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Derek and Josh have both explained that the calibre alone does not tell you everything about a gun or its round. Interestingly the 17 pounder AT gun was itself developed from the 3 inch anti aircraft gun. This is interesting because the legendary German 88mm was originally a Flak/Anti Aircraft gun also. British 3 inch anti aircraft gun The thing that Anti Aircraft guns have to do is fire their round at a great velocity in order to give it range. This will allow the shell to get up to the height the enemy aircraft are flying, around 25,000ft. A round fired almost horizontally can go a lot further as gravity is acting upon it in a different way (the 88 ground firing range was theoretically 49,000ft). In both cases the propellant part of the round was huge compared to a normal 75mm tank round. In the case of the 17 pounder this meant the gun ejected its’ shell at 2,900 - 3,115 ft/sec which is actually faster than the 88’s 2,690 ft/sec although this is offset by the 88 shell being heavier. 17 pounder as a mobile anti tank gun The other thing to look at is the barrel length. Although it all seems to happen in a split second the actual time it takes for the shell to travel from the breech to the end of the barrel is very important. The exploding charge (usually some version of cordite) does not burn linearly and consequently the pressure wave isn’t linear either. The idea is to make the barrel long enough to get the most from the charge and catch the best parts of the pressure wave. Again you’ll see the 17 pdr and 88mm both have quite long barrels for this reason. So both of these guns fire a very fast, and quite heavy, shell giving plenty of kinetic energy to penetrate the enemy tank’s armour. German 88mm Anti Aircraft/Flak Gun in the Imperial War Museum, London. In fact barrel length was a bit of a problem with the Sherman Firefly. A British squadron usually consisted of four troops and each troop would have 3 x 75mm Shermans and 1 x 17pdr Sherman Firefly. Unfortunately the Germans soon realised this and orders were issued to treat the Fireflies as priority targets. To try to combat this some clever camouflage painting was done to try to disguise the length of the Firefly’s gun and make it look, at a quick glance, like a standard 75mm. (One preserved Sherman Firefly has been painted this way). Unfortunately they couldn’t do much about the much greater flash when it fired though. Preserved Sherman Firefly with camouflaged barrel. Please note that this answer is pretty simple to explain the point the questioner asked about. The design and development of these weapons is a huge subject and so this can only touch on one or two points. For instance the type of shell is a fascinating, but complex, subject as different types are designed during the war to counter the enemy armour in different ways.
Short Answer Most Qing Chinese “War Junks” in the “Opium War” were equivalent to US Coastguard vessels- for internal security, anti smuggling and antipiracy operations. They were not designed or equipped for war fighting against European ocean going warships Chinese inferiority in firepower, training and experience ensured that their capability against well handled Royal Navy ships was negligible. During the “Opium War”, the Qing built a few war junks as a big as a British frigate, and these were armed with British guns, one was captured and burned in harbour. A purchased British ship suffered the same fate. Without training and experience, stronger ships would be unlikely to have had a significant effect Qing shipbuilders were unable to build a vessel as large as a Ship of the Line Long Answer This question is not well framed insofar we need to separate the weakness of the ship from the weakness of the weapons carried, their mode of deployment, tactics and training. The question is also difficult to answer owing to the dearth of information available about Chinese vessels or weapons. Chinese War Junks China has traditionally placed emphasis on scholarship but little has been recorded on nautical lore. There is an absence of plans or dependable descriptions and records of the war-junk are limited to a few woodcuts which liken them slightly to the fighting craft of ancient Egyptians and warships of the Venetians of A.D.1200. For centuries the Chinese war junk played a part on the Yangtze River during tribal and civil wars and to combat pirates and illegal migration. Early tactics relied on flags, banners and trumpets to strike terror into the heart of the enemy but painting a tiger’s head on the bow or decorating the junk as a dragon were also used. Bows and arrows followed by the installation of cannons later were found to be more effective,.” Below, a Chinese war junk of the “old style,” 1840s. Chinese naval vessels were small, around 300 tons burden and 100 feet in length, at a time when trading junks might accommodate some 1,000 tons. Each coastal province maintained its own flotilla of war junks, but they served more as local coast guards than as a unified naval strike force. Carrying around 100 men and perhaps a half dozen cannon each, the Chinese war junk was no match for a 19th century European warship. 