Firing of the Noon Gun 16th June 2018


Here is information about the gun that was given by WOIC Croome to those who watched the firing.

MIDDLE NORTH BATTERY: 16 JUNE 2018 (Youth Day)

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Your attention is drawn to the following:
Entry at own risk! / Right of admission reserved!
(Prohibited articles: explosives, firearms and drugs ie liquor etc)

I am Harry Croome, WOIC of the SA Naval Museum and a member of the Cannon Association of South Africa (CAOSA); this is WO 1 (Ret) Martin Venter, Chairman of the Cannon Association of South Africa, also WO 1 Derius Norris from Naval Weapons Analysis Systems (NWAS) and importantly the Officer in Charge of the SA Naval Museum, Cdr Leon Steyn.

On behalf of Flag Officer Fleet and Flag Officer Commanding NBS, I welcome all; visitors, friends, regulars as well as foe to Middle North Battery, previously known as Upper North Battery (coincidently, the Battery was transferred to the SA Naval Museum wef 24 July 2013).

Nonetheless, we are gathered here to celebrate Youth Day. Indeed, 42 years ago, on this very day, in 1976, a demonstration in Soweto, led largely by high school students angered by the apartheid government, was met with a brutal crackdown by police and set off a wave of protests and violent conflicts across South Africa. This day is now immortalized as Youth Day, an annual public holiday in which South Africans remember the significance of the Soweto uprisings and the bravery of those involved, as well as the importance of supporting the youth across the country.

Further and according to the exact wording of the “Memorandum of Examination, Royal Gun Factory, Woolwich, dated 9 September 1885”, I present to you this “9 Inch Wrought Iron M.L. (Muzzle Loading) Rifled Gun of 12 Tons. Mark I. No. 22 R.G.F. (4th Issue)”.

(By the way, there are 3 other 7 inch RMLs to be found ie at Fort Wynyard which is situated next to the Cape Town Stadium, Lion Battery (Signal Hill) where the Noon Guns are hiding and at a Naval establishment called Silvermine, near Westlake)

Also, according to the previously mentioned Memorandum of Examination, this RML was manufactured at the Royal Gun Factory in 1865 and first issued on 18 May 1866.

It initially served at Halifax (Nova Scotia), which is situated in Canada when it was returned on 8 November 1878. The second issue was on 17 November 1879.

The gun was then returned from Bermuda (located off the east coast of the USA) on 13 September 1881. The third issue was on 30 March 1882.

Hereafter the gun was returned from Sheerness (located in the south east of England) on 10 February 1885 and mounted in its present embrasure on 13 February 1896.

It was last fired on 27 April 1903 and struck off charge on 19 September 1906.

Nonetheless, here we are, 115 years later and we are about to fire the gun for the 66th time according to available records.

Further to other relevant detail:
Length: 12 feet 3 inches ( 3 m 740 mm ) nominal length to smallest dominates of cascable
Total length to the end of the cascable is 13 feet (3 m 960 mm
Ammunition: Consisted of Common shell, Palliser shell, Boxer shrapnel, Case shot and Palliser shot with gas check.
Range: 3680 yards ( 3365 m ) at 14 degrees or 5800 yards ( 5303 m ) at 12 degrees. 
Penetration: 9 inch ( 230 mm ) Wrought Iron Armour Plate at 2000 yards ( 1828 m ) 
The gun was designed as a broadside gun for ironclad ships, for the defense of harbours and sea fronts and 190 were manufactured.
Further, it has 6 rifling grooves, the only gun in the service with this particular number.

The gun, slide, carriage and mounting were restored in the Gun Shop in the S.A. Naval Dockyard during 1983/84. Unfortunately, since then, this historic artifact has been heavily vandalised and stripped of several items. Further and quite significant, the gun was declared a National Monument ito Government Notice No 472 of 17 March 1989. On that point, action is underway to re-position the relevant plaque as the whereabouts of the original is not known.

Nonetheless, it is the intention to restore this prominent gun and fire it as and when required. As a matter of fact, approval has been granted for a further 4 firings; the next firing should take place at 12h00 on 18 July 2018 (Mandela Day).

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the relevant Naval authorities as well as the Simon’s Town Museum for their contribution as well as all those individuals who had assisted the last number of years to clear and clean the area, above and below ground specifically my inspiration, Mr David Erickson (ex-Chairman, Simon’s Town Historical Society) as well as Capt (Ret) Brad Wallace-Bradley ex Genl Botha), Mr Joe Frylinck as well as Petty Officer Johnson Sing. Also, a special thanks to my two daughters Nicole and Michelle who both worked up a good sweat on numerous occasions (wonderful what financial incentives can achieve!)

I hereby quote from a book called The Muzzle Loading Cannon of South Africa 2nd Edition by a retired naval officer Cdr Gerry de Vries and it reads as follows:
“Most of us are probably aware that Cape Town’s Noon Guns are the oldest guns in daily use in the world and are one of the oldest live traditions in the City. Lion Battery and the Noon Gun were opened to the public by the SA Navy in November 1996 and has become a popular tourist attraction.

Nonetheless, the Cape Town time gun was not the only indicator of time in the district.
For nearly 100 years a daily gun was fired in Simon’s Town. The gun signal, initiated in about 1840, was fired from the Guard Ship at 20h00 and served as a time check throughout the fleet. The gun was also a warning to all ashore that the last liberty boats were about to return to their ships and that communication between the ships and establishments ashore would cease until the next morning.

The time of firing was later changed to 21h00 and became affectionately known as the 9 o’clock gun. The gun was soon accepted as the official time gun signal and served to regulate the time of the district, Simon’s Town Time.

During the Boer War the 9 o’clock gun served also as a signal for all public houses to close and for servicemen to return to their units. There was a penalty for any bar found dispensing refreshments after the gun had sounded and it was customary for “Last Round” to be announced 10 minutes before 9.

For the duration of World War 1 the 9 o’clock gun in Simon’s Town was also the signal for the beginning of the curfew and for all visible lights to be extinguished. Residents of the town could only venture out of their homes after 21h00 if they had obtained a permit to do so.

When the 9 o’clock gun was abolished in early 1934, Simon’s Town was deprived of the time signal that had become so familiar and its boom was sorely missed by many residents of the town”. unquote

Last but not least, I would to highlight the VISION and MISSION of the CAOSA because without their passion, expertise and due supervision, the firing of this specific gun would not have come to fruition:

VISION: The preservation and appropriate utilisation of the historic muzzle loading ordnance in South Africa.

MISSION: To locate, record and identify the guns, prevent their loss, recover them, where and when appropriate, display and fire them at a suitable public place.

FINALLY, FOR ALL THE GOOD WORK THE CAOSA IS DOING,
ANY VOLUNTARY DONATIONS WILL BE GREATLY APPRECIATED! 
I thank you