Dale Fort Blog Number 57

15 03 2018

In which we discuss developments in mid 19th Century weaponry and what happened as a result at Dale Fort.

This article continues the story of the weaponry installed at Dale Fort, detailing the changes wrought in order to cope with the rapidly advancing military technology of mid to late 19th Century.

 Mid-19th Century Weaponry

The development of artillery at this time is complicated due both to rapid technological developments and changes in the philosophy of those responsible for defence policy.

Up until the mid-nineteenth century most guns had been smooth bored and muzzle loaded, firing spherical shot.

68lb coastal defence gun

Rifled barrels and Breech Loading

In 1854, Armstrong demonstrated his rifled breech-loader, which fired an elongated spinning missile.  A rifled barrel has spiral grooves cut into it.  The projectile engages with the grooves as it travels up the barrel and thus has spin imparted to it.  Spinning bullets and shells have better stability in flight and better accuracy and penetration.  By 1858 the British armed forces had decided to convert to these modern weapons.

RBL Armstrong gun labelled

There were several advantages:

Firstly, as mentioned above, the spinning projectile gave a degree of accuracy not seen with smooth bore guns.

Secondly, they were constructed from wrought iron. Previously, guns had been cast from iron or bronze.  As a result weak spots that developed did not become evident, except catastrophically when the barrel exploded in use.  Wrought iron gun barrels bulged before failing.

Thirdly, since the projectile was no longer spherical, its size and weight could be varied according to how much death and destruction you wished to wreak.

rifled barrel labelled

Dale and the rest of the 1852 Milford forts were not issued with  the first Armstrong guns.  The armed forces already possessed large numbers of RML 68-pounders.  The earlier weapons were simpler in construction, strong and cheap.  Armstrong guns were issued to mobile artillery and the Navy.  Static defences were considered to be armed adequately with the older equipment.

Ironclad Ships

    Around the time of the construction of Dale Fort, naval architects were experimenting with protecting ships from cannon fire by covering them with iron plates.  The French Navy was quicker off the mark than the British when it came to iron cladding its ships.  They also introduced steam powered ships earlier and it rapidly became evident that these were much handier, faster, more manoeuvrable and deadlier than sailing ships.

The launch of the steam powered La Gloire the first French iron clad, caused much alarm and despondency in the British press and among politicians.  Many felt that it rendered the British fleet impotent (about as much use as an aircraft carrier without any aircraft one might think).

La Gloire labelled

It was found by experiment that the new Armstrong breech-loaders were not up to the job of penetrating armour plated ships.  If the power of the charge in the guns was increased to try to make the shells more penetrative there was a tendency for the seal at the breech (a copper ring) to leak.  The system then became unreliable and dangerous by jamming or by the projectile exploding before it left the barrel.

A Retrograde Step?

The next step therefore was the seemingly retrograde one of reverting to muzzle loading guns which had a solid breech.  The advantages of rifled barrels and of firing an elongated missile were too great to give up and so the new muzzle-loaders were rifled.

The inside of the barrel had three deep spiral grooves cut into it.  These grooves engaged with rows of studs around the body of the projectile.

stuuded shell labelled

The charge was placed in the barrel, rammed down and a gas check plate made of soft metal put on top.  The studs on the missile engaged with the grooves at the top of the barrel and the shell twisted down to sit on top of the charge.  When the charge exploded, the gas-check plate melted and formed a seal.  The missile would be forced up the barrel, twisting up the grooves as it went and would be spinning as it left the muzzle.  These guns were called rifled muzzle-loaders (RMLs).  Later versions had the gas check plate incorporated into the base of the shell, which was no longer studded.  The plate melted and engaged with rifling in the barrel eliminating the need for studs.

These developments rendered obsolete the many old smooth bore muzzleloaders already in service at places like Dale Fort.  The solution came from Captain Palliser, who devised a method for converting the old smooth bore muzzleloaders into rifled guns.

The old barrel was bored out to remove erosion marks and a wrought iron rifled liner slid into place.  A heavy charge was fired from the gun and this served to expand the liner into the old barrel.  It was found that these converted guns were actually stronger than the originals and so could fire a more powerful charge.  More than 2000 conversions were carried out and that included the guns at Dale.

What sort of shell was best?

