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Author Topic: Rifle Accident at Borstal - 1868  (Read 19529 times)

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Offline peterchall

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Re: Rifle Accident at Borstal - 1868
« Reply #19 on: July 21, 2013, 21:24:58 »
Grandarog has really thrown a spanner in the works!

As LynL states, Cobden Place had to be about where the words ‘Borstal Street’ are on my photo in Reply#15, that is somewhere on the left in this photo:
 

Cookham Hill, over which the shot is reported to have come, goes steeply upwards to the right about where the vehicles are in the far distance. This raises two points:
1.   The shot would have come towards the front of the house, an unlikely place for the kitchen.
2.   The houses on the opposite side of the street are much higher, and the ground continues to rise behind them. Thus the shot would have to have come at a very steep angle.

So while I don’t doubt that Grandarog actually did dig out that information, there is no way that ‘Slide Rules, Sextants, Theodolites, Dividers and Maps’ can show how that good lady was shot in the circumstances described. :)
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Offline Lyn L

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Re: Rifle Accident at Borstal - 1868
« Reply #18 on: July 21, 2013, 20:31:51 »
In that case ...... according to a post on the pub index thread, Cobden Place had to be somewhere near the Co-op  there now. There's a pic of the old pub  on the thread and Horstedfarmerson pointed the position from old maps, ( I'm no good with any of them, sorry).
And I haven't a clue about trajectories or where the gun may have been fired from, I'm watching with interest  :)
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Offline grandarog

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Re: Rifle Accident at Borstal - 1868
« Reply #17 on: July 21, 2013, 18:58:59 »
Right Lads and Lasses.
     The only Champion family living at Borstal during the period between 1851 and1881 Were Jesse AKA John Champion, Labourer and his wife Susan.
     Susan would have been about 65 at the time of the shooting.
The crucial part is that she lived at 10, COBDEN PLACE, Borstal Street. This appears to be a terrace of 12 houses between 6, Borstal Street and the Pub " The Good Intent".
      You Mathematicians and Cartographers can now get your Slide Rules, Sextants, Theodolites, Dividers and Maps together to work out the exact path and trajectory of the projectile.
     That is presuming you know which firing point on the range Mr Dutton was positioned at and the wind speed and direction on Saturday, 17 October, 1868. :)

Offline peterchall

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Re: Rifle Accident at Borstal - 1868
« Reply #16 on: July 21, 2013, 18:21:26 »
In 1893 Borstal Village was within the area shown by the red outline. Maidstone Road is shown by the blue line. So to have passed over Cookham Hill (at the left end of the village) the shot must have been fired somewhere in the region of the junction with Priestfields (which wasn't there in 1893) and may have landed in Manor Lane, at bottom right corner of village. Mrs Champion's husband worked at the cement works, which was at the bottom of Manor Lane, so it seems to fit.

The distance between left and right edges of the photo is about 1200 yards



Apologies for small photo - to enlarge, press 'CTRL' and '+'
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Re: Rifle Accident at Borstal - 1868
« Reply #15 on: July 21, 2013, 17:14:29 »
Peterchall thanks for that it gives me a rough idea of how far the shot went.

Offline peterchall

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Re: Rifle Accident at Borstal - 1868
« Reply #14 on: July 21, 2013, 10:50:09 »
Even as late as the OS map of 1893, Borstal Village itself consisted mainly of the main street (Borstal Street), Cookham Hill, and Sydney Road. If the Cookham Hill referred to in the report is the road by that name, it is at the north–east part of the village, implying that the shot came from what would be the present cemetery area of Maidstone Road, about 1000 yards away. Of course ‘Borstal’ could have meant any number of isolated houses or farms near the village, although the fact that Mrs Champion sought the help of men working in nearby houses suggests that it was in the village itself.
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Re: Rifle Accident at Borstal - 1868
« Reply #13 on: July 21, 2013, 09:44:59 »
I would like to know exactly where in Borstal the lady lived if anyone can find out or where on the Maidstone Road the firing range was so we can get an idea of the flight of the shot over Cookham Hill.

Offline Signals99

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Re: Rifle Accident at Borstal - 1868
« Reply #12 on: July 21, 2013, 09:24:59 »
Hello al!l
Any chance of accessing the census returns for that period? There could not have been too many Champion families in Borstal.
Ok, why don't I do it myself :- sorry but I don't have the computer skills required, my world revolves around an I pad and I'm still learning (thanks KYN & moderators for your patience and help) plus of course all you other good people who encouraged me.


