A broadside is the side of a ship, the battery of cannon on one side of a warship; or their coordinated fire in naval warfare. From the 16th century until the early decades of the steamship, vessels had rows of guns set in each side of the hull. Firing all guns on one side of the ship became known as a "broadside". The cannons of 18th-century men of war were accurate only at short range, and their penetrating power mediocre, entailing that the thick hulls of wooden ships could only be pierced at short ranges. These wooden ships sailed closer and closer towards each other until cannon fire would be effective. Each tried to be the first to fire a broadside, often giving one party a decisive headstart in the battle when it crippled the other ship.[1]

Hull model by Augustin Pic mp3h9729
Broadside of a French 74-gun ship of the line


AnthonyRoll-2 Mary Rose
The English warship Mary Rose, one of the earliest warships with a broadside armament; illustration from the Anthony Roll, c. 1546

Since ancient times, war at sea had been fought much like on land: with melee weapons and bows and arrows, but on floating wooden platforms rather than battlefields. Though the introduction of guns was a significant change, it only slowly changed the dynamics of ship-to-ship combat. The first guns on ships were small wrought-iron pieces mounted on the open decks and in the fighting tops, often requiring only one or two men to handle them. They were designed to injure, kill or simply stun, shock and frighten the enemy prior to boarding.[2] As guns were made more durable to withstand stronger gunpowder charges, they increased their potential to inflict critical damage to the vessel rather than just its crew. Since these guns were much heavier than the earlier anti-personnel weapons, they had to be placed lower in the ships, and fire from gunports, to avoid ships becoming unstable. In Northern Europe the technique of building ships with clinker planking made it difficult to cut ports in the hull; clinker-built (or clench-built) ships had much of their structural strength in the outer hull. The solution was the gradual adoption of carvel-built ships that relied on an internal skeleton structure to bear the weight of the ship.[3] The development of propulsion during the 15th century from single-masted, square-rigged cogs to three-masted carracks with a mix of square and lateen sails made ships nimbler and easier to maneuver.[4]

Gunports cut in the hull of ships had been introduced as early as 1501. According to tradition the inventor was a Breton shipwright called Descharges, but it is just as likely to have been a gradual adaptation of loading ports in the stern of merchant vessels that had already been in use for centuries.[5] Initially, the gunports were used to mount heavy so-called stern chasers pointing aft, but soon gun ports migrated to the sides of ships. This made possible coordinated volleys from all the guns on one side of a ship for the first time in history, at least in theory. Guns in the 16th century were considered to be in fixed positions and were intended to be fired independently rather than in concerted volleys. It was not until the 1590s that the word "broadside" in English was commonly used to refer to gunfire from the side of a ship rather than the ship's side itself.[6]

Uss iowa bb-61 pr
USS Iowa firing her guns broadside (1984). Note that intervening structures such as the bridge tower would prevent all of the guns from being focused directly forward or aft.

The main batteries in 20th century battleships tended to be powered gun turrets which could swivel 180 degrees or more to establish wider firing arcs around the entire vessel. Although this could allow at least some of the main guns to be focused directly forward or aft, most or all battleships still relied on broadsides for maximum firepower. Structures such as the bridge tower in the middle of a battleship would prevent guns in the aft portion of the ship from firing forward, and vice versa. Additionally, directing the guns to the port or starboard projected the massive muzzle blast out over the ocean, while firing the guns too close to the deck could cause damage to the ship.

As a measurement

BB61 USS Iowa BB61 broadside USN
The firepower of a battleship demonstrated by USS Iowa (c. 1984). The muzzle blasts are large enough to distort the ocean surface.

Additionally, the term broadside is a measurement of a vessel's maximum simultaneous firepower which can be delivered upon a single target, because this concentration is usually obtained by firing a broadside. This is calculated by multiplying the shell weight of the ship's main armament shells times the number of barrels that can be brought to bear. If some turrets are incapable of firing to either side of the vessel, only the maximum number of barrels which can fire to one side or the other are counted. For example, the American Iowa-class battleships carried a main armament of nine 16-inch (406 mm) main guns in turrets which could all be trained to a single broadside. Each 16-inch shell weighed 2,700 pounds (1,200 kg), which when multiplied by nine (the total number of barrels in all three turrets) equals a total of 24,300 pounds (11,022 kg). Thus, an Iowa-class battleship had a broadside of 12 short tons (11.0 tonnes), the weight of shells that she could theoretically land on a target in a single firing.

See list of broadsides of major World War II ships for a comparison.

