Recycling canon balls?

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by Croque_Monsieur, Jun 21, 2012.

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  1. I'm currently reading the memoirs of a Napoleonic officer and the description of his duties as messenger includes having to dash through artillery bombardments to deliver orders and it got me thinking:

    What happened to the hundreds, if not thousands, of canon balls and shot after a (land) battle?

    Such a vast quantity of iron couldn't be just left there.

    I assume they could be collected, melted down and recast if the forge facilities were available.

    Some could theoretically simply be reused without being recast if not mangled and of the right calibre.
  2. ugly

    ugly LE Moderator

    I suuspect they were, the advent of exploding shells may have put an end to the practise!
  3. Have you found anything to suggest they didnt?
  4. Is that the blue bin or the little box?
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  5. Probably collected by the local Pikeys.
  6. You can still find cannon balls, musket balls and other non explosive remnants of war (NEROW) and explosive remnants of war (EROW) in many places in the UK and particularly at battle sites around the world.

    After battles, the remnants, including hand weapons, shot, armour etc would all have been collected and recycled. nowadays, only deeper buried items remain to be found.

    Coming more up to date, hundreds of people are killed or injured every year in e.g Vietnam whilst collecting scrap from the Vietnam war. Many countries can tell a similar story.

    This guy in the Mekong Delta, being interviewed by Dep, my interpreter, lost both his hands whilst trying to dismantle a 105mm carrier projectile about 8 years ago.

    Dep taking notes of amputee interview 30 Jan 2010 compressed.jpg
  7. Your interpreter looks tidy.
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  8. So that's why my Jewish uncle Hymie kept shelling his brothers scrapyard during the seven days war
  9. She is!
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  10. Fenton Valley Of Death.jpg

    I always asumed that they did pick them up and recycle what the could. I couldn't help thinking of this Fenton photo taken in the Valley Of Death. Another taken from the same place shows the road after it had been cleared.
  11. That picture also sprang to mind then I was musing. Couldn't for the life of me remember where it was from...

    Relating to WWI I read the memoires of a German officer, who's leisure activities on the front included lining up unexploded shells and shooting at them with his chums to see what happened.....Nuts!
  12. Do you know who holds the copyright to that pic? I wouldn't mind using it in a presentation.
  13. I got from wikipedia Matt and it says it's in the public domain.
  14. Not far off the truth. IIRC during the Napoleonic Wars the French would often pay the locals to collect the spent cannon balls and hand them in for re-use.

  15. There is some record of the Americans collecting British cannon balls after the Battle of Bunker Hill. They probably fired back any that fitted their captured British guns. I'd have expected everything of any value on a battle field to be looted or recycled.

    I have a heating text book somewhere that mentions that some defence ministry (Danish in the early 20th century, ISTR) had a heating system which involved heated cannon balls. There were messengers employed who carried red-hot cannon balls to all the offices (I'd hope they had a trolley) and collected the cold ones. It has some logic, the alternative would have been coal or wood fires and the resulting fire risk, soot, cleaning and ash collection.