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Offline peterchall

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Re: Rifle Accident at Borstal - 1868
« Reply #11 on: July 21, 2013, 08:32:00 »
That is probably the answer. The Snider-Enfield came into use with the Regular Army only 2 years before this incident, so was unlikely to have been used by the Volunteer Rifle Corps (VRC) at that time. The earlier Enfield rifles were muzzle loaders using Minie-ball ammunition, a bullet spun by the weapon’s rifled barrel. That may be the reason for the confusion between ‘bullet’ and ‘ball’ in the report. I think what Grandarog describes is the origin of the saying ‘going off at half-cock’. I wonder whether to do that with oily fingers would have been regarded as ‘negligent discharge’.

As a matter in interest, how was it possible to load a rifle from the muzzle? Surely the resistance of the rifling cutting into the bullet would have been too great.

VRC’s were formed under the jurisdiction of the Lord-Lieutenant of the county and, while subject to call-up in emergency, did not become an integral part of the Regular Army until 1872. Members even had to supply their own kit and weapons (subject to approved standards), which lends credence to the suggestion that the weapon was not a Snider-Enfield, and that safety standards might not have matched those of the Regular Army.

The most likely site of a rifle range on Maidstone Road would have been Fort Bridgewoods, from where the distance to the nearest part of Borstal village (depening on what parts existed in 1868) is about 1400 yards – does that distance fit the report?
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Offline grandarog

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Re: Rifle Accident at Borstal - 1868
« Reply #10 on: July 20, 2013, 23:04:33 »
However, other sources state that ‘muskets’ were not entirely replaced until the late 19th century so, being a ‘part-time’ organisation, did the Volunteer Rifle Corps have the latest weapons?


Assuming  the weapon was the original type 1853 rifle barrelled Musket.
The hammer was not drawn back to full cock until the weapon was fully loaded with charge and ball rammed home.
Half cock position was to fit the percussion cap then full cock was applied before firing.
The weapon would definitely fire if thumb slipped when pulling back to full cock.

Offline Bilgerat

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Re: Rifle Accident at Borstal - 1868
« Reply #9 on: July 20, 2013, 22:19:09 »
There's no mention of a safety catch in the Wikipedia article or in any of the other documents I read about the rifle. Could that mean that this incident is down to an old-fashioned negligent discharge and the 'oily fingers' story was exactly that - a story?
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Offline peterchall

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Re: Rifle Accident at Borstal - 1868
« Reply #8 on: July 20, 2013, 22:04:19 »
There are several shots of a Snider-Enfield being fired here, and it doesn’t look to me as if the breach can be opened for loading unless the hammer is locked back:

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=ae9_1236490411


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Offline grandarog

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Re: Rifle Accident at Borstal - 1868
« Reply #7 on: July 20, 2013, 21:32:30 »
The statement "suddenly shot in the thigh, the rifle bullet then struck the copper behind her" sugests a flatish trajectory as the projectile (Bullet or Ball) had come through the open door.
Thinking on the lines of the hammer mechanism on the old 12 bore hammer shotguns, presumably similar. When loaded with the cartridge the hammer is down in the rest position until drawn back into the cocked position by the thumb piece. If when doing so the hammer slipped due to oily thumb ,it could jump the trigger sear and fire the weapon.
In the case of the old revolvers the rounds  in the  cylinder could be fired in quick succession by "fanning "the hammer with the palm of the other hand and not pulling the trigger for each shot. Prior to the 20th century safety catch's if any were pretty rudimrntary.

Offline peterchall

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Re: Rifle Accident at Borstal - 1868
« Reply #6 on: July 20, 2013, 20:21:50 »
The maximum range of 2000 yards was presumably reached, as with any gun, by firing at an angle of 45 degrees, resulting in the round coming down at about the same angle, and obviously would be non-aimed with a hand held weapon. The range would be reduced as the angle is reduced (as in normal aimed firing), or if the angle is increased (think of ‘soldiers’ in the Mid-East firing vertically in celebration – one wonders how many get hit by their own rounds falling back down!).

So depending on the circumstances, of which we know very little, the bullet could have been fired at a flat angle and been very effective when it hit, or at a very steep angle, when it would have no more energy than that due to gravity. I wonder if the statement in the report “the rifle exploding in the air” should have been “the rifle was fired into the air”.

More puzzling is how the rifle could have been fired accidentally anyway. If I have read the Wiki article correctly the procedure would be to pull the hammer back until it locked, open the breach my flicking it to the right, extracting the previous spent cartridge (if any) by hand, pushing a new round into the chamber, and then closing the breach - then when the trigger was pulled it released the hammer to hit the firing pin in the breach, thus firing the round. At no time was the hammer unlocked with a live round in the chamber, so how could it have slipped from Mr Dutton’s fingers, oily or not? Any ideas on that?
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Offline Bilgerat

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Re: Rifle Accident at Borstal - 1868
« Reply #5 on: July 20, 2013, 18:31:55 »
This is not impossible. The Snider-Enfield rifle had a maximum effective range of 600 yards and a maximum range of 2000 yards.

See here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snider-Enfield
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