In his poem “Pied Beauty,” Gerard Manley Hopkins says “Glory be to God for dappled things” and includes “all trades, their gear and tackle and trim” in his catalogue of unusual beauty. I would add “jargon” to that list. Though usually used pejoratively, jargon is the very precise language of a trade or craft, profession or specialization. I find it fascinating. Within the trade, it is the only possible language. Used outside that group (1), jargon seems often like a weapon deployed to confuse or overwhelm the non-initiate.
I confess that until I began this project, I thought of “gun” as meaning a handgun or rifle, perhaps a machine-gun or an automatic weapon wielded by an individual. I did not think of eighteen-pounders or howitzers. I now know better, and use my terms more carefully, attempting to strike the right balance between the beauty of precision and the bewilderment of over-specialization.
There doesn’t seem to be a better umbrella term for artillery weapons than “artillery weapons.” The main weapons used by Canadian artillery were field guns, howitzers, and mortars.
Each had a different purpose and capacity, though they all changed and improved over the course of the war. Percy’s battery of the Canadian Field Artillery was training to use field guns, specifically the eighteen-pounder. These are manoeuvrable weapons, which fired with their barrels raised at an angle of about 35 degrees. Both howitzers and mortars fired at greater angles, with the result that at the end of their arc, the projectile would fall almost vertically – a distinct advantage if the target is behind cover or in the earth, like a trench. Mortars are simpler than howitzers, and fire at a lower velocity and over shorter distances.
(1) Writing studies folk would call such a group a “discourse community.”
(2) The chart is from the glossary in Sanders Marble, “The Infantry Cannot Do with a Gun Less:” The Place of the Artillery in the British Expeditionary Force, 1914-1918. New York: Columbia UP, 2008. Available from http://www.Gutenberg-e.org
Copyright 2016. See “More about this project.”