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ridge was found complete and ready to receive its bullet.
Upstairs we found boys busy at this operation; i.e., placing a bullet in each paper case, and tying it up to receive the powder, which is kept in sheds in a remote part of the Arsenal, far away from the workshops. Here were also the copper cap machines, supplied by boys with long bands of pure copper, which were drawn into the machine, and there cut into crosses by punches; they then fell into a die, which doubled them up into the well-known shape (it scarcely took a moment!), and the finished caps were dropping out more rapidly than you could count them. Boys
are again employed to fit them into a perforated metal tray, and this is handed over to a sedate-looking old workman, who has charge of the dangerous composition with which they are filled. How carefully he ladles a bare handful of this white powder into a little wooden bowl, placing himself inside a railed off space, which encloses his machine. Down goes the tray of empty caps beneath a silver-looking plate, perforated with small holes, under each of which lies a cap; a small wooden spade then spreads the composition on the topmost plate, filling up each orifice, and every surplus grain is most scrupulously returned to the bowl, which is locked up as
before. By means of a gentle screw, the tray of caps is now slowly lowered and removed to a neighbouring machine, where each cap is subjected to a pressure of 800 lbs. (one exploded during this operation, and startled me not a little); a coating of shell-lac gives the finishing touch, rendering them impervious to moisture. An accident once occurred at another of these cap-filling machines from some unexplained cause; as the workman was ladling up the surplus composition, it suddenly exploded, driving the fragments of his machine in every direction, and taking off, at the same time, three fingers of the unfortunate man's hand, besides burning him dreadfully in the face. No one else was
injured in the factory; but had not the rules for using so little of this dangerous ingredient been strictly carried out, many lives would have fallen a sacrifice.
Gladly leaving this heated atmosphere, we took the road to old Father Thames. He was as dirty as ever, despite the main drainage, and a seething mass ran past us on its way to the sea. The riverside presented a busy scene. Large cranes lined the whole length of the wharf wall, many of them busily engaged in loading and unloading the barges and small steamers which lay alongside. Near these cranes is a long iron-roofed shed, under whose protecting care lay a number of guns, warlike stores, &c.,
labelled for different parts of our extended empire. Gun-carriages for Portsmouth and Malta, tin cases for Gibraltar, shot and shell for New Zealand, old guns from Leith Fort, new ones for Hong Kong and Canada, and heaps of rusty shot and shell from Corfu and Zante.
At the back of this shed are millions of cannon balls, piled one above the other in pyramidical heaps, round shot for guns, larger ones still for mortars and the more impudent looking Armstrongs, ready for any emergency. Bob said they generally kept three million of these little things, in case they might be wanted in a hurry.
The round shot are brought down to the shore for exportation on a raised kind of railway, along which they are rolled by men placed at various intervals.
In the centre of the wharf is a long pier, shaped like the letter T, which reaches far into the river; the larger ships were lying here, having their stores brought to them by trucks running on a tramway. So convenient is this pier for landing and embarking from at all stages of the tide, that not only do the soldiers of the garrison make use of it, but Royalty itself often graces it with its presence.
We now turned off to the right, and stood facing an enormous mortar, certainly fifteen feet high; two large shells, evidently belonging to it, were lying at its base. Bob explained to me that this was one of the once famous mortars constructed by Mr. Mallet, which were to reduce Sebastopol to ashes in a few days; the shells, weighing 3000 lbs., and loaded with a charge of 400 lbs. of powder, were to fly for miles and to burst on falling like a small mine, carrying death and destruction in every direction. The drawings and plans of this monster were laid before the scientific committee for proving inventions; they shook their wise heads, and said it was altogether wrong in principle, and would never answer. Government, however, had made up their minds to give them a trial, and they were ordered; but alas! when fired, they would come to pieces, and these
large shells could not be made to go as far as a common mortar, These experiments must have cost the nation some 20,000l., and the mortars themselves never left Woolwich. Close to this useless giant were some curious guns captured in the late Chinese war: they were lined inside with wrought iron tubes'Just what we are doing now to our old guns,' said Bob, to try and make them strong enough to bear rifling.' Their wheel tires were studded with large-headed nails, which made one think how painful it would be to be run over by them!
More of poor John Chinaman's spoils were scattered around us. Large bronze guns, covered with tea-chest-looking inscriptions, and embellished with drawings of butterflies, stags, and storks. Wonderful people!
A few yards further were two Russian guns upon their iron carriages, just as they were found in the Redan on that memorable morning: no wonder the poor things were left behind! They were almost battered to pieces by our shot, which had cut great grooves in them, and even entered their very mouths.
