British artillery shell fuses


#1

Today I picked up three British artillery shell fuses at one of those flea markets I mention. I no nothing about fuses, so anything anyone can tell me on these would be welcome. I know that they ARE inert, as I can see a cavity in the base with a sharp firing pin at one end. I am interested in restoring these to original condition, should I do that or not?

The first one (below) is made by Vickers, Son and Maxim, it is marked marked: “V.S.M 80IVA 1/17 925D” on the inside base. It also has simple “H” on the very tip of the aluminium nosecone. It is graduated from 0-22, which I take it is time delay in seconds. It looks to be screwed into an adaptor (the part with remnants of orange paint).

The second one (below), is the same model as the first, but has no adaptor. It is marked “V.S.M. 80IVA 10/16 291C”. It also has the markings “VSM 80IVA 291C 10/16” round the edge of the base of the aluminium nose cone. There are no paint markings or visible paint traces.

The third one (below) has been fired as the threads are stripped. It is all aluminium, and the visible marking are: “80 III Co” and “50” over “44”, separated with a line. On the base, there is also a broad arrow and some numbers I cannot make out. This is also graduated from 0-22. It has the remains of a large blue “T” shape on one side (visible in photo).

Below are all three shown together:


#2

Those are very cool! I am not sure what specific projectile they go to. I used to have a similar designed one that when you took it apart, each of the brass rings had a complex configured groove milled out of it. I think the grooves may function as a time delay to match the outside calibrations? Fuze technology is extreme! GREAT PICS! I really like the big ordnance stuff.


#3

I cannot get into these, as the screws have rusted away. They also cannot be turned. They are stuck fast.


#4

Falcon

Those are powder train time fuzes very similar to those found on artillery projectiles around the world. The most common one here in the US is the Frankford Arsenal 21 Second fuze which is nearly identical to those shown. It was used primarily on 75mm Army and 3" Navy projectiles. The fuze screws into an adaptor or “head” which in turn screws into the projectile body. The “milled grooves” mentioned by APFSDS is the black powder train. By adjusting the fuze to the desired time setting you either shorten or lengthen the train to get the proper burn time. Some of the fuzes are “combination” in that they will work either by time or impact. Since the shrapnel fuzes were designed to be blown out of the projectile they can often be recovered intact and you see a lot of them in collections.

This is a 3" Navy Shrapnel round with a 21 Second Combination fuze.

Ray


#5

Ahhh, that’s how they work! Thanks so much Ray!

Jason
PS: Great photo of a sweet shell.


#6

Ray, one of those shown in my photos, is a fired one, but I believe it is later than the other 2, as it is all aluminium as opposed to brass and aluminium like the others. One of the markings I can make out is “44” which I believe is a date. The screw threads are also stripped. It looks to have been dug, judging by the heavy white corrosion on the aluminium. I would like to dismantle these, but the screws are too badly corroded. They also cannot be turned, they are jammed solid. One of these has the head still screwed onto it, but the other doesn’t. How is the fuse armed on firing? What type of shell does bright orange paint signify, as the head one one of the fuses has bright orange paint on it.


#7

Falcon

You might try soaking the entire fuse in a penetrating oil to see if they will loosen up any. Sometimes it works and sometimes not. If they appeared to have been fired they are likely from a shrapnel projectile or a similar projectile that ejects the fuse in one piece. The screw threads are made very fine and shallow so that they WILL strip, so the stripping is something that you would expect to find on a fired fuze.

I am not familiar with the color coding on UK shells so have no way of knowing what the orange paint would signify. It could indicate a tracer, color burst, spotting color, or even the bursting charge inside the projectile. Possibly Tony would know.

The fuze powder train is ignited by a flame from a primer which is struck by setback when the projectile accelerates or by centrifical force from the rotation, or both. Most are designed so that the train is not ignited nor the percussion system armed until the projectile is a certain distance beyond the gun (hopefully, says this ex Gunners Mate).

Those three fuzes are a great find, BTW.

