Tag: bang

Bang! Boom!

Today, 5 November, is Guy Fawkes and tonight many animals will be scared witless by fireworks, and a number of children and drunks will be injured by fireworks while celebrating something/someone that they know very little about. 

When I was very young Guy Fawkes was celebrated in South Africa (although we seemed to think it was called Guy Fox), and we knew even less about what it was about than people in the UK.  Frankly we didn’t really care either because it was all about shooting off fireworks!  


Fireworks back then were a “controlled” item; they were only available before Guy Fawkes and on the 6th of November were removed from the shelves for another year. As kids we saved our pennies (cents) and bummed money from our parents to buy “crackers”. And, naturally it always seemed to rain on 5 November much to our disgust.

Once darkness fell we would go shoot off our horde of eagerly collected fireworks and watch those rare occasions when people splurged out on some really expensive “Roman Candle” that fizzed away to our accompanying oohs and aahs.  Occasionally there would be the swish of a bottle rocket and the staccato bangs of “Tom Thumbs” being lit by the boxful. Once our fireworks were done we would look for the squibs that had not gone off and break them in half and light the middle bit to burn the gunpowder that had escaped. They would briefly burn with a satisfying flame that the relatively tame “Sparklers” did not have.


And then it was over.

The next day on the way to school we would examine the burnt out remnants in the vain hope that we would find unexploded crackers or squibs that we could set off that night. But pickings would be meagre and that night there would be the occasional pop and squeeeeee and we would not see or hear from fireworks for another year

At some point Guy Fawkes died when the government decided to ban fireworks altogether and it soon faded into memory until the ban was lifted a few years back.

The problem was that the stuff being fired off now was not the tame Tom Thumb of our past but huge fireworks that seemed to pack more power than a thunderflash. There was also no control over them so they became available at the drop of a hat to celebrate  Christmas, New Year, Diwali, Guy Fawkes, favourite team wins and so forth. The amount of pets that got lost went up almost immediately and emergency rooms saw the usual crop of drunks and kids who had not played safely with fireworks. There were also the usual sadists who attempted to blow up their dogs or children and occasionally each other. 

Guy Fawkes did not feature in it at all. In fact if you asked anybody in South Africa who Guy Fawkes was they would have probably mumbled something about “that oke with the crackers who wanted to blow up the toilet”. 

In the UK though Guy Fawkes does have some sort of relevance, and tonight there will be some fireworks and bonfires and drunks and kids in emergency rooms.

Should we even care about shooting off fireworks?


Make no mistake about it, a controlled fireworks display is stunning to watch, but it is a short lived event that only exists for that period and is then over with. It does not carry on for the rest of the week and at random times of the night. A talented pyrotechnician can do some amazing things with fireworks, and in Southampton there were often displays over the harbour when a new ship sailed on her maiden cruise.

Unfortunately the effect on animals is not very good, and my brother always used to give his dog a tranquilliser to see him through the evening. 

Some religions do include fireworks in their celebrations, and I can understand their reasoning behind it, but frankly things that go BANG! do not cut it with the PC mob any longer, and I suspect we will see less and less of them as time passes. I am sure there is already an app to download your own fireworks to your smartphone. If that is what it takes to scare one less animal then I am all for it, make it so! 

Tonight will probably be a loud one, and the emergency services will be on alert as people loose their marbles. Let us hope it is of limited duration, for the sake of the dogs and cats as well as the kids, although I am not too sure about the drunks.

© DRW 2016-2018. Created 05/11/2016. Images of fireworks kindly provided by http://www.iceflowstudios.com/2013/freebies/over-100-free-fireworks-pictures/  


Updated: 01/01/2018 — 16:34

Visiting Fort Nelson

Another retro blogpost, and this time it is Fort Nelson near Portsmouth. I had seen the fort when we had popped into Portsmouth in April, I had intended going back there one day but logistically it was too difficult to reach it without a vehicle.  One of five forts situated on the summit of Portsdown Hill it is part of the protection of Portsmouth Naval Base. Fort Nelson is now part of  the Royal Armouries and houses their collection of artillery.  

Portsmouth from Portsdown Hill (1500×78)

According to my landlord, the forts were built to protect from invasion by the French coming over the landward side of Portsmouth, and it is confirmed by the fields of fire that the fort has. 

