Experience 1,000 years of firepower this summer as Royal Armouries stages its free Artillery in Action display at Fort Nelson – home to the big guns.

The fully-restored 19th century Fort will resound to the power and might of three of the mighty weapons in Royal Armouries’ national collection of artillery, as part of a great day out for all the family.

Fort Nelson, which underwent a major revamp in 2011, is home to more than 350 big guns – from pre-gunpowder siege machines to the massive 200-tonne railway gun. As well as a 19-acre site, with tunnels and ramparts to explore, there are plenty of activities to keep the children entertained from July 25 to August 31.

The Artillery in Action display runs during August only, with daily firings at 1pm. The featured weapons are:


This trebuchet is a small version of a great medieval siege engine and pre-dates the use of gunpowder. Large trebuchets were used to breach the masonry walls of fortified places with stone shot. This demonstration shoots an iron ball at a wooden target but other more grisly ammunition in the past, included hornets’ nests, diseased animal carcasses and even the severed heads of captured enemies.

Wrought Iron Breech Loading Gun

The new technology of the late Middle Ages arrived with a bang – and changed the world. The idea of using explosives to fire a projectile led eventually to the steam engine, the internal combustion engine and the space rocket. This is a replica based on gun recovered over 40 years ago from a shipwreck near Plymouth. Similar guns were on board the Mary Rose.

25-pounder Quick-Firing Gun Howitzer

Famous for its service during the Second World War, this particular gun was used by the Honourable Artillery Company to fire royal salutes at the Tower of London. The 25-pounder could fire to a distance of over seven miles. The usual detachment of six men could get the gun into action in just over a minute and fire one round every 12 seconds for a short period. It was renowned for its service during the North African Desert Campaign during the Second World War.

Fort operations manager Nigel Hosier said, “Fort Nelson offers a great day out for all the family, regardless of the weather – and parking and museum admission are absolutely free.
“Our daily gun firings are always very popular with visitors of all ages and our Artillery in Action display demonstrates how technology has changed and developed throughout the ages. The trebuchet is bound to be very popular, as it is similar to that featured in the highly successful film series, The Lord of the Rings.”

Other Summer activities include:

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Notes to editors

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