‘I maintained and operated a twin 30mm gun, which was – oh – heaven! If I win the lottery, I’m gonna buy one! I’ll have it out in my back garden!
On a warship, the 30 mil is located on the upper deck. I could shoot an aeroplane down with it quite easily. We would also use it to take-out fast boats.
We had one port, one starboard. I normally worked starboard on “The Widow Maker” ( yep, we even named it). It’s the size of a mini-metro with two big gun barrels sticking out of the end. And I’m that much of a sad individual I normally carry a photograph around of it.
There’s a little chair, like a deckchair and then if you imagine the kids steering wheels that you have for your games at the moment, it’s like a little wheel that you turn left and right, up and down. The gun is fitted to a mount which is able to rotate and the gun barrels are also able to elevate.
Oh it was so cool.
It needs to rotate and elevate fast so that the operators (me and my oppo) can stay tracking on the target.
So, you’d have a loader and an aimer and you take it in turns. The aimer would be the person that sits inside it and the loader would stand behind it. And they would make sure the rounds are loaded into the ammunition locker. You’d feed it into there and they’d all be linked up so when you fire it, it will basically come shooting out of the end of the barrel.
The carriage that you’re sat in literally vibrates and you get the heat from the gun as well ‘cos the more you fire it, the hotter the barrel gets. You’ve got on your kevlar helmet, your ear defenders, your inner-ear defenders, your anti-flash, lifejacket and your overalls.
There’s always a risk when playing with weapons. There could be a jam, a backfire (this is when a round gets jammed in the barrel) also the risk of over-heating. Ammunition and heat are not a great cocktail! You can burn yourself on it because when the weapon is fired repeatedly the barrels will get hot, so hot that if you were to touch them, you are going to get a nasty burn!
The only time you would need to touch the barrels is if we had to do a barrel change (always had a spare in the gunners store). It’s worth remembering that the barrels on a twin 30 are bloody big and heavy and takes at least two of you to lift it.
It could even drop over the side of the ship if the two huge barrels are not correctly fitted in to the mounting. Also, if you’re using it in a warzone, you can get shot yourself because you’re exposed on the upper deck.
But I loved the power of the gun, the loudness and the smell of the cordite, the vibration shock through your body. Oh my days, I would love to do it all again. The freedom of the ocean, the shouts of the war cry… “Alarm aircraft! Bearing red 45, moving left to right!”. The sound of the guns firing and the adrenaline taking over, the empty shells clattering all over the upper deck. No better way to start the day!
How many 20-something girls could say that they were responsible for a twin-barrelled gun on a warship?
Thinking back, that’s probably why Thursdays are my fave day of the week. Thursdays used to be Thursday War.’ ¹
Jayne Thompson (Shiner Wright)
Operator Mechanic (Above Water Warfare)
1994 – 2001
¹ A war simulation exercise, involving sea, air and sub-surface units. It occurs weekly, always on a Thursday!
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