1. That sailor should be happy to get armor, since airplane-mounted guns would not go for head-shots at high speed! I hope his harness doesn’t break! And I know there are no AA sights because this gun has not been designed for such a purpose. Either that or the sight is hidden by the armor. A butt stock would not do much good here… Get the feed strips please.

    • This photograph was probably taken very early in the war shortly after “Trillium’s” commissioning on 31st October, 1940. At that time, the Royal Navy and Royal Canadian Navy were stretched very thinly, and there were shortages of everything — ships, guns, ammunition, radar, radio sets, etc., etc., etc. Capital ships and larger escorts such as fleet destroyers had first priority in receiving new equipment, and corvettes were at the bottom of the list. They were therefore fitted with whatever was available, including hand-me-downs and old machine guns salvaged from the stores even if these were not properly navalized. The ships, and their crews, had to make do in a cruel and unforgiving war at sea against a superior and well-equipped foe.

      It was only much later, when the Allied war effort had gained considerable momentum, that the corvettes began to slowly receive newer and more capable equipment during yard refits.

  2. That sailor should be happy to get armor, since airplane-mounted guns would not go for head-shots at high speed! I hope his harness doesn’t break! And I know there are no AA sights because this gun has not been designed for such a purpose. Either that or the sight is hidden by the armor. A butt stock would not do much good here… Get the feed strips please.

  3. Well at least that sailor probably survived the war. The only ship the Trillium sank was an apparently friendly coastal merchant ship. Ran into it.

    • Yes, I believe that incident occurred as a result of a collision while “Trillium”, as part of MOEF Group C-3, was escorting Convoy ON278 in late 1944.

      Statistically, most individual convoy escorts either never scored any confirmed sinkings, or only scored one or two sinkings against the U-boats, yet were in the thickest and worst of the Battle Of The Atlantic from the beginning. This is not a reflection on the valor and skills of their crews at all. Rather, it is an indication of simple statistical probability, combined with inadequate armament and equipment ( especially proper ASDIC / sonar equipment ), superior enemy tactics, and inadequate convoy organization in the early to middle part of the war. In the latter half of the war, things improved considerably and the escorts gained the upper hand with a growing proportion of submarine kills, but statistical probability again prevailed because now the proportion of escorts to U-Boats was much higher. Later still, the heavy casualty rate among the U-Boats further diminished the chances for a kill.

      Many merchant mariners and naval personnel owe their lives to the pluckiness of the corvettes and their crews, who frequently took enormous risks rescuing the survivors of torpedoed vessels, often in the midst of a running night battle, and in waters known to be intensively patrolled by U-Boats. For example, “Trillium” herself picked up 158 survivors from three ships over a two-day period from 22nd-23rd February, 1943.

  4. HMCS “Trillium” (K172) was a Flower-class corvette, the smallest hull deemed seaworthy enough to provide year-round service in the North Atlantic. The valiant service record of the class as a whole, often in the face of overwhelming odds imposed by the sea as well as the enemy, is a matter of recorded history epitomized by Nicholas Montsarrat’s classic story, “The Cruel Sea”, which was itself closely based on his personal experiences as a corvette commander with the Atlantic convoys during the war. A very creditable and poignant film, starring Jack Hawkins, Donald Sinden, et al, was made shortly after the war based on the book. To this day, it is still one of my favorite movies of all time.

    “Trillium” was ordered by the Royal Navy on 20th January, 1940 and her keel was laid down on 20th February, 1940 at the Canadian Vickers Shipyard in Montreal. Like so many of her sisters, she was completed very quickly, and was commissioned into service on 31st October of the same year. She sailed across the Atlantic to Greenock in March 1941 for final fitting out and began her working life with Escort Group EG4 after initial working up off Tobermory.

    In June 1941, she was loaned to the Royal Canadian Navy and assigned to Newfoundland Command and subsequently the MOEF (Mid-Ocean Escort Force). During this time, “Trillium” was involved in some of the thickest and worst battles of the Atlantic convoy runs during a period when the slaughter of those convoys, and often their escorts, was at its height ; three of the more significant ones were Convoy SC100 (September 1942), ON166 (February 1943) and SC121 (March 1943).