Portsmouth from Posrtsdown Hill (1500×609)

The first thing you see at Fort Nelson is: 
This is 14 Inch MK VII, and was made by Vickers-Armstrong in 1946, and is the last of her type. These were destined for ships of the King George V class battleships, although this particular gun never went to sea. The gun with its counterweight weighed in at 91 tons, the maximum range at 40 degrees elevation was 35,4 kilometres. 
A portent of things to come?

The Fort is a typical grim foreboding place,  It was purely functional so aesthetics did not come into its construction.
 But once inside it was a different ballgame altogether.

Some of these guns are the stuff of legend, like the mighty 3.7 inch anti-aircraft gun or the equally deadly and respected 88mm gun used by the Germans in WW2 in both and anti-aircraft and anti-tank role. .
My own particular interest is in naval gunnery so my eyes would really be on the lookout for that.  I am an infantryman though, so the Arty is just seen as a necessary evil to make  aloud noise while we did the cleaning up.
There are a number of naval weapons on display, although I do not have the information on them because that was sadly lacking on a number of the displays outside the building.
My landlord was hoping that we would be able to see the firing of the 25 Pounder which happens each day, but we got our timing wrong so had arrived too late for that. It was a pity because I had last seen one in action when I was very young at a Military Tattoo.
This image taken from the battlements shows the parade ground with the solitary 25 pounder in the middle and my landlord admiring a rather large gun. 
While the image below was taken from a building above the gun emplacements and the direction from which the French would theoretically have come from. 
Assuming the got close to the fort in the first place they would have had to have then dealt with the ditch in front of the fort 
as well as the sheer walls of the fort itself. Naturally there would be English soldiers on the battlements throwing things at you and shouting about how “your mother is a hamster  and your father smelt of elderberries.”
At this point the long range weaponry of the fort would have been of little consequence as they were designed to keep the enemy away. 
The fort is riddled with tunnels and if the lights went out you would really be in a pickle.
and you find guns in some of the strangest places. These are actually mortars and they would be ideal to drop on the head of an invading force.
There is also an enclosed space with a number of interesting items, like a Sexton SPG.
And this almost familiar 155mm Howitzer from Iraq.
Upon closer examination it does bear a resemblance to our own G5 used during the Bush War in SWA/Angola. There is also a 5.5 inch howitzer which would not be out of place in the Artillery in South Africa. 
And a reminder that even behind steel armour there will always be a something that will penetrate it.
Of course there was a garrison of men who manned the fort and like soldiers everywhere you can bet spit and polish was more important than actually firing anything.
The building is laced with an untold history, and the amount of bricks used must have been staggering.
There are other period guns there, and one is tempted to ignore them as more modern exhibits are really what we can relate to so many years down the line. But it is worth remembering that many of the weapons here were considered “State of the Art” back then.
A place like this really provides a rare glimpse into a different kid of siege warfare, at a time when there was faith in big guns and the aircraft was not even considered. 
During WW2 anti-aircraft ammunition was stored here, and it must have been a very interesting place to get view the raids on the nearby naval base of Portsmouth. The bomber would destroy your previous impenetrability, and the fort was abandoned in the 1950’s. 
Of course ornamental weaponry is also on display, and I am particularly taken with these two examples:
And then it was time to leave, and I shall leave you with some random images.
Random Images.
And finally, a granddaddy from 1464.  Turkish Bombardon, To quote the blurb Made in 1464, this is one of the oldest and most extraordinary cannon in our collection.
The Turkish Bombard, with its two giant tubes screwed together, can be seen as a forerunner of the Iraqi Supergun. Beautifully inscribed in Arabic text, this Bombard is one of the jewels of the Royal Armouries collection. Unlike the Supergun, this mighty weapon was used – to hurl a 300 kg stone cannonball against its enemies.
The Great Bombard, firing huge stone balls, was the heavy demolition weapon of the Middle Ages. In 1453 the Ottoman Turks, using bombards, captured Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire.
Turkish armies, with their bold use of artillery, came to be universally feared. Sultan Mehmet II (1430–81) was a great artillery innovator: he first employed a skilled Hungarian gunfounder, Urban, to cast bombards for the siege of Constantinople. Later, he ordered this bombard from bronze-founder Munir Ali. It is a masterpiece of medieval technology, having been cast in two pieces: barrel and powder chamber, which screw together.
It was once sited to attack ships sailing through the Dardanelles Narrows. After 400 years, visitors to Turkey continued to mention it, especially as it was still being fired in the 19th century. In 1866 Sultan Abdul Aziz presented it to Queen Victoria.”


© DRW 2013-2018. Images recreated 06/04/2016

Updated: 29/12/2017 — 07:09
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