A Glossary of Victorian Military Terms



Wordle Terms



A more comprehensive version has been published.
A Handbook of Military Terms by David Moore Publications

Section through a Rampart

Section through a Ditch

Plan of a Land Fort


Accoutrements. Articles of equipment such as bags, belts, canteens, frogs, haversacks, pouches, slings issued to a soldier.

Accoutrement Rack. A rack found in barrack rooms for soldiers to store their kit on. Advanced Works. Those constructed beyond the glacis but still within musketry range of the work.

Ammunition. A term applied to the shells and charges used by artillery.

Armstrong Gun. A nature of gun constructed by Sir William Armstrong from 1854.

Banquette. A firing step or 'footbank' derived from the Italian word banchetto, a little bank or step. It is found behind a parapet allowing men to fire over it.

Barbette. A battery position where the protective parapet is low enough for the gun to fire over it without the need for embrasures.

Barrack. The living and sleeping quarters for the garrison of a fortress.

Bastion. A section of a fortress which projects from the main work, allowing defenders to see the ground before the ramparts and defend it with flanking fire

Battery. A group of guns and their equipment. e.g. siege battery

Battery Command Post. (B.C.P.) Point from which the guns in a battery were commanded.

Battery Observation Post. (B.O.P.) The position from which the area commanded by a gun battery is observed.

Berm. A path below the rampart and escarp, or a ridge to prevent earth falling into the ditch. Besiege. To attack or lay siege to a fortress.

Black Powder. A particular mix of gunpowder used in Victorian times.

Blocked Up Slide. A traversing carriage raised up on a central pivot so that the gun can fire over the parapet rather than through an embrasure.

Blockhouse. An infantry strongpoint.

Board of Ordnance. A department of the government that was responsible for military stores and armaments. It was abolished in 1855.

Body (of a work). The line of works which form the main enclosure of a fortress. Called by the French the ”enceinte•.

Bonnet. A small work of triangular trace placed in front of the salient angle of a ravelin. Plans of the Gosport Advance Line forts label the ravelin as a bonnet.

Bore. The hollow of a firearm down which the shell travels on firing. The size of the gun, its calibre, measured across the lands of the barrel.

Breach. To produce a hole in a defence work such as an escarp wall. Breaching Battery. The artillery for breaching defences.

Breastwork. Earth piled up to form a rampart

Breech. The end of a gun behind the bore. The rear portion of a rifle or gun. Breech Block. The section of the breech which is opened for loading in a breech loading gun.

Breech-Loading (B.L.) Gun. Any gun which could be loaded by opening part of the breech (or rear) of the barrel.

Brennan Torpedo. A wire guided torpedo, named after its inventor, launched from shore based batteries in the anti-shipping role.

Calibre. Diameter across the bore of the gun. Can be used to express bore length e.g. a 10 calibre gun has a bore length of 20 times the diameter of the bore.

Cannon. A general term applied to all forms of gun but originally it was a gun with a barrel length of twelve or more diameters of the ball it fires. A cannon could be described a shot gun or shell gun.

Caponier. (earlier term - 'caponnière‘ or in some documents 'Kaponier‘) A casemate which projects into the ditch of a fort, thereby providing flanking fire along it. Also a passage for communicating with outworks.

Carbine. A short barrelled firearm issued to the

Carnot Wall. A detached wall at the foot of the rampart separated from it by the Chemin des Rondes.

Carriage. The cradle in which a gun is mounted. Garrison, field or siege.

Carronade. A particular type of gun, first made at the Carron works in 1762, used for short ranges.

Cartridge. An amount of gun powder made up into a charge.

Cascable. The part of a gun behind the vent. The button on the end of the breech of a gun, sometimes ring shaped to take a rope or breeching.

Casemate. A bombproof vault of brick or stone, usually covered with earth, which provided an emplacement for a gun or living quarters for soldiers.

Cavalier. A secondary rampart specially constructed to defend hollows or other ground not visible from the main ramparts.

Central Pivot (C.P.) Mounting. A pivot mounting for a gun, constructed around a shaft, sunk into the ground. ue increase in pressure.

Charge. The correct amount of powder for a gun in order to fire the projectile. It is usually made up into a cartridge.

Cheek. The side of an embrasure or carriage.

Chemin des Rondes. A passage or patrol path (French). A sentry path, usually at the foot of the rampart, but above the escarp with a parapet for cover.

Coast Battery. A position for guns mounted along a coast to protect the entrance to a harbour or port.

Coin. A wedge shaped block of wood placed under the breech of a gun to raise it to the required elevation. Common Shell. Used to designate those shells used against 'common‘ targets, rather than thick armour.

Converted Gun. A smooth bore cast iron gun that has been rifled on the Palliser system.

Cordite. An explosive used to fill cartridges. Introduced in 1893 as a ”smokeless powder•. It is made from nitroglycerine and nitro cellulose and is formed into cords or sticks, hence its name.

Countermines. Galleries excavated to counter an attacking army‘s mining.

Counterscarp. The exterior slope of a ditch.

Counterscarp Gallery. A series of chambers built into the counterscarp of a fort to mount weapons for firing as flank defence or as a place to start countermining.

Counterweight Carriage. (Gun) A disappearing carriage for mounting a gun. The term was synonymous with 'Moncrieff mounting‘.

Covered Way. Protected path which provides safe communication around the works of a fortress on the outer edge of the ditch. It is usually below the level of the glacis between its parapet and the edge of the ditch. The glacis forms its parapet and it is usually provided with a banquette for musketry defence. It can be palisaded to prevent its being overcome by a sudden rush. It should not be so wide as to give a besieger a ready platform for the construction of a battery, a breadth of 11 yards being suitable.

Crochet. A passage around a traverse to enable a continuous path along a covered way.

Crossing Plate. Where guns were mounted in casemates close together the rear racers intersect and special crossing plates are used to allow full lateral training They are thick plates of steel prolonging the form of the racers, roughened to improve foothold.

