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305mm (12") Ordóñez rifle at the Santa Clara Battery, Havana

Ordóñez guns are a type of coastal artillery that Salvador Diaz Ordóñez, an artillery officer in the Spanish Army, designed in the late 19th Century. Most of the models were guns, but some were howitzers. The guns ranged in caliber from 150mm (5.9") to 305mm (12"). They were made in Spain, at the Trubia Arms Factory (Fábrica de armas de Trubia), in Asturias, and the Spanish installed them in forts and batteries at home, for instance at Ceuta,[1] and throughout their empire, in Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Philippines.

Although they have been obsolete for more than a century, a few Ordóñez guns have survived to the present as historical artifacts. There is one at Santa Clara Battery in Havana, a second, heavily damaged by the explosion of a shell, and brought from Subic Bay, at the Presidio of San Francisco, and a third at Castillo de San Cristóbal (Puerto Rico). The Ordóñez guns appear to have been used for protecting Spain's colonies; reportedly the Spanish generally reserved the higher quality, and much more expensive, Hontoria guns for the defense of Spain.[2][Note 1]


The guns were rifled breech loaders with a cast iron body, hooped with wrought iron, and with a steel tube screwed in place, which contained the breech block and extended just forward of the trunnions. The Ordóñez guns captured at Havana were all of 35 to 36 calibers in length.[4]) The breech blocks were lever-actuated, and of the French or interrupted screw type, though the obturating ring followed the Krupp design.[5] The guns appear to have been mounted en barbette, rather than on a disappearing carriage.

View from the breech of the interior of the barrel of the damaged Ordóñez gun at the Presidio of San Francisco

A US Naval Intelligence report report from 1892 described the Ordóñez guns as being less powerful than most other modern guns of equal calibers, but also much cheaper (because they were of iron rather than entirely steel).[6] Comparison of the 305mm Ordóñez guns captured at Havana with the US 12" all-steel naval gun found that the Ordóñez guns had a longer though narrower powder chamber that held less powder. As a result, the Ordóñez guns threw a lighter shell with less velocity to a shorter range than the US 12" gun.[7]

The Americans captured guns of 150mm (5.9") at Havana, Manilla and Puerto Rico, 240mm (9.45") guns at Havana and Manilla, and the 305mm (12") guns at Havana. At Havana the Americans also captured Ordóñez 210mm (8.27") howitzers.[8] There may also have been 140mm (5.5") and 280mm (11") Ordóñez guns, though none at any place that the Americans captured.

Ordóñez gun at Castillo de San Cristóbal (Puerto Rico)

Ordóñez also designed the 1891 240mm coastal artillery breech-loading howitzer, which was 14 calibers in length. It could fire a 140 kg projectile to 9,000 meters. Some of the howitzers were emplaced in Spain, including four at a battery at Fort La Mola in Menorca, and some at Montjuïc Castle, Barcelona.

In 1896 Ordóñez designed another 240mm howitzer, this one 16 calibers in length and consisting of a tube and two sleeves. The howitzer was made of forged and tempered steel, with a de Bange interrupted-screw breech-block with six screw sectors. The howitzer also had a hydraulic recoil mechanism. It could fire a 200 kg shell 11,320 metres. The artillery factory at Trubia produced the first exemplars in 1903, but the howitzer was not ready for adoption for active duty until 1916, by which time it was obsolescent. Still, it went into service and by 1936 the M1916 240mm howitzer was in place at several batteries around Spain. Four were at Ferrol in the Fuente Seca Battery, four at Cartagena at the Loma Larga Battery, which were moved in 1940 to Ceuta, and four each were in the Regana and Refeubeitx batteries on Mallorca. Lastly, eight of the howitzers were held in reserve at an artillery park. In April 1937 it was decided to move four of the howitzers by rail to Águilas. The four remaining howitzers were sent to Madrid where three were emplaced and one was converted to a railway gun.

In action

The Ordóñez guns and howitzers saw combat service at Havana, Manilla, and San Juan during the Spanish-American War, and at Subic Bay during the Philippine–American War.

