Defending the Cape (part 3)

Hello all, after being the photographer at the V&A Waterfront on behalf of the Chavonnes Battery Museum for the occasion of the 6 Cannon salute for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, I was invited to attend the cannon firing in celebration of Youth day in Simon’s Town. Harry Croome, curator of the Navy Museum in Simon’s Town Naval base was responsible for the firing which was performed by himself and Martin Venter. Both of these gentlemen are members of the Cannon Association of South Africa (CAOSA).

CAOSA is non-political and non-military, although there are some active Navy personnel in the association as well. The organisation was established in order to locate, record and register all muzzle-loading cannon in South Africa. They also promote legal ownership and safe use of  muzzle-loading cannon in events commemorating historical and cultural events in South Africa.

CAOSA is based at the Castle in Cape Town.

The 9″ cannon fired yesterday on Youth Day is on the hills above Simon’s Town at Middle North Battery. The gun is situated on a site that overlooks the bay with wonderful views of the surrounding hills,  the town and of course the picturesque harbour and Naval base.

Timelapse sequences of the Cannon Association of South Africa firing two cannon on Youth Day on the hill overlooking Simon’s Town at Middle North Battery.
The 1/4 pounder cannon
The big 9 inch cannon

The following text is an extract from the website of the SIMON’S TOWN HISTORICAL SOCIETY:

The gun was designed in 1865 as a broadside gun for  ironclad ships and harbour seafront defence. A total of 190 were made. The gun was last fired in 1903.. This gun was first mounted in Halifax Nova Scotia until 1878, then at Bermuda until 1881 and then at Sheerness England until 1885. It was mounted at Middle North Battery Simon’s Town in 1896 where it still exists.The gun, carriage, slide and mounting were restored in the East Dockyard Gun Shop in 1984

9 inch bore(228.6mm) gun manufactured in 1855/1856. Muzzle loading gun. Barrel is rifled with 6 grooves, the only gun manufactured with this number of grooves. 9 inch shells had 6 rectangular lead protrusions that engaged with the barrel grooves to impart spin and thus stabilise the shell during flight.
Cast steel gun barrel (Mk1) with wrought iron forged breech piece, cascable and trunnion, supported on fabricated steel gun carriage, slide and mounting.

The plan was to fire the 9″ cannon at 12:00 noon. At 11:30 another member of CAOSA fired a 1/4 Pounder after which Harry Croome welcomed everyone and gave us a brief rundown of the history of the 9″ cannon.

The cannon used to be loaded with 25 Kg (or 50 lbs) of black powder back when in active use. Now for events like yesterday’s celebration of Youth Day, it is loaded with a sandbag and 5kg of gunpowder. The reason for the sandbag  is that the huge bowl at the rear of the cannon was designed for 25kg of gunpowder. Placing only 5kg there would make it well nigh impossible to ignite as the fuse would probably not reach the gun powder. So the sandbag goes in first, followed by the gun powder, which is tamped down firmly. The bag of gunpowder is then pierced and the fuse inserted. Once the fuse is lit it burns for approximately 10 seconds before igniting the 5kg charge.

The gun has been beautifully restored, and although some parts are still missing it is completely operational for events such as the one I attended yesterday.

CAOSA needs funds to continue their sterling work. The firing of these cannon is an expensive business @ R800 per kg of gun powder. The time and materials for the continued restoration and maintenance also amounts to a considerable sum.

These cannon are a part of our rich history and need to be preserved for the future. The CAOSA website is as follows:

Please visit them and show your support for a worthwhile and educational cause.

One thought on “Defending the Cape (part 3)

  1. Pingback: SA Navy Museum does 67 minutes (and more) for Mandela Day | Phototune Photographic Services

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