Palmerston Forts – Part 3 – Fort Nelson
And here we are inside the Northern Mortar Battery. What you can see here is a 13-inch cast iron Mortar which was unfortunately obsolete by the time the construction of Fort Nelson was actually completed. As a result, Nelson was never equipped with these weapons, instead relying on more modern artillery elsewhere for close-range defence, but in principle, the Mortars would have been hidden within the ramparts and were designed to fire upwards towards the attacking enemy, dropping explosive shells or bombs vertically at ranges of up to 3,000 yards. These were indirect fire weapons in that the operating crews had to rely on signals from observers higher up to judge range and bearing.
As is typical within the Palmerston Forts, large arches cover and protect the weapons and their crews from incoming fire.
And another mysterious tunnel awaits…
Leading up from the Mortar Battery takes visitors to the top of the Northern Caponier, and it is from here that one can see the sheer size and depth of the perimeter ditch surrounding this edge of the Fort. At this stage, you may wish to refer back to my piece on Fort Widley for an idea of how this type of ditch looked from the far side, it’s even more impressive from inside.
Her are two views, one looking West, one looking North, back towards the ramparts and the Northern Mortar Battery.
Firing steps are provided around the edge of this area, these steps would have allowed defenders with small arms to attempt to eliminate any attackers who might have breached the outer defences and reached the inside of the defensive ditch.
Another view looking down into the ditch, and a view looking East.
Finally, some extreme views from the very edge of the Caponier, demonstrating the extremely clean lines of the ditch and the flanks of the Fort. The outer face of the ditch was originally vertical, but over the years the chalk has subsided and created an angled slope on the far side.
[continued on next page]