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

Palmerston Forts – Part 3 – Fort Nelson

Armchair General

Back inside again, and spiral stairs lead me to who knows where.

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In fact, they lead to the main tunnel which runs under the Parade Ground. There are three tunnels beneath the Fort, and they were built to ensure that the different areas of the Fort would never become isolated in the even of attack, because for obvious reasons the exposed Parade Ground would have been far too dangerous to use during a battle. In addition, the tunnels were useful for everyday transportation of ammunition and supplies.


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These pictures were taken inside the North Caponier itself, below the area we have just visited. this particular area is known as the "Flanking Gallery", where troops with small arms would be able to fire at attacking soldiers in the ditches.

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You can clearly see that large guns could be mounted here to sweep the flanks of attackers.

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The arched roofs contain many iron pieces to facilitate the movement of equipment or ammunition. There are two floors within the Northern Caponier, each one capable of mounting 4 muzzle-loading guns firing Case Shot. Later in the history of Fort Nelson, 4 32 Pounder breech loading guns on the ground floor only replaced the earlier weapons.

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And up another underground tunnel to the Ammunition Store. For obvious reasons, this was well protected within the Fort, and it supplied the exterior ammunition stores for each gun.

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It’s another hallway, although this one is less crude than the others and has many doors along its length. This area is known as the Lighting Passage. For reasons that should be obvious, naked flames near the ammunition store was expressly forbidden, so to light the working areas, narrow passages run either side of the magazine areas, through which are recesses which contain reinforced glass panels on the magazine side, thus allowing candle lanterns to be placed in them from the other side. Pretty clever stuff.

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Nelson was built with two large chambers for the storage of Gunpowder and shells would be made on site. Later, Nelson would instead be supplied with ready-built cartridges which were stored where the Gunpowder itself used to be kept. The picture on the right shows the Shifting Lobby where men entering the magazine would change into special clothing to reduce the risk of an explosion.

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