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Imperial stockholdings at Spectacle Island

Just exactly what types of ammunition and explosives did the Royal Navy keep at Spectacle Island? In the parlance of the time, and for many years afterwards, these were known as "Imperial" stocks. (As late as the 1970s RAN Armament Depots held some stocks of "Imperial" ammunition on behalf of the Royal Navy. In contrast, RAN stocks were denoted as "Commonwealth".)

Ammunition Stock Report

A snapshot from 30 June 1910 shows, for "Reserve Guns and Ammunition" exactly what the RN Ordnance Depot, Spectacle Island was holding.

Guns held in reserve comprised:

Type Authorised Reserve On Charge
9.2 Mk. VIII 1 1
6-In B.L. Mk. VII 3 3
6-Inch Q.F. 3 3
4.7-Inch Q.F. 17 18
4-Inch Q.F. 4 5
12-Pounder 5 5
6-Pounder 1 1
3-Pounder 27 27

Reserve ammunition was held in considerable amounts. For example, for the largest calibre, the 9.2 Mk. VIII gun, 315 projectiles in total were held, together with 523 ½-Cordite Charges and 108 ¼-Cordite Charges. For the 4-Inch Q.F. gun, a total of 9,332 rounds were on charge.

Display of shells

A collection of various types of shells used by the RAN over the period 1800-1940 with cards showing the date of manufacture of each type. From the collection of the Australian War Memorial. (

The following table shows the generic types of projectile that were stocked.

Projectile Type Notes
A.P. Shell (Filled) Specially forged and annealed projectile for attack of armour plating with a small bursting charge in the rear.
Common S. Pointed (Filled) Used in naval service approximately 1890-1910 for attack of non-armour plated shipping. Usually had a solid nose and a percussion base fuze with a gunpowder bursting charge.
Common S. Blunt Head (Filled) Used in naval service approximately 1890-1910 for attack of non-armour plated shipping. Usually had a percussion nose fuze with a gunpowder bursting charge.
Lyddite First generation of more modern cast explosive fillings, in use from about 1896 to World War 1. Usually fitted with a percussion nose fuze. Superseded by shell with fillings such as TNT.
Shrapnel Usually at this period a forged steel shell case with a timer fuze in the nose and a tube running through the centre to convey the ignition flash to a gunpowder bursting charge in the shell base. Packed with "bullets" to provide an anti-personnel effect.

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Robert Curran
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