Crowning (e.g crowning the covered way). A term applied to the formation of lodgments on the crest of the glacis by a besieger employing saps or by assault. Likewise crowning the Counterscarp involved sapping the escarp or blowing it in to form a ramp to the ditch.

Cunette. A narrow trench dug in the bottom of a dry ditch or moat to deepen it. When filled with water it formed a useful obstacle to an assault. Sometimes termed a cut.

Cupola. An armoured dome containing a gun searchlight or observation post.

Curtain. A section of a work which joins two bastions.

Cut. A cunette.

Davit. An iron post fitted with a pulley and used to hoist ammunition up to a higher level. Similar to an ordinary ship‘s davit it is 8 feet 6 inches high of 3½ bar iron with an eye and ring. It could lift 8 cwt. Muzzle davits (derricks) were small jib cranes made of 2 inch bar and used to lift a shell to the muzzle of an R.M.L. for loading. It is 4 feet high.

Dead angle. (Ground) An angle of a work which cannot be defended by its own fire of musketry or artillery.

Depression. The angle below the horizontal at which a gun is fired.

Depression Carriage. A particular variety of garrison carriage than can be depressed below the horizontal to 32 degrees. It was developed for use in high positions such as Gibraltar. It is fitted with rear chocks.

Depression Range Finder (D.R.F.) An apparatus, usually in a sea battery, for determining the range of a target from its angle of depression.

Detached Works (or battery or fort etc.) One which has no permanent line of attachment with a permanent fortification in the line of defence (or attack). A work which is some distance away from any other in order to secure a blind spot in the defence or to defend a key position..

Detachment (for a gun). The men required to man a gun. Men required for each nature of gun were given in the Manual of Artillery Exercises. For a 64pr. RML or a field gun the number in a detachment was nine men of whom two were magazine men who may not be required in every work.

Detonating Powder. Chlorate of potash used in detonating tubes. The French employed fulminate of mercury. Both were readily exploded and were used in special purposes only.

Directing bar. (of a howitzer) The bar on which a howitzer is trained and along which it recoils. The directing bar sits on top of the howitzer platform and contains the pivot eye and compressor.

Direct fire. That aimed directly at a target.

Disappearing Gun. A type of gun, developed by a Col. Moncrieff, which disappeared below the level of its parapet under the force of its recoil. The two types developed by him were the counterweight carriage and the hydropneumatic.

Ditch. A moat, wet or dry.

Drill. Practice undertaken by soldiers.

Driving band. A band of metal employed on shells for breech loading guns in place of the Gas Check.

Dwarf platform. A traversing platform, higher than the casemate variety, permitting the gun to fire over a parapet of 4ft. 3 inches above the racers. It is used with R.M.L.s on A C or D pivots.

Elevated Battery. One which has its terreplein on the surface of the ground and its rampart raised above it with the earth taken from the ditch in front.

Elevation. The angle above the horizontal at which a gun is fired.

Elongated Ball. A bullet used in rifles from the 1860s. It replaced the ball, used in the earlier muskets and gave greater range.

Elongated Shell ( or shot). A projectile, the length of which exceeded that of its diameter or calibre. It took the place of the round shot or ”cannon-ball'.

Embrasure. Opening in a parapet or casemate front through which cannon could be fired.

Emplacement. A position for a gun.

En-barbette. A gun so mounted is raised on a high traversing platform or on a raised emplacement so that it fires over the crest of the parapet.

Enceinte. The main line of bastions and curtains of a fortress excluding outworks. The ”Body of a place•.

Enfield. A muzzle loading, percussion cap ignition rifle, introduced in 1853. Its barrel is 3ft. 3ins and it weighs 4lbs. 2oz. with a bore of .577 inch. The bullet is elongated with a wooden plug introduced into the hollow in the rear of the bullet to cause the lead to bulge an fill the grooves in the barrel. The Enfield was sighted up to 900 yards. Used by the British Empire from 1853 to 1867, after which many Enfield 1853 Rifled Muskets were converted to (and replaced in service by) the cartridge-loaded Snider-Enfield rifle.

Enfilade. To bring musketry or artillery to bear on a work and so sweep it with fire.

Enfilade fire. That which sweeps a target from end to end, whether it be a face or any other part of a work, or a line of cavalry or infantry.

Escalade. The climbing of walls with the help of ladders.

Escarp. The outward slope of a rampart. The inner slope of a ditch. It may be revetted to form a retaining wall for the rampart or may be detached from it as in an independent scarp wall. This may be loopholed to provide defence of the ditch.

Escarp en décharge. A hollow or counter-arched revetment so termed by the French. They are constructed so that the earth piled onto the arches can freely fall and be carried away so allowing the scarp to be consolidated. They may also be employed on counterscarps. Such scarp and counterscarp revetments may have earth filled in behind them or they may have galleries formed along their rear, counterforts being constructed about five feet thick, sixteen feet from centre to centre and eight feet long.The front or outer walls are pierced with loopholes.

Escarp gallery. A series of chambers built within the escarp of a work to provide communication around the work or to enable defence of a ditch through loopholes in its walls.

Expense Magazine. A small magazine in which ammunition for the immediate use of the guns is stored, generally on the terreplein.

Expose. To switch on a searchlight.

Face. Two sides of a bastion which meet at an angle projecting towards the enemy. Main face, the two lines of a work forming its most prominent salient angle.

Fascine. A faggot used to line trenches and earthworks to strengthen them.

Fausse-Braye. An outer rampart separated from the main rampart to provide a greater measure of fire then an assailant. It is usually on a lower level.

Field. The ground over which a battle takes place.

Field of Fire. The ground in front of a fortification over which the defending forces can cover with fire.

Field Force. Men required in excess of the garrison of a fortress. They were needed for watch and guard duties in the intervals between forts, to make sorties and for counter approaches. They would also be used for building field fortifications. Numbers were calculated as being 33 men for every 100 yards with pickets at 300 yard intervals added to the required number to resist an attempt to penetrate between the forts.

Field fortification (work). A temporary fortification thrown up in time of need and designed to strengthen the permanent fortifications of a fortress and the positions occupied by an army in the field.

Field gun (piece). A movable gun on wheels that can be taken out of a fort 'into the field‘ to meet an enemy. Those in use with the British service in the 1860s were the 3,6,9 and 12 pdr guns and the 12, 24 and 32 pdr. howitzers. RMLs in service by the 1890s were the 9pr 6 & 8 cwt.; 16 pr. 12 cwt; 13pr. 8cwt.

Fighting lamp. (light or lantern) A lantern used to illuminate the breech of a gun so that it could be manned at night. Tremlett‘s pattern was adopted for use in forts up until the 1890s, the brackets for which can be seen fitted to many casemate walls of the Palmerston Forts.

Fire. That of artillery can be direct, oblique, enfilading, flanking, grazing, plunging, or reverse. It can be with full charges, or be vertical, ricochet or bounding fire.

Fire Control Post. The place from which a battery or group of guns is controlled.

Firing Step. A raised section behind the parapet, acting as a step to enable a soldier to fire over it. Known earlier as a Banquette.

Flank. The part of a bastion that joins the face to the curtain. The sides of a fort in which guns for flanking fire are mounted. The lateral extremes of any military position are also known as its flanks.

Flanked angle. A salient formed by two lines of defence.

Flanking Gallery. A gallery with embrasures for firing along the length of a ditch or wall.

Flanking Fire. Gun fire that hits an enemy at its side or flank. It is directed along the front of a position and nearly parallel to it.

Fort. A building designed primarily for defence.

Fortification. A fort. The art of rendering a military position defensible. Fortification may be permanent or temporary (field).

Fraises. Stakes or palisades placed on the outward slope of a rampart to hinder an infantry attack.

Friction Tube. A copper tube, filled with light pistol powder for inserting in the vent of a gun in order to fire it.

Front. (of a fort) The distance between the salients of two adjacent bastions.

Fuse or Fuze. Wood or metal tube placed into a shell in order to explode it. It can be 'percussion‘ or 'time‘. The first fuzes developed for shells were tapered cylinders of beech wood through which a central hole was bored and filled with a composition of gunpowder and spirits of wine. The length of composition was proportionate to the time of flight.

Gabion. A wickerwork cylinder filled with earth and used to strengthen ramparts and provide entrenchments.

Garrison. The troops based in a fortress to defend it. This was calculated as the number of men required to man all of the guns in a fortress that could be fired at once, together with guards for the flanks, parapets, caponiers and covered way, and orderlies, officers, cooks, magazine men etc. This was multiplied by three for reliefs in a fortress liable to attack of long duration.The peace time garrison of a fortress was calculated as two or three times the men required for the guns on the main rampart depending on local factors.

Garrison RML. Those introduced into the service were the 64pr. 64cwt; 7inch 4½, 6½ þ& 7 tons; 8inch 9tons;9inch 12 tons; 10inch 18 tons; 10.4inch 28 tons;11inch 25 tons; 12inch 35 tons; 12.5inch 38 tons 17.72inch 100 tons.The last RMLs in service in 1908 were the 10inch and 12.5 inch for special case shot against torpedo boats.

Garrison Standing Carriage. A variety of carriage employed for guns not intended to be placed on the front faces of a fort but possibly to be employed for curved fire. It required a ground platform of of wood, stone or concrete with a slope of 1/24. It had four wheels (trucks) and was generally copied from naval carriages. Some had the rear trucks removed and replaced with blocks and was then known as a Carriage, Garrison, Rear Chock.

Gas Check. A flat plate of metal used to impart spin to a projectile. It is placed behind the projectile on loading the gun and falls away when the projectile leaves the muzzle.

Genouillère. The section of parapet beneath an embrasure. The interior of the sill.

Glacis. A mass of earth raised on the outer side of the ditch.The parapet of the covered way which extends towards the natural surface of the ground in a gentle slope. The glacis protects the scarp wall from distant breaching fire. It affords no cover to an enemy from the fire of the parapet. The guns on the terreplein of the main work are positioned to sweep it with fire.

Gomer chamber. A chamber in the bore of a howitzer named after the French Officer who first used it. It was at the extremity of the bore, cone shaped, rounded at the end so that the charge could be as compact as possible. The shell rested on the mouth of this chamber and the charge acted directly upon it.

Gorge. Of a work, a line joining its inner extremities. The rear face of a fortification.

Grazing fire. That which sweeps close to the surface it defends.

Grenade. An explosive shell first used by the Venetians as early as 1421. It consisted of two hollow hemispheres filled with coarse gunpowder and was called a 'granata‘ because the grains of gunpowder resembled the seeds of the pomegranate.

Gun. A cannon. Either 'shot‘ or 'shell‘.

Gun Cotton. A form of High Explosive introduced into service in the 1890s. First made public in 1846 by the German chemist Schoenbein but formulated by Pelouze in 1838 as cotton, hemp or linen immersed for some minutes in nitric acid. Combes in 1840 combined pyroxile or gun cotton with nitre or saltpetre to produce a compound for use in exploding mines.

Gun Powder. A mixture of saltpetre (or nitre or nitrate of potash), sulphur and charcoal used to propel or explode a shell. In England the mix was 75% nitre, 10% sulphur and 15% charcoal.

Handspike. A wooden lever used to assist with moving a gun or its carriage. A 'Roller Handspike‘ has a roller on its heel to make moving a gun more easy.

Haxo. A casemate, named after its inventor, which provides overhead cover for the gun and crew inside it. Often found on the flanks of forts. The mortar batteries in the Portsdown Hill Forts were sometimes referred to as Haxos.

Heavy Artillery. Ordnance used to defend a fortress, for fixed batteries or for ships. Also those used for the purpose of a siege. They were of a larger calibre than Field Artillery and were generally of iron.

