CANNON BALLS

COASTAL BATTERIES

and

QUILLS

A collection of photos of interesting and now demolished buildings and recovered artifacts - many of which are old labels that can be downloaded and used as if originals - watch the ink does not run if you use glue!!



Cannon Balls being found at low tide in the mud may seem to be a perhaps a not too uncommon event, but here near Plymouth, across the Tamar river in a large muddy inlet called St.Johns Lake in the county of Cornwall they can be found in their hundreds, if not thousands, and I mean THOUSANDS!!!! They were fired from the gunnery school vessel H.M.S.Cambridge during the last century as part of their target practice. Amazingly also is the fact that part of the original target remains with balls still impaled in it. Obviously a bull`s eye! What can be seen today are the foundation posts of the target frame that would have consisted of a large cloth screen. You can see that the location is not far from the city of Plymouth across the estuary, but at least they were firing the other way!!! The balls are a long , long , long , way out in the very soft mud and great vigilance must be paid to the tides. It is a very unforgiving place and the flooding tide will show no mercy. The mud is like glue,soft and deep so one must test the depth of mud as one goes.

The balls look like rocks as they are covered with encrustion and unless one knew would be easily by-passed. Once found, a ball is hit with a hammer, and the thick crust cracks off leaving a perfect ball that may even appear to be silvery for a brief instant until oxidation takes over and the shine fades. If you think you are sinking in the mud, just wait until you have a cannon ball or two in your rucksack! Back on the safety of the solid beach the mess one is in is evident.

Before you worry over 25yrs. of exploring these mudflats have produced no live/dangerous items at all, the balls are all solid shot...however..beware the angry crabs. NOTE: Once in the air , maybe some months later the balls tend to fall to bits,..many months of soaking in water sometimes sorts this problem...putting them in the cistern of your loo{W.C.} gives them a nice wash over six months or so.


The summer sometimes brings cliff bracken fires, that ravage the dry vegetated areas of local cliffs. Sadly these destroy much fauna and valuable habitat. The dense gorse and bracken are like huge unpenetratable magnets for long tossed away bottles from long forgotten picnics perhaps a century or more ago. The ravages of the inferno reveal the secret cache. The once green and friendly landscape becomes a black, bleak landscape, stark in appearance and acrid in stench. Old bottles such as Codd bottles and earthenware ginger beer bottles may be found among the burnt landscape.

Exploring a coastal fortification, I noticed that the floor was a little on the "springy" side. Close exaimination showed the floor to be covered in these old shooting targets. One is in the form of an early airship or dirigible {6 by 8ins.} another is a crouched soldier {5ins high} and the last one is a soldier peering over the top of the trench..it is a 300yd. at 25yd. target{6 by 6ins.} Locally it is impossible to lose sight of Plymouth`s military past. One can literally walk over it! Some one with less regard for history than me had made a bonfire of a pile of them...what a waste.

Illustrated now is a collection of rare labels and artifacts that were recovered locally. The labels would print well and could be used in your own displays..these items are exceedingly rare and possibly unique.Where dated, the date is shown.


1882 GATLING GUN, GARDNER GUN AMMUNITION WRAPPER.{9.25 BY 5.75 INS.}
1889 MARTINI-HENRY AMMUNITION WRAPPER.,{9.25 BY 5.75 INS.}
1890 33LB. SILK CHARGE LABEL{4.25 BY 4.75 INS.}
"W.D." LABEL {5 BY 5 INS}
1893 6PR HOTCHKISS LABEL {7.5 BY 4.25 INS}
1887 FRICTION QUILL TUBE LABEL {4 BY 3.5 INS}
1897 .303 LABEL {4 BY 5.5 INS}
.45 LABEL {5 BY 3.75 INS.}
.45 LABEL CLOSE-UP


1902 PAIN`S ROCKET TIN LID {2.75 INS DIAMETER}
COPPER FRICTION TUBES {5, 3, 2 INS.}
FRICTION QUILLS, BIRD`S FEATHER {3.5 AND 2 INS.}
FRICTION QUILL IN PIECES
FRICTION QUILL COMPLETE WITH LEATHER THONG AND RING PULL
BRASS FRICTION TUBE BLOCK {2 BY 2 INS.}
These items are part of Plymouth`s history, not brought in, but our history...yours and mine. You will struggle hard to find these items in any museum in the world.
Click on these links for A 1902 diagram of their construction. QUILL.....BLOCK......TUBE......BLOCK IN COLOUR.

As a student in 1970 I passed many a happy hour exploring two reasonably local coastal defence batteries. Built and developed around the turn of the century and overlooking Whitesand Bay they played a vital part in the defence of Plymouth and it`s dockyard at Devonport. I took some photos at the time for a college project, not realising that a quater of a century later they would form a unique record of military architecture. The buildings have long been demolished, although some remains exist underground. I have not seen any other photos of the fabric of these structures anywhere.

PENLEE BATTERY

Penlee Battery is seen in the illustration on this page. It is well documented in many books on fortifications, but the photos are lacking.

The battery is surrounded by an unclimbable fence, there were many buildings and accomodations for the garrison. Urinals,.. wash basins and hatches to power rooms deep below remained. An earth bank at the back of the battery was to prevent incoming enemy fire ricocheting inwards, it would tend to absorb fire.Underground are magazines and incoming fire shelters, a very shaky metal staircase led down to what was known as the "Accumulator Pit"..a deep passage that served to dampen the recoil of the firing of the guns. The battery overlooked the sea and on the cliff below was {still is!}the firing range notice board, telling the unwary when they were in the firing line. The risk was not from being hit by a 6 in. shell but of debris and concussion. Outside the perimeter was a World War Two anti-aircraft battery with air raid shelters and surface constructions.

Certain underground sections can still be entered. It is the 6 in. magazine that provides us with a small glimpse of what remains elsewhere but sealed-up and denied to us.

A soil filled loading hatch provides us with our entry and leads into a long, dark passage. Leading off this is a magazine, and a "shifting lobby".....where clothes were changed in a strict procedure....and it is still complete with it`s thou shall not pass wooden barrier arm.

Perhaps of interest is the apple tree on the site that still produces lovely fruit...perhaps it did for the camp cook in those far off times, or perhaps it made apple pie and cream for the officers tea party.

RAME CHURCH BATTERY

Rame Church Battery was totally encircled by a high concrete wall guarded by at least one machine gun post box remaining in 1970. In the buildings inside, well styled fireplace grates remained as did the winch to haul ammunition up from the magazines below. The door to the medical officers room still had "M.O." stencilled on it. The guardhouse still surveys a now quiet scene. The "ammunition tunnel" still linked the two gun pits. Now all is gone and just scrub wavers in the breeze.


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