A solemn shade passed over Bob's countenance, and sad memories of a bygone day were roused by the sight of these now silent foes. I knew he had borne his part on that fatal morning which brought sorrow and grief to many a fond heart at home, and had been present when so many of his former comrades were laid side by side beneath the earthworks of that great Redan.
We now entered a large building close by-the harness store-filled with piles upon piles of horses' shoes, saddles, gun and cavalry harness, and such like; the roof was garnished with pendant curb chains looking like a steel grapery, and everything was order and neatness personified. Here were 20,000 sets of artillery harness, and any number of cavalry saddles and bridles. How many large rooms we passed through, all full to the ceiling, I don't know, but they seemed endless. Astonished at these vast supplies, I asked Bob if we had any other arsenal.
"This is truly the only one,' said he, for the Portsmouth Arsenal is but an insignificant affair, and, would you believe it? though the country is now so busily engaged fortifying all the dockyards, this most important place is left all but defenceless; there is nothing whatever to prevent the enemy coming up the river Thames with their small steelplated steamers and firing Woolwich, and then we should be in a pretty mess. There would not be time to move one-fiftieth of the stores now accumulated here, and all the valuable machinery and workshops would fall a prey to the flames. There are certainly fortifications at Sheerness, but the ships need not go near them; the Thames is wide enough
to let small steamers pass on the other side, and the batteries at Gravesend and Tilbury are not worth much, while there are none whatever at Woolwich.'
We found in one of these stores a very curious gun in the shape of a fish; it had formerly belonged to the late King of Delhi, was captured when that place fell during the Indian mutiny, and afterwards placed in the Arsenal by the late Lord Canning. It certainly seemed more ornamental than useful.
Close by were wooden mules with little guns strapped upon their backs, angry-looking varmints! they are light and handy little things though, and capable of much mischief.
Other mules were provided with ambulances for carrying the sick and wounded, consisting of a kind of pannier on each side of the animal, or else mere stretchers, which doubled up and formed a sort of arm-chair. Bob told me these were not so much used in the Crimea as waggons with trays, upon which the poor fellows were laid, and pulled in and out like drawers; they were more comfortable for the worst cases than those on the backs of animals, which, from the perpetual jolting, shake the sufferer most painfully.
Other dummy mules were carrying miniature forges, others boxes of horse-shoes; in fact, everything that would be required for mountain warfare.
On leaving these immense stores, we wended our way once more along the river wall, and on reaching the end, my guide remarked that we were approaching the cemetery,
where were deposited the remains of those who had been destroyed by accident.
Wondering why the poor fellows had not been decently interred in the churchyard, I inquired whether the ground was
crated? He laughed most heartily, saying, 'Oh, dear, no! it's the guns I'm talking about.' Sure enough, they were all laid out in regular rows, their broken limbs reverently placed together; and it was curious to notice how they had nearly all burst in the same way. One piece of the gun flies forward, another backwards, and the sides separate laterally. Some of these accidents had been fatal to the gunners employed: but, as the Armstrong gun does not burst, but only opens out at the joinings, it is hoped these calamities will cease. Many of these old guns, however, had been burst on purpose for experiment.
Close upon the cemetery I saw
six huge breech-loading guns; the great round breech was made to slide back, and then, the charge being inserted, it was closed up again. These are Yankee swindles,' said Bob; for in the time of the Crimean war, a cute Yankee came over with a small model of a breechloading gun which was to do wonders; our Government, anxious to get hold of anything that would floor Sebastopol, bought the patent, and ordered six guns from the inventor. They were to throw a shot ten inches in diameter, and the Yankee was to have so much per lb. weight for them; but the specification was not carefully enough worded; our people expected them to weigh about three tons, so you may fancy their astonishment when these monsters arrived at Woolwich, weighing some 17 tons each. Of course they could not be moved, much less used, and there they are just as they left the ship! I wonder our people did not try to resell them to the Yankees when their little war broke out.
We continued our route, and arrived at the gun-field. Thirty thousand smooth-bores were lying in long rows upon railway iron: considering how many of them must now be useless, it is no wonder that many of the bases of the lamp-posts in Woolwich are nothing but old guns.
Workmen were putting new touch-holes into some, and examining the insides of others to see whether they were fit for use. In a corner rested some ancient relics of the deep-old iron guns which had been fished up some time back from the briny. They belonged when new to the' Mary Rose,' lost in the days of the eighth Harry. They seemed mere pigmies to the giants by which they were surrounded; and the thought struck me that even these very monsters, at some future day, might be mere playthings as compared to later inventions.
