Naval Gunfire 'Fingerprint'?


While posting on the Thomas Kennedy's RN Service Record thread last night, I was reminded of another post over on the Battlebus forum (see thread here), where I spend the other half of my life :lol:

There is a location in the American airborne sector of Normandy just north of Carentan where lock gates control the flood waters of the Douve River. The lock is known as 'La Barquette' and was taken and held against very strong German opposition on D and D+1 by elements of the U.S. 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment.

The area in question is within the red rectangle here:

During the battle, NGF was called in on the German position by a Forward Observer from the USS Quincy II. I was intrigued by the forum administrator, Paul Woodage stating that the USS Quincy II had a pattern to her salvos. I have uploaded a zoomed view of the red rectangle, showing what I suspect he refers to with shell holes 1-3 in a straight line with hole 4 offset here:

The lock is at centre left, with the N13 to Cherbourg running SE to NW at bottom left.

Can anyone confirm that salvos would have patterns like this? If so, were such patterns the result of deliberate gun laying or did each ship have her own 'fingerprint'?


In the RN the "Forward" controller would direct the ships salvos until they were on target, and then call for "fire for effect". He would do this by conning the ships guns on to the target using increments of say 100 yards, until the target was bracketed. The distance between 1 and 2, and between 2 and 3 look consistent, but 4 looks
odd. If you follow the line of 1-2-3 there is another hole about double the distance from 3. could this be 5 and 4 fell into the canal?
Onions & List,

You could well be correct - one of the rounds may have fallen into the river. When I was on site in 2007, the hole you refer to north of the river was the closest one to me - the owner was not known to the Battlbus guide so we stayed on the public road.

When the Forward Observer first called for fire support, would the USS Quincy II have fired a salvo or a single shot?

I see from this page that she was equipped with 9 x 8-inch guns, I presume in three turrets - once the FO had the range, would all nine guns be fired in salvo or one or two guns from each turret?

The targets would have been infantry in the open and 88's firing air bursts.



I just found this image of the Quincy firing in support of the invasion of southern France in August 1944:

She appears to have three guns in each turret.




War Hero
Book Reviewer
Salvo or broadside? it would depend upon USN doctrine at the time, and how many rounds the FOB thought were necessary to deal with the problem. If the rounds are landing in soft mud then it may take rather a lot to destroy a target but perhaps what was wanted was for the enemy there to remove themselves.

It is moot whether Quincy would have had programme time to correct her ballistics via a firing practice. Individual guns will wear at different rates and this can make quite a difference in range when firing at relatively close targets given the flat trajectory of naval guns with their high muzzle velocity. If this action was relatively late in the campaign then variations in barrel wear would of course have been exacerbated. But not to the point observed of Russian guns at the battle of Tsushima (1905) where Russian shells could be seen tumbling end over end in the air. As the rifling wears an ever-increasing amount of propellant gas escapes without doing anything useful.


Book Reviewer
Not sure if the Americans followed the RN pattern of Gunnery, but the spread appears to me to be a possible 'up ladder group' fired to determind the target. The spotter would call for another 'up ladder' group until straddling target, then 'Fire for Effect' when all guns would open up in 'broadsides'.
Just a thought.


War Hero
Book Reviewer
In the picture Quincy is firing broadsides and it appears the right gun of each turret is firing fractionally last (inevitably there will be miniscule differences of time between actual ignitions in the different barrels). This means that the left gun will fire on the assigned bearing but will slew the turret slightly so that the round from theright barrel is slightly left for line. For this reason by the time 4.5 Mk 6 turret (the square one) came along in the RN in the 50s doctrine was (1) always to fire salvoes and not broadsides EXCEPT for the first ranging rounds in NGS, to give the FOB a betetr clue where to look by having two explosions to see instead of one and (2) to gate the rate of fire down to say 16 rounds per gun per minute so that the turret could recover bewteen rounds. Incidentally 22 RPM was about the max for a 4.5 loader for a short burst in AA but a crew could keep 16 up for a sixty round burst, no bother (shell weighed 56 lbs). In a British 6" Mk 23 turret (Colony Class cruiser, 132 lb shell) 6 rounds a minute was the max sustainable. As chaps will have seen in the Bismark film (separate thread) in a battleship shells had to be handled mechanically as they would weigh up to a ton.
Seaweed, (Granny), Onions and List,

The fire mission was on D-Day afternoon. I found a description of the USS Quincy II's part in the action here - I have pasted in the relevant section below:

When the enemy fire stopped JOHNSON cold at LE BARQUETTE, he found himself between the devil and the sea. He had no counter for their mortar and 88 batteries and if he stayed there he would certainly be destroyed. Too, he felt that the enemy observation was good enough that any attempt to move would be not less fatal.* Then he happened to remember that one card was still in his hand. On that morning, LT FARRELL, USN, had had the rare good fortune to retrieve his SCR 609 following the drop. JOHNSON crawled on back to FARRELL who was at the rear of the column and asked if he could raise the USS QUINCY, which was supposed to be maneuvering somewhere off the beaches.

Together, they crawled back along the ditch to the road intersection, which was a fair point of observation. JOHNSON told him what he knew. He thought that most of the mortar shells were coming from the high ground around ST CÔME DU MONT and that the 88 mm battery was firing from a little to the east of CARENTAN.

FARRELL got through to the QUINCY almost immediately. At that time she was steaming in "figure 8's" not far off the coast. The QUINCY promised to go to work. Five minutes later the first salvo of eight-inch shells whistled over LE BARQUETTE toward the German positions. They were in pretty close; the necessary adjustments were made.

*This was JOHNSON'S estimate of situation as he himself explained it.

- 33 -

Despite the range and the difficulties of SFC under even the most normal operating conditions, the work of the QUINCY'S batteries was uncannily accurate. The shells played right along the ridge at ST CÔME DU MONT; it impressed JOHNSON that the German mortar fire fell off almost immediately. MAJ ALIEN, watching the results from his position at BSE ADDEVILLE, said to JOHNSON, "That fire would help BALLARD. How about getting some over to him?" It was arranged, but in roundabout fashion. BALLARD gave his coordinates to ALLEN by radio and in turn ALLEN relayed them to FARRELL who in turn relayed them to the QUINCY.

This naval action was sustained for one-half hour or so. The German fire had already taken toll of about 10 of JOHNSON'S men. After the QUINCY'S guns had spoken emphatically, the Germans went quiet.
Onions, excuse my lack of knowledge in gunnery matters, but can I ask what is the difference between a broadside and a salvo? - is it just the number of rounds fired?




War Hero
Book Reviewer
A broadside is when all guns that will bear fire together. A salvo is one gun only from one or more turrets.

Further to my earlier posts, the fire control equipment has also to correct for convergence. If firing on bow or quarter, the muzzles of the forward and after turrets are a considerabel distance apart for range, which willbe reflected on the ground if not corrected by very slight changes in elevation, and also at closer ranges guns have to be toed in so that the fall of shot is not dispersed for line. And corrections for earth's rotation and latitude and alll sorts of other things before you even begin to sorry about stabilisation in that the ship's hull is not dead horizontal etc. In the doubtful weather of D-Day there will have been considerable movement on the ship and of course there will be a slight lag in the heavy barrels responding to the necesary corrections. I hope all this dispels any idea that all the rounds are going to land in the same hole.
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