The Royal Armories, Fort Nelson, holds an array of all sorts of ordnance, from land and ships demonstrating the advances in ordnance as it has develped for over 500 years. As well as ordnance displays, Fort Nelson also has 19 acres of ramparts, secret tunnels and ammunition bunkers to explore. On our visit we learned about the Forts existance and heard the story of artilliary from before the age of gunpowder up to modern day weapons.
Exploring the Ramparts at Fort Nelson
There are a couple of ships cannon being conserved in tanks that have been found in the River Thames and there is also a cannon that was raised from HMS Royal George which sadly sank in 1782 while achored at spithead with the loss of more than 800 souls including many woman and children. The 100 gun first rate ship of the line had been anchored at Spithead, Portsmouth, along with the rest of Admiral Howe's fleet, to sail the next day to relieve Gibraltar. There were many visitors on board which was the usual practice the day before the ship sailed as all shore leave was cancelled to avoid sailors deserting. The ship was taking on supplies when it was heeled over to allow a small repair in the hull, the heel became a capsize when the ship went beyond it's centre of gravity, it filled with water through the gunports and quickly sank. Admiral Kempenfelt who was writing in his cabin, drowned along with the others.
Painting of the sinking of HMS Royal George (John Christian Schetky, Loss of the Royal George (exhibited 1840))
A cannon (bronze 24 pounder naval gun) from HMS Royal George
A carronade which is a smaller cannon developed in Scotland for the Merchant Naval Service to save space but also often accompanied the conventional long guns on Royal Navy ships (HMS Victory carried two).
Amongst the collection we saw some beautifully decorated guns. These guns were decorated like works of art often cast to be given as gifts to Kings or Queens or to show the status of the owner. Some of these would be hindered by the ornate nature of the gun if used in action.
This gun is called a Bronze Falcon commissioned by the Commander of the Artillery of the Order of St John of Malta for it's Grand Master
There is a gun firing demonstration at 1pm each day at Fort Nelson and we were lucky enough to be asked if one of our group would like to do the firing. So Robbie from our group got the honour of firing it (click the photo below to see the video).
Robbie had the honour of firing the gun....twice! (Video by Richard Hellyer)