Royal Armouries

Bronze Licorne

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Bronze Russian licorne cannon

Bronze licorne, 1793. XIX.815.

  • Bronze Russian licorne cannon

    Bronze licorne, 1793. XIX.815.

Date: 1793 | Object number: XIX.815

Bronze Licorne

Description

Collection no. XIX.815
Date 1793
Calibre (mm) 205
Barrel length (m) 2.8
Weight (kg) 1,000
Projectile weight (kg) 2,768
Range (m)
Crew 8
Fire rate 0.3 per minute

Russian innovation

Every cannon cast was expected to see action at some point in its career and this Russian gun has certainly ‘been in the wars’.

Cast in 1793 with a specially designed barrel to allow it to be fired at a high angle or horizontally, it saw action in the Crimean War (1854-56). The damage to its barrel was caused by British or French shells or shot. Imagine the horror and noise of battle with gunners on both sides exchanging fire: ‘Cannon to the right of them, cannon to the left of them… volley’d and thunder’d’.

Russian fortress armament during the mid-nineteenth century largely consisted of heavy guns of this kind. The Licorne’s specially designed barrel meant that it could be fired either horizontally or at higher angles.

The Licorne, developed from the 18th century howitzer, had a cone-shaped powder chamber. This enabled it to shoot both solid shot [cannonballs] and explosive shells. The gun was named from the Russian for a unicorn, which featured as decoration on early examples. This Licorne was cast at Kherson in the Ukraine in 1793 and captured during the Crimean War. Many Russian guns were brought back and presented to British towns as trophies.

The iron carriage, adopted in 1846 for fortresses and coastal defences, which allowed the gun to recoil up a platform, is now missing.

‘Again, the projectiles they (the Russians) threw possessed, at ranges of from 1,200 to 1,500 yards, a stored-up energy that was terrific in its effect. Limbers were blown up, carriages smashed, guns dismounted …’
Colonel J Jocelyn on the fourth stage of the battle of Inkerman

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