See also


  1. ^ Platt (1993) p. 18
  2. ^ Rodger (1997), pp. 205–206
  3. ^ Marsden (2003), pp. 137–142
  4. ^ Rodger (1997), pp. 71–72
  5. ^ Rodger (1997), p. 207
  6. ^ Rodger (1996), pp. 312, 316


  • Marsden, Peter, Sealed by Time: The Loss and Recovery of the Mary Rose. The Archaeology of the Mary Rose, Volume 1. The Mary Rose Trust, Portsmouth. 2003. ISBN 0-9544029-0-1
  • Platt, Richard,Man-of-war. Dorling Kindersley, New York. 1993. ISBN 978-1-56458-321-5.
  • Rodger, Nicholas A. M., The Safeguard of the Sea: A Naval History of Britain 660–1649. W.W. Norton & Company, New York. 1997. ISBN 0-393-04579-X
  • Rodger, N. A. M. (2004). The Command of the Ocean : a naval history of Great Britain 1649 - 1815. Penguin History. ISBN 0-14-102690-1.

Further reading


A ballad is a form of verse, often a narrative set to music. Ballads derive from the medieval French chanson balladée or ballade, which were originally "danced songs". Ballads were particularly characteristic of the popular poetry and song of Ireland and Britain from the later medieval period until the 19th century. They were widely used across Europe, and later in Australia, North Africa, North America and South America. Ballads are often 13 lines with an ABABBCBC form, consisting of couplets (two lines) of rhymed verse, each of 14 syllables. Another common form is ABAB or ABCB repeated, in alternating 8 and 6 syllable lines.

Many ballads were written and sold as single sheet broadsides. The form was often used by poets and composers from the 18th century onwards to produce lyrical ballads. In the later 19th century, the term took on the meaning of a slow form of popular love song and is often used for any love song, particularly the sentimental ballad of pop or rock, although the term is also associated with the concept of a stylized storytelling song or poem, particularly when used as a title for other media such as a film.

Beacon Press

Beacon Press is an American non-profit book publisher. Founded in 1854 by the American Unitarian Association, it is currently a department of the Unitarian Universalist Association.

Broadside (comic strip)

Broadside is a weekly, single-panel comic published in Navy Times since 1986, and written by Jeff Bacon. The humor is very specifically directed at United States Navy personnel, and considered nearly incomprehensible by many non-Navy servicepersons. Bacon also writes a second cartoon called Greenside, featuring United States Marine Corps personnel.

Broadside cartoons have been printed in numerous government publications, professional papers, and often can be seen adorning the walls of military spaces and cubicles. The cartoons have been displayed at the Navy Art Gallery and the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C., and have been published in three books: The Best of Broadside, Book II: the Rest of Broadside, and 20 Years of Broadside.

Broadside (magazine)

Broadside magazine was a small mimeographed publication founded in 1962 by Agnes "Sis" Cunningham and her husband, Gordon Friesen. Hugely influential in the folk-revival, it was often controversial. Issues of what is folk music, what is folk rock, and who is folk were roundly discussed and debated. At the same time, Broadside nurtured and promoted important singers of the era.

The mimeograph machine used to produce the magazine had been discarded by the American Labor Party. The mixture of hand-drawn musical notation, typewriter text, and the occasional hand-drawn illustration or photocopied news story anticipated a look that would be more common in zines 20 years later.

By the end of the 1970s, Broadside had essentially ceased publication.

Several of the songs recorded for Broadside over its lifetime were released in 2000 as The Best of Broadside as a 5-CD boxed set, which is the only way most of the recordings are available.

Broadside (printing)

A broadside is a large sheet of paper printed on one side only. Historically, broadsides were used as posters, announcing events or proclamations, commentary in the form of ballads, or simply advertisements.

Broadside ballad

A broadside (also known as a broadsheet) is a single sheet of inexpensive paper printed on one side, often with a ballad, rhyme, news and sometimes with woodcut illustrations. They were one of the most common forms of printed material between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, particularly in Britain, Ireland and North America and are often associated with one of the most important forms of traditional music from these countries, the ballad.

Central battery ship

The central battery ship, also known as a centre battery ship in the United Kingdom and as a casemate ship in European continental navies, was a development of the (high-freeboard) broadside ironclad of the 1860s, given a substantial boost due to the inspiration gained from the Battle of Hampton Roads, the very first battle between ironclads fought in 1862 during the American Civil War. One of the participants was the Confederate casemate ironclad CSS Virginia, essentially a central battery ship herself, albeit a low-freeboard one. The central battery ships had their main guns concentrated in the middle of the ship in an armoured citadel. The concentration of armament amidships meant the ship could be shorter and handier than a broadside type like previous warships. In this manner the design could maximize the thickness of armour in a limited area while still carrying a significant broadside. These ships meant the end of the armoured frigates with their full-length gun decks.

