Defending the Cape (Part 1)

(Click on small picture to open gallery and see larger photos)

Some facts of Cape Town: In 1487, the Portuguese sailor Bartholomeus Dias set out to find a sea route to the East. Evading a fierce storm and blown off course he turned his ship north and landed at the mouth of what is now known as the Gouritz river. He and his crew were, unwittingly, the first Europeans on record to round the Cape.

Antonio de Saldanha was the first European to land in Table Bay. He climbed the big flat-top mountain in 1503 and named it ‘Table Mountain’.

In 1580, Sir Francis Drake sailed around the Cape in his ship – The Golden Hind. Impressed at once by the majesty and beauty he saw, he wrote – “This Cape is a most stately thing, and the fairest Cape in the whole circumference of the earth”.

In 1652 the Dutch East India Company, yielding to repeated petitions and recommendations from their ships’ officers, at last decided to establish a post at Table Bay. the purpose of this base would be to cultivate and provide fresh vegetables and provisions to ships. They also established a shipyard that could perform repairs to ships.

It was around 1780 during the war between France and Great Britain, France sent a small detachment of troops to the Cape to reinforce the Dutch settlement. However by 1795 the tables had turned and France had invaded the Netherlands. The Dutch then aligned themselves with Great Britain. British forces arrived at the Cape bearing a letter from the Prince of Orange asking the Commissioner to allow the British troops to protect the Cape from France.  The reaction in the Cape Council was mixed, and eventually the British successfully invaded the Cape in the Battle of Muizenberg.

The gun at Melkbos: This gun is on the site of Die Damhuis Restaurant, which featured in one of my blogs earlier this year. I have no idea whether this gun was used in the Battle of Blaauwberg or not, so I leave that to your imagination.

Kloofnek: These guns were placed on Kloofnek overlooking Camps Bay in 1782 by the Dutch East India Company. They were intended to protect and control the wagon track which led from Camps Bay to the Castle via Kloofnek. They could also protect the Camps Bay Beach from enemy landings.

The Castle: The castle we know today is not the original construction. It was at first a small fort built in 1652 which was later replaced by the Castle during 1666-1679. It was built by the Dutch East India company and garrisoned the troops.In more recent times, the Castle acted as local headquarters for the South African Army in the Western Cape, and today houses the Castle Military Museum and ceremonial facilities for the traditional Cape Regiments.

Chavonne Battery: Completed in 1726, it stood on the water’s edge with cannons facing out to sea in this fashion \ _ _ _ _ /. It is definitely worth a visit to this museum in the V&A Waterfront. Situated near to the famous clock tower, a cannon is aimed at the battery to show you the way. The Battery was covered over when the Alfred Basin was built and re-discovered during excavations and turned into a museum beneath the Nedbank/BoE building in 1999.

Signal Hill: Every weekday the noon gun fires. It is electronically fired from the Cape Town Observatory. This is a must see for any tourist. I have lived in Cape Town my entire life and only recently did I visit this fantastic facility. Overlooking the city the Noon Gun has become a tradition that dates back to about 1806 when it was fired first at sunset, then at 13h00, and later at noon. It was moved from the Imhoff Battery at the Castle to the Lion Battery on Signal Hill on 4th August 1902. It is Cape Town’s oldest living tradition.

Click here to see a short video clip I made of the Noon Gun firing:

Cape Town is my Home Town. I am fascinated by its beauty. The 2 oceans (Indian & Atlantic) with their beaches, the Mountains, the sprawling farmlands…together these make up the city I am proud to call my own. When I was at school I did not enjoy history as a subject. The way it was taught then was dry and uninteresting. Finding out the history of my city by way of this blog has become a project that I am enjoying thoroughly.

I hope you are enjoying it vicariously through the lens of my camera as well…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s