    This gallant little ship served until the very end of the war, and escorted HX358, the last such convoy of World War Two, from Newfoundland to Northern Ireland between 25th May and 6th June, 1945. On 27th June, 1945, she was formally returned to the Royal Navy in the port of Milford Haven ; she was subsequently decommissioned and sold in 1947 to a commercial buyer for conversion into a whaling vessel.

    A sister vessel, HMS “Amethyst”, was involved in the famous “Yangtze Incident” in April 1949 and became the subject of a biographical book by Lawrence Earl, which in turn was made into a fact-based cinematic drama that went by various titles such as “Yangtze Incident”, “Battle Hell”, “Their Greatest Glory” and “Escape Of The Amethyst”. There is a very interesting and detailed personal inside account of the actual incident (and the ship and her crew) at the Naval Historical Society Of Australia’s web site at http://www.navyhistory.org.au/hms-amethyst-the-yangtse-incident-1948.

    • Earl,

      If you are interested, there are plans of the Flower-class corvette available for free download in PDF format here: http://www.hnsa.org/doc/plans/ There are 2 architectural drawings showing a starboard elevation and 4 plan-views of the decks and hold. If you right-click on the drawing sheet and click Document Properties, you can see the size of the original piece of paper that was scanned. In addition, there are also plans for MANY other types from PT boats to aircraft carriers at the following link: http://www.hnsa.org/doc/plans/ There are even some famous names in the list. Check it out.

  5. To paraphrase Wallace Shawn from “The Princess Bride”, “Why the volume of fire from that gun would be INCONCEIVABLE!” 😉

    You know you’re sucking wind when you’re as bad off as the Japanese in the sustained firepower department!

    Oh well, at least they didn’t have Pancho Villa to contend with…

    • Given that several Japanese machine-gunners were good enough crack-shots to have telescopic sights on their magazine-fed or strip-fed machine-guns, Pancho Villa would probably not want to charge at them on horseback unless he wanted to get decapitated.

      • I’m not certain that wasn’t more due to TO&E than any individual skill.

        As a rule, I don’t recall Japanese Army types being known for exceptional marksmanship skill, even their snipers. They got the job done, but in terms of sustained firepower, they were always on the short end of the stick when faced with a modern army, not a term I’d use to describe the Chinese and French Indo-China armies.

        Of course my point was the inherent inferiority of strip fed guns such as the Portative and Benet-Mercier.

        • Agreed. I’d prefer a belt-fed machine gun. Strip-fed guns usually need more oil. If you want a strip-fed gun, go with the heavy-hitters like the Breda 35 20 mm Anti-aircraft cannon. And get a good gunnery team on that thing.

          For such a gun, target enemy machine guns first, especially when they are belt-fed and mounted on vehicles that aren’t tanks!

          • A couple of times in the last few weeks I’ve seen Japanese newsreel footage of an IJN machine gun crew, supposedly shooting at US Navy aircraft from the deck of a ship with a Type 92, although the clip was so fast, you couldn’t tell if it was on ship or shore. In any case, the gunner was at a considerable disadvantage against modern aircraft. I imagine they tried the same thing during the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. Results were… sub-optimal… 🙂

          • OTOH, the 40mm Bofors was fed with five-round clips dropped into the guides on top, and the 2omm Oerlikon fed from a drum. And there were very few complaints about either one.

            Mainly, I suspect, because the Bofors shell was heavy enough that one solid hit could do in anything much smaller that a Ju-88, and a full burst from even a single “40”, let alone a dual or quad mount, could virtually dismantle most twin-engine bombers in midair.

            As for the 20mm Oerlikon, its job was to fill the air with steel and explosives through sheer numbers and volume of fire. If the Bofors was a 12-gauge double “goose gun”, the Oerlikon was a 20-gauge semi-auto suitable for “upland game”.

            One of my uncles served aboard the New Jersey and Missouri as a radio operator during the war, and he said that prior to Okinawa, nobody had a bad word to say about the 20mm Oerlikons that crowded every spare square foot of the BBs’ decks, precisely because of the hailstorm of fire they could put out. But when the kamikaze campaign began, everybody quickly realized that the 20mm just didn’t throw a heavy enough shell to keep even a bomb-loaded Zeke from slamming into the ships. As he put it, once the plane was aimed at you, killing the pilot or the engine didn’t matter; it was still going to hit you and lay a 500-pound bomb on your deck.

