HEAVY CHARGE. (From Punch.)

AtShoeburyness resounds,
To try what damage can be done,
And bang! goes forty pounds.
Good forty pounds at every shot;
Consider of it well;
And also full as much, if not
Much more, for every shell.
What’s there to show for this expense
Of powder and of ball?
Hole in a shield, the model fence
Of Ironsides; that’s all,
Save proof that if, with skilful aim,
The gun were levelled true,
And Ironsides invading came,
‘Twould riddle her sides too.
In peace, for practice, we must fight
Imaginary foes,
Since war is ever in our sight;
That’s how the money goes.
But how, against invading fleet,
Much faster it would go
Had we an enemy to beat
At forty pounds a blow!
Suppose your gunner’s aim to fail,
As oft the case may be;
Your forty pounds, of no avail,
Go plump into the sea.
To such a tune if war require
Our giant guns to play,
Some hundred millions we shall fire
In a little time away.
But will the bolt, so pitched aright
(Which sometimes may betide),
As foreign ironsides to smite
And penetrate her side,
Do damage in a measure such
As due proportion bounds?
For, oh it should do very much
Indeed for forty pounds.
Bomb, certain Ironsides to smash,
For dog-cheap we should hold,
Though more its charge were worth in cash,
Than fulminating gold.
Therewith, come whosoe’er might come,
Prepared we could remain,
Nor need keep firing off the sum
Of forty pounds in vain.

Title:Heavy Charge


Publication:Ashton and Stalybridge Reporter

Published in:Ashton-under-Lyne

Date:September 3rd 1864

Keywords:politics, satire, war


This Punch poem comments on the government’s dealing with Sir William Armstrong, an inventor and engineer often thought of as the father of modern ordinance. Despite having been knighted in 1859 after handing over his patents to the government, his business was severely affected by restrictions on arms sales during the American Civil War and he successfully claimed compensation from the government, the amount of which is ridiculed here with a pun on pounds weight (of cannon) and pounds sterling. Eventually restrictions were lifted and by the end of the conflict Armstrong’s company was selling arms to both sides. – SR