In the UK, the man behind the design was the newly appointed Chief Constructor of the Royal Navy, Edward James Reed. The previous Royal Navy ironclad designs, represented by HMS Warrior, had proven to be seaworthy, fast under power and sail, but their armour could be easily penetrated by more modern guns. The first central battery ship was HMS Bellerophon of 1865. Great Britain built a total of 18 central battery ships before turrets became common on high-freeboard ships in the 1880s.The second British central battery ship, HMS Hercules, served as model for the Austrian navy, starting with their first design SMS Lissa (6,100 tons) designed by Josef von Romako and launched in 1871. The Austrian SMS Kaiser—not to be confused with German Kaiser—was built along a similar design, although the hull had been converted from a wooden ship, and it was slightly smaller (5,800 tons). The Austrian central battery design was pushed further with SMS Custoza (7,100 tons) and SMS Erzherzog Albrecht (5,900 tons), which had double-decked casemates; after studying the Battle of Lissa, Romako designed these so more guns could shoot forward. Three older broadside ironclads of the Kaiser Max class (3600 tons: Kaiser Max, Don Juan D'Austria and Prinz Eugen) were also officially "converted" to casemate design, although they were mostly built from scratch. The largest design yet was Tegetthoff, later renamed to Mars when the new dreadnought battleship Tegetthoff was commissioned. The Austrian records distinguish between the category of older broadside ironclads and the newer designs using the words Panzerfregatten (armoured frigates) and respectively Casemattschiffe (casemate ships).The German navy had two large casemate ships (about 8800 tons) of the Kaiser class built in UK shipyards. The first ironclad of the Greek navy, Vasilefs Georgios (1867), was also built in the UK; at 1700 tons, it was a minimalist casemate design having only two large 9in guns, and two small 20 pounders. The Italians had three casemate ships built, Venezia, converted from broadside during construction, and the two Principe Amedeo-class ironclads.The disadvantage of the centre-battery was that, while more flexible than the broadside, each gun still had a relatively restricted field of fire and few guns could fire directly ahead. The centre-battery ships were soon succeeded by turreted warships.

Committee of Five

The Committee of Five of the Second Continental Congress was a group of five members who drafted and presented to the full Congress what would become America's Declaration of Independence of July 4, 1776. This Declaration committee operated from June 11, 1776, until July 5, 1776, the day on which the Declaration was published.

Early British popular music

Early British popular music, in the sense of commercial music enjoyed by the people, can be seen to originate in the 16th and 17th centuries with the arrival of the broadside ballad as a result of the print revolution, which were sold cheaply and in great numbers until the 19th century. Further technological, economic and social changes led to new forms of music in the 19th century, including the brass band, which produced a popular and communal form of classical music. Similarly, the music hall sprang up to cater for the entertainment of new urban societies, adapting existing forms of music to produce popular songs and acts. In the 1930s, the influence of American Jazz led to the creation of British dance bands, who provided a social and popular music that began to dominate social occasions and the radio airwaves.

Geordie (ballad)

"Geordie" is Child ballad 209 (Roud 90), existing in many variants. Versions of the ballad have been sung by traditional folksingers in Scotland, England, Ireland, Canada and the United States, and performed and recorded by numerous artists and groups. The ballad concerns the trial of the eponymous hero, during which his wife pleads for his life.


HarperCollins Publishers L.L.C. is one of the world's largest publishing companies and is one of the

Big Five English-language publishing companies, alongside Hachette, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster. The company is headquartered in New York City and is a subsidiary of News Corp. The name is a combination of several publishing firm names: Harper & Row, an American publishing company acquired in 1987 (whose own name was the result of an earlier merger of Harper & Brothers (founded 1817) and Row, Peterson & Company), together with UK publishing company William Collins, Sons (founded 1819), acquired in 1990.

The worldwide CEO of HarperCollins is Brian Murray. HarperCollins has publishing groups in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, India, and China. The company publishes many different imprints, both former independent publishing houses and new imprints.

