Firing Children’s Imaginations - Monday, 23 July 2012

School children have the chance to tread in the footsteps of Victorian soldiers at Fort Nelson this summer and prime and “fire” a bronze field cannon dating from the 19th Century.

The Royal Armouries education team have devised the have-a-go activity to teach young people about the Victorian Fort’s history and the troops who lived and worked there.
The muzzle-loading gun drill – which is also suitable for adults – allows participants to learn the different aspects of a gun drill, both during a practice loading session and then working against the clock.

Fort education officer Eileen Clegg said, “Obviously we use dummy cartridges, but the exercise allows young people to see how Victorian soldiers would have operated guns in a historic setting. We will be using a small Napoleonic bronze gun, on a field carriage, to add authenticity. It’s primarily aimed at children, but adults can try their hands too.”

The gun drills will form part of the summer holiday programme at Fort Nelson, which launches on Monday (July 23) and runs until September 2. The Royal Armouries is staging a series of activities throughout the school break, based on Victorian and World War themes.

Activities start with a 19th century theme (running until August 5), including a Victorian fair during the weekend of July 28 and 29. Museum admission and parking is free but charges apply to some activities – including a £2 charge for the gun drill.

Participants begin by cleaning the gun piece, using a process known as worming and sponging. They then “ram” the charge and the shot to make it ready to fire, before simulating firing the cannon. The first visitors will test the drill on Tuesday (July 24).

Standing high on Portsdown Hill near Fareham, Fort Nelson showcases one of the world’s finest collections of artillery and cannon, from across the ages and from all corners of the globe.

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Notes to editors

To find Fort Nelson, follow the brown Tourist signs from the M27. The Fort is open seven days a week, from 10am to 5pm.