- "Deck gun" can also mean a type of big water nozzle used for firefighting.
The deck gun was used as a defensive weapon against smaller boats or ships and in certain cases where torpedo use was limited. Typically a crew of three; gunner, loader and layer, operated the gun, while others were tasked with supplying ammunition. A small locker box held a few 'ready-use' rounds. With a well-drilled, experienced crew, the rate of fire of a deck gun could be 15 to 18 aimed shots per minute.
The deck gun was first used during World War I by the Germans and proved its worth when the U-boat needed to conserve torpedoes, or attack enemy vessels straggling behind a convoy. Submarine captains often considered the deck gun as their main weapon, using torpedoes only when necessary. Lothar von Arnauld de la Perière used a deck gun on 171 of his 194 sinkings.
In early World War II, German and American submarine commanders favoured the deck gun because of the unreliability of torpedoes. The deck gun became less effective as convoys became larger and better equipped, and merchant ships were armed. Surfacing also became dangerous in the vicinity of a convoy because of improvements in radar and direction finding. (See Defensively Equipped Merchant Ships [DEMS] and United States Navy Armed Guard). German U-boat deck guns were eventually removed on the order of the supreme commander of the U-boat Arm (BdU) during World War II. Some deck guns stayed on ships, but today they are no longer in use.
Two notable deck guns from German U-boats used in World War II were the 8.8 cm (3.5 in) SK C/35 (not to be confused with famous 8.8 cm Flak ) and the 10.5 cm (4.1 in) SK C/32. The 88 mm had ammunition that weighed about 30 lb (14 kg) and was of the projectile and cartridge type. It had the same controls on both sides of the gun so that the two crewman that were in charge of firing it could control it from either side. The 105 mm evolved from the 88 mm in the sense that it was more accurate and had more power due to the 51 lb (23 kg) ammunition it fired.
Japanese submarine cruisers used 14 cm/40 11th Year Type naval guns to shell California, British Columbia and Oregon during World War II. The 6"/53 caliber gun Mark 18 (150 cm) on the USS Argonaut, Narwhal and Nautilus, was the largest deck gun to be fitted on any United States submarine. British M-class submarines mounted a single Armstrong Whitworth 12 inch /40 naval gun intended to be fired while the submarine was at periscope depth with the muzzle of the gun above water. This World War I design was found unworkable in trials because the submarine was required to surface to reload the gun, and problems arose when variable amounts of water entered the barrel prior to firing. The French submarine Surcouf was launched in 1929 with two 203mm/50 Modèle 1924 guns in a turret forward of the conning tower. The London Naval Treaty of 1930 restricted submarine guns to a maximum of 6 in (15 cm).
In the Royal Navy, the Amphion-class submarine HMS Andrew was the last British submarine to be fitted with a deck gun (a 4-inch QF version). HMS Andrew was scrapped in 1977. The last submarines in service in any navy to mount a deck gun were two of the four Abtao class submarines of the Peruvian Navy in 1999.
- uboat.net: The Deck guns
- Webber, Bert (1975). Retaliation: Japanese Attacks and Allied Countermeasures on the Pacific Coast in World War II. Oregon State University Press. pp. 14–16 & 40–62.
- Campbell, John (1985). Naval Weapons of World War Two. Naval Institute Press. p. 132. ISBN 0-87021-459-4.
- le Masson, Henri (1969). The French Navy. Navies of the Second World War. One. Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company. p. 157.
- Miller 2002, pp. 312–313
- Miller, David (2002). The Illustrated Directory of Submarines of the World. St. Paul, Minnesota: MBI Publishing Company. ISBN 0-7603-1345-8.
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