Contents 1 to 60

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.
Number 58
Once more into the breech dear friends, another small battle against Excel reveals it’s really quite easy to rank data without disturbing the data column.
Number 59
It’s not all beer and skittles.  This one may depress you a little with my pontifications on marine conservation.  However, to cheer you up, it doesn’t mention plastic pollution at all.
Number 60
We return to the days when problems with Europe were solved by simply building more fortresses.  Also some interesting stuff about ablutions, heating and women.

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).