There were two schools of thought on the nature of the projectile that should be fired from these RMLs.  One group favoured a large slow moving projectile the aim of which was the total destruction of the ship it was fired at.  The intention was to shake the whole structure to pieces.

The other school favoured a lighter, faster projectile aiming to penetrate the hull of the ship and wreak havoc from the inside.  After many trials, it was discovered that the most important thing, if you wanted to penetrate armour plating (which could be 5 inches of iron backed by 2 feet of oak), was to maximize the speed at which the missile hit the plate.  This gave the material little time to spread the impact by deforming elastically.  Speed was more important than mass.

Penetration could also be improved dramatically by hardening the tip of the shell.  Palliser invented the means of doing this by quench cooling the point of the shell during manufacture and letting the rest of it cool slowly.  Palliser shot became the standard armour piercing ammunition for years to come.

Palliser shell labelled

Look out for Blog 58 which might be more biology based (on the other hand, I just might tell you about The Zalinski Pneumatic Dynamite Torpedo Gun).

 

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Contents 1 – 57

26 02 2018

 

 Number 46

They’ve got anything up to 100 blue eyes and they’re jet-propelled.  They’re in danger.  Help them.  Read this blog.

 Number 47
Amazing Autumnal starling-related shenanigans at near Steve’s house.
 Number 48
Walk around the Dale Peninsula and stay dry.
Part 1:  Dale Fort to Mill Bay.
Number 49
 Number 50
More on the history of Dale Fort.
Concerning the building of the present structure.
Number 51
Some lovely vehicles at Dale Fort
Number 52
Gingist remarks and lots about Stackpole and Bosherston
and St Govan’s Chapel.
Number 53
It’s nearly Christmas, so do the Dale Fort Botany Quiz.
Number 54
It’s even nearer to Christmas, so look at the answers to Number 53.
Number 55
Season of goodwill over, back to extreme Brexit in the 19th Century.
Number 56
More on the measures taken to limit immigration at 19th Century Dale Fort.
Number 57
Just how do you fire a shell through 20 inches of oak and 5 inches of iron plate?  Read Blog 57 and learn how, you never know when this could come in useful.




Dale Fort Blog Number 56

26 02 2018

The Armament of Dale Fort (continued)

The Powder Magazines.

Most of the gun powder and shells were kept in the Magazines.

Lieutenant Sandford’s plan of 1866 informs us that there were 268 barrels of gun powder kept there.  As far as I know they have all been removed.

Sandford 1866

The magazines were protected by being set into the rocks of the cliff away from the battery (where the guns were) and are placed behind a bombproof wall.  The wall is reinforced with counter-forts (limestone piers) substituting in this confined space for an earth bank.

Mags and gate labelled

The Magazines or Powder Stores are of double walled construction.  The inner walls are of brick, which is more water resistant than limestone.  Fittings on windows and doors are bronze.  Ferrous metals might produce sparks, something to be avoided in a gunpowder store.

Lamp Passage 2 labelled

Two small openings with bronze door fittings are visible on either side of the Magazines.  These provide access to the lamp passage.  In the 1850s artificial light involved naked flames, which were not acceptable in a powder store.  In order to light the inside of the store, lamps were placed in tunnels behind thick panes of glass or copper mesh (or sometimes both).  This provided some light in the powder store but not much.  Also if there was a small explosion in the store, the lamps should be unaffected. The openings of the lamp tunnels can be seen in the walls of the store by looking down the lamp passage.

In lamp passage labelled

The regulations governing the operation of powder magazines were extremely strict.  The entrance doors were small and sheathed in copper to prevent sparks.  Just inside the door was a barrier.  On either side of the entrance (shifting) lobby there would be clothes hooks and seating.  As the men entered, they would wipe and remove their boots, take off their normal clothes and change into magazine clothing.  The purpose being to ensure no metallic objects or grit got into the powder store.  They were then allowed to pass through the barrier and enter the magazine.

The magazines at Dale Fort are unusual in that the door openings are very large, (probably modified by later occupiers).  The shifting lobby, (the connection between the magazines and the outside world) is not obvious.  Some early magazines lacked shifting lobbies but a fortress of 1856 should have one.  The magazine at Dale Fort is divided into two sections joined by a low archway possibly this performed a similar function.