High Angled Fire. (H.A.F.) Applied to R.M.L.s designed to fire from behind a parapet at extreme angles of elevation. (75 to 83 degrees). 9 inch and 10 inch guns (9-inch guns bored up to 10-inch) only were used.

Hot Shot. Heated shot fired against ships or wooden buildings to set fire to them. Some were later filled with molten iron.

Hot shot furnace. A sort of oven, employed in most sea batteries in order to heat shot. Addison‘s portable iron shot furnace was generally employed from the 1860s. Fifteen 32 pdr. shot could be heated to red hot in 75 minutes after lighting. Thereafter it took 15 minutes to heat one shot.

Howitzer. Gun capable of firing at a high angle of elevation (30 degrees) and low velocity. Used in the Smooth bore era for curved or indirect fire. Rifled howitzers entered service from 1880 onwards and superseded the mortar in the Palmerston forts. The 8-inch R.M.L. howitzer could fire at an elevation of 45 degrees.

Hydropneumatic Mounting. A 'disappearing‘ mounting for a gun that recoiled below the level of the parapet under hydropneumatic control, due to the force of its recoil. It superseded those of Moncrieff‘s counterweight system. The 6 inch B.L. and 10 inch B.L. were successfully mounted in this fashion.

Hydropneumatic Siege Disappearing Carriage. This was developed for the wrought iron 64 pr. R.M.L. to be mounted in permanent emplacements in forts. Difficulties with their design caused it to be approved for the 6.6 inch howitzer only although an 8-inch howitzer was fired off it successfully. It required an anchorage which needed to absorb a strain of 19 tons. This caused it to be allotted to the siege train only because of difficulties with making this anchorage where parapets were already formed. Plans were considered for mounting the 4 inch and 5 inch B.L. guns on travelling H.P. disappearing mountings.

Intermediate Works. Temporary works constructed between the permanent works of a line of defence. They consist of redoubts, trenches and batteries.

Keep. The strongest and last defensible place within a fortress. In the Portsdown Hill forts the Redan was labelled as a keep.

Laboratory. A room where gunpowder was mixed or made into charges before being stored in a magazine. Shells were also filled in the laboratory.

Lancaster Carbine. A Snider converted carbine issued to the Royal Engineers. It had an Oval bore, and weighed 9.75 pounds.

Lancaster Gun. A gun introduced by Mr. Lancaster which fired an elongated shell. The bore was elliptical, giving a rotary motion to the shell. The 68 pr Lancaster gun of 95 cwt. had a range of 5,600 yards with a charge of 12 lbs and shell weighing 86 lbs and an elevation of 18 degrees.

Lamp Recess. An alcove or small tunnel in a wall for placing a lamp in.

Lantern. A lamp or light used to illuminate a magazine or a gun emplacement. Various types in use from the 1870s to the 1900s included the Passage Lantern, Fighting Lantern, Magazine Lantern, Wall Lantern and Overhead Lantern.

Lanyard. A light rope or cord which is attached to a friction tube and pulled in order to fire the gun.

Latrine. A toilet for soldiers.

Lay (a gun). To adjust a gun so that it points at the desired target.

Lee-Enfield. Magazine introduced in 1895.

Lee-Enfield. Short Magazine- (SMLE) Introduced shortly after the Long version in 1904. Rifle corps and Sergeants of Infantry were armed with this version and a sword bayonet. Effective range 500-600yards, destructive range up to 1,000 yards. (Volunteers 1863)

Lee-Metford. A magazine rifle adopted by the Army in 1888. (Volunteers 1893)

Lift. A shaft connecting a magazine with a gun floor on a higher level and used to raise cartridges or shells for use by the guns.

Light Balls. A case of canvass, oblong in shape, stretched over a frame work of wrought iron and woolded with cord. This was filled with a composition which burned with an intense flame for a long time. They were to be used at night to illuminate an enemy‘s working parties.

Lighting Passage. A passage specially built adjacent to a magazine to allow lamps to be inserted into recesses for illuminating the magazine.

Light Rifled Guns. Those in use in fortresses were the 40 pr. R.M.L. & R.B.L. , the 25 pr. R.M.L. the 20 pr. R.B.L. and the various field guns. All light rifled guns were mounted on travelling carriages.

Limber. A (two) wheeled carriage hitched up between a field or siege carriage and the horses for pulling it. The limber of field guns contained tools, equipment and a few rounds of case and shrapnel shells, whilst those of howitzers contained a few rounds of common shells and carcasses. The total length of a gun limbered up, but without horses was about 22 feet.

Line of Defence. In permanent fortification, the line of the top of the scarp of any work receiving flank defence, of that line together with its prolongation to the flanking work.

Loading Bar. A short, strong iron bar fixed just over and just in front of the point where the muzzle on the gun comes in recoil, and to it is hooked the tackle which is used in raising the shot to the muzzle.

Loop. (Overhead) An iron ring often found in the vaulting along the centre line of a casemate and used to suspend the gun from during the process of mounting it. They are made of iron bar 2 inches in diameter, bent into a loop 5 inches across. They can be found at the following distances from the pivot of the gun :-

12 ton R.M.L. 6'6” and 17'

18 ton R.M.L. 9'0” and 19'6”

25 ton R.M.L. 6'6” and 13' 6” and 19'

38 ton R.M.L. 6'6” and 16'6” and 22'

The positions would differ for other types according to the mode of mounting and the centre of gravity of the gun

Loophole . An aperture in a wall for firing a rifle through.

Lyddite. Explosive made from picric acid, used to fill shells. Introduced in 1896.

Machine Gun. A gun capable of firing multiple shots or shots in rapid succession. Adopted for use in forts from the 1880s as a replacement for smooth bore flank guns. Types in use were the Gatling, Nordenfelt, Gardner and Maxim.

Machicolation. An opening for firing down towards the foot of a wall.

Magazine. A place for the safe storage of gunpowder. It could be Main or Expense.

