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The guns had a very low rate of fire, as the following quote suggests:

“At target practice in 1887 four rounds fired from one gun in 6 minutes (and scoring 3 hits at 1,500 yards).” And even this must been under ideal conditions, as later documentation (Gunnery Manual 1900) quotes a firing rate of one round every 3 minutes.

This section looks at the reloading cycle of the port turret. The first picture shows that both turrets could be fired on a broadside. However, the reloading mechanism required that the guns be trained on the beam (starboard turret to Green 90, port turret to Red 85), run in to their recoiled position and elevated to the maximum angle (13 degrees) to line up with the hydraulic loading rams.

Firing at a target on the starboard beam meant that the port turret had to be slowly trained back over to the port beam for reloading. The starboard turret does not have so far to travel. Training speed would be about 360 degrees in one minute, adding a full minute to the reload time for the offside turret.


The reloading mechanism and gun crew were situated within the armoured citadel.

The main armour belt was made up of a layer of compound armour approximately 18 inches thick on the beams and backed by two further bands of teak. The oval shaped citadel was 123 ft long and protected the reloading and training equipment, and also the engines and boilers situated one deck below. The belt extended from 6 foot 6 inches below the water line to the deck height of 9 ft 6 inches above. [2]

Within the citadel gun deck, we see the two turrets with their loading rams. At the forward and after ends are found the lifts and trunks to the magazines. A trainable 14 inch torpedo tube is mounted on either beam. This space was also home to a number of seamen or stokers – their mess tables and benches are shown but not their mess lockers, which would have been secured to the armoured bulkhead.


The loading rams in Colossus were pivoted and raised to line up with the guns when loading. In Edinburgh, the rams were fixed in the loading position.

A turret's crew consisted of a Captain of the Turret, a 2nd Captain of the Turret and a team of 11 men for each gun who were referred to by numbers: No 1 to No 11. Each numbered role had specific duties in the gun drill.

The Captain of Turret is at the principal sighting position (a central platform within the turret).

Nos 1, 2 and 3 of each gun are inside the turret.

The 2nd Captain of Turret was outside at the loading position.

The first step was to lock the turret in reloading position. This was done by No 3 of the right gun by inserting the inside locking bolt, as the 2nd Captain worked the outside locking bolt. It was vital that the turret be accurately aligned with the loading rams and that it should not rotate during loading.

The drill for the turret crew will be covered in more detail in the next pages.

(c) 2008 Rob Brassington, all rights reserved