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"Elephant Battery on NW Frontier" Topic

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alan L10 May 2012 5:41 a.m. PST

For my NW Frontier wargame army, I want to establish an elephant battery.

However, it is not the 40lb heavy artillery drawn by elephants but a field gun battery carried on the elephants themselves for use in mountainous terrain.

The only photo I can find is on page 18


Can anyone shed any light on how the gun is broken down into loads, as I cannot really make it out from the photo?

Might there be 3 loads: wheels, carriage and barrel each on an elephant or perhaps only 2: wheels and carriage on one elephant and barrel on the other?


Lion in the Stars10 May 2012 6:40 a.m. PST

Tough to tell, that photo clearly shows one set of wheels still assembled on the axle, but the tent is in the way of the next elephant or two.

It looks like there are 3 elephant-loads, though. One with an assembled set of wheels on the axle, one with what looks like a trail, and then a third set of wheels and other parts on a third.

I would suspect that the assembled set of wheels is the limber with ammunition boxes on it. Not entirely sure why that would be on the leading elephant, though!

J Womack 9410 May 2012 7:04 a.m. PST

How many cold cranking amps does an elephant battery have?

Back to seriousness, elephant batteries would be awesome on the table. Good luck with the project!

NCC171710 May 2012 7:19 a.m. PST

See page 191 of:
Minutes of proceedings of the Royal artillery institution, Volume 6



Vintage Wargaming10 May 2012 7:40 a.m. PST

Alan, there was a discussion about this a while ago on the Colonial Wars Yahoo Group (I think you are a member there?).

My contribution was remembering a YouTube clip of Gunga Din which had guns being carried on the backs of elephants. This was followed later in the film by Gatlings being brought into action off the backs of elephants. There was some discussion on the group about whether real equipment or props were being uses, if the harness would be sufficient to bear the weight etc. I have just checked and unfortunately this clip is no longer available (there may be others)

I also put some scanned images of an article from Soldier magazine by Bill Connolly October 1969 into the photo albums section (under20mm Colonial Collections) which had some pictures of elephant drawn and carried artillery – the focus was on gatlings but it might be of some interest. They are in the photos section.

I haven't seen it but apparently there is a book called War Elephants by J M Kistler which has an engravingof guns being loaded on elephants.

In the end of the discussion the main conclusions were:

"The 1850's loads seem to be:-
barrel on the first elephant,
trail on the back of the second elephant with the wheels detached and hanging on the elephant's side.
There are other elephants in the background that could be carrying disassembled limber and ammunition.

I can't say for certain what the piece being carried was. It is captioned as a small cannon but a brass 6pdr barrel would weigh 6cwt compared with a 9pdr at 13.5cwt.

The 1897 loads for the 12 or 15 pdr. RBL are:-
limber with attached wheels but with the trail pole disassembled,
barrel on the second elephant,
trail on the third elephant with wheels detached and hanging in similar manner to the previous example.

The 12pdr RBL barrel started out weighing 7cwt but a lighter barrel of 6cwt was developed for the Horse Artillery. The weight of shell was
increased to 15lbs for the field batteries.

Your suggestion of 1000lb per elephant holds good for a 6lb in 1857 and either a 12pdr 6cwt or 15pdr 7cwt in 1897.

Other maximum loads for pack animals in India were 120lb for an ass,160lb mule or bullock and 400lb for a camel."

You can find this message, in the context of its original thread, by searching for Message #87284 on the Colonial Wars Group

Hope this helps

Vintage Wargaming10 May 2012 7:41 a.m. PST

Oops. Started posting my answer before NCC1717s definitive reply appeared.

NCC171710 May 2012 10:40 a.m. PST

The engraving on page 227 of Kistler, "War Elephants," shows the gun on one elephant and the carriage and wheels on another. The wheels are disconnected from the carriage and strapped to the sides of the elephant. The caption (which must be an error) says it is from the Illustrated London News April 9, 1953. Perhaps it was 1853?. The text of the book does not mention the subject of British guns on elephants, only pulled by them.

alan L10 May 2012 10:47 a.m. PST

Very many thanks to all who replied.

I think it will call for 4 elephants: wheels, carriage, barrel, ammunition.

Jamesonsafari11 May 2012 2:39 a.m. PST

Here's how I did mine: link

alan L11 May 2012 4:39 a.m. PST

Another variation:


NCC171711 May 2012 5:29 a.m. PST

The illustration in Alan's link is the same as that on page 227 of Kistler, "War Elephants." The captions do not match, but 1877 seems more likely than 1953.

Lion in the Stars11 May 2012 1:41 p.m. PST

The 1897 loads for the 12 or 15 pdr. RBL are:-
limber with attached wheels but with the trail pole disassembled,
barrel on the second elephant,
trail on the third elephant with wheels detached and hanging in similar manner to the previous example.

So, ready ammunition would be carried on the limber and spare ammunition on the elephant hauling the trail?

Or would there be another elephant or ox-cart for spare ammunition? I mean, each shot is ~20lbs of projectile and powder, that adds up in a hurry!

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