The Carronade was a short smoothbore, cast iron cannon, developed for the Royal Navy by the Carron Company, which was a short stubby weapon that would revolutionize Naval gunnery and tactics. For its weight and size and within its range, it was far more destructive than the existing longer and heavier, Naval guns of its day, which usually punched small-shot holes in the enemy ship's side; whereas the Carronade, with much less wastage of powder, made extremely large and ragged holes; substantially increasing the chance of sinking a wooden hulled warship.

The Carronade originated in Scotland during the mid-eighteenth century at the Carron Iron Foundry, established near Falkirk by Dr. John Roebuck, a skilled and inventive chemist, in the 'Year of Victories', 1759. This was the first sizeable foundry in Scotland to produce armaments. The foundry took its name from the River Carron, a tributary of the River Forth, and was initially located so as to to exploit the coal, ironstone, and limestone deposits to be found between the Forth and the Clyde.

By 1762 the company was advertised 'Cannon and Cannon-ball and all kinds of Cast Iron' with the hope of winning some of the profitable Naval and Military contracts which for a long time had been monopolised by the Ironmasters of Southern England. Then in 1769 the company received a contract from the British Board of Ordnance to recast into new pieces, old guns scrapped by the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich. Thus they joined such well established firms as Bowen, Eade and others in doing essential military work for the British Government.

Initially the Carron company had little success in persuading the Board of Ordnance that its products were worth testing at other than the makers expense (despite much industrial espionage and poaching of skilled workers from southern foundries), but in 1776 (the year that America made its Declaration of Independence) the company achieved a major breakthrough when it developed a shorter, lighter Iron cast cannon designed specifically for Naval use.

The company's publicity promised a number of advantages for the new gun. Firstly the weight-to-calibre ratio of the new gun meant they could be served by a smaller gun crew; Secondly the Carronades did not require to be run-in quite so far across the ships deck for reloading; and finally these guns could utilize a narrower gun-port because they were attached to a sliding bed by means of a big lug below the barrel, rather than by trunnions on either side.

The new guns may have been known as 'Gasgonades' after Charles Gascoigne, the Foundry Manager, however there is some controversy as to whether Gascoigne was actually the designer. Major-General (Later Lieutenant-General) Robert Melville (1723-1809) had been campaigning since 1774 for a super-heavy short barrelled cannon of 8in calibre that would be able to fire a 68lb ball with a powder charge of only 5.1/2 lb. Certainly Melville was amongst the inspection team at Carron when Charles Gascoigne first demonstrated the newly invented guns in August 1779. Also General Melville's orbituary suggests that the larger calibre Carronades were often known as Melvillades and that he may have been the first person to coin the rather appropriate nickname of 'Smashers' for the new weapon.

In 1782 the 44-gun warship HMS Rainbow was experimentally armed with Carronades, thus increasing the weight of iron that could be fired in a broadside to 1,238lb (compared to the 318lb of shot that could be fired from a comparable number of nine and 12-pounder ordinary cannon). The justification came when the Rainbow first encounted a French ship. The French Captain was so surprised by the amount of metal that struck his ship that he surrendered after just one broadside

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