Ironclad warship

An ironclad is a steam-propelled warship protected by iron or steel armor plates used in the early part of the second half of the 19th century. The ironclad was developed as a result of the vulnerability of wooden warships to explosive or incendiary shells. The first ironclad battleship, Gloire, was launched by the French Navy in November 1859. The British Admiralty had been considering armored warships since 1856 and prepared a draft design for an armored corvette in 1857; in early 1859 the Royal Navy started building two iron-hulled armored frigates, and by 1861 had made the decision to move to an all-armored battle fleet. After the first clashes of ironclads (both with wooden ships and with one another) took place in 1862 during the American Civil War, it became clear that the ironclad had replaced the unarmored ship of the line as the most powerful warship afloat. This type of ship would come to be very successful in the American Civil War.Ironclads were designed for several roles, including as high seas battleships, coastal defense ships, and long-range cruisers. The rapid development of warship design in the late 19th century transformed the ironclad from a wooden-hulled vessel that carried sails to supplement its steam engines into the steel-built, turreted battleships and cruisers familiar in the 20th century. This change was pushed forward by the development of heavier naval guns (the ironclads of the 1880s carried some of the heaviest guns ever mounted at sea at the time), more sophisticated steam engines, and advances in metallurgy which made steel shipbuilding possible.

The quick pace of change meant that many ships were obsolete as soon as they were finished, and that naval tactics were in a state of flux. Many ironclads were built to make use of the ram or the torpedo, which a number of naval designers considered the important weapons of naval combat. There is no clear end to the ironclad period, but towards the end of the 1890s the term ironclad dropped out of use. New ships were increasingly constructed to a standard pattern and designated battleships or armored cruisers.

Navy Times

Navy Times (ISSN 0028-1697) is an American newspaper published 26 times per year serving active, reserve and retired United States Navy personnel and their families, providing news, information, analysis, community lifestyle features, educational supplements, and resource guides. Navy Times also reports on the United States Coast Guard. Navy Times is published by Sightline Media Group a portfolio company of private equity firm Regent.

Physical history of the United States Declaration of Independence

The United States Declaration of Independence, which announced that the thirteen American colonies then at war with Great Britain were no longer a part of the British Empire, exists in a number of drafts, handwritten copies, and published broadsides.

Robin Hood's Delight

Robin Hood's Delight is Child ballad 136. It is a story in the Robin Hood canon which has survived as, among other forms, a late seventeenth-century English broadside ballad, and is one of several ballads about the medieval folk hero that form part of the Child ballad collection, which is one of the most comprehensive collections of traditional English ballads.

Roud Folk Song Index

The Roud Folk Song Index is a database of around 250,000 references to nearly 25,000 songs collected from oral tradition in the English language from all over the world. It is compiled by Steve Roud, a former librarian in the London Borough of Croydon. Roud's Index is a combination of the Broadside Index (printed sources before 1900) and a "field-recording index" compiled by Roud. It subsumes all the previous printed sources known to Francis James Child (the Child Ballads) and includes recordings from 1900 to 1975. Until early 2006 the index was available by a CD subscription; now it can be found online on the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library website, maintained by the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS). A partial list is also available at List of folk songs by Roud number.

Sings for Broadside

Sings For Broadside, alternatively known as Broadside Ballads, Vol. 10, was a 1976 compilation of songs that Phil Ochs had recorded for Broadside Magazine as demonstration recordings or at benefit shows for them. Initially, Ochs had hoped for the magazine to release one single concert, but when the material he presented to them came up far too short for a full LP and not featuring several of his best and well-known numbers, he suggested they splice on whatever they desired. The result was this album, which featured tracks recorded between about 1965 and about 1973.

Nine songs that appeared on his second, third and fourth albums are supplemented by three tracks that had up to that point never appeared on any Ochs album, two of them, "United Fruit" and "On Her Hand A Golden Ring" only available on this compilation (the third, "What Are You Fighting For", later appeared on the 2000 compilation The Early Years.) The album is available on CD from Smithsonian Folkways Recordings,

The Clash used one of the lines from "United Fruit" as the closing stanza for their song "Up in Heaven (Not Only Here)", which appeared on their 1980 album Sandinista!.

The Broomfield Hill

"The Broomfield Hill", "The Broomfield Wager" "The Merry Broomfield", "The Green Broomfield", "A Wager, a Wager", or "The West Country Wager" (Child 43, Roud 34) is a traditional English folk ballad. (The Roud Index lists a number of other titles.)

The Jolly Pinder of Wakefield

The Jolly Pinder of Wakefield is Child ballad 124, about Robin Hood. The oldest manuscript of this English broadside ballad, according to the University of Rochester, dates back to 1557, and a fragment of the ballad appears also in the Percy Folio. Copies of the ballad can be found at the National Library of Scotland, the British Library, and Magdalene College. Alternatively, online facsimiles of the ballad are available for public consumption.

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