Five Fun Facts about Cannons

Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site

An extreme closeup of a raised mark on a cannon. There is a crown at the top, connected to a pentagon at the bottom with a rose in the middle.
The Queen Anne cypher has a rose above the crown.
  1. Royal military cannons each have a cypher on top that indicates the reigning monarch when the cannon was made. The oldest cannons are Queen Anne cannons, which are from 1702 to 1714.

  2. Three numbers on a cannon indicate its weight:
    1. The first number is 100 weights. A 100 weight is equal to 112 pounds.
    2. The second number is a quarter of 100 weights, which is equal to 28 pounds.
    3. The last number is pounds.
      • Example: A stamp of 32-3-3 would equal 3671 pounds and would be a six-pound cannon.

  3. Many of the men living and working at the fort didn’t know how to operate a cannon. None of the 42 cannons were fired, not even when the fort was captured by French troops in 1782!

  4. After the fort was captured by French Naval officer Jean-Francois de La Perouse, every cannon was damaged. Damage included:
    1. ‘Spiking’ cannons by hammering a piece of red hot iron into the vent hole;
    2. Burning the carriages (the frame that holds the cannon);
    3. Knocking off the trunnions (which attach the cannon to the carriage); or,
    4. Breaking the muzzles.
      • Due to this damage, the cannons will never be fired again.

  5. When the first cannon test was conducted on site, the recoil was greater than the width of the wall it sat on. As a result, the walls of the fort had to be widened to prevent cannons from falling off the inside edge of the wall.

Bonus fact (and a great Scrabble word):

A quoin is the name of the wedge that regulates the trajectory of the gun.

Cannons by the numbers:

  • 42: number of royal military cannons mounted on the fort walls
  • 8, 10, 24: number of six-pound, 24-pound and 12-pound cannons, respectively, at the fort. The calibre of the gun is the weight of the ball it fires: a six-pound cannon fires a six-pound cannon ball.
  • 8.5 to 9.5 feet: range of cannons’ length
  • Six to 12: number of trained people required to fire a cannon
  • One-third the weight of a cannon ball: the amount of black powder load required to fire the cannon ball

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