My attention was now directed to a range of workshops, in which such a clatter of banging and thumping was going on, accompanied by clouds of smoke and steam, that I I did not like to venture in. These
were the head-quarters of the great Armstrong, whose name, not long ago known scarcely beyond Newcastle, has now become a household word to many nations. Bob surprised me by saying that so great was the secret of this invention when it was first brought out, that even the gallant artillery general who then commanded at Woolwich was not allowed to witness the process of manufacture. He and his staff were one day actually seen waiting outside this very workshop, while some foreign princes who happened to be provided with a special order from our Government, were admitted and had everything explained to them. But the whole thing is well known to everybody now. It is supposed that other nations do not manufacture them, either because they think they have a better gun of their own, or that they have not the machinery or mechanics to make them.
Outside the factory, men were busy unloading waggons filled with bars of tough-looking iron, about 12 feet long and 2 inches broad; inside, these bars were joined together by welding, then placed in an oven till red hot, and afterwards drawn out and wound like a rope round an iron drum, thus forming a coil of metal. A little further, we saw this coil in its second stage; it had been again heated in a furnace, and the Nasmyth hammer was now forcing the iron into one mass, till it became a cylinder of unbroken metal; two of these cylinders were then hammered together, and so on till the rough gun was complete.
I must not, however, omit to mention one of the centre coils, to which were attached the arms or trunnions which support the gun upon its carriage. The hammering of this mass was conducted in another foundry; and when we arrived it had already been well beaten, and was just about to issue once more from its furnace for another welding. A long iron bar, as a handle, was fastened to it; and on opening the furnace-door, there it lay, so white with heat, we could scarcely look at it. Twenty men now seized the bar, a crane was
set to work, and the glowing metal emerging from its den, was carefully laid down upon its iron bed, under the most ponderous hammer I had ever seen; it came down with a crash that made the ground tremble under our feet, and is so powerful that it is capable of striking a blow of 200 tons, notwithstanding which it can be managed with such delicacy as to crack a nut without bruising the kernel.
It is said that 1000 tons of different material were laid down to form a foundation for the bed, but the soil being marshy, the tremulous motion is felt at a great distance.
At the first blow we were covered with sparks, which, however, became fewer as the metal cooled; the heat found a refuge in the twenty workmen. Poor fellows! how they perspired, and how exhausted they were when, after a good hammering, our friend was returned to his den for another heating.
Half cooked and half stunned, I followed Bob through many other factories where these guns were being turned, and rifled, and drilled: I do not, however, remember much about them, except that I brought away with me a beautiful long curl, which had been culled, not from the locks of the chief engineer, but from the pate of a brawny Armstrong who was being Bantingized down to his proper size by a steel chisel, which stuck to the helpless creature like a leech, and from which there was no escape.
How pretty the baby Armstrongs were as I saw them, spick and span in the finishing-room, where men with delicate hands and accurate vision were giving them the last touches prior to their being removed to the proving butt.
The large ones are tested by firing off a bar of iron weighing 1000 lbs., and if they stand the test of such an explosion ten times without injury, they are considered fit for use.
We now turned our backs on guns and our faces towards shot and shell. Small waggons filled with old iron, lumps of chalk, &c., were being emptied into a furnace, end a grunt of delight, accompanied
by yellow-bluish flames issuing from its mouth, told us how these delicacies had been appreciated.
On the other side of this furnace a man crept up, and with a long iron rod removed the clay stopper, and out poured the molten metal, like fiery soup, into an iron caldron, which was wheeled off when full and replaced by another. From these the moulds were filled, and after a short interval for cooling, they were taken outside, where palefaced men with bare arms and flannel gloves removed the rivets and tossed out the red-hot shot into the sand to cool. These men had numerous scars upon their arms, and said it was too hot and weakening to protect them by wearing flannel sleeves; but not long ago an officer had recommended them to use whitening for their burns, and it had succeeded so well that they now kept a boxful always ready for use, and plastered it over the wound directly after the accident.
As we passed out of this factory we admired the beautiful metal gates, and then, wending our way through immense piles of timber, we reached the sawing-mills. As we approached, the noise was deafening, and a steel wheel, covered with sharp teeth, and revolving at a marvellous rate, rose from some underground habitation, and made its way towards a goodly oak lying on the ground; quickly it passed through it, cutting it in two parts in as many minutes. The severed block was then laid upon a moveable frame, which conveyed it under seven or eight upright saws, and these, when set to work, very soon disposed of the noble stem, dividing it into eight or nine stout planks. Alas! there was no one to cry 'Woodman, spare that tree.'
Close by is the wheel-factory, where the different parts of the wheels are cut out by machinery and then pressed together.
In the adjoining yard we found a Turkish tombstone, with its curious characters written in gold upon a slab of granite, the top of which had been shaped into a fez and coloured scarlet. Bob told me how the poor Turks lost their tomb