Painting Guide - Artillery

 So I have pontificated about clothing colours (in general)...

...regimental coat colours (or not)...

...and equipment...

Painting Guide - Equipment

Only time before I looked at artillery. So here it is.

A re-enactors' cannon ready to be fired

Artillery pieces were expensive to produce, heavy and difficult to move around. The idea of using artillery in battle (rather than in a siege) was still in it's infancy. Guns were placed before the battle and pretty much stayed there win, lose or draw.

Gunners were highly skilled individuals, many having learned their art on the continent during the Thirty Years War, and were often described as mercenaries employed by whomsoever paid the most rather than whose cause their hearts sided with. Whilst this master gunner for hire image may not be the whole truth, it does give us the notion that they were independent contractors hired for their skills rather than being roped in and given a coat and some weapons and told to wave the pointy bit at the enemy. To this end artillery crews most likely wore civilian clothes: there are no known issues of clothing to gunners. This does not exclude them wearing a discarded coat from the artillery guard say. I try to paint my artillery crews with civiliany colours, throwing in the odd military coat colour for good measure.

The train of artillery consisted of gunners, drovers, and as touched upon, often an artillery guard. This guard was usually equipped with firelock muskets - not a good idea protecting large quantities of black powder with men wandering around with lit matches. There is evidence that artillery guards were issued clothing - Artillery Guard of the New Model Army, for example, wore tawny coloured coats, lined white.


Gun barrels were cast from bronze or iron, so it is possible to paint your artillery barrels bronze, gun barrel, or black. 

Some Scots guns were wrapped in leather (leather guns were quite fashionable in Swedish armies of the time), so very dark brown/black. Although these were not introduced until 1648 when Wemyss succeeded Hamilton as General of the Artillery.

 Iron work on gun carriages would most likely been painted black to protect against corrosion.

Now to try and answer the question that probably brought you here: what colour were gun carriages? If you can, get hold of a copy of the Arquebusier (Journal of the Pike and Shot Society) Vol XXXV 2017 - Stephen Ede-Borrett wrote a short article "The Colour of English Ordinance during the  17th and Early 18th Centuries". 

A 9lb cannonball from a demi-culverin, from my own collection

From a practical point of view the wood of carriages would need some form of protection from the elements. Some woods have high levels of tannins which would provide some form of protection (e.g. oak). So you could be justified painting gun carriages wood colour (remember that oak weathers grey).

There are a number of surviving warrants specifying items to be painted and costs involved - sadly no colours are recorded. So we do at least know that some gun carriages were painted. But what possible colours?

Re-enactors firing their cannon from atop the Queen's Sconce, Newark

Royal Artillery pieces had gun carriages painted blue grey during the War of the Spanish Succession 1702-1714, a colour that continued through to the Napoleonic Wars. Whilst not definitive, nor 'our' period, conjecturally a possible colour.

 Contemporary paintings from the Thirty Years War (where many British gunners learnt their trade) show gun carriages dark brown (natural wood?) or yellow mustard (the same colour as Austrian Napoleonic artillery), all guns were illustrated with black metalwork. 

Lawson (A History of the Uniforms of the British Army Vol 1, Cecil C P Lawson, various publishers, original 1940) refers to the guns of the New Model Army as being painted a "fair ledd colour". But what was this "fair ledd": a red lead oxide or a lead grey?

Falconet - Royal Artillery Museum collection, photo by martin_vmorris

Firepower! - the Museum of the Royal Artillery* has two falconets in it's collection, both are believed to be German made, and it is thought that they have original carriages, both of which are red. Unfortunately these carriages were 'restored' by the Royal Carriage Department in 1861 so we can no longer be sure how much of these carriages are original, or even if the paint is an accurate reproduction of the original paint. Bloody Victorians!

So there you have it. A definitive excuse to paint your gun carriages any colour you want, so long as the carriage metalwork is black. I've gone for a selection of Napoleonic gun colours -paint/wood preserver technology was probably quite similar, plus it fits with the possible colours recorded. 

The Scots were a different kettle of fish altogether and their gun carriages were protected from the weather using mixtures containing pine resin - so not only did they look good (yellowy-orange), they smelled fresh and hygenic.

Selection of cannon balls - Warrington Art Gallery and Museum

For more info on Civil War cannons see here - a direct download from Derbyshire Archaeological Society - includes a table of ordinance describing calibre, weight and ranges of the common types of cannon used during the wars.


English Civil War Artillery 1642-51, Chris Henry, Osprey Publishing 2005 - An excellent easy read primer
The Furie of the Ordnance: Artillery in the English Civil Wars, Stephen Bull, The Boydell Press 2008 A more in depth study than the Osprey
The Train of Artillery of the Earl of Essex, Simon Marsh, Pike and Shot Society 2016 - One for the serious student of the era (or accountants); brief commentary, then the financial accounts of the Train of Artillery transcribed

* Sadly Firepower! closed it's doors quite a number of years ago. The Museum was to be relocated on to the MOD's Salisbury estates, and work was due to begin imminently, unfortunately the current MoD Chief of Staff has withdrawn support for the project, and the project is now in limbo. This collection of national importance remains in storage.

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  1. Thanks for that had been wondering about what colour to paint my gun carriages, just started putting together my first ECW army finding your posts on painting colour schemes very helpful

    1. Sorry I couldn't provide a more definitive answer for you.

      Glad to hear that you find the painting guides useful. Good luck with the painting.

  2. That's the gun I fire in the first picture, she's a 4lb drake minion affectionately known as Lady Nancy of Scarborough. She belongs to the English civil war society and Sir Marmaduke Rawdons Regiment artillery crew are her custodians 😊


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