The Building of the carriages - Research and hard work. 256
Whilst it seemed that all our efforts to raise considerable interest had been dashed we were not deterred and continued to further research the history of the site and continue to restore the remaining guns. Knowing that the guns could be fired we needed a gun carriage and Gerry de Vries was the man to help. Gerry came up with a splendid concrete carriage which we placed at the “Middle Precincts” where there is a “disturbed” open area where the cannon could be safely fired and at the same time be visible from Chapman’s Peak Drive, from which it would attract some attention.
However, it was not long before we realised that authentic timber carriages would be needed if we were to mount all the guns and this required the skill of members and engineer Keith Mackie who researched and designed replica carriages of the period and presented the Trust with an excellent design of a ‘Garrison Carriage” of the period which would be suitable for at least six of the guns. However, it was agreed that a prototype carriage should be made of pine before construction the final carriages in hardwood was undertaken. Eventually the plan was to create at least one replica Traversing Platform.
The prototype carriage (opposite) was a great success and the go ahead was given to buy the expensive hardwood which had to be imported for the construction of the new carriages. The necessary hardware such as capsquares, wheels and fittings were also ordered.
Finally the new hardwood carriages were delivered to the site and plans were made to relocate them to the lower battery.
The prototype and hardwood carriages were designed with wheels which would allow the guns to be “run out” before firing which would require formal platforms which had long since disappeared on the site, however, whilst it was not yet appropriate to place the guns back on their original platform locations it would be possible to construct an authentic replica “Gun Pit” which would allow the movement of a gun at the middle precincts.
Opposite:- The first viewing of the prototype carriage. Left to Right:- Kimon Mamacos of Hout Bay who constructed and assembled the carriage and HBHA Committee member the late Dr Ross Parry Davies (Past Chairman) and Keith Mackie who researched and designed the carriage. The design was that of a very authentic “Garrison Carriage” as opposed to the concrete “ships carriage” previously created..
The Old Carriages.
(Left) The original carriages on which the guns were mounted were probably made of Elm, a European hardwood which could partially absorb hits by enemy shot rather than Oak which would send splinters flying injuring the unfortunate gunners. The exposed original carriages would not have lasted more than a decade or so and were probably replaced more than once.
In 1929 the then surviving gun carriages were replaced by new ones (left) which gave new life to East Fort as a tourism destination. Chapman’s Peak Drive, which opened to motorists in 1922, put Hout Bay on the Motorist’s map who could now drive to Cape Point over the most exciting route in Southern Africa.
The then new carriages, made from railway sleepers were not particularly authentic and sadly they destroyed much of the evidence of the original traversing platforms, however, sufficient is know about them for us to create replica platforms in the future.