Tracer shells question?

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Kev D
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Tracer shells question?

Post by Kev D »

What was the largest size shipboard gun that could fire tracer shells for;
1) The German navy?
2) The British navy?

Thanks in advance.
We are off to look for trouble. I expect we shall find it.” Capt. Tennant. HMS Repulse. Dec. 8 1941
A review of the situation at about 1100 was not encouraging.” Capt. Gordon, HMS Exeter. 1 March 1942
dunmunro
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Re: Tracer shells question?

Post by dunmunro »

Kev D wrote: Tue Dec 21, 2021 2:27 pm What was the largest size shipboard gun that could fire tracer shells for;
1) The German navy?
2) The British navy?

Thanks in advance.
The 40mm Vckers and Bofors was the largest autocannon, to fire tracer, AFAIK but IIRC, medium calibre guns like the 4.5in could fire a tracer round as well.
Steve Crandell
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Re: Tracer shells question?

Post by Steve Crandell »

What is it we are seeing when we watch shells going back and forth in night battle films? It looks like tracers, but those are often 8" and above.
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Re: Tracer shells question?

Post by Kev D »

Thanks for your input Duncan (and please pardon the delay in response). :ok:

My question stemmed from a couple of mentions in a book (The Iron Sea by Simon Read) - relating to exactly what Steve mentions i.e. rounds larger than 8" - which stated that the exchange of fire between Scharnhorst and DoY's main guns on 26 December 1943 as both ships using "tracer shells" for those main gun exchanges. Although being far from knowlegeable on the subject I did not think guns that large fired tracer shells / rounds, but on the other hand, as Steve alludes to, have also read of the 'glowing' of main gun shells while arcing across to their target in a night battle.
We are off to look for trouble. I expect we shall find it.” Capt. Tennant. HMS Repulse. Dec. 8 1941
A review of the situation at about 1100 was not encouraging.” Capt. Gordon, HMS Exeter. 1 March 1942
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wadinga
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Re: Tracer shells question?

Post by wadinga »

Hi Kev D,

And a Happy New Year to All!

I believe the main idea behind putting a coloured pyrotechnic in larger shells was to enable vessels to distinguish their shots from other vessels' fire in a night engagement. Confusion over who was firing at what was feature of many of the Guadalcanal night actions leading to uneven engaging of enemy ships possibly leaving some unmolested. The equivalent for daytime were the dye volumes which stained shell splashes.

All the best

wadinga
"There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today!"
Steve Crandell
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Re: Tracer shells question?

Post by Steve Crandell »

For what it's worth, I couldn't find any reference to tracer rounds in the navweaps entry for the USN 16" shell. There was an entry for the different colored dyes for the different US battleships. The weight of the dye package was adjusted to make each shell exactly the same weight. For comparison, the 40mm Bofors entry gives the tracer burnout range (5,000 yds).
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Re: Tracer shells question?

Post by Kev D »

Thanks for that input wadinga, as although I was aware of dye marker being used in day-time exchanges, I was not aware of the coloured pyrotechnic addition for big gun night-time engagements. Not ashamed to say that the old adage of "never to old to learn" proves true again. :D

And...............all the very best to all for this new year!
We are off to look for trouble. I expect we shall find it.” Capt. Tennant. HMS Repulse. Dec. 8 1941
A review of the situation at about 1100 was not encouraging.” Capt. Gordon, HMS Exeter. 1 March 1942
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Re: Tracer shells question?

Post by Steve Crandell »

wadinga wrote: Sat Jan 01, 2022 10:33 am Hi Kev D,

And a Happy New Year to All!

I believe the main idea behind putting a coloured pyrotechnic in larger shells was to enable vessels to distinguish their shots from other vessels' fire in a night engagement. Confusion over who was firing at what was feature of many of the Guadalcanal night actions leading to uneven engaging of enemy ships possibly leaving some unmolested. The equivalent for daytime were the dye volumes which stained shell splashes.

All the best

wadinga
Do you know that colored base flares really existed for heavy guns? I've never heard of that and as I posted, I don't see any reference to them. How are you going to balance shell weight if there is no dye bag to use for that? Does the flare replace the base fuse? So no AP?
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wadinga
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Re: Tracer shells question?