On 7 May 1898, the Spanish lured the USS Vicksburg and the US Coast Guard cutter Morrill into chasing a Spanish schooner under the guns of the Santa Clara Battery at Vedado, Havana, Cuba. The battery, which was armed with two Ordóñez guns, amongst others, fired too soon on the US vessels, which were able to escape without taking a hit.[9]

On 10 May 1898, Captain Ángel Rivero Méndez ordered Castillo San Cristóbal's guns to fire on the USS Yale; the guns fired two poorly aimed shots, both of which fell far short. These shots marked Puerto Rico's entry into the war. On 12 May the US Navy warships conducted a day-long bombardment of San Juan. The U.S. Navy had more and larger guns than the Spanish. The battleships, cruisers and monitors carried four 13", four 12", eight 10", twelve 8", and four 6" guns, in addition to many smaller pieces. Fort San Cristobal had two 150mm (5.9") Ordóñez guns and two 240mm (9.45") Ordóñez howitzers, Castillo San Felipe del Morro, which apparently fired the first shot, had five 150mm Ordóñez guns and two 240mm two Ordóñez howitzers, the San Antonio battery had four 150mm Ordóñez guns, the San Fernando Battery had four muzzleloading 210mm (8.3") sunchado (or zunchado, meaning wrapped or banded) howitzers, the Santa Elena battery had three more, the San Agustin battery had three almost as obsolete 150mm sunchado guns, and the Santa Teresa battery had three 150mm Ordóñez guns. The Navy fired 1,362 shells whereas the Spanish fired only 441 rounds. Even so, military casualties were very light on both sides; civilian deaths exceeded combined military deaths by one.

Side view of the Ordoñez gun at the Presidio of San Francisco

Two 150mm Ordóñez guns were in place in a battery at Sangley Point, which the USS Olympia, USS Baltimore, and USS Boston, shelled during the Battle of Manila Bay. Four more of these 150mm guns were to be mounted at a battery at Subic Bay but had not yet been at the time of the battle. Filipino freedom fighters resisting the US colonization of the Philippines later moved one of these to a battery they constructed there.

In September 1899, US forces attacked the battery at Subic Bay. At some point the Ordóñez gun in the battery suffered damage, either from a shell from the USS Charleston, or more probably from an outgoing shell exploding within the barrel. William Randolph Hearst acquired this gun and presented it to the City of San Francisco where it was on display at Columbia Square Park until 1973, when it was moved to the Main Post of the Presidio of San Francisco.

Possibly the last action for any Ordóñez piece occurred in 1937 when two of the M1916 howitzers at Madrid participated, on the Republican side, at the Battle of Brunete during the Spanish Civil War. The Nationalist did deploy an armored train with "a huge artillery gun", at the Battle of Teruel, but it is not clear whether the gun in question was the Ordóñez M1916.[10]


  1. At Havana there were some 120mm and 160mm (6.3") Hontoria naval guns that had been landed from the cruiser Alfonso XII.[3]
  1. Journal of the United States Artillery, (1898), Vol. 10, p.143.
  2. Shull (1901), p.130.
  3. United States Office of Naval Intelligence, (1892), p.90.
  4. United States Office of Naval Intelligence, (1899) pp.35-6.
  5. Schull (1901), p.132-4.
  6. United States, Office of Naval Intelligence (1892), p.90.
  7. Schull (1901), pp.137-8.
  8. Congress (1902), Vol 4285, pp.648-51.
  9. New York Times, 8 May 1798
  10. Eby (2007), p.276.


  • Eby, Cecil D., (2007) Comrades And Commissars: The Lincoln Battalion in the Spanish Civil War. (Penn State Press). ISBN 9780271029108
  • Schull, Lieut. Herman W. (1901) "Spanish Ordnance in the Defense of Havana". Journal of the United States Artillery, Vol. 15, No. 2, Whole No. 48, pp. 129–146.
  • United States Congress (1902) Congressional edition, Volume 4285. (U.S. G.P.O.).
  • United States, Office of Naval Intelligence (1892) Information from abroad. (Govt. Print. Off.).
  • United States, Office of Naval Intelligence (1899) Information from abroad: War notes, Issues 1-8. United States. 56th Cong., 1st sess., 1899. (Govt. Print. Off.).

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