Magazine Lee-Enfield' Rifle introduced until 1895.

Magistral. In permanent fortification, usually the line of the top of the scarp of each work.

Mantlet. A protective curtain of woven rope hung inside an embrasure to protect the gun crew. Used to prevent rivet heads and other matter flying into the casemate if the exterior is struck. Made in a variety of shapes to suit different forms of shield, they were soaked in a solution of chloride of calcium to prevent their being ignited by the flash of the gun. The portions nearest the gun muzzle are hung on a bar so that they can be pulled close to the gun at any degree of training. They were used for guns of 10” upwards.

Mantlet Bar. An iron bar, fixed to the shield across the embrasure for hanging the mantlet on.

Martin‘s Shell. A shell designed by an employee of the Royal Laboratory in 1855. It consisted of a hollow spherical shell lined with a mixture of loam and cow-hair for insulation into which was poured molten iron. It was used in place of 'red-hot shot‘. It could not be used in RML guns and was obsolete in 1869.

Martini Henry. A single shot, falling breech rifle used by the Army in the 1860s onwards.

Merlon. The solid part of a parapet between two embrasures. Under General Haxo‘s system the masonry of a casemated gun position is protected with earth banks. In order to be of sufficient thickness to provide the necessary strength it is necessary to blind alternate embrasures, so that only half the guns can be in use at one time. Should any of these be silenced by the enemy however the covered embrasure could be opened and the injured one closed under cover of darkness.

Militia. Reserve force of part time soldiers.

Minié Rifle. A rifle which was introduced into the service to over come the difficulty of loading with a rifled barrel. The ball had a small iron cup in the hollow at the rear. This caused the ball to expand on firing and so fill the grooves.

Mitrailleuse. A many barrelled, breech loading machine gun, developed by the French and used for flank defence of their forts.

Moat. A ditch, wet or dry.

Moncrieff Carriage. A disappearing carriage invented by Moncrieff employing a counterweight system. (see Counterweight Carriage)

Moncrieff Pit. A concrete pit designed to be fitted with a Disappearing carriage developed by Moncrieff.

Moncrieff System. Moncrieff‘s method of mounting guns on the disappearing principle in dispersed pits, well concealed and protected from direct fire.

Mountain Artillery. Light brass guns that could be carried over mountainous terrain on the backs of mules. The 3 pounder was the only suitable one for most situations. The 7pr. bronze and steel and the 2.5 inch jointed were also introduced into the service.

Mortar. A large calibre gun for firing a heavy shell at high angles of elevation (15 to 50 degrees). In the 1860s, those used in the British service were the 8, 10 and 13 inch of iron and the Coehorn and Royal of brass. The land service mortar of 13 inches had a range of 2900 yards with a charge of 9 pounds ( the bursting charge was 10 lbs 15 ozs.) Some rifled mortars (on the Palliser system) were tested in 1879 but the idea was abandoned. By 1898 there were some rifled mortars in use on the continent.

Mortar Battery. A casemated position for concealing mortars so that they could fire out with little prospect of being hit with return fire.

Musket. An infantry soldier‘s light gun, usually smooth bored. The arm generally used by the British Infantry until 1853 was a percussion musket and bayonet. It was 4ft. 7in. long and had an effective range of 200 yards. The 'Needle Musket‘ was used on the continent.

Muzzle. The end of a gun out of which the shot is fired.

Muzzle-Loader. Any gun loaded from its front (muzzle) end.

Needle Musket (gun). A form of musket used on the continent and invented by von Dreyse in 1838. It was loaded at the breech which was opened by means of a handle. On pulling the trigger a pointed pin was forced by a spring through the gunpowder, igniting it by means of some detonating powder placed at the rear of the bullet. The bullet was pointed.

New Pattern (N.P.) Traversing Platform. Slides that were substituted for the old 16 ft. one. They were the shortened 13ft. and the shortened 11 ft.

Oblique Fire. That directed towards a target at an oblique angle.

Obturation. The means employed to seal the breech and to prevent the leakage of gasses, formed in firing an R.B.L., back through the breech mechanism.

Ordnance. A term applied to any type or nature of gun. Sub types were designated light or field, heavy or siege.

Outworks. Part of a work that is external and separated from the main body but is within the glacis. i.e. a ravelin or redoubt in front of a salient.

Overbank Carriage. One with an added bracket so that the gun could fire over a parapet height of 5ft. 6 inches. Designed for use with light rifled guns on the flanks of forts or in batteries thrown up between the forts.Those mounted were the 40 pr. R.M.L., 40 pr. R.B.L. and 25 pr. R.M.L.

Palliser Conversion. A system, named after its inventor, for lining the bore of a smooth bore gun with a rifled (with three grooves), wrought iron tube, so converting it to an R.M.L. It was expanded to fit the bore by firing a heavy proof charge and the resultant gun was more powerful than the original smooth bore. The system was adopted in 1863. Guns converted were 64pr. of 58cwt; 64pr. of 71cwt; 80pr. of 5 tons.

Palliser Shell. A pointed shell cast so that its nose is extremely hard. Used to penetrate heavily armoured targets. Designed by Captain Palliser of the 18th. Hussars, it was rapidly adopted for most RML guns after the late 1860s.

Parados. A rampart protecting the rear of a work from fire from the front.

Parade. A flat area on which the troops muster.

Parallel. A trench dug by an attacker which is parallel to the work being attacked. The first, second and third (with sometimes a fourth and fifth) parallels are stages in a systematic system of saps dug by a besieger.

Parapet. A bank of earth enclosing a work and protecting the troops from an enemy‘s fire. A wall or bank for protecting the soldiers on the rampart over or through which the guns fire. Derived from the Italian words 'para‘, a defence, and 'petto‘, the breast. It must be high enough to cover the troops placed behind it and thick enough to prevent a shot passing through it.

Penetration. The distance that a shell can be fired into a target. Quoted tables of penetration were for shot into earth.