            After that, the 20’s were derisively referred to as “door knockers”, and BuOrd took notice. Note how quickly the fully-automatic twin 3-inch AA/dual purpose was put into service after VJ Day. (The slightly later Army “Skysweeper” 75mm had a lot in common with the Navy gun system, IIRC.) The idea being to literally disintegrate the attacker in midair, and preferably far enough off the beam that the blast of whatever he was hauling wouldn’t frag the upperworks.

            Today, cruise missiles, and especially air-launched anti-ship missiles like Harpoon, SLAM, Exocet, Kormoran, and Sea Eagle, pretty much require the same treatment. Fortunately, the 20mm CIWS seems to do a pretty good job, and the 30mm Goalkeeper used by some of the NATO navies is even better, since it fires a variant of the GAU-8/A “Avenger” round used by the A-10.

            One hit in the right place can probably take down a patrol missile boat, let alone an ASM and/or the fighter that unloaded it.



          • “Fortunately, the 20mm CIWS seems to do a pretty good job, and the 30mm Goalkeeper used by some of the NATO navies is even better, since it fires a variant of the GAU-8/A “Avenger” round used by the A-10.”

            I’ve got an issue of “International Defense Review” with a feature on Goalkeeper. There are pictures of it shooting down a 5″ shell.

          • Chris;

            OK, my opinion of the Goalkeeper just went from “pretty darned impressive” to “freakin’ awesome”.




          • “OK, my opinion of the Goalkeeper just went from “pretty darned impressive” to “freakin’ awesome”.”

            And just so you know, that article is from (as I recall) 1984.

            I imagine the gun laying system has been (or could be) improved somewhat since then…

          • Well, if you can’t decide between a 20 mm and 40 mm just mount one of each on the bow:


            and a swivel mortar on the stern. There were some MK 3s running around Korea during my time in the 70s, and we considered them to be the only surface-Navy folks who had as much fun (read “were as nuts”) as submarine sailors. The “Super Swifts” – a rather misleading name; they were never intended for riverine work – were a very flexible platform. Very small crew – a junior officer, a chief, and four enlisted was standard, I think – but lots of firepower available (see TOE) for passengers. They surplused off the last of the MK3s a few years ago… no weapons of course but as I recall they went for about $50K and then you had to figure out how to get it home from Guam. Would definitely raise some eyebrows at the yacht club!

      • I agree with Chris Morton. While the Japanese machine-gunners were as good as those in any other army, the purpose of the telescopic sights probably had more to do with long-range placement of bursts in the immediate vicinity of the target, or long-range indirect fire, than with pin-point marksmanship. This would have been similar to the usage of the Zeiss ZF-series optical sight systems found on the MG34 and MG42 machine guns.

      • The use of scopes on machine guns by the Japanese was to increase accuracy and reduce ammunition expenditure. The Japanese did not believe in laying down high volumes of sustained fire with their machine guns like almost every other army did. They considered it wasting ammunition to no useful end.

  6. H.M.S. Aethyst was a “Black Swan”class a much more powerful ship(6 x 4″ vs. 1 x 4”).The Black Swan class was the high end of the escort spctrem and Flower class the low.

    • Hi, Dennis :

      You are correct. I had meant to say in the last paragraph that HMS “Amethyst” was from an improved class of escort ( specifically, a sloop, later re-classified as a frigate ) rather than a sister vessel to the “Trillium”, but somewhere in the editing a couple of lines got mixed up and it posted incorrectly.

      Thanks for catching it!

  7. @ eon :

    Don’t forget, though, that the wartime Bofors 40mm naval twin and quad mounts had two additional advantages that helped offset the need to be manually fed with 5-round clips, namely :

    1. The gun crews were provided with sufficient trained personnel to sustain the ammunition demand in a prolonged fight.

    2. Accuracy was greatly enhanced, especially from late 1942 onwards, by centralized fire-control based on the Mark 51 Director, resulting in the expenditure of less ammunition in exchange for a much higher hit probability ; the Mark 51 was later supplemented by, or replaced with, the even more effective Mark 63 GFCS, equipped with Mark 28 or Mark 34 range-finding radar and fully capable of blind firing.

    As for the 20mm Oerlikon, sufficient manpower was also provided to handle quick repeated drum changes to minimize down time.

    • Earl;

      Yes. My uncle said that the MK 51 cut 40mm ammo expenditure nearly in half, and the later systems practically made it a fully-automatic system in terms of target selection and engagement.

