Pendennis Castle and St Mawes Castle, Cornwall
Command and control
During the Second World War, the Fal estuary was heavily defended by land, sea and air. Pendennis Castle formed the headquarters from which the response to any attack was coordinated.
Here is the Battery Observation Post, where a few vigilant souls watched the horizon and guided the guns of Half Moon Battery to their targets.
Homegrown, cast iron
In the 1540s, Henry’s encouragement of the production of guns at home paid off, and guns using cast iron were produced successfully in the Weald of East Sussex and Kent.
By the end of the century, English cast guns were regarded as the finest in Europe - like these replicas at Pendennis.
A Simple Little Change
Guns on heavy wheeled carriages were awkward to move and aim, and crews might only manage one shot before a ship went out of view.
The 1780s invention of the traversing carriage, like this one at St Mawes, solved this problem. The carriage pivoted at the front and rotated on small wheels and an iron rail at the rear. It was easy to move and aim sideways and could be fired more quickly, so fewer guns were needed.
Technological breakthrough 1: rifling
The 19th century witnessed many innovations in gun-making. Foremost was the making of rifled guns that had barrels with multiple internal helical grooves.
On firing, studs or bands on the shells expanded to fill the grooves, causing the shell to spin rapidly.
The result was greater stability, accuracy and power. These Armstrong-Fraser guns at Pendennis, for shells of 64lbs weight, date from the 1860s.
Technological breakthrough 2: breech-loading
The 1890s brought a safe and reliable method for loading guns from the rear, or breech, instead of the front, or muzzle. This made guns much quicker to load and fire.
This gun, at Pendennis, fired a shell of 12lbs weight and was designed especially to combat small fast ships carrying torpedoes and machine guns.
Not exactly luxurious
The barracks accommodated men of the Royal Artillery while they were in training, or working in the active gun crews at Half Moon Battery. This reconstructed room gives an idea of conditions for the ordinary men: clean, tidy, spartan.
Lots of men who trained at Pendennis in the First World War served abroad. Many never came back.
Deep underground at Pendennis is the magazine for Half Moon Battery, where ammunition was safely stored in controlled conditions. This is the cartridge store. Cartridges of very dangerous high explosive were kept here before being sent up to the guns above on special lifts.
A cartridge was placed in a gun behind the shell: firing it propelled the shell towards its target.
Dangerous up to 8.5 miles
The last guns in service at Pendennis were in Half Moon Battery.
These are six inch guns (meaning that the shells loaded into it were six inches in diameter) that fired a shell weighing 100lbs at targets up to 8.5 miles away, using data generated by radar.
The guns there today have barrels made in 1946. The gun pits and protective gun house date from the Second World War.
Look up! A new threat
In the First World War, a new danger emerged which brought death from the sky – the airship and airplane. Anti-aircraft (AA) guns were slowly developed in response.
In the Second World War, light AA guns were emplaced at Pendennis, like this 40mm Bofors gun. It was designed for shooting down aircraft attacking at low altitudes.
Paul Pattison, Ian Leins, Rose Arkle