Percussion Fuse. A fuse that sets of a shell on impact.

Permanent Fortification. That which has to endure for a great period of time, in peace and war, and is by its nature fixed, being intended to protect the frontiers of a state or its naval and military arsenals from the attack of an enemy. It can be regarded under two headings, inland fortresses and coast defences.

Pistol. A handgun issued to cavalry regiments. Those in use in the 1870s were the Cavalry 10-inch issued to Lancer regiments and troop sergeant-majors of cavalry and the 8-inch issued to the same in India.

Pivot. The real or imaginary point about which a gun is traversed.
A pivot . The imaginary pivot is in front of the platform, in the embrasure.
B pivot. Similar to A.
C pivot. The pivot is central and the racer a circle.
D pivot. The pivot is nearer to the rear of the slide than to the front.
E pivot Similar to D.
F pivot. The pivot is behind both front and rear racers.
The A & B pivot usually give a field of fire of 70 degrees. The C pivot gives 360 degrees whilst the D gives 180 or 360 degrees. The E & F pivot give 180 degrees. A pivots are suitable for embrasures; D pivots for barbette emplacements with less than 140 degrees of lateral training and C pivots for barbettes with a larger amount. Casemate slides are used only with A pivot racers. Dwarf slides are suited to all pivots. D pivots were not much used. E & F pivots were specially designed for the tops of Martello towers and are not to be found elsewhere.

Pivot Block. The block about which the slide rotates and to which the slide is connected. All medium guns on C D E or F pivot racers required actual pivots. This consisted of a cast iron block into which a steel plug three inches in diameter fitted passing through a plate on the underside of the slide.The height of the pivot block depends on the type of slide used. It could be 12¼ inches, or 18.375 inches for the ”high• block.

Place of Arms. An point usually at the re-entering or salient point of the covered way. It provided a point for assembling troops engaged in the defence of outworks.

Plane of Fire. In gunnery a vertical plane passing through the axis of the gun.

Plane of site. A plane of a work representing the general direction of the surface of the ground upon which it is constructed.

Platform, Gun. Formerly horizontal plane made of stone, masonry or wood ) used to place a gun on when used in a fortification. Later gun platforms are laid at different angles of inclination to check the recoil of the gun on firing. Special platforms were gradually introduced such as the traversing, siege, ground and garrison.

Platform, Mortar. Similar to those used with a gun but without a slope. For a 13-inch mortar it is 12 ft. square

Plunging Fire. That which is directed from a position considerably above the object it is to hit.

Point Blank. The range of a gun where the projectile hits the ground, the gun having been fired with no elevation, i.e. parallel to the ground.

Polygonal Fort. A fort, having a polygonal trace, in which the main armament was for active instead of passive defence. Sometimes called the ”German System.•

Polygroove System. A method of rifling a gun with a large number of shallow grooves.

Port Bar. An iron bar put across the gun port during the operations of loading an R.M.L. gun, to hold up the end of the rammer stave and make loading easier.

Portfire. A match used to ignite the powder in the vent of an artillery piece.

Port War Signal Station. A Place from which Navy personnel could challenge all vessels approaching a defended port.

Position Finding Cell. (P.F.C.) A room, usually in a sea battery, for housing an apparatus to determine the range and position of a target, usually a ship.

Priming. The act of filing the vent with powder in order to fire the gun.

Profile. The section of a work through its rampart, ditch and glacis. See also Twydall Profile.

Projectile. The shot or shell fired from a gun.

Prolongation. A line produced as an extension of an existing line of defence. e.g the prolongation of the crest of a rampart is in line with it.

Protected Barbette. A Term first applied by Moncrieff to his system of mounting guns but later usurped and applied to guns mounted on the Armstrong 'depressed loading‘ principle.

Prussian System. Term applied to the method of building forts, adapted from that of the Prussians, so that they acted together to form a line of defence, each fort being self sufficient but affording flanking fire across the fronts of its neighbours. The armament was divided into that required for long range defence, that required for flanking fire and that required for local defence, usually in caponiers.

Quick Fire Gun. (Q.F.) A gun that has a quick action breech mechanism and fires a type of projectile that has the charge fixed to the shell or contained in a separate brass cartridge case.

Quill Tube. A goose feather shaft filled with powder, placed in the vent and used to fire a gun instead of loose powder.

Quoin. (Coin) A wedge shaped block of wood used to support the breech end of a gun or barrel of a mortar. It could be adjusted to alter elevation of the gun.

Racer Track. (Racers) Curved track set into the floor of a gun emplacement which enabled guns to be traversed more quickly. Racers for guns up to 10 inch are of wrought iron 2.78 inches wide. Racers of 10 inch R.M.L. s and above are of steel. 12 inch, 35 ton and 12.5 inch, 38 ton guns employed heavy racers 4 inches wide without flanges. 20pr & 40pr RBLs required gun metal racers, ribbed and slightly coned towards the pivot. Racers are fixed on iron chairs or set in granite blocks.The configuration varied according the the platform and method of mounting and the position depended upon the pivot.
Racers (Radii) for 16 ft. slides.
front rear
A 5ft. 0in 16ft. 6in
B 1ft. 10in 12ft. 10in
C 6ft. 1in
D 9ft. 0in 3ft. 4½in
E 10ft. 8¼in 2ft. 2in
F 12ft. 10in 2ft. 2in

Rammer. The side arm used to 'ram” home the charge or the man who rams the charge.

Ramp. A sloping road to allow the passage of ammunition and gun carriages up to the terreplein. Usually cut obliquely in the interior slope of the rampart but in some places placed at right angles to the rampart so that it could also serve as a traverse to the casemates below. The higher their ascent the less steep the slope should be, a gradient of one-eighth for a height of twelve feet and one-tenth for 15 feet was considered the steepest.

Rampart. The raised earthwork which forms the curtain on which guns and troops are positioned The raised earthwork which forms the curtain on which guns and troops are positioned to defend a fortress. The high bank on which the parapet stands.

