"As the Cock Crows"
At the Battle of Trafalgar, on October 21, 1805, the
74-gun ship-of-the-line HMS Colossus was
commanded by Capt. James Nicoll Morris (1763-1830). Morris, a tough sea dog who had joined the
Royal Navy at the age of 12, came from a line of sailors; his father, Capt. James Morris, had been
killed-in-action while leading a naval brigade in an attempt to storm Ft. Moultrie,
during the American Revolution.
Colossus was the
sixth ship in the lee – right-hand – column as Nelson’s fleet closed with the
Franco-Spanish fleet, and she came under heavy fire, being engaged by at least
three enemy ships. In the midst of the
battle, while Colossus was exchanging
fire with the French Swiftsure (a
British 74 that had been captured earlier in the war), the French Argonaute (74), came up and rammed her, and soon the British
ship was beating off boarding attempts from both sides. During the melee Morris was struck in the thigh, just above the knee.
Despite his dangerous wound, Morris gamely continued to
direct the fight, urging his men on
Now like all ships of the time, Colossus carried some livestock.
And a French cannon ball chanced to demolish a chicken coop that stood
on the ship’s poop. This released a cock
who promptly jumped on Morris’ shoulder.
His fighting spirit aroused, the bird “flapped his wings and crowed lustily,”
adding his battle cry to the exhortations of the wounded captain, at which the
men allegedly gave three cheers, and redoubled their efforts to defeat the
Colossus took two
enemy ships that day, as well as the heaviest losses of any British ship in the
battle, 206 men killed or wounded.
As for Captain Morris, he survived the battle, and the loss
of his leg, to remain in command of Colossus
until 1808, when he transferred to a larger liner. Promoted to rear admiral in 1811, he served
in a variety of posts, including command of the Baltic Fleet, and eventually
rose to vice admiral of the Red.
Oddly, accounts of Morris’ life never mention which leg he lost.
Sharpshooters Need Not Apply
Heavy bombers, such as the B-17, the B-24, and the B-29, not
only carried several tons of bombs, but also a lot of machine gun ammunition as
well. A B-17, for example, carried 4
tons of bombs and 1.5 tons of machine gun ammo.
The .30 and .50 caliber machine gun ammo, supplemented by 20 mm ammo in
the B-29, was needed to help the bombers beat off attacking enemy fighters.
But while the bombers did pile up impressive scores, downing
over 9,000 enemy fighters, the expenditure of ammunition was enormous.
|Bomber Effectiveness Against Fighters|
|Air Force|| Kills|| Rounds Fired||
R per K |
|Eighth (Britain) || 6,098 c.|| 77,540,000 || 12,716|
|Fifteenth (Italy) || 2,110 c. || 30,000,000 || 14,218|
|Twentieth (Marianas) || 914 c. || 11,400,000 || 12,473 |
| Summary || 9,122 c. || 118,940,000|| 13,039|