Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Royal Artillery Library - article by John Day

It became apparent that there are a number of collections of gun, carriage, ammunition and sundries drawings. It also became clear that there was no central reference of who held what. The only collection on which I am qualified to comment is that held by the Clavel Library at Firepower, Woolwich, since I have spent some fourteen years cataloguing them. It began in January 1994 when the Rotunda asked the Royal Arsenal Historical Society for volunteers to catalogue some drawings remaining from the Arsenal closure. I was the only volunteer and I was introduced to Stan Walker, who led me to a pile of rolls of linen tracings. It was agreed that I should take a number of rolls home, catalogue them and collect another batch when I returned the first. This worked well through a number of custodians and the formation of Firepower, to which the drawings were passed. Over the years more and more appeared .
They exist in two separate collections. The first is some 40,000 linen tracings in rolls, of between two to nearly five hunderd drawings each, emanating from one department, or manufacturer. Since the drawings were originally completely shuffled both in source and size, the rolls are in numerical order only in the roll. For example, roll C.I.A (A) 13. is the thirteenth roll of Chief Inspector of Armaments, (Ammunition) drawings and will undoubtedly contain drawing numbers that will interleave with drawing numbers in other C.I.A. (A) rolls of which there are twenty eight That roll contains fifty seven drawings of ammunition packing. In total there are 573 rolls and the list of all occupies just over ten pages. The drawings vary in size from A4 to 8ft. X 4ft.(a breech block, which if my memory is right is 18in.). These rolls now occupy the whole of the end wall of the library.
These drawings date from the late 19th century (very few) to WW 2. and cover everything that has the slightest connection with other than handguns. Drawings that were found to illustrate bridges, pontoons, gas masks and other non-gun subjects have been sent to more relevant regimental libraries.
The other collection, that came to light just as I was finishing the tracings in 2005, exists in two twenty-drawer steel filing cabinets. Each drawer contains between 500 to 800 envelopes each containing a (or occasionally more) 6in. X 4in. negative of a single drawing.
One cabinet is devoted to R.C.D (Royal Carriage Department) drawings, which deal with a wide variety of equipment from complete gun carriages to drag-ropes. They are in numerical order, but what might be termed subject shuffled. They cover from a few 19th. Century to, roughly, the mid –twenties. Some of the drawings come as families i.e. the 12 Pr. Q.F. Mk 1, Garrison drawings are RCD 7626A/1 – 48.There are also drawings of various wagons and limbers.
The other cabinet is devoted to R.G.F. (Royal Gun Factories) drawings. These are all (except a very few) breech loading gun barrels and the drawings are what may be thought of as “from the trunnions up” as they deal with only barrels and breech mechanisms; apart from some tools.
The RCD and RGF had two different ideas of what should be drawn. RCD drawings are pretty well all of new manufacture and, as far as I remember, do not include any modifications or repairs. On the other hand RGF show every modification and repair to even single specified guns. This resulted in some guns having several hundred drawings to there number.
For the drawings in the two, RCD and RGF, cabinets I made an index of what I have called “Gun Families “. This gives a list of the majority of the drawings relating to a particular gun. For example, the B.L. 5” Howitzer Mk I is shown on RGF 10982/1 to 34, and the 60 Pr B.L. on RCD 121290B, 14376A and RGF 11050/1 to 230, 11416/1 to 50. They range from 1 Pr. to 60 Pr. and 1 in. to 18 in. and, with one or two exceptions, are all B.L. and Q.F.
Each roll of tracings and each drawer has a printout of its contents, the library has a duplicate printouts and floppy discs of the tracing drawings lists and printouts and a C.D. of the cabinet negatives.
That’s my story of fourteen years cataloguing the Clavel drawing collection which I finished in August 2008.. Looking back there were, probably, better ways of doing it, but I began with a word processor and found the need for more and more capacity as the drawings came out of the woodwork. I still type with one finger; that’s why I only managed 25 negatives an hour. If you find difficulty in locating a particular drawing, please remember I was presented with some 40,000 tracings completely shuffled in relation to size, content and source (over 50 different) and I did what seemed a good idea at the time.
Now, what about the other sources telling us what they have got, even if it is not catalogued? I know there are drawings at Fort Nelson, Chatham, Fort Amherst, Barrow Library (Vickers), and Cambridge University and, probably, some of the regimental museums. As they say “Lets be havin’you”.
John Day

1 comment:

Stephen Summerfield said...

Dear John Day
I am an academic and I have found it frustrating the difficulty to access much of what you have cataloged. I have written a number of books on Ordnance. It was a shame that Rotunda was closed as it was a favorite place to visit growing up a few miles away in Blackfen.

I have just published the scale drawings by Charles Dupin c1816 of British Ordnance. I have a number of drawings and plans of ordnance systems. How do we get in contact?

Dr Stephen Summerfield
Loughborough University