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What Is a Gunroom?

By Lori Kilchermann
Updated May 23, 2024
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The gunroom is typically the junior officer's mess area on a ship and not the type of room that is used to store guns as the name implies. On the earliest wooden sailing ships, the gunroom was the quarters for the ship's gunner and his crew, was an area to store ammunition and weapons, and was commonly located on the lower decks of the vessel. The gunroom is used by junior officers holding the rank of lieutenant or under, but not consisting of warrant officers. The mess area reserved for the senior officers is called the wardroom and also contains no firearms. On modern battleships, the area inside of the large gun turrets is also known as the gunroom.

In the early naval ships, the gunroom was used to store ammunition and weapons for the guns on the ship's gun deck. Located at the stern or rear of the ship, the munitions were protected by the length of the ship and were easily accessed by the crewmen charged with loading the cannons. In times of normal sailing, the gunroom served as the eating area for the junior officers. The location of the room at the rear of the ship made it somewhat crowded and the large wooden assembly that comprised the ship's rudder control lever swept across the ceiling of the room as the ship's wheel was turned.

The area inside of the modern gunroom can be a very noisy, hot and a busy area once the ship begins firing the large deck guns. The noise inside of the turret restricts communications to hand signals. In the common configuration, large projectiles are transported from munition holds in the belly of the ship to the gun turrets by large chain elevators. As the breech of the large gun opens, the projectile is placed onto a loading ramp that directs it into the breech of the gun. A large ram pushes the projectile into the gun as a crew member ensures that the projectile is properly seated.

This is all followed by two or three powder bags being sent up from the bottom of the ship and stuffed into the gun. Once loaded by the crew in the turrets, the gun is brought up to firing position and targeted. The gun is fired by a crewman positioned deep inside the center compartments of the ship who pulls an actual trigger-like component that resembles a pistol handle. The gun fires and the process is repeated inside of the gunroom until a cease-fire is called by the ship's captain.

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