This plan of the East Fort Lower Battery which was upgraded during the period from 1795 to 1803 was drawn by the late Hugh Floyd one of Hout Bay Museum’s Trustees who extensively researched the site. The original configuration was established by the French Pondicherry mercenary regiment, the cannons being arranged “en Barbette”, that is, arranged in a line protected behind a mound of earth. The guns were probably mounted on ships carriages which were very low due the the confines of the ships gun decks from which they came. It is thought that the earth mound or ‘glacis’ was constructed mainly of clay excavated from the mountainside behind the Battery.
Subsequent to the British occupation in 1795, the earth-works were improved and stone revetments were built to to increase the effective space for the installation of the traversing platforms. You can see from the elevation (top right) that the rails of the platforms were inclined so that the kinetic energy of recoil was absorbed after the gun travelled rearward for +/- 2 meters.
There were five traversing platforms. A & B were designed to traverse as much as 270 deg and Gun A was capable of addressing an enemy assault from the road to the Fort from Hout Bay. Gun B could address targets in the Bay and also in the cove immediately south of the Battery. The three guns at location C probably had a traverse of about 150 Deg.
It is debatable whether the three embrasures shown at D existed, and we suspect the three guns were located on a “Terre plein” (flattened open area surface) where the guns could be manoeuvred with hand spikes. The reason for creating the terre plein being that subsequent to the British abortive attempt to take the Cape in 1781, a 10 gun Cutter, HMS Rattlesnake, under the command of Master and Commander Philippe D'Auvergne sheltered in the cove to the south of East Fort and estimated via a telescope that West Fort had 20 embrasures. Although some eastindiamen were at anchor D’ Auvergne did not have the power to take them as prizes of war, but did not know that the embrasures did not have any guns and West Fort only had 1 small gun at that stage!
A nation that turns its back on its heritage, ignoring the lessons and experiences of the past, good or bad, undermines the foundations of its future.
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