A recent conversation I've been having with some fellow chaser enthusiasts is about the types of deck guns used on the chasers in WWI. The Poole 3"/23 caliber deck gun was the standard issue deck gun, but there are quite a few photos that show one or the other or both of two other models, the Hotchkiss 6-pound (57 mm) quick-firing gun and the Davis non-recoil gun. In the Freeman photo set recently posted (see below), there is a rare photograph of a Davis gun mounted forward. In all other photos I've seen so far, where this model was installed, it was amidships, where the Y-gun would later be mounted. There are several formative theories and observations that we have been talking about, on these more unusual installations:
- All the chasers that served overseas seem to have been fitted with the Poole deck gun prior to crossing.
- Most of the photos showing these other types are early shots. Possibly all of them are. One theory is that they were installed as temporary means of readying chasers for commissioning, and that perhaps they were never intended to be kept for very long.
- The theoretical concept behind the Davis gun was in part to allow use of a larger gun on aircraft. The non-recoil mechanism (shooting a charge of pellets and grease out of the breech at the same time the shell was fired from the barrel) would allow it to be used without interfering with the flight of a small plane.
- In some images and descriptions of the Davis gun, a Lewis machine gun is mounted on top, so that the machine gun sight could be used for aiming. No chaser installations show this.
- The pipe framing, shown nicely in the photograph in the Freeman collection, serves as a safety guide, restricting the free movement of the gun so that the gunner doesn't inadvertently hit some part of the boat with the breech fire.
As a step toward confirming or denying the first hypothesis, I've started with some notes from these conversations, and I'm compiling a list of chasers that are shown with one or the other of these non-Poole guns. The list so far includes: SC 13, SC 20, SC 26, SC 27, SC 57, SC 63, SC 129, SC 183, SC 209, SC 235, SC 245, SC 254, SC 304 and SC 305. If you see images of others, please send them to me.
--Todd Woofenden, Editor