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USS Iowa fires a broadside (1984)

Among the broad side refers to the common firing of the guns of one of the two longitudinal sides of a warship . The broadside is the preferred shooting method of the ship of the line .


Until the development of sailing ships flourished in the 15th century , warships were driven by oars due to their better maneuverability. That is why the long sides of the hulls were not fully available for armament. With the development of sailing ships that could run close to the wind (against the wind), the on-board sides were available for arming with cannons.

In order to achieve the maximum effect on the enemy, a ship of the line had to get the enemy abeam ; H. sideways, because the cannons could only be aimed in a narrow area. The windward position was preferred because it allowed the tactical initiative. It was then fired simultaneously from a distance of at least 200 to 300 meters by a command of the ship's commander from all cannons on the respective side. The effect on the enemy was stronger than the sum of single shots. The smoke development was also less of a hindrance when aiming. However, it is questionable whether the broadside was carried out as the simultaneous firing of all cannons often or at all while the ships were still made of wood. According to the British maritime historian Ernle Bradford , the wooden ships could not have withstood the tremendous shock caused by the recoil for long, so the so-called chop fire was used, in which the cannons were fired one after the other from bow to stern.

On the other hand, the fastest gun crews (up to 14 men) had to wait for the slower ones. At the beginning of a fire, the broadside consequences were always more precise and effective. The first broadside was the most valuable because it could be carried out with carefully loaded guns.

19th century

After the naval guns experienced a great improvement in terms of rate of fire, destructive power and caliber size in the course of the 19th century and especially towards the end of it , the broadside took on a new tactical meaning. The combat distances had increased significantly as a result of the greater range (to a few thousand meters), so that targeting was no longer carried out using the rear sight and front sight, but rather according to shot tables. By firing as many guns of the same caliber as possible at the same time, the alignment of the guns to the next salvo could be improved by observing the impact until the hits were covered. The destination has been forked .

The so-called broadside weight was used to enable a comparison between broadsides of different ships or ship formations . However, this measure was already considered obsolete at the beginning of the First World War .

Figurative meaning

The term “broadside” is also used in a figurative sense, for example when the conversation partner is to be impressed by the massive use of arguments or intimidation during a discussion. A distinction must be made between arguments and intimidation: justifiable arguments are aimed at the cause , unfounded intimidation at the person .

Web links

Wiktionary: broadside  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations