The bombard is a cannon or mortar used in medieval times. It was a large calibre, muzzle-loading artillery piece mainly used during sieges to throw stone balls at opponent’s walls. The primary use was to break down the walls of the enemy so the army could get to the enemy.

Most bombards were made of iron and used gunpowder to launch the projectile through the air. There are many types of bombards, including Mons Meg, the Dardanelles Gun, and the handheld bombard.

Bombards were part of a family of superguns that had a big role in history. They were used throughout The Middle Ages and the early modern period and had a profound impact on many wars.

 

History of cannon

The oldest representation of a bombard can be found in the Chinese town of Ta-tsu. In 1985, Robin Yates was visiting Buddhist cave temples when he saw a sculpture on the wall depicting a demon holding a hand-held bombard. The muzzle seems to have a blast and flames coming from it which some believe is proof of some type of super gun. Yates examined the cave and believed the drawings dated back to the late 12th century.

The British began using cannons in the late 14th century. They first used them as defensive weapons but then began using them as siege weapons. Henry IV, Henry V, and James II won battles with the use of bombards. James II destroyed many castles with his one and a half ton cannon named "The Lion".

Most bombards started with the construction of a wooden core surrounded by iron bars. Then, iron hoops were driven over these bars in order to surround and cover them. The whole structure was then wielded with a hammer while it was still hot at about 1300 degrees. The rings then subsequently cooled and formed over the bars to secure them. The last step was to incinerate the wooden core and to attach a one-piece cast. The complicated procedure required a highly skilled forge who could work quickly and precisely with a hammer.

 

NOTABLE EXAMPLE

A notable example of a bombard is the large Mons Meg weapon, built around 1449 and used by King James II of Scotland. It was very powerful and used for bringing down castle walls. The origins of the Mons Meg are not fully known but according to Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, it was his idea.

It was ordered around 1449 and had similar construction to a typical bombard. However, the Mons Meg was seldom used because of several factors. First of all, it was incredibly hard to transfer because it could not be disassembled and additional frames were needed to keep it steady during battle. These frames were not reliable and also very dangerous, claiming two deaths in the defence of Edinburgh when it was being set. Mons Meg was capable of firing 180 kg (396 lb.) shots and was one of the largest bombards in its time. It is now housed on public display at Edinburgh Castle.

Other known 15th century superguns include the wrought iron Pumhart von Steyr and Dulle Griet as well as the cast-bronze Faule Mette, Faule Grete, and Grose Bochse. The Tsar Cannon is a late 16th century showpiece.

The Dardanelles Gun, built in the Ottoman Empire in 1464 by Munir Ali, with a weight of 18.6 t and a length of 518 cm, was capable of firing stone balls of up to 63 cm diameter.

Eventually weapons using smaller calibre iron projectiles with more powerful gunpowder superseded bombards.

 

THIS BOMBARD

At the request of the late Colonel Commandant Royal Artillery, W. Bro Major General Alan H. Hornby CB, CBE, Past Grand Deacon: this piece of ordinance which for so many years remained in the care of the Coastal Defences, Gibraltar, is now entrusted by Lodge Ubique No. 1789 EC to the care of Lodge Ublique No. 900 of the NSW Constitution as custodians of this gift from Gunner Freemasons in the UK to Gunner Freemasons in Australia.