Defending the Cape (Part 4)

I was privileged to be at Middle North Battery on Mandela day, to photograph the SA Navy Museum’s 67 minutes of Community Service. While I was there, Warrant Officer Croome kept his promise to show me the 9.2″ Coastal Defense Cannon of SCALA Battery. He also  opened up the bunker below Middle North Battery for me to explore. Enjoy the photographs…

I have often wondered why it is called SCALA Battery. I think I have found out. In Italian SCALA means ladder, or staircase. Standing at the Marine Reaction Squad’s base just above Middle North Battery one can see a rough staircase built into the mountain. It looks very steep. Needless to say I did not try climbing it.  But seeing the steps overgrown by bushes the name of SCALA  makes sense, because the 9.2″ gun WO Croome showed me is almost directly in line with those stairs. In earlier years I can just imagine how those staircases were used by training NCO’s to inflict pain on unsuspecting naval recruits.

There are three 9.2″ Cannons in SCALA Battery. All need ongoing maintenance and/or renovation. The one I saw had been badly vandalised. Parts get broken off and sold to support scavenger’s and their drug habits. The Guns are very vulnerable to such vandals as they are not inside a secure area. WO Croome has done what he can to safeguard the property, but it will need proper fencing to make sure that the guns are still there as our, and our children’s heritage in the years to come.

These guns date out of the late 1800’s and were used as coastal defense weaponry in the Great War of 1916 as well as WWII. At one time guns of this type were installed onto warships such as the armoured cruiser classes  Drake, Cressy, and Duke of Edinburgh, as well as on King Edward VII class battleships and from 1915, also on the M15 class monitors M15, M16, M17, M18.

Other Gun Batteries of this type are, The Apostle Battery above Llandudno, and the De Waal Battery on Robben Island. The Guns on Robben Island have been completely restored for posterity as a project requested by UNESCO as part of the World Heritage project. They are apparently in full working order, however I am not sure whether they are open for public viewing or whether there are plans to ever fire them for display or celebratory purposes.

WO Croome and I stand on top of the hill overlooking Simon’s Town and I see him standing rather pensively there wistfully dreaming of the day he can show off the SCALA Battery guns in action to tourists – but not for long because he is on the move again showing me other changes he wants to bring about in his quest to restore these guns to there erstwhile working condition…

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