ROLLING OUT THE BIG GUNS - Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Join uniformed gun crews from Portsdown Artillery Volunteers on Sunday (March 23) as Fort Nelson rings to the sound of spectacular free gun-firings.

Dressed in Victorian uniform, members of the Portsdown Artillery Volunteers (PAV) will fire one of the two mighty 64-pounder guns, currently sited on Fort Nelson’s ramparts, at 11.30am, 1pm and 3pm on the 19th century Fort’s Parade.

The PAV will also provide specialist commentaries, plus the chance for museum visitors to chat and interact with the crew.

Fort operations manager Nigel Hosier added, “The demonstration, including commentary, will be followed by a chance for visitors to inspect the gun, and to ask the volunteer gunners for more information, and questions. Museum admission and parking are free and Fort Nelson provides a fascinating day out for all the family.”

These 64-pounder smooth-bore weapons are dated 1875, to mark their conversion at the Royal Gun Factory, Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, and are testimony to Victorian resourcefulness.

Royal Armouries’ Curator of Artillery Philip Magrath, explained, “The introduction of new, more accurate and efficient rifled muzzle-loading weapons into British service in the 1860s, prompted the re-use of the vast stocks of British smooth-bore guns remaining in the artillery.

“Captain W Palliser introduced his system in 1863 of rifling old cast iron guns (32-pounders and 8-in shell guns) by boring out the barrel and inserting a coiled, wrought-iron liner, which was rifled with a three-groove system. The gun fired a shell, with studs along its side, which fitted into the rifling grooves – allowing the shell to be loaded from the muzzle.

“Shrapnel or case shot could also be used against enemy troops at short range. Many of these guns were issued to forts and here at Fort Nelson formed part of the Victorian armament until early into the 20th century.”

Conveniently, the Victorians ensured these converted guns could be mounted on their original smoothbore period carriages. Fort Nelson’s example is mounted on an original carriage and has the special feature of a brake chock, known as Allen’s Brake, to control the extra recoil force generated by the heavier 64-pounder shell.

As well as the free gun firings, Royal Armouries at Fort Nelson offers a great day out for all the family.

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

In 2011, this unique heritage attraction underwent a major redevelopment to create a museum for the 21st century, supported by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, complete with new galleries, state-of-the-art education centre and visitor facilities, including a café with views over Portsmouth Harbour.

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Notes to editors

Download the PDF press release.