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First use in battle? http://www.wired.com/thisdayintech/2009/08/0826crecy_cannon/


Aug. 26, 1346: First Cannon Fired in Battle, Maybe


By Tony Long Email Author

August 26, 2009 |

12:00 am |

Categories: 1400 and earlier, Inventions, Warfare and Military


english_gun_used_at_crecy1346: Genoese mercenaries fighting under Philip VI of France are surprised, unpleasantly, when they are among the first soldiers in history to come under cannon fire.


It has been claimed that this battle, which occurred near Crécy in northern France early in the Hundred Years War, marks the first use of cannon on the battlefield. Like many claims that reach us through the mists of time, this one is hard to verify and is oft disputed: According to Arab historian Ahmad Y. al-Hassan, the Mamluks employed the “first cannon in history” against the Mongols at the Battle of Ain Jalut in 1260. In the end, it may come down to how the word “cannon” was defined in those days.


Gunpowder weapons in general were new and very rare in the 13th century — the first documented use of a handgun in Europe dates only from 1284, in Italy — and the French may have used their own version of the cannon against England’s Edward III at Cambrai seven years before they ran into him again at Crécy. But Edward usually gets the credit for bringing the big guns to war. The English reportedly deployed between five and 22 of them on the field at Crécy.


In any case, these were a far cry from the Krupp-built Prussian breech-loaders that decimated the French at Sedan in 1870. The actual damage caused by Edward’s primitive cannon was negligible, not surprising when you consider that the projectile was merely a stone that had been rounded into something resembling a cannonball. But the guns flashed and made a loud noise, and nothing like them had been seen by these soldiers before.


It was a psychological shock to the Genoese crossbowmen, and the French knights who rode in behind them, but the effect was not lasting. Despite the presence of cannon, the decisive weapons of battle remained what they had always been in medieval warfare: the bow, the ax, the mace, the dagger and the sword.


The 6,000 or so Genoese crossbowmen, perhaps rattled by the cannonade, opened fire prematurely on the English lines. The crossbow was a terribly effective weapon inside 200 yards, its flat trajectory enabling the missile to penetrate a knight’s armor. But on this day the Genoese were too far away, and their arrows fell short.


The English longbowmen, whose feathered arrows were fired at a much faster rate using a high trajectory, rained down destruction on the Genoese. Those who didn’t fall under English arrows were run down by the mounted French knights, who apparently didn’t think much of their erstwhile allies.


The battle then unfolded in the usual way, with the chaos and carnage of knights clashing in close-quarter combat.


Crécy was a decisive English victory and a crushing defeat for Philip VI. Not only were the French routed, suffering upwards of 30,000 casualties, but the road to the chief Channel port of Calais was now open to the English. It fell after a siege that lasted nearly a year.


Although its battlefield debut was underwhelming, the cannon was here to stay. Within a few decades, most major combatants — and there were plenty — had powder-and-shot cannons in their arsenals. The French fired 100-pound stone balls during a siege in 1375, Balkan gunners fired on Venetian ships in 1378, and the Ottoman Turks reportedly used cannon at the First Battle of Kosovo in 1389.


From Crécy onward, the cannon and the smaller-caliber handguns and rifles would continue evolving side by side, as man worked diligently to perfect a favorite pastime.


ALSO of interest, if 4 months late:

Birth of Alfred Krupp




April 26, 1812: Birth of Krupp, the ‘Cannon King’


By Tony Long Email Author

April 26, 2011 |

7:00 am |

Categories: 19th century, Business and Industry, Warfare and Military


1812: Alfred Krupp is born in Essen, Germany.


While the Krupp Konzern has always manufactured machinery and machine components from high-grade cast steel, the company is best known for producing perhaps the finest artillery ever seen in warfare.


It was Alfred Krupp, a staunch patriot at a time when Germany was struggling toward unification, who set the tone. The artillery produced by the Konzern was excellent, both in terms of its component quality and its accuracy, earning Alfred the sobriquet der Kanonenkonig, or “Cannon King.”


By the time of Krupp’s death in 1887, roughly half of the company’s business was tied up in armaments production. By then, the firm employed 20,000 workers, making it the largest industrial company on earth.


It was Krupp’s breech-loading cannon that annihilated the French army at Sedan in the Franco-Prussian War, Krupp’s “Kaiser Wilhelm” gun that shelled Paris from an incredible 75 miles away in 1918, and the versatile Krupp-made 88mm gun that, during World War II, was equally effective as an artillery piece, a tank killer and an anti-aircraft weapon.


But Alfred was as loyal to his business as he was to his country, so Krupp artillery pieces found their way into armies the world over. As William Manchester observed in his exhaustive saga of the munitions family, The Arms of Krupp, plenty of German soldiers were killed by Allied shells bearing the imprint of Krupp of Essen.


After a complete collapse at the end of World War II, Krupp rebounded during the German post-war “economic miracle” and continued in the steel business. The firm merged with its old rival, Thyssen, in 1999 to form ThyssenKrupp.

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