Er . . . oops?

I recently came across an article about South Africa’s Munitions Defect Center.  It’s a museum of weapons and ammunition that proved defective, or were damaged or destroyed due to errors in either production or operation.  Its purpose is to allow officers and production engineers to learn from the mistakes of those who went before them.  Sounds like a good idea to me!

One of South Africa’s “old faithful” artillery pieces was what it called the G2 cannon – Britain’s 5.5 inch Medium Gun, developed during World War II.  Here’s one in the Western Desert campaign during that conflict.  Basically, it’s the functional equivalent of the US M114 155 mm howitzer from the same era.  (Click both images for a larger view.)

Here’s another 5.5 inch cannon, this one on display in the Munitions Defect Center.

As you can see, the barrel exploded – apparently because a bore cleaning brush was left in it!  I bet that caused the gun’s crew a few brown-trouser moments . . .  It takes a lot of explosive power to shatter steel that thick, but a shell detonating inside the barrel will do it every time.

You can see what the bore cleaning brush looked like in the first picture above – one is being held vertically by the soldier on the extreme right of the photograph.  I wonder what the rest of the crew did to the idiot who left the brush in the barrel?



  1. That pistol photo looks like one Jerry Miculek has shared on occasion, although I think his shows 7 bullets. That means this has happened more than once!

  2. My BIL had a job for a while that required he test weapons to failure. I don't believe leaving a bore brush in the barrel was one of the protocols.

  3. In the FA, you don't have to make a mistake like that to kill people. I read a story by a Gun Bunny back in the 80s. They had a 105 shell detonate soon after leaving the bore. Not one of the crew was touched, fortunately, but it shredded the canvas of the deuce and half truck parked a short distance behind them.

  4. That makes me worried about the type of fuses they were using; modern fuses don't arm until they have accelerated to a certain point AND traveled a certain distance – precisely to avoid accidents like this, as well as to make them safer to handle and transport.

  5. Judging by the shrapnel tear on the upright behind the exploded muzzle, brown trousers would have been the best case, much better than red.

  6. Given how antsy folks can get, I'm wondering if the fault wasn't on whoever was pulling the trigger.

    Betting lack of sleep and/or an OD of terror was going on before that point, though.

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