Traversing Gun Platforms

This well researched plan of the  East Fort lower Battery (above) was draw by the late Architect and Planner Hugh Floyd in 1989 prior to some restoration work being done in collaboration with the Hout Bay Museum. It shows the location five traversing platforms installed by the British +/- 1806. The North and South Traverses extended to +/- 240° to allow gunners to address an enemy target approaching the Fort via Military Road (now Chapman’s Peak Drive). The South Traverse would similarly allow the addressing of a Target in the lee of Chapman’s Peak. The three guns on the Right were on fixed platforms in front of which may have been embrasures or alternatively en barbette behind a dwarf wall. An archaeological dig will be needed to establish the facts.

Traversing platforms were a revolutionary British artillery development in 1794 and eventually widely employed at coastal batteries.  Guns, mounted on conventional ships carriages were mounted on elevated platforms consisting of inclined  parallel  wooden rails which allowed the gun to recoil and at the same time absorb the energy of the moving mass. The platform rails (Upper Left) were pivoted at their  forward end and a wheel placed at at the rearward end would run around a semicircular track called a “racer” consisting of a low masonry wall (visible lower left).

East Fort’s traversing platforms were most likely constructed c.1795-6 under the command of British General James Henry Craig who arrived in the Cape with the British Naval/Military occupation contingent prior to the Battles of Muizenberg and Wynberg. The Dutch capitulated on the 16th Sept 1795 and Craig became Acting Governor General of the Cape. He ultimately became Canada’s first Governor General which gives South Africa and Canada an important international historic link.

A nation that turns its back on its history, the lessons and experiences of the past, good or bad,  undermines the foundations of its future.