Ray


#8

[quote=“Ray Meketa”]Falcon

Those are mechanical time fuzes
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I’m sorry but as you are explaining yourself these are powder time fuzes.
Mechanical time fuzes do have a clockwork mechanism.


#9

EOD

You are absolutely correct. Fingers are faster than brains, at least mine are.

Correction made.

Ray


#10

I had thought of soaking it in penetrating oil, but do not have access to enough. I think these are mechanical time fuses, as they have a cavity in the base with what looks like a firing pin, but dismantling them would be the only way to tell. I wonder if the ones that have un-stripped threads were never fired or removed from duds? Saying they are powder train fuses, what sort of size explosion would it make if I were to inadvertently set it off if they were still live? That is not something I want to try, I am just cautios about dismantling them. However, I think that they are clockwork, as they have 2 other rings that have holes in them, where some sort of tool looks to have been inserted to wind up the clock mechanism. Should I drill out the rusted screws or not? You say they are a good find, I paid


#11

Falcon

You are starting to get into some serious and scary stuff here and I would rather not comment. Just be careful.

Ray


#12

They have a cavity about 1/2" across and 3/4" deep in the base, with a nail-like pin at the bottom of this. This cavity appears to be a steel pipe inserted into the internal aluminium fuse body. They also have a hole about .10" wide just above the side of this. However, they lok like they have another thread in the base where the charge would have screwed into, so I am pretty sure they are inert.


#13

[quote=“Falcon”]I had thought of soaking it in penetrating oil, but do not have access to enough. I think these are mechanical time fuses, as they have a cavity in the base with what looks like a firing pin, but dismantling them would be the only way to tell. I wonder if the ones that have un-stripped threads were never fired or removed from duds? Saying they are powder train fuses, what sort of size explosion would it make if I were to inadvertently set it off if they were still live? That is not something I want to try, I am just cautios about dismantling them. However, I think that they are clockwork, as they have 2 other rings that have holes in them, where some sort of tool looks to have been inserted to wind up the clock mechanism. Should I drill out the rusted screws or not? You say they are a good find, I paid


#14

Falcon, “pretty sure” is [i]not anywhere NEAR good enough![/i]

Until these have been examined by someone who is qualified by occupation or experience to say with absolute certainty they are inert, allow for the possibility they are not and don’t go drilling anything.

There was an unfortunate incident fairly recently (within the decade, anyway) in the States where an expert was drilling a BP shell from our Civil War to make it inert and the thing blew. Black powder has a much longer shelf life and is less susceptible to degradation from adverse environmental exposures than more modern explosives.

Don’t take chances, even small ones, with any of this stuff.

.


#15

Gareth

EOD is absolutely right. These are all British No.80 T & P (Time and Percussion) fuses, used on many types of shell but particularly found on 13 and 18 Pdr shrapnel shell.

The small holes are not for “winding up the clockwork”, but for the “C” wrench that is used to set the fuse. The threads in the base are for the gaine to screw into for an HE shell or the igniter tube of a shrapnel shell (the exploder in a shrapnel shell being at the base.)

Shrapnel shells are either painted black or “Lead” (i.e. grey) and have the tips painted red, as one of yours is.

Listen to what the others say about safety. I mean this well, but you do not know enough to go messing with fuses.

Regards
Tony


#16

Thanks, I will not go dismantling these, as even if they are not live (which I don’t think they are), I would likely damage them by taking them apart. I can see traces of red paint on the one without the adaptor as well, so I presume they both must have come from shrapnel shells. I have also now noticed the British “Symbol of Interchangeability” cross on all three. At least they are now identified. I also now know from the diagram that the all aluminium one is actually the No. 80/44, and “44” is not a date. I can also now see that the base plug and percussion detonator mechanism is missing. Both the unfired ones are also set to “lighting position”.

How much would I pay for one of these in “as new” fully strippable condition?


#17

Not sure about how much. I would imagine they are pretty scarce as what you are looking for is either a professionally debugged fuse of an instructional store. I have seen them occasionally on ebay but usually with the complete shell.

Just keep an eye on what is available I guess.

Regards
Tony


#18

i am not really interested in buying one, I just wondered if they were worth anything.