The stone archway by the magazines would have had an armoured gate (you can still see the upper hinges) and normally this gate would have been kept locked.  This would separate the domestic and fighting parts of the fort.  The battery side of the gate would be known these days as the “Danger Area”.  As at the battery, ground level has been raised here by about a foot.  The reasons for this raising of ground level will be speculated upon in a later Blog.

Gunpowder was stored in barrels and cartridges and shells were filled as the need arose.  Cartridges were cylindrical silk bags filled with powder.  In use, the cartridge was rammed down the gun barrel followed by a wad.  The wad was a pad made of rags (or even a piece of turf in field units).  The ball or shell was put in on top of this.  The gun was then fired using a friction tube.  The sergeant in charge of the gun would have a box of these. They were thin copper tubes about 3 inches long with a constriction near the top.  The tube was put in the gun and a string tugged which pulled a ring from around the tube.  The friction set off a small charge, which set fire to the fulminate of mercury with which the tube was filled.  This set off the charge in the cartridge and fired the gun.

The equipment needed to operate the gun was stored in the Side Arms Shed.  Here would be kept rammers, reamers, powder ladles, blocks and tackles.  Gun-sights and inclinometers for aiming the weapons would have been kept in an Artillery Store.

side arms store with labels

A major weakness of the Dale battery is the cliff immediately behind it.  Missiles that missed the battery could hit the cliff behind and shower the infantrymen with rock shrapnel or even bounce back into the battery.  The battery at West Blockhouse has this problem to an even greater degree.   Here, the barrack block itself provides a man-made “cliff” off which missiles might bounce and rock fragments shatter.

That’s all for now.  Our feast of mayhem and destruction will continue (probably in Blog 57) with some notes about the development of weaponry in the mid-19th Century.

 

 





Dale Fort Blog Number 55

23 02 2018

The Armament of Dale Fort

The Dale Fort Artillery

The main weapons installed when the fort opened (1856) were the seven 68-pounders.  68 pounds refers to the weight of the projectile the guns were intended to fire.  This would have been a spherical iron missile of about eight inches diameter.  The guns were smooth bore, meaning that there was no rifling (or spiraling) on the inside of the barrel for the purpose of imparting spin to the projectile.  This would be pointless for a spherical missile anyway.  The practice of naming guns after certain weights derives from the use of spherical projectiles.  A gun barrel firing a spherical cannon ball which has to be a close fit in the barrel can only take one size of sphere.

The Dale gun barrels were about eight inches internal diameter, ten feet long and shot an iron sphere weighing about 68 pounds.  68-pound guns were brought into Coastal Defence service in 1846.

68lb sb ml cannon

In addition to firing spherical rounds the Dale 68-pounders could fire spherical shell, bar and rod and chain shot.  Spherical shells were hollow gun powder filled bombs with a fuse sticking out of the top (like the archetypal cartoon bomb).  Bar and rod comprised two hemispherical lumps of metal joined by a bar.  Chain shot was two balls joined by a chain.  The aim of the latter two was to destroy the rigging of sailing ships.  Each 68-pounder required about ten men to operate it and had a rate of fire of about six rounds a minute.

The range of these guns was more than adequate to cover the entrance to Milford Haven.

There were 3 forts (Dale, West Blockhouse and Thorne Island) built as a group at this time and able to cross-fire with each other..

The point of three forts cross-firing was to both concentrate the fire and to alleviate the problem of firing close to the batteries themselves.  Guns firing towards you from the opposite side of the water can aim a lot closer to you than you can yourself.

The battery at Dale Point a step in it which has the function of reducing the possibility of guns interfering with one another, enabling closer concentration of fire.

batter at dale point.png

The curve and step also meant the guns were arranged so as to prevent an enemy ship from taking out the whole battery with a single shot.  The guns would have stuck up about two feet above the granite parapet.  (Later occupants of Dale Fort raised the ground level at Dale Point by about two feet, more about this strange phenomenon in a later Blog).

