Hout Bay cannon heralds crowning of King Charles III

Spectators gather upwind of the cannon

Hout Bay marked the coronation of King Charles III on Saturday May 6 with the firing of an 18th-century cannon.

As part of a project to resurrect the East Fort corps of gunners, retired engineer Keith Mackie organised for a Hout Bay cannon to be fired in honour of the coronation.

Visitors and gunners gathered in the fynbos garden of remembrance, which was founded in 2002 by the Hout Bay and Llandudno Heritage Trust, below Chapman’s Peak Drive.

Cannon Association of SA members Martin Venter, of Simon’s Town, and Theo van der Merwe, of Table View, said they used one kilogram of gun powder. They were there to officiate as no one else in Hout Bay was qualified to do so, they said.

Mr Mackie invited women to light the fuse of the three shots, saying, “Women tend to fall into our arms when the cannons are fired.”

Hazel Hele, the wife of a former gunner, fired the second shot, saying she never gets used to the loud explosion. Luzette Watson, of Newlands, and Vital Kladay, of Lithuania, fired the other two shots.

Mr Mackie, of Tokai, said the firing was also an opportunity to preserve the East Fort gun battery as a heritage site.

“This was built around 1780, and the 18-pounder guns, each weighing around five tons, were cast in Sweden around the same time,” said Mr Mackie.

“The Hout Bay and Llandudno Heritage Trust got going around the 1990s to preserve heritage in Hout Bay and discovered the five short and one long East Fort guns,” said Mr Van der Merwe. “That led to the establishment of a corps of gunners. We did a lot of work restoring them and having events firing them,” he said.

Mr Mackie said they worked with the British Consulate in Cape Town and fired all seven cannons in salute to Queen Elizabeth II on her golden jubilee, in 2002. “Since then, the organisation has collapsed and it is time to resurrect it, to contact all those who were members and as many others who would like to join,” said Mr Mackie.

Mr Venter said the organisation had tracked down almost 1200 guns in the Western Cape, but there were a lot more.

Many of the guns were made of brass and had been melted down, he said.

The organisation hopes to take ownership of the guns on the Cape Peninsula, clean them and fire them in unison, starting at Cape Point, on Heritage Days.

He said he chose to fire the cannon at 2.30pm, 15 minutes before the Royal Artillery salute at Buckingham Palace in London.

To join the organisation, call Keith Mackie at 084 616 2263 or email keith@mackie.co.za

Cannon Association of SA members, Martin Venter of Simon’s Town and Theo van der Merwe of Table View.
The East Fort blockhouse with ramrods on the ground. They are used for ramming down the charge in a muzzle-loading cannon.
Hazel Hele, fired the second shot saying she never gets used to the loud explosion.