Post by wadinga »

Hi Steve and All,

I must admit I don't know how the projectile engineering was handled, but I remembered this reference from the official records of the Battle of Surigao Strait:
ComCruDiv 14 (CTG 77.2) comments:
1. In this connection the comments of a Destroyer Squadron Commander are of interest. "It was a privilege of Commander Destroyer Squadron FIFTY-SIX to watch the gunfire of the cruisers from a position considerably removed from the line of fire. The devastating accuracy of this gunfire was the most beautiful sight I have ever witnessed. The arched line of tracers in the darkness looked like a continual stream of lighted railroad cars going over a hill. No target could be observed at first, then shortly there would be fires and explosions, and another enemy ship would be accounted for. I witnessed, personally, three ships destroyed one after another in this fashion. Since their outlines were indistinguishable and they were rather small, they were assumed to be destroyers. Such shooting certainly testifies to the superb fire control equipment and personnel of our Navy."
and also:
CO USS Mobile comments
1. It was noted that at ranges over 15,000 yards, tracers on six-inch projectiles frequently burned out before reaching the target; this was especially observed when partial salvos were fired. It was also observed that when projectiles were passing through light clouds, red tracers were more easily followed than were orange.
2. Ammunition expenditure:

Six-inch Armor Piercing 245 rounds
Six-inch High Capacity 534 rounds
CO USS Hornet comments and recommends
Available at https://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/re ... ml#gunnery

I know the original query was about battleship guns, so whether they were used for larger calibres than 6" I don't know. Given the observation about burnout distance, they might have been useless at battleship ranges. Will revert if I find more.

All the best

wadinga
"There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today!"
Steve Crandell
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Re: Tracer shells question?

Post by Steve Crandell »

I have found an image showing that USN 6"/47 shells definitely had tracers.

I'm still pretty sure that 16" mark 8 shells did not.

Can't find a good cross section of an 8" shell.
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wadinga
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Re: Tracer shells question?

Post by wadinga »

Hi Kev D and All,

This official article P 24 https://bulletpicker.com/pdf/OP%201664, ... #page=145 suggests there were tracers for US 16" 45 and 50 calibre guns and that the painted marking was a white band with three dots indicating colour. The tracer Mk 5 seems to be attached to the base fuse. No idea how often they were used.

The RN Gunnery pocketbook 1945 also mentions tracer in connection with larger than autocannon projectiles but frustratingly giver no calibres.

All the best

wadinga
"There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today!"
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Re: Tracer shells question?

Post by dunmunro »

wadinga wrote: Tue Jan 04, 2022 1:48 pm Hi Kev D and All,

This official article P 24 https://bulletpicker.com/pdf/OP%201664, ... #page=145 suggests there were tracers for US 16" 45 and 50 calibre guns and that the painted marking was a white band with three dots indicating colour. The tracer Mk 5 seems to be attached to the base fuse. No idea how often they were used.

The RN Gunnery pocketbook 1945 also mentions tracer in connection with larger than autocannon projectiles but frustratingly giver no calibres.

All the best

wadinga
The RN handbook on ammunition also mentions tracer and implies a larger calibre tracer addon but gives no details.
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Re: Tracer shells question?

Post by paul.mercer »

Kev D wrote: Tue Dec 28, 2021 10:43 am Thanks for your input Duncan (and please pardon the delay in response). :ok:

My question stemmed from a couple of mentions in a book (The Iron Sea by Simon Read) - relating to exactly what Steve mentions i.e. rounds larger than 8" - which stated that the exchange of fire between Scharnhorst and DoY's main guns on 26 December 1943 as both ships using "tracer shells" for those main gun exchanges. Although being far from knowlegeable on the subject I did not think guns that large fired tracer shells / rounds, but on the other hand, as Steve alludes to, have also read of the 'glowing' of main gun shells while arcing across to their target in a night battle.
Gentlemen,
Just a thought, could the 'glow' of the departing shell because the base of the shell was heated up by the explosion that sent it on its way or possibly the heat generated by the friction of travelling up the barrel?
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Re: Tracer shells question?

Post by Steve Crandell »

That seems logical ... just don't know. We don't seem to be able to find concrete information one way or another. You would think with all the cross section drawings of shells we'd be able to find one, but all I found so far for the USN was 6".
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wadinga
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Re: Tracer shells question?

Post by wadinga »

Hi Steve,

If you go to page 62 & 63 of the document I referenced on Tuesday there is a sectional drawing of a 16" projectile with the Mk 5 Tracer and base fuse installed. The previous page 24 I refenced showed all the options of base and nose fuses for these shells, including the Mk 5 Tracer. If the shell were glowing red hot on discharge you might have cooking off in the barrel problems. It clearly wasn't glowing red hot which is why they developed the Mk 5 Tracer.

I'm sure if someone ploughed through the rest of this highly detailed document, they would find tracer availability in most if not all of the heavy calibres.

This seems concrete enough for me.

I'm still trying find an eye-witness reference to tracer use during Scharnhorst's destruction. Star-shell was used extensively, but with multiple vessels firing at a single target I have found no mention of "time sector" shooting so differentiating "own salvoes" to aid spotting would have been difficult unless something like tracer was used.

All the best

wadinga
"There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today!"
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