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Posted on Nov 30, 2005 in Front Page Features, Stuff We Like

Palmerston Forts – Part 3 – Fort Nelson

Armchair General

Once inside the Fort, the entire Parade ground is open for viewing, and what a sight. Large sloped ramparts surround this open space in the centre, atop which sit a multitude of gun positions facing North, East and West. In the picture to the right, you can see many of the exhibits owned by the Royal Armouries and one of the structures erected to keep many more such items free from the elements, but I’m afraid you’ll have to wait for the next piece to get a closer look at these.

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Here is a view from the Parade Ground itself looking South-West towards the Western entrance.



As you will have seen from the above pictures, some of the guns are mounted inside these brick arches, known as "Casemates". These were designed to protect gun crews on the extreme flanks from direct attack as they would have been the most vulnerable areas. Each Casemate housed two 7-inch rifled breech-loading "Armstrong" guns that could be used to fire short-range anti-personnel shot (Case Shot) or normal long-range shells. As explained in Part Two of this series, the Forts were designed to operate together, thus anyone in range of guns on the Western flank of Fort Nelson would also be in range of guns on the Eastern flank of the adjoining fort, in this case Fort Wallington.

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Two non-Casemated gun enclosures can be seen here, note the difference in the design of these two enclosures, each one designed to hold a different type of artillery piece.

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Between the gun enclosures and Casemates, ammunition stores such as this one protect the explosive ordnance.


With a magnificent view to the North-West, this 68-pounder gun dates from 1847. It was superseded by the Armstrong-type gun, but this type of weapon was the original planned armament for Fort Nelson.

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This type of gun could fire various types of shot, and had a range of up to 4,000 yards.


Readers of my previous articles in this series will recall the use of Caponiers in the construction of these Forts. For the uninitiated, Caponiers were effectively an outcrop from the main body of the Fort, built to project out into the defensive ditches to provide covering fire along the flanks of the structure. Well here are some views from atop the ramparts looking down on the Northern Caponier. Beyond the Caponier is the main defensive ditch, which we will see in detail in just a moment. Note also the enclosed brick area in the picture on the right.

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You can see the other end of that brick enclosure in the extreme left of the picture on the left. This is the opening for the Northern Mortar Battery. Fort Nelson did not just contain large guns on top of the ramparts, it was also designed to use short-range Mortars arranged in three batteries of three on each of the Northern, Western and Eastern flanks. We will take a close look at one of those Batteries on the next page.

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It’s not possible to enter the Caponier or the accompanying Mortar Battery directly from the ramparts, instead one had to descend back to the Parade Ground and enter a dark tunnel…


[continued on next page]

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