Bombard (weapon)

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Bombard mortar and granite ball projectile of the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem, Rhodes, 1480–1500. Founded at the request of Pierre d'Aubusson, the bombard was used for close defense of the walls (100–200 meters) at the Siege of Rhodes. It fired 260 kg granite balls. The bombard weighs about 3,325 kg. Musée de l'Armée.

The bombard is a cannon or mortar used in medieval times. It was a large caliber, muzzle-loading artillery piece mainly used during sieges to throw stone balls at opponent’s walls. The primary use was to break down the walls of the enemy so the army could get to the enemy. Most bombards were made of iron and used gunpowder to launch the projectile through the air.[1] There are many types of bombards, including Mons Meg, the Dardanelles Gun, and the handheld bombard. Bombards were part of a family of superguns that had a big role in history. They were used throughout the Middle Ages and the early modern period and had a profound impact on many wars.

History of bombards[edit]

Main article: History of cannon

The oldest representation of a bombard can be found in the Chinese town of Ta-tsu. In 1985, Robin Yates was visiting Buddhist cave temples when he saw a sculpture on the wall depicting a demon holding a hand-held bombard. The muzzle seems to have a blast and flames coming from it which some believe is proof of some type of super gun. Yates examined the cave and believed the drawings dated back to the late 12th century.[2]

The British began using cannons in the late 14th century. They first used them as defensive weapons but then began using them as siege weapons. Henry IV, Henry V, and James II won battles with the use of bombards. James II destroyed many castles with his one and a half ton cannon named "The Lion".[1]

Most bombards started with the construction of a wooden core surrounded by iron bars. Then, iron hoops were driven over these bars in order to surround and cover them. The whole structure was then welded with a hammer while it was still hot at about 1300 degrees. The rings then subsequently cooled and formed over the bars to secure them. The last step was to incinerate the wooden core and to attach a one-piece cast. The complicated procedure required a highly skilled forge who could work quickly and precisely with a hammer.[1]

Notable examples[edit]

A notable example of a bombard is the large Mons Meg weapon, built around 1449 and used by King James II of Scotland. It was very powerful and used for bringing down castle walls.[3] The origins of the Mons Meg are not fully known but according to Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, it was his idea. It was ordered around 1449 and had similar construction to a typical bombard.[4] However, the Mons Meg was seldom used because of several factors. First of all, it was incredibly hard to transfer because it could not be disassembled and additional frames were needed to keep it steady during battle.[5] These frames were not reliable and also very dangerous, claiming two deaths in the defense of Edinburgh when it was being set.[1] Mons Meg was capable of firing 180 kg (396 lb) shots and was one of the largest bombards in its time. It is now housed on public display at Edinburgh Castle.

Other known 15th century superguns include the wrought-iron Pumhart von Steyr and Dulle Griet as well as the cast-bronze Faule Mette, Faule Grete, and Grose Bochse. The Tsar Cannon is a late 16th century show-piece.

The Dardanelles Gun, built in the Ottoman Empire in 1464 by Munir Ali, with a weight of 18.6 t and a length of 518 cm, was capable of firing stone balls of up to 63 cm diameter.[6]

Eventually bombards were superseded by weapons using smaller calibre iron projectiles with more powerful gunpowder.

Gallery[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Sands, Kathleen. "Though One Of The Best-Documented Of Medieval Bombards, Mons Meg Was The Subject Of Exaggeration And Legend." Military History 16.3 (1999): 22. Academic Search Premier. Web. 31 Mar. 2013.
  2. ^ Lu Gwei-Djen, Joseph Needham and Phan Chi-Hsing. Technology and Culture , Vol. 29, No. 3 (Jul., 1988), pp. 594-605
  3. ^ http://www.maybole.org/history/castles/norham.htm
  4. ^ W. H. Finlayson. The Scottish Historical Review , Vol. 27, No. 104, Part 2 (Oct., 1948), pp. 124-126
  5. ^ Cvikel, Deborah, and Haim Goren. "Where Are Bonaparte's Siege Cannon? An Episode In The Egyptian Campaign."Mediterranean Historical Review 23.2 (2008): 129-142. Academic Search Premier. Web. 31 Mar. 2013.
  6. ^ Schmidtchen (1977b), pp. 226–228

References[edit]

1. Sands, Kathleen. "Though One Of The Best-Documented Of Medieval Bombards, Mons Meg Was The Subject Of Exaggeration And Legend." Military History 16.3 (1999): 22. Academic Search Premier. Web. 31 Mar. 2013.

2. Lu Gwei-Djen, Joseph Needham and Phan Chi-Hsing. Technology and Culture, Vol. 29, No. 3 (Jul., 1988), pp. 594–605

3. W. H. Finlayson. The Scottish Historical Review, Vol. 27, No. 104, Part 2 (Oct., 1948), pp. 124–126

4. Cvikel, Deborah, and Haim Goren. "Where Are Bonaparte's Siege Cannon? An Episode In The Egyptian Campaign."Mediterranean Historical Review 23.2 (2008): 129-142. Academic Search Premier. Web. 31 Mar. 2013.

Further reading[edit]

  • Schmidtchen, Volker (1977a), "Riesengeschütze des 15. Jahrhunderts. Technische Höchstleistungen ihrer Zeit", Technikgeschichte 44 (2): 153–173 
  • Schmidtchen, Volker (1977b), "Riesengeschütze des 15. Jahrhunderts. Technische Höchstleistungen ihrer Zeit", Technikgeschichte 44 (3): 213–237 
  • Smith, Robert Douglas; DeVries, Kelly (2005), The artillery of the Dukes of Burgundy, 1363–1477, Boydell Press, ISBN 978-1-84383-162-4