The firing of the South African Naval Museum’s historic 9-inch Rifled Muzzle Loading Cannon (RML) has generated positive interest during 2022. The events have been well attended by the public and has allowed the museum to make its work visible, highlighting aspects of preservation and restoration. As a continuum of this “living museum” concept, the following dates have been approved by Flag Officer Commanding Naval Base Simon’s Town, for the firing of the cannon in 2023:
27 April – Freedom Day – 12:00
16 June – Youth Day – 12:00
24 September – Heritage Day – 12:00
11 November – Armistice Day – 11:00
16 December – Day of Reconciliation – 12:00
Middle North battery and the cannon itself remains under the care of the South African Naval Museum. The Navy itself supports the firings with the provisioning of black powder (a 5 kg blank charge) for each firing and the necessary safety range officer and emergency services. The Cannon Association of South Africa (CAOSA) conducts the firings on behalf of the museum and in this regards the work of WO1 Harry Croome (retired) and WO1 Martin Venter (retired) must receive special mention.
THE 9-INCH RIFLED MUZZLE LOADING CANNON AT MIDDLE NORTH BATTERY
The 9-inch cannon at Middle North Battery above Simon’s Town is a rifled muzzle loading (RML) cannon with a bore diameter of 9 inches. This cannon was placed in its position by the British in 1896.
With the commissioning of more modern cannon in defence of Simon’s Bay at the turn of the last century, the 9-inch cannon became obsolete and was abandoned to vandalism and deterioration. That was until Harry Croome – then the Warrant Officer-in-Charge of the South African Naval Museum – succeeded to save the cannon and the precinct at Middle North from further neglect. During the course of many years (and many weekends) he managed to restore the old cannon to a point where it could be proof fired again – for the first time in 108 years – in time for the Navy Festival in April 2011.
Today the cannon is fired at special occasions to observe days like Heritage Day, Youth Day, Freedom Day and Reconciliation Day. It is an event for the family in which short talks about the history of the cannon precede the countdown to the firing. To add even more atmosphere the Navy Band often graces the event with their beautiful music. The Cannon Association of South Africa (and more particularly retired Warrant Officers Martin Venter and Harry Croome) prepare and fire the cannon, on behalf of the South African Naval Museum.
SPECIFICATIONS & HISTORY:
– Manufactured at the Royal Gun Factory, Woolwich, in 1865
– 9-inch Mk 1
– Serial number 22
– Weight 12,5 tons.
– Range 6,000 yards at 13 degrees elevation and 45 lbs charge.
– Projectile weight 256 lb muzzle velocity 1,440 ft/sec.
– Deployed in Halifax, Canada from 1866 to 1878.
– Moved to Bermuda in 1878 until 1881.
– Modified for ships of the “Shah” class before moved to Bermuda.
– Used at Sheerness (England) proving range 1881 to 1885.
– Moved to Simon’s Town in 1896.
– Last fired 27 April 1903, 3 full rounds.
– Struck off charge on 19 September 1906.
– Restored by the gun shop, Dock Yard Simons Town in 1983/84.
– Fired again for the first time in 108 years on 16 March 2011.
For more information you can contact the South African Naval Museum at 021 787 4686/4635/4622 or email@example.com
By Commander Leon Steyn, Officer-in-Charge South African Naval Museum