The locations of the guns can be seen from recesses cut into the granite blocks of the parapet.  Below these are pivot-blocks, massive lumps of masonry on which the guns swiveled.  The guns were fixed on wooden carriages mounted in turn on wooden traversing carriages.  Wood was the preferred material because it was less dangerous than iron which shattered into deadly fragments when hit.  As the gun fired, its recoil carried it up the incline of the carriage.  It stopped as it reached the top and was thus behind the parapet for reloading.   At the battery there was an Expense Magazine.  This was a protected storage area that held enough ordnance (cartridge and shot) for a single action. It was further protected by a glacis, a sloping earth bank for deflecting incoming missiles.

More exciting information about how Dale Fort spat fiery death at pesky invaders in a later Blog (perfect for your Brexiteer friends).

 





Dale Fort Blog Number 54

3 11 2017

Dale Fort Flower Quiz:  THE ANSWERS

A receptacle is:

a) A new prescription from SpecSavers

b) A small piece of chocolate

c) The tip of a flower stalk

d) A frond bearing tetraspores

 

A filament is:

a) A thread of spider silk

b) A  large piece of DNA

c) The distal convoluted anther

d) An anther stalk

 

Name the Family

Orchid/Orchidacae (early purple)

orchid

Name the Family

Carrot/Umbelliferae/Apeacae (wild carrot)

cowp

A stigma is:

a) A tattoo like mark on a stem

b) A  sticky tip

c) A good tip

d) A stipule

 

A sepal is:

a) An Anglo-Indian Army Officer

b) A group of 17 petals

c) What a Glaswegian says on seeing his chum

d) Floral leaves around the petals

 

Name the Family

Grass/Graminae/Poacae (annual meadow grass)

gram

 

A pedicel is:

a) A tiny pair of pincers owned by a sea urchin

b) The foot housing on a safety bicycle

c) Where Rolf Harris lives

d) A flower stalk

 

An actinomorphic flower is:

a) Zygomorphic

b) Morphozygic

c) Radially symmetrical

d) Bi-laterally symmetrical

 

Name the Family

Rose/Rosacae (bramble)

bram

 

Gluma is Latin for:

a) Sad

b) Husk

c) Outer membrane

d) Photosynthetic

 

Name the Family

Daisy/Compositae (daisy)

dais

 

Name the Family

Geranium/Geraniacae (dovesfoot cranesbill)

ger

 

Lemma is Greek for:

a) Lemon

b) Husk

c) Inner membrane

d) Motorhead

 

Name the Family

Buttercup/Ranunculaceae (meadow buttercup)

but

 

A zygomorphic flower is:

a) Zygozymboglioid

b) Zambodogbigliode

c) Radially symmetrical

d) Bi-laterally symmetrical

 

A corolla is:

a) Mass ejection of solar material

b) The basal parts of a tropical reef

c) The whirl of sepals

d) The whirl of petals

 

Name the Family

Campion/Caryophyllacae (red campion)

camp

 

An inferior ovary is:

a) Located between the sepals

b) Found below the rhizome

c) Found below the stigma

d) Found below the calyx

 

A gynaecium is:

a) The annual conference of midwives

b) An assemblage of gyns

c) An ovary and carpels

d) A stipule and its microspores

 

Name the Family

Cabbage/Cruciferae (field pepperwort)

wot

 

Name the Family

Figwort/Scrophulariacae (foxglove)

fox

 

An anther produces:

a) Seeds

b) Rhizoids

c) Pollen

d) Carpels

 

A calyx is:

a) A brassica flavoured ice lolly

b) A  small sepal

c) The proximal convoluted tubule

d) A whirl of sepals in a flower

 

If You scored:

25:    You are a botanical genius, a spectacular career awaits at The British Museum (and a Nobel Prize obviously, if there was one for botany)

20 – 25:  Jolly well done,  Kew Gardens awaits your arrival

15 – 20:  Good (‘ish) work, Your local parks department will surey employ you

10 – 15:  Why not apply for an alotment?

5 – 10:  Maybe you could try a window box?

0 – 5: Do you want extra large fries with that?

See the next blog for something else.





