Cape Town Military Tattoo 2010: Muskets and Cannons firing at the Castle

Once the Castle gates had been closed securely for the night, and the Castle Guard had retired, a couple of burghers or hunters stepped out onto the Kat balcony.

These are the men from the South African Muzzle Loaders Association, all dressed up in period costume

These chaps, all dressed up in colourful period costume, complete with flamboyant feathery hats, belonged to the Muzzle Loaders Association of South Africa. They looked as though they thoroughly enjoyed firing their different types of muskets, which included the so-called ‘Brown Bess’, the Blunderbuss and the Caplock rifle.

The only way of disarming this weapon once it has been loaded, is to fire it

Once they had discharged their muskets with a sharp CRACK!, the members of the Cannon Association of South Africa (CAOSA) loaded the two 2-pounder cannons, which were set up on either side of the balcony. These cannons are also loaded from the front, and then a long stick with a flame at the end is used to light the explosive from the back – and from a little bit of a distance!

“These men are not only serious researchers who have logged the existence of more than 900 muzzle-loading cannons in South Africa but they also like to fire them. The CAOSA members and their guns – most of them well over a century old, with one or two detailed modern replicas – are in great demand by an astounding variety of organizations to fire salutes on momentous occasions. Among their regular venues is the Chavonnes Cannon Battery Museum at the Waterfront, where the CAOSA gunners frequently turn out to fire a noon gun … or several noon guns …. On Sundays, when the official one at Lion Battery, on Signal Hill, is silent.” (Program notes)


From a photography perspective, getting the perfect shot of the muskets and cannons firing posed an irresistable challenge for me. However, even though I was waiting for the explosive report of those two cannons, its sheer volume still caught me by surprise, causing me to blur the shots on the first day. Hand-holding the camera is clearly not the way to go! A tripod is essential!

The BANG! from that small-looking 2-pounder cannon is DEAFENING!

The next time, I tried balancing it on the ledge of the upstairs balcony, taking a video clip instead – which worked fairly well. So most of the images included in the slideshow below were actually frame-by-frame screen-shots of the video clip, which I then lightened as necessary in post-processing. But I did get ONE nice shot (see above), thanks to some sensible advice from my fellow photographers.


Gallery of Photos

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