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Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Fortress Visit Report No.4, Fort Nelson

Visit to Fort Nelson, near Portsmouth, England.

October 2012

These two pictures are copied from the Fort Nelson Souvenir Booklet

During the later 1850's the UK government became aware of developments within Emperor Napoleon III's France. Their concerns were around the development of Cherbourg, only 130 km from Portsmouth, the development of the new steam powered armoured warships and the increasing range and power of artillery. A Royal Commission recommended the building of new defences around strategic ports at a suitable distance to counter these developments in armaments. Collectively these forts are known as Palmerston's Forts.

Parliament voted a huge budget for the forts. Design and sighting work was completed in 1859 and 1860 by Royal Engineers. Construction was carried out by civilian contractors during the 1860's. However, during this period it became clear that Napoleon III was not looking to attack UK. France suffered two major defeats, first in Mexico then in the Franco Prussian War of 1870-71, this latter leading to Napoleon III's downfall. The forts became known as Palmerston's Follies.

Fort Nelson was used by the military until the 1970's. Hampshire County Council bought the site in 1979 and some conservation work was completed. In 1995, Fort Nelson opened as the Royal Armouries museum of artillery. A lot of time and money has been spent to convert the site to modern museum standards. During 2011 new facilities and display areas were opened to the public.

Fort Nelson is named after this monument to Lord Nelson, erected in 1807, following his victory and death at the Battle of Trafalgar.

Fort Nelson is around 500 metres from here.

Fort Nelson is of a polygonal design with open cannon position on a parapet surrounding a large terreplein.

Haxo casemates.
The artillery positions on the flanks are open to enfilading fire so are in Haxo casemates.

The main entrance, with new door.

Defence for the main entrance was this double height caponnier, with cannon and musketry ports.

Additional exhibition space has been created by infilling with steel and glass. This allows good display height and members of the public can get  close contact with the artillery pieces. In the front is a British 3.7inch anti-aircraft gun. Behind is a German 88mm anti-aircraft gun.

In a separate gallery, this 32pounder gun is installed in the main caponnier. It was planned to use such pieces as flank guard gun, firing caseshot.

At 15.00hrs every day, this 25pounder WW2 cannon is fired.

Unfortunately, my camera batteries ran out, so another visit is required. On the north side of the fort there are good local defence works, such as another caponnier and a mortar battery, another visit and report will cover those.

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