Dale Fort Blog Number 53

3 11 2017

Test your knowledge of flowering plants with the

DALE FORT FLOWER QUIZ

There are 25 marks available.  There might be more than one correct answer for some questions:
A receptacle is:

a) A new prescription from SpecSavers

b) A small piece of chocolate

c) The tip of a flower stalk

d) A frond bearing tetraspores

A filament is:

a) A thread of spider silk

b) A  large piece of DNA

c) The distal convoluted anther

d) An anther stalk

Name the Family

orchid

Name the Family

cowp

 

A stigma is:

a) A tattoo like mark on a stem

b) A  sticky tip

c) A good tip

d) A stipule

A sepal is:

a) An Anglo-Indian Army Officer

b) A group of 17 petals

c) What a Glaswegian says on seeing his chum

d) Floral leaves around the petals

Name the Family

gram

 

A pedicel is:

a) A tiny pair of pincers owned by a sea urchin

b) The foot housing on a safety bicycle

c) Where Rolf Harris lives

d) A flower stalk

An actinomorphic flower is:

a) Zygomorphic

b) Morphozygic

c) Radially symmetrical

d) Bi-laterally symmetrical

Name the Family

bram

Gluma is Latin for:

a) Sad

b) Husk

c) Outer membrane

d) Photosynthetic

Name the Family

dais

Name the Family

ger

Lemma is Greek for:

a) Lemon

b) Husk

c) Inner membrane

d) Motorhead

Name the Family

but

 

A zygomorphic flower is:

a) Zygozymboglioid

b) Zambodogbigliode

c) Radially symmetrical

d) Bi-laterally symmetrical

A corolla is:

a) Mass ejection of solar material

b) The basal parts of a tropical reef

c) The whirl of sepals

d) The whirl of petals

Name the Family

camp

 

An inferior ovary is:

a) Located between the sepals

b) Found below the rhizome

c) Found below the stigma

d) Found below the calyx

A gynaecium is:

a) The annual conference of midwives

b) An assemblage of gyns

c) The ovary and carpels

d) A stipule and its microspores

 

 

Name the Family

wot

 

Name the Family

fox

 

An anther produces:

a) Seeds

b) Rhizoids

c) Pollen

d) Carpels

A calyx is:

a) A brassica flavoured ice lolly

b) A small sepal

c) The proximal convoluted tubule

d) A whirl of sepals in a flower

 Dale Fort Blog Number 54 has the answers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





Dale Fort Blog Number 52

1 11 2017

This blog tells you all you need to know (and possibly more) about Stackpole and Bosherston

 

In 1188 Gerald of Wales mentioned a man called Elidyr de Stackpole, the owner of the Stackpole Estate.  Elidyr founded the church and employed Simon de Gingo (he had red hair) to look after things.  Simon made sure everyone (the workers included) was well fed and housed and spent a lot of Elidyr’s money. He didn’t live on the estate but seemed to vanish at night.  He was instructed to economise but failed to do so.  As a result, a member of the Elidyr family followed him one night and reported seeing him turn into a demon and consort with a bunch of other demons down by the mill pond.   Simon’s mum confirmed that actually, she’d been ravished by the devil (disguised as her husband) and 9months later out came Simon.  Simon (now) the Demon was sacked but went on to have a successful career in banking, politics and Pay-Day Loans.

 

By the late 14th Century Joanna de Stackpole (possibly with a bloodline to Elidyr) married a Vernon (from Haddon Hall in Derbyshire) and the Vernons held the 8,000 acre estate for 200 years.  In 1578 the widow of Sir Thomas Stanley, (son of the Earl of Derby) leased the estate to her attorney, George Lort.  By 1611 the Lorts had purchased the whole estate.

 

Sir Alexander Campbell of Cawdor (Nairnshire, Scotland) was a university friend of Gilbert Lort.  He was visiting Gilbert when a long spell of bad weather prevented their return to Cambridge (most of the journey was by sea).  During his extended stay, Campbell fell for and married Gilbert’s sister Elizabeth.  Elizabeth, (who was by now widowed) inherited the estate in 1698.  She managed it until her death in 1714 when it passed to her son John Campbell.  The Campbells held the estate until 1976 when it was sold by Hugh the 6th Earl and 25th Thane of Cawdor.