Range. The distance between a gun and its target.

Range Finder. An instrument for calculating the range of a target.

Ravelin. A 'V‘ shaped work in front of the rampart and moat, or a fortified island in the moat in front of a curtain.

R.B.L. Rifled Breech-Loading gun.

Recoil. The reaction of a gun on firing which tends to move it in the opposite direction to its line of fire.

Recuperator. A device for returning a gun to its firing position found in the later natures of B.L.

Redan. An outwork consisting of two faces forming a salient angle.

Redoubt. A small enclosed work that does not have flank defence from its own parapet.

Reduit. A small citadel of last resort. French for 'redoubt‘.

Re-entering Angle. One which projects inwards away from the enemy.

Refused Flank. A flank that is built at an obtuse angle to the main face so that it cannot be enfiladed.

Relief. That of any point in a work is its distance from a horizontal plane coincident with the base of its scarp, whether it has a ditch in front of it or not.

Retrenchments. Lines of works formed so as to cut off part of a fortress and enable the garrison to defend it after the parts outside of it are taken.

Reverse Fire. That which is directed to hit the rear of an enemy.

Revetment. The masonry of the escarp. Its retaining wall. It can be full, where all of the external wall is revetted, or demi, where only a portion of the exterior wall is revetted.

Revolver. A hand gun issued to officers and N.C.O.s. In the 1870s those in use were the Adams, Colt and Deane.

Rifle. A soldier‘s long barrelled firearm for firing from the shoulder. It differed from the musket in having grooves, (generally three) or rifling in the barrel. Types in use included the Enfield, Martini-Henry, Lee-Metford and Lee-Enfield.

Rifled Breech Loading (guns). (R.B.L.) Guns successively designated as the 'Armstrong‘ the 'vent -piece‘ and 'B.L. screw guns‘ using Armstrong‘s system of construction, in which coils of wrought iron were built up by shrinking one layer over the other, adopted in 1859 before the advent of the interrupted screw 'B.L.‘ guns of later date.They were rifled on the polygroove system.

Rifled Gun. A gun whose bore was cut along its axis with spiral grooves so as to spin the ball or elongated shell and make its flight more accurate.

Rifled Howitzer. A gun capable of firing at high angles of elevation and therefore being used to provide indirect fire against bomb-proofs, originally designed to be allocated to the siege train. They included the 8-inch howitzer of 46 cwt. the 6.3-inch of 18 cwt, 6.6-inch 36 cwt. & 8-inch 70 cwt.

Rifled Muzzle Loading. (R.M.L) A gun which is loaded through its muzzle and has a rifled bore. The first R.M.L.s followed the same lines of construction as for R.B.L.s. Improvements were made giving extra strength and simplicity to the construction. The four main classes of construction were :- Original system; Modified system; Fraser system; R.G.F. system. The natures of R.M.L.s introduced were Mountain; Field; Siege & Heavy Field; Garrison and Naval.

Rifling. Grooves in the bore of a gun which impart a spin to the projectile as the gun is fired.

Ring Bolts. Iron rings set into the floor or walls of a casemate. Their original use was for attaching the tackles used to traverse a gun.

R.M.L. Rifled Muzzle Loading (gun). A term initially applied to all converted or re-worked guns on the Palliser system in contrast to all new guns which were designated as M.L.R.

Rocket. There were two natures of military rockets, the signal rocket and the war rocket. Those in use were Congreve‘s Boxer‘s and Hale‘s (war).

Rolling Bridge. A variety of bridge fitted in forts where the roadway spanning a ditch is rolled within the gates. The bridge is not hinged and remains horizontal. A 'rack and pinion‘ rolling bridge is commonly used in forts. A special type named after its designer 'Guthrie‘ can be found in the Portsdown Forts at Portsmouth.

Sabot. A plate or cylindrically shaped piece of wood attached to the bottom of a projectile to prevent damage to the bore of the gun or the projectile rolling and damaging the fuze when the gun was fired.

Salient (angle). The angle of a bastion which projects towards the enemy.

Sally Port. An opening in a curtain or glacis so that troops can exit in order to engage the enemy.

Sap. A trench and parapet dug by a besieger in order to advance on a fortress. Normally employing gabions and formed in a zig zag.

S. B. B. L. Smooth Bore Breech Loading (gun)

Sconce. A detached fort with bastions.

Segment Shell. A thin cast iron cylindro-conical shell, about two calibres long, lined with cast iron segments, built up in layers, having a cylindrical powder chamber in the centre.

Service Charge. The amount of powder contained in a charge for a given nature of gun. Generally one third the weight of the shot for heavy guns.

Serving Room. A chamber, often found in the magazines of a coast battery, from which cartridges are issued to the guns.

Sheers. Spars of baltic fir used to lift guns in conjunction with chains, guys, shackles slings and tackle.

Shell. A projectile. Originally a hollow iron ball filled with powder. By the 1870s it was applied to a variety of types. They could be be filled (with powder) or solid, common, case, canister, segment or shrapnel.

Shell Bearer. A device for lifting a shell from the top of a shell lift or shell store to the muzzle of the gun.

Shell Block. A block of hard wood with a conical hole in it, found in a shell filling room or filled shell store, and used to hold a shell while filling it.

Shell Filling Room. A chamber used for the filling of shells.

Shell Gun. As opposed to a shot gun, (cannon) a smooth bore gun designed to fire hollow shot and shells only rather than the full iron ball fired by the cannon. Natures were the 10-inch and 8-inch.

Shell Lift. A shaft and its associated equipment for raising shells from the basement stores to the gun floor.

Shell Recess. A place for storing shells in small quantities near to the gun.

Shell Store. A place in which shells are stowed.

Shell Trucks. Special trucks, resembling those of a railway porter, on which shells were moved.

Shifting Lobby. A room in which men working in a magazine change into and out of magazine working clothes.

Shifting Room. A room used earlier in fortifications for transferring powder from one barrel to another.