      And keep in mind that this was all done before modern microchips, in what Mr. Spock once called a “zinc-plated, vacuum-tube culture”.

      Of course, the 16″/50 main battery of the Iowas was laid by a purely mechanical computer that Charles Babbage would probably have understood perfectly, and might not have been a puzzle for the Greek artisan who fabricated the Antikythera mechanism. They were still using it in the 1990s, simply because no “modern” replacement did the same job noticeably better or faster.

      As for rapidity of loading, the U.S. Army didn’t put an autoloader in the M1 Abrams for two reasons. Partly because an extra husky tanker comes in handy in the field, but more importantly because no autoloader they could fit into the turret was as fast and reliable as a trained crewman doing the same job.

      The fact that not having to leave room for an autoloader assembly in the turret bustle allowed the to pack more rounds into the ammo storage compartment didn’t hurt their feelings, either.

      There’s always more than one way to skin a cat. (With apologies to the ailurophiles in the audience. ;-))



      • Don’t know a thing about tanks (aside from ballast and trim tanks, of course) but everything I’ve read about the autoloader in late-Cold War Soviet tanks said it was roundly hated by its users. “Even slower and more unreliable than your average Ukrainian conscript” is a comment I read somewhere.

        • This was especially true of the early T-64 and T-72 MBT’s, which helped pioneer autoloaders for the Soviet Army. Like any form of relatively new mechanical technology, the early Soviet autoloaders left a lot of room for improvement, but this precept is also true of any new device, regardless of national origin or design. As with any other form of technology, the autoloaders were progressively improved and/or redesigned over time and have since evolved into reliable devices that provide precise, high-speed reloading.

      • Hi, Eon :

        Thanks for the reply. Yes, the Mark 51 and Mark 63 are but two of innumerable examples of how properly-designed and integrated “old-tech” can work every bit as well under harsh operational conditions as so-called “new-tech”. Some of the young “wizards” I know continue to be amazed, in spite of all their technological savvy, at how reliable the older fire-control systems were. Granted, these systems might not have the extreme compactness and modularity or the expanded capability of the modern digital ( or even earlier analog ) versions of the modern era, but they nevertheless worked very well, and with utmost reliability where it mattered, for their intended purpose.

        As a byline comment, the original purpose for introducing autoloaders in the ( then ) new-generation T-64 and T-72 MBT’s was to reduce the size of the fighting compartment to a minimum, and therefore keep the physical size of the tank relatively small, with a consequently low battlefield silhouette and visual signature. As has been pointed out many times, there were a lot of teething problems with the early autoloaders beyond reduced ready-use ammunition capacity ( which the Soviet designers had already accepted as worth the trade-off ), such as slow reload rates and the possibility of a crew member becoming snagged in the operating mechanism of the autoloader. Like any other relatively new mechanical technology, these autoloaders were subject to product improvement and even redesign over time in order to iron out the bugs, and their present-day equivalents are definitely safer, more precise and much, much faster.

        Having said that, I personally think a good old living, breathing, thinking Mark 1 human loader is still the most reliable, versatile and adaptable “loading device” there is for obvious reasons.

  8. @ Chris Morton :

    I’m guessing your copy of IDR featuring the Signaal Goalkeeper probably dates from the early 1980’s, when the system first began to be widely marketed in concert with its HSA (Hollandse Signaal Apparaten) fire-control radar, at that time reputed to be one of the best in the world at discriminating very small, fast-moving target cross-sections, i.e., sea-skimming missiles, against heavy sea clutter.

    Hang on to it — those original copies of IDR are pretty rare nowadays.

    • Yeah, I just pointed out how old that story was.

      I love IDR. I wish I could get it here. I simply can’t afford a subscription.

      Cleveland’s never been a good place for people who like to read serious material, and with the passing of Borders, B. Dalton and Waldenbooks, it’s gotten MUCH worse.

      • Hi, Chris :

        Ditto on the subscription cost ( the publication was originally intended for professional military and governmental organizations, which can obviously afford it ). The demise of storefront bookstores carrying a wide spectrum of available publications seems to be almost universal in the light of the so-called “new economy”. In this case, as in many others, new is not necessarily better.

  9. thanks to those of you who have inciteful and intelligent comments to the others whos thoughts are simply amusing thanks also

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