 

The manor house was rebuilt in the 1730s and became the largest house in South-West Wales.  By 1770 a later John Campbell began landscaping on a huge scale.  Three tidal inlets were dammed to prevent the sea getting in allowing them to fill with fresh water from surrounding streams.  By 1840 the main works were complete together with several decorative bridges (The 8-Arch Bridge conceals a controlling dam).  The lakes were enhanced by large scale tree planting producing the landscape we see today.

bosh lilly

In 1938-9 the War Office requisitioned 6,000 acres of the estate to make the Castlemartin Artillery Range.  During World War 2 the mansion was also requisitioned to house soldiers.  This was the beginning of the end for the private estate.  By the time they left, the military had reduced the mansion to a dilapidated state and still retained three quarters of the land.  In 1963 Hugh Campbell decided that the costs of restoration were too much and demolished the house.  In 1976 he sold off the family’s remaining Welsh lands to the South Wales Electricity Generating Board Pension Fund.  The coastal parts (roughly 1900 acres) were transferred by the Treasury to The National Trust as part of a deal to settle Death Duties.

 

The pools are now a National Nature Reserve famous for their profusion of white lilies.  They attract water birds, otters and tourists and are regarded as one of the best coarse fisheries in West Wales.  They are managed to maintain their populations of stoneworts (calcareous green algae) which require low nutrient, alkaline water.  Nutrient rich water (a product of agricultural run-off) is culverted by an underwater pipe to discharge to the sea at the end of the valley.

stonewort

Stoneworts

Bosherston started out as Stackpole, named after the sea-stack called Church Rock at Broadhaven.  In the 13th Century, William Bosher was a big local land owner and the name became Stackpole-Bosher and eventually Bosherston.  There are far fewer Welsh place names in South Pembrokeshire than the north, reflecting the influence of Scandinavian raiders and the rapid take-over of South Wales by the Normans.

 

By far the most notable feature of Bosherston is The Olde Worlde Café.  The building is 2 ex-coastguard cottages (1834) knocked together.  It has been a cafe for 75-odd years run for 70 or so by Mrs. V. Weston who inherited the business from her parents.  She was 90 in 2011 and celebrated with a bungee jump from The Green Bridge of Wales.  Actually, I made that last bit up, but she did go for a flight in a Spitfire.  In 1987, I was running a walking course that stopped for tea and cakes at Mrs. Weston’s café.  It happened that my fiancée Sandy had joined the group and let it be known that our wedding was to take place in 4 days.  Mrs. Weston overheard this and refused to take payment for the massive quantities of tea and cake that we had already guzzled.  It was our first wedding present.  The café is very popular with both tourists and climbers.  (The latter appear in large numbers once the seabirds have finished nesting on the cliffs).  Mrs. Weston was honoured with an MBE for services to lemon drizzle cake in 2007.  Mrs. Weston (known as Auntie V) finally went to run the Great Tea Shoppe in the Sky in 2016, aged 95.

av

Mrs Weston with a cup of tea (proper tea made with leaves not teabags)

  The Church of St Michael and All Angels was built on an existing church site in the 13th Century.  The tower is a bit younger being 14th or 15th Century.  It has a hagioscope, which sounds exciting but is actually a hole in the wall of one of the transepts, cut so that you can see the alter.  The building was restored in 1855 by Lord Cawdor of Stackpole (the Campbells).  Outside is a 13th Century mediaeval cross.  The top part and the bottom part are of different stone, so it’s thought that it might be a composite of two different crosses.  There’s a worn carving of a face at the intersect which may represent Jesus Christ.

 

On the cliffs just down the road is St. Govan’s Chapel.  It’s only accessible if the tank range is not in use and it occupies a crevice halfway down the limestone cliffs.

St. Govan, who died c586, is not very well documented.  He might have been Irish born c500.  Some say he was actually Sir Gawain, the nephew of Arthur.  Some say Gawain is a reference to a pre-Christian Irish hero.  It’s all a bit lost in the mists of time but it’s well worth a visit.  The number of steps down to the chapel are supposed to be uncountable but it’s definitely somewhere between 55 and 172.  St. Govan is said to have possessed a silver bell that he rang on special occasions and birthdays.  One day an Irish pirate called Lysgi (also involved with Boia at St Davids and has Porth Lysgi Bay named after him) stole the bell.  God saw this and sent a storm to wreck Lysgi’s vessel and toss the bell back up to St. Govan where he encased it in a rock.  You might hear the bell tinkling within the stone on stormy days.  There’s a well (now dry) under a stone chamber just below the chapel.

 st gs cahpel

St Govan’s Chapel (thanks to John Archer-Thomson for the picture).

End of Blog 52.  Look out for number 53.