2. Primary Data- The Battle of Cheunpi November 3 1839 From the account of Lieutenant (later Cdr) Bingham RN [2&3]. He is a good writer but under-smugness is not one of his vices. The homicide referred to is a Chinese gentlemen who was killed in a bar fight involving British and American sailors. A few things are clear from this account: The Qing junks are easily destroyed by the British guns The British vessels are manoeuvring freely to maintain the advantage The Qing gunners can’t hit the British ships owing to fixed elevation whereas the British make good practice against their Chinese opponents. The Qing use 12 pounder guns, (HMS Volage carries 18 32-pounder gunnades and 8 long guns and Hyacinth 16 32-pounder gunnades and long guns. But I am not sure from this data we can say that Chinese junks were “so weak” because they were poorly armed and handled. Lack of Information As I have written elsewhere, documentation on Asian warships is often hard to find. Accounts of the Opium War from the British side are dismissive of junks, accounts from the Chinese side such as Mao  tend to be be folk with no grasp of naval warfare, of indeed weapons. Mao’s book is really very good, but when he writes about weapons he writes nonsense- as does the Opium War Museum near the Dagu (Taku) Forts. Particularly hard to find is how Chinese guns were fired and loaded. Improvements between the Armada and Trafalgar had increased the rate of fire of Royal Navy ships by a factor about 15 times. We don’t know where the junks sat on that scale. The Qing Navy Mao does give useful information on the state of Qing naval (coastguard, really) forces T,he Qing naval forces had several hundred vessels of about a dozen types, but all of them were small. The tonnage of the largest was smaller than that of the smallest European Warship, [that is a bit vague! Does he mean a sloop? ] ,while the ships with the most cannon [he means guns] only had as many as the most lightly armed British ones. Mao goes on to add some useful context: It was not that the Chinese were unable to build bigger vessels, they made larger and stronger deep water ones for merchant use. As Deng ,[Tingzhen, governor general of Fujian and Zhejiang], indicated, the water forces were constrained by the regulations set by the Board of Shipbuilding. The Board of Shipbuilding constrained the guns carried by merchants ships so they could not overpower naval vessels, but of course this didn’t work with those pesky foreign barbarians. At the time of the “Opium War” 1839–42 -to which I assume the question applies the Royal Navy was experienced in war fighting against western naval rivals. Despite many good features, the fighting junk was not subject to evolution in the same combat conditions as the frigate. 19th century Qing Chinese war vessels were largely unable to catch opium ships in open waters and when Qing push came to British shove in the “Opium War”, the junks were easily destroyed by frigates in one-sided conflict. So the Qing Chinese junks were lightly built, lightly armed and the crews unfamiliar with modern naval combat. The junks had fixed guns, normally of small caliber. The lack of breeching ropes would mean a low rate of fire. There was little evidence of tactical deployment. The Qing were initially unable to build a frigate of their own so Commission Lin Zexu purchased one- the converted East Indiaman ,Cambridge,, inauspiciously renamed ,Chesapeake, by her previous American owners! Armed with modern artillery, the Qing were unable to crew or fight her effectively she was captured and burned without loss by the British Empire forces [Ref 5]. The Chesapeake, [ex Cambridge], which had opened her fire, soon found the disengaged guns of our ships too much for her, as the shots were ploughing up her decks in every direction; while her crew were jumping overboard and making for the shore. The junks, though they made a great deal of noise, took good care to keep out of range. While this was going forward on shore, Lt Watson of the Calliope [a 28 gun frigate armed with 32 pdr gunnades- ,[which were carronades with trunnions- Chilean readers may be interested to know that future Admiral Lynch was a midshipman aboard this vessel!], and Mr Pearse of the Modeste [18 gun sloop] with several men succeeded in launching a boat across the raft and boarded the Chesapeake. She was quickly carried after a show of resistance by the few of her crew that remained. Her decks were described by Mr Pearse as resembling in appearance a slaughter house, so tremendous had been the effect of the ship’s broadsides… She mounted thirty-four carriage guns and was altogether well found. Above 32 pounder gunnade Lt Bingham goes on to relate that the Qing did build a frigate-sized war junk but it was captured and burned unmanned later in the campaign. These are also described in Bernard & Hall’s account  T,owards the close of the war the Chinese built one or two large junks which they called frigates, with great improvements in shape and general arrangement, and regular port holes for the guns on the deck below; with heavy guns too, mounted in them. One of these we saw near the Bogue after the peace mounting 36 guns. all foreign manufacture, many of them 9 and 12 pounder iron guns made by Fawcett of Liverpool and purchased at either Macao or Singapore. The junk was in good order, painted green and coppered, and with the exception of the masts and sails, which were in the old style, she looked very well. I think this account is instructive. Lighter war junks did not mount mount enough firepower. Junks have blunt bows and their rigging probably made them less handy, but I don’t have data to support that. The junk design is a thousand years old, and I think that speaks volumes for its soundness for general purpose use. However, no junk ever defeated a European man o’war one on one in the age of sail. The fitting of watertight compartments in junks is often cited as making them hard to sink as therefore superior to European vessels. There is some merit to this, but Wooden ships were very hard to sink anyway if holed once. Ships from Trafalgar were holed repeatedly below the waterline, but those that sank did so in subsequent storms I have read many accounts of the “Opium War” but in none of them is there a report of baffled Royal Naval officers wondering why these Chinese ships just won’t sink. Fire was generally a greater hazard to wooden ships in battle. It should be noted that in the Arrow War of 1856–60, the Royal Navy fought two battles against war junks- in each case the Qing fleets fled up rivers and were chased by the Royal Navy in rowing boats, destroying many war junks, so it should not be thought that the British could only destroy smaller opponents [7 &8] Battle of Fatshan Creek 1 June 1857 But the battle was not over. In the northern channel Keppel and his 'cheering dare-devils' pressed on through the 'wilderness of junks'. 'N ever wait lads'; the Commodore shouted, 'leave those rascals to the gunboats and the fellows behind; push on ahead!'. With four galleys and three boom boats, each carrying a bow gun, they pulled upstream towards a second fleet of twenty junks moored across the creek near a small islet. The situation was much as it had been before with the Chinese warships, mounting from ten to fourteen guns each, commanding two narrow passages, one of which was blocked with stakes while the other was so narrow that two boats could not pass through abreast. 'It was a position', Cooke concluded pithily, 'worthy of a Carthaginian'. The effect of the concentrated hail of grape and canister on the British boats was catastrophic. Keppel's galley was hit three times in two minutes and rapidly became a sieve. All was carnage and confusion. A 32-pounder tore a marine major's head off, another man was cut in two, and a third lost his arm. A round shot entered the Tribune's boat and passing along her keel line from stem to stern without touching a soul; yet another passed one inch below the seat on which the Commodore was standing. Battle of Escape Creek 27 May 1857 Footnotes Worcester GRG (1948) ,The Chinese War, Junk Mariner’s Mirror Bingham (1843) ,Narrative of the Expedition to China, Vol 1 For balance, the Chinese account of the engagement is completely different “Captain Lai Entsioh succeeded in sinking a two-masted foreign ship, two sampans a Spanish hulk hired by the British” [Yian Wei- ,Chinese Account of the Opium War ,Shanghai 1888 p10]. The Spanish hulk may refer to a Spanish ship, ,Bilbaino, sunk earlier when mistaken for a British vessel. Royal Navy documents show no ship was sunk to enemy action in the “Opium War” Mao H (2005) ,The Qing Empire and the Opium War ,Cambridge Bingham J (1843) ,Narrative of the Expedition to China, Vol 1 p368 ff Bernard WD and Hall WH (1847) The Nemesis in China Boutillier J A (2013) ,The Battle of Fatshan Creek, The Mariner’s Mirror 67 4 339–347 Hill R (2000) ,War at Sea in the Ironclad Age p144–145