.2-inch Mk IX coastal guns or horribly simple like a repurposed Martini-Henry rifle receiver as used on the 60-pr BL field gun from mid war onwards.





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Fascinating stuff.

Thanks for imparting all that knowledge; as Trajan would say, every day's a school day.

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There were both ancestors and descendants of the friction tube.

In the last quarter of the 18th C., Rear Admiral Sir Charles Douglas, as well as backing the use of flintlocks, as safer and more reliable than burning linstocks to fire cannon, introduced goose-quill primers with the hollow stem packed with compressed black powder, to deliver a stab of flame into the pricked propellant cartridge.

The big breechloading guns of British WW1 Dreadnoughts also used vent tubes to fire their cordite charges, but these were electrically initiated.



Edited by MikB
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5 hours ago, Chasemuseum said:

a repurposed Martini-Henry rifle receiver as used on the 60-pr BL field gun from mid war onwards.

What a sad end to a most distinguished military rifle! I suppose a useful end though...


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  • 7 months later...

Finally found a bit of time. Thank you for answers to my earlier questions.

I am trying to replicate some of the lost equipment at Bembridge Fort on the Isle of Wight.

I have built a Shifting Lobby and now looking at a Fuze and Tube Shelf.  I believe the the armament was 2 x 4inch RBL and 6x 64 Pdr RML guns.

I am trying find the correct Fuzes and Tubes for these guns, how they were transported and stored and if there are any photos drawings etc?

The Fuze and Tube Shelf I have seen do not match any recesses in the fort so maybe these are bespoke to Bembridge, any help would be most welcome.

Thanks in advance David


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