Short Magazine Lee-Enfield' (SMLE) Introduced 1904.

Shot Gun. As opposed to a shell gun, an S.B. cannon designed to fire both the solid iron ball and the hollow shell.

Shrapnel. A form of shell, named after its inventor, which fragments on firing. It was invented by Lieutenant Shrapnel(l) in 1784.

Shunt Groove. A type of groove adopted for the bore of a rifled gun in order to centre the projectile.

Side Arms. The equipment used to load and fire a gun i.e. rammer, sponge, wad hook.

Siege. A term adopted from the French 'siège‘, a seat, from the sitting down of an army before a beleaguered place. A siege is a regular organised attack on a fortress, chiefly by the use of artillery.

Siege Guns. Those employed to bombard a fortress. Siege and heavy field R.M.L.s introduced into the service were the 25pr. 18 cwt; 40pr. 34 & 35 cwts; 6.6-inch 70 cwt; 6.3-inch, 6.6-inch, 8-inch howitzers.

Siege Platform. A portable platform used to mount a siege gun or mortar, or a field gun when it has to fire from the same spot for any length of time.

Siege Train. A collection of movable armament for taking out of a fortress to place in field works as the need arises.

Siege Works. Fortified field works thrown up to protect the besiegers of a work and to mount artillery for bombardment of a fortress.

Sights. Pieces of metal fitted to the breech, muzzle, centre or trunnions or a gun, or on the breech and muzzle of a rifle or pistol and used to align it on a target.

Sill. The inner edge of the sole of an embrasure.

Skidding. A system of wooden shelving for a magazine on which barrels of powder (or metal lined cases) are stored.

Slide. A traversing platform.

Sling. A rope or chain, with thimbles used to assist with lifting ordnance. Their lengths vary according to their use.

Sling Cart. A two wheeled cart used to move heavy ordnance small distances. The barrel was slung underneath.

Sling Wagon. A four wheeled wagon (devil‘s carriage) drawn by six horses and used to transport a gun barrel by slinging it underneath its axle trees.

Slope. Earth heaped at an angle to form a rampart, parapet or banquette. It may be superior, interior or exterior.

Small Arms. Portable firearms especially carbines, pistols and rifles.

Small Port Carriage. A mounting which allowed the gun to be raised and lowered to different heights to suit the required elevation or depression.

Smiths and Fitters Shop. An ancillary building classed as an artillery store. It is intended to contain a forge and other articles required to make small repairs to the ordnance and mountings.

Smoke Ball. A paper shell containing a burning composition that emitted large volumes of smoke.

Smooth Bore. A cannon that has no rifling in its barrel.

Sole. The bottom of an embrasure.

Sponge. A side arm used to clean the bore of a gun after firing and before loading.

Sweep Plates. Iron plates set into the floor of a gun emplacement used to traverse the gun.

Tampion. (Tampeon) A wooden plug for fitting in the bore of a gun at the muzzle end when not in use. It prevents dirt and moisture lodging in the barrel.

Tangent Scale. A scale for measuring the angle of elevation at which a gun fires. A rear sight.

Tangent Sight. A variety of sight for a gun.

Terreplein. Broad level fighting platform on the rampart behind the parapet. The upper surface of the rampart, wide enough to afford room for working the guns and the passage of ammunition or gun carriages.

Throat. The interior opening of an embrasure.

Tourelle. A small turret for a Quick Fire gun such as a six pounder.

Trace. The plan of a fortress or its orthographic projection on a horizontal plane of the bounding lines of its several surface planes. It shows the horizontal extent of its different parts.

Trail. The rear part of a field gun that rests on the ground.

Training Arc. A brass plate set into the floor of a casemate next to the racers. It is graduated for use in position finding.

Travelling Carriage. A carriage used for movable armament or light rifled guns.

Traverse. (1) To swivel a gun and its carriage, usually to point them at a target.

(2) An earth bank positioned so as to protect troops from enfilade fire or to minimise the effect of a bursting shell.

Traversing Gear. The equipment used to traverse a heavy R.M.L.

Traversing Platform. Wooden or metal platform, sometimes called a slide, which supports a gun and its carriage and which can be traversed on racer tracks.

Truck Lever. A roller handspike used as running-up gear.

Trucks. The iron or wooden wheels on which a gun carriage or platform sits.

Trunnion. The side pieces of a gun barrel on which it rests and pivots in its carriage.

Turret. An armoured dome for mounting a gun.

Twydall Profile. Named after an area in Chatham, a new system of defence introduced in the 1870s for the Chatham forts.

Vavasseur Mounting. Named after its designer, a type of gun mounting using a short slide with a steep slope.

Vent. The hole in the top, side or cascable of a gun into which a tube is fitted or powder is poured for firing the gun.

Vertical Fire. That applied to missiles which when fired fall at angles greater than 45 degrees. The fire of mortars at high angles is termed Vertical Fire.

Volunteer. A man who voluntarily becomes part of an auxiliary fighting force.

Wadmiltilt. A strong woollen cloth covering placed on the floor of a magazine to prevent injury to the gunpowder barrels or cylinders.

Wedge Wad. A wedge shaped pad placed in the bore of an R.M.L. gun to hold the projectile in place so that it is centred.

Whitworth Gun. A gun having a hexagonal spiral bore.

Windage. The difference in size between the bore of a gun and its projectile.

Wire Guns. Breech Loading guns constructed by coiling 'wire‘ on to the tube under tension.

Woolwich Groove. A type of rifling for an R.M.L. in which the groove is rounded off at the sides to prevent any tendency of the steel to split along the edge of the groove. The number of grooves depends on the nature of the gun. The 7-inch has three grooves whilst the 9-inch has six.

Woolwich Infant. A term applied to the large natures of R.M.L. guns constructed at the Woolwich Arsenal because of their large girth at the breech. Another term applied to them was the 'Soda Water Bottles‘.

Work. A military construction or fortification, e.g. siege works, field works, temporary works.