Simon’s Town muzzle loading cannon firing dates finalised

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A historic 9-inch rifled muzzle loading cannon (RML) is one of the South African Naval Museum’s premier exhibits and its firing is proving a major attraction for the Simon’s Town-based museum.

Museum Officer in Charge, Commander Leon Steyn, said firings of the cannon at Middle North Battery last year generated “positive interest” and were well attended. This was basis sufficient for him to approach the Flag Officer Commanding Naval Base (NB) Simon’s Town for permission to do it again this year.

Permission was granted and the cannon will go boom five times this year, all on public holidays (with one exception). Dates and firing times are 27 April (Freedom Day) at 12h00; 16 June (Youth Day) at 12h00; 24 September (Heritage Day) at 12h00; 11 November (Armistice Day) at 11h00 and 15 December (Day of Reconciliation) at 12h00.

Middle North battery and the cannon are under the care of the South African Naval Museum. The SA Navy (SAN) supports firings provisioning a 5 kg black powder blank charge for each firing along with the necessary range safety officer and emergency services. The Cannon Association of South Africa (CAOSA) conducts firings on behalf of the museum with the contribution and work of retired SAN warrant officers Harry Croome and Martin Venter singled out for special mention.

The 9-inch cannon at Middle North Battery above Simon’s Town is a rifled muzzle loading (RML) one with a nine inch bore diameter positioned by the British in 1896 Steyn writes.

“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. Until Croome – then the Warrant Officer-in-Charge of the South African Naval Museum – proceeded to save the cannon and the precinct at Middle North from further neglect. Over the course of many years and weekends he restored 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 Festiva l in April 2011.”

Canon firing days are special, Steyn notes, with short talks about the cannon’s history before the firing happens. The SAN band has – on occasion – added further lustre gracing firings with its special brand of military music.

The cannon’s struck off charge event happened in September 1906 and it was dormant until restoration work, under the auspices of the gun shop at Simon’s Town dockyard in 1983/84. Its first firing post-restoration in 108 years was on 16 March 2011.

Published with appreciation and attribution to the SA Naval Museum