flashless cordite

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paul.mercer
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flashless cordite

Post by paul.mercer » Thu Dec 06, 2018 4:24 pm

Gentlemen,
I'm sure that I read somewhere that in the opening battle of North Cape Scharnhorst was surprised by HM ships Belfast,Sheffield and Norfolk who opened fire on her, but it was Norfolk who got hit by return fire because she was not using 'Flash-less Cordite' which enabled Sharnhorst's gunners to identify her. So my question is, what exactly is flash-less cordite and how did it go bang without any flash?

culverin
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Re: flashless cordite

Post by culverin » Thu Dec 06, 2018 9:24 pm

Difficult to quantify the term flashless, in this action Norfolk was the only 8" of the trio and this may have had some bearing on her misfortune leaving her the unfortunate recipient.
A full broadside. The traditional English salute.
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Byron Angel
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Re: flashless cordite

Post by Byron Angel » Mon Dec 10, 2018 10:56 pm

From Navweaps -

Flashless Propellants
Due to the presence of calcium in the small amount of chalk used to counteract traces of residual acids, SC cordite had a very bright "flash," a characteristic which led to the development of flashless propellants. British flashless propellants in use during World War II were produced in primarily in slotted tubular form. The most used was NF, originally known as NFQ, and this was composed of 55% picrite (nitroguanidine), 16.5% nitrocellulose (12.1% N), 21% nitroglycerine, 7.5% centralite and 0.3% cryolite. NF was not easy to make and the basic initial material required for picrite was calcium carbide, which required large amounts of electricity during the manufacturing process. For this reason, the only plant making this propellant was located at Welland near Niagara Falls in Canada. Canada also produced Cordite N during World War II which was widely used as a propellant for aircraft gun ammunition. Cordite N is another triple-base propellant that was very cool burning and produced little smoke and almost no flash. The composition was 55.0% nitroguanidine, 19.0% nitrocellulose, 18.5% nitroglycerin and 7.5% ethyl centralite. Cordite N does not appear to have been used as a naval gun propellant in the Royal Navy, but a variation of it was used by the USN (see below).

Flashless propellant was in great demand during the war, however, for guns larger than 5.25" (13.3 cm), full flashless charges became too bulky for existing turret arrangements and so the only larger weapon issued these was the 6" (15.2 cm) Mark XXIII. These were actually "reduced flash" or "non-blinding" charges and were designated as NQFP. This propellant was issued in cord form and differed from NF by having 4.5% more nitrocellulose, 4.5% less centralite and 2% potassium sulfate.

- - -

More detail here - https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a493390.pdf
"Flashless Propellants" by J. N. Pring
UK Ministry of Supply - Armament Reseach Establishment
Permanent Records of Research and Development
No. 4.000(c)
1948


B

paul.mercer
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Re: flashless cordite

Post by paul.mercer » Mon Dec 10, 2018 11:02 pm

Thanks once again Byron,
I would think playing around with nitro glycerin during manufacture must have been a hazardous procedure. Anyway the point you made about the use in the largest calibre being 6" explains why Norfolk got clobbered.
Thanks again to all who replied.

Byron Angel
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Re: flashless cordite

Post by Byron Angel » Tue Dec 11, 2018 4:39 am

"Anyway the point you made about the use in the largest calibre being 6" explains why Norfolk got clobbered."

Hi Paul,
That passage was copied from the NavWeaps site; 'twas not my authorship.

Byron

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Dave Saxton
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Re: flashless cordite

Post by Dave Saxton » Wed Dec 12, 2018 3:18 pm

I'm sure that I read somewhere that in the opening battle of North Cape Scharnhorst was surprised by HM ships Belfast,Sheffield and Norfolk who opened fire on her, but it was Norfolk who got hit by return fire because she was not using 'Flash-less Cordite' which enabled Sharnhorst's gunners to identify her.
In the first skirmish the Norfolk was not hit.

The first skirmish occurred at about 0930 hours. This skirmish ended at 0940 hours. Scharnhorst had first been detected by Belfast's type 273 radar at a range of 30,000 meters at 0840 hours. Scharnhorst was on a northerly course at 12 knots. The British cruisers were 16 miles to the southeast of Scharnhorst going northwest at 24 knots. Scharnhorst was between the British cruisers and the convoy and heading toward the convoy. However, a few minutes after it was detected by the Belfast's radar Scharnhorst reversed course and increased speed to 19 knots. The British cruisers tried to position themselves between Scharnhorst and the convoy over the next 35 minutes, which was facilitated by Scharnhorst continuing on a south course. Scharnhorst seemed unaware of their presence, although look outs on the British cruisers could see Scharnhorst as it passed by on roughly opposite course six miles away. Scharnhorst obviously had its radars switched off and its look out failed to see the enemy. Once the British cruisers had crossed over Scharnhorst's wake, the Belfast fired star shell, over firing the Norfolk, and Norfolk fired on Scharnhorst once Scharnhorst was illuminated. This event caught Scharnhorst by surprise. Scharnhorst replied firing a few salvos at Norfolk, but scored no hits, before both sides ceased fire ten minutes later. Scharnhorst was hit twice. On shell, a dud, skidded across the upper deck. The other passed through the foretop destroying Scharnhorst's forward radar.

Norfolk was hard hit during the second skirmish which occurred 3 hours later. According to Scharnhorst survivor accounts, Norfolk not firing flashless powder, was probably not a factor during the second skirmish. Norfolk was chosen as the target prior to either side opening fire.

Many British accounts assume that Scharnhorst was taken by surprise again because its guns appeared to be trained fore and aft when it was illuminated by star shell. This is probably just coincidence. The British cruisers had already been sighted and identified. Prior to that, they had been tracked by radar when both forces were on parallel courses. Approaching 12:30 hours, and after turning to port and building up speed to 30 knots, the Germans allowed the enemy to pass from left to right at 8,000 meters range ahead of Scharnhorst's bow, before turning to port some more to allow the aft radar to bear before opening fire to starboard forward. After scoring hits on Norfolk, Scharnhorst switched targets to Sheffield. Scharnhorst was not hit during this 20 minute exchange of salvos.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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