Interactive timeline - Conflict

  1. This Greek Corinthian helmet from 650 BC is made from bronze and is one of the most beautiful shapes of helmets ever made.

    479 BC

    Battle of Plataea

    Final major battle of the Greco-Persian Wars; ending the expansion of the Persian Empire into Greece.

  2. This composite figure gives a good impression of the appearance of a Mongol cavalryman of the 13th century.

    1260 AD

    Battle of 'Ain Jalut

    'Ayn Jalut was a major world event. The first time a Mongol army was defeated in open battle.

  3. This is one of only three surviving great helms of the mid-14th century which were probably made in England.

    1346 AD

    Battle of Crécy

    First land victory of the '100 Years War' for English infantry over French mounted knights.

  4. This 15th century Turkish helmet bears the titles of a sultan in the inscription around its lower edge.

    1453 AD

    Siege of Constantinople

    The fall of Constantinople was the first great siege won with gunpowder artillery.

  5. An oil painting of the Battle of Pavia by unknown artist c.1525.

    1525 AD

    Battle of Pavia

    First significant victory by infantry with firearms over fully armoured knights on the battlefield.

  6. This elephant armour is the only example of its type surviving in a public collection, and the largest and heaviest animal armour in the world, weighing 118 kg

    1526 AD

    Battle of Panipat

    A traditional Indian army with war elephants is beaten by artillery and infantry musketeers.

  7. This Greenwich armour was made for the military writer and innovator Sir John Smythe in response to the threat of invasion by Spain.

    1588 AD

    Defeat of Spanish Armada

    Spain's attempt to invade England ended when English ships with superior guns defeated its Armada.

  8. One of two armours given to Capt. John Saris in 1613 by Shogun Tokugawa Hidetada as part of a gift for King James I of England.

    1600 AD

    Battle of Sekigahara

    100 years of civil war ends. Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu's dynasty rules Japan for the next 250 years.

  9. This magnificent armour of King Charles I stands only 1571 mm tall, but is superbly decorated all over with gold leaf.

    1645 AD

    Battle of Naseby

    Charles I defeated. He is arrested, tried and executed. Parliament rules England as a republic.

  10. This is the dress sword of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington. It is a Heavy Cavalry Officer's Dress Sword Pattern 1796 widely used by general officers.

    1815 AD

    Battle of Waterloo

    Wellington described Napoleon's defeat as a 'close run thing'. The battle's outcome shaped Europe.

Fort Nelson's History

Built in the 1860s as one of a ring of Victorian artillery forts to guard the naval dockyard against a feared French invasion that never materialised, this fort now houses one of the finest displays of historical artillery pieces on display for public viewing anywhere in Europe.

Fort Nelson was built as a response to invasion fears at a time of rapidly changing military technology and of British suspicion of the ambitions of France under Emperor Napoleon III. Fort Nelson is an extensive artillery fortification forming part of the defences of the Royal Dockyard at Portsmouth.

This great ring of forts was developed by Lord Palmerston, the Prime Minister who adopted the recommendations of the 1860 Royal Commission, which reported on weaknesses at major British ports. Thus was built the most costly and extensive system of fixed defences undertaken in Britain in peacetime.

However, the fort soon became out-dated in the face of ever larger and more powerful artillery. Furthermore, France was removed as a potential enemy with the capture of Napoleon III during the Franco-Prussian war of 1870. It is hardly surprising that the forts around Portsmouth, never attacked, soon became known as ‘Palmerston’s Folly’.

Fort Nelson is an example of the ‘polygonal’ system of fortification. A series of self-contained forts were sunk into the hill with a surrounding dry moat to give a low profile. Barrack accommodation was provided at the ‘gorge’ – the rear of the fort – protected by the ramparts on which the main armament was mounted and by a thick covering of chalk.

At Fort Nelson the gorge and entrances were defended by flanking fire from the barracks and ‘redan’ – a V shaped projection, while the dry moat was covered by fire from ‘caponiers’ – protected gun-emplacements reached by tunnels from the barracks. Both original gates were defended also by a device borrowed from medieval technology – they had drawbridges. Generally, though, the Fort relied on the weight of metal of the main armament on the ‘terre-plein’ – top of rampart – to destroy an enemy approach and to give flanking fire in support of its neighbours.

Fort Nelson is unique in having so many examples of its correct armament emplaced. The main armament would have been heavy 68-pounder cast-iron smoothbore guns of 95 cwt which could fire solid shot to a range of about 3,000 yards, although effective range was far less, explosive shell with time-fuse and case-shot; the 68-pounder was becoming obsolete so by the time the Fort was finished newer equipment was proposed.

With restored ramparts, guns and living quarters, as well as the renowned collection of artillery of other periods, Fort Nelson is becoming a popular centre for the study and enjoyment of artillery and fortification history.

Covering nearly 19 acres and now fully restored, Fort Nelson sits majestically atop Portsdown Hill, with amazing views of the Solent and the Meon Valley. The Fort stands today as a monument to the skills and ingenuity of Victorian engineering and architecture.

In 1995 it became home to the Royal Armouries collection of artillery. Fort Nelson has over 350 big guns and historic cannon on display, all part of the National Museum of Arms and Armour. From the Great Turkish Bombard of 1464, that once protected the Dardanelles to Saddam Hussein’s infamous ‘Supergun’ and covering every period of history from every corner of the world – including 3 Guinness world record holders.

Did you know?

Is newer better?

The last cast-iron British smoothbore cannon – the 68 pounders – were the same calibre (8 inches) as the heaviest guns of King Henry VIII three hundred years earlier. Their performance was probably not very different either!