Palmerston Forts Society

PAV

The uniformed section of the Society is the Portsdown Artillery Volunteers (PAV) who dress as the 2nd Hampshire Volunteer Artillery from the 1880’s to carry out authentic Victorian gun drills at Fort Nelson.

The original Volunteer corps was initially raised following a decision taken by the War Office in 1859. The decision allowed for Light Horse (Cavalry), Artillery, Engineers, Mounted Rifles and Rifle units to be formed using men from the general public to form an Army of "amateur soldiers”. Without the use of part-time gunners, it was impossible for the War Office to have provided sufficient artillerymen to man all of the Forts built in the 1860’s following the Royal Commission’s report.

At its peek the Volunteer Artillery movement had a maximum strength of 49,062 efficient soldiers spread across many of the counties of Great Britain. The 2nd Hampshire Volunteers were the local Portsmouth unit, and they would have drawn their membership from all sorts of trades with a number coming from the Dockyard.

The Artillery Volunteers ceased to exist on the 31st March 1908 when the Territorial Force was formed, the precursor to today’s Territorial Army.

The PAV draw its membership from the PFS in a similar way to the original volunteers. Most members have no knowledge of forces life, which is an advantage as the Victorian drills are very different from those used today. Using original drill manuals the PAV is able to demonstrate Victorian gun firings to the public – probably the best way to explain why the Victorian Forts were built. The Society is fortunate to have a very high level of cooperation from the Royal Armouries at Fort Nelson, who actively support the firing of selected guns at the museum, including:

  • 16 pr. Rifled Muzzle Loader field gun
  • 32 pr Smooth Bore Breech Loader
  • 64 pr. Rifled Muzzle Loaders
  • 7-inch Armstrong Rifled Breech Loader
  • 13-inch Mortar

Fortunately for the members of the PAV they are able to fire the guns a lot more often than the original Artillery Volunteers ever did, as the Victorian government was very frugal when it came to supplying ammunition to the Volunteers.

If you are interested in joining the PAV and demonstrating this forgotten part of Britain’s history, we are always looking for new members. Uniforms and training are provided, but you must be a member of the PFS to take advantage of this very interesting and unusual hobby.

Meetings / Events

19/09/2020 - PFS 2020 Outing to the Chatham forts Horsted and Luton

The PFS Committee has regrettably cancelled the Annual Outing to the Chatham forts Horsted and Luton due to the current Covid-19 situation. It is not certain that the forts will be open to visitors on the 19th September but, even if they are, the hire of a coach from Fort Nelson is subject to too many social distancing restrictions that the trip would be commercially nonviable. This is a disappointing but necessary decision, and the first time in more than twenty years that there has not been an annual outing but, hopefully, next year will return to normal. 
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23/09/2020 - Members' Photo Evening

The PFS Committee has regrettably cancelled this evening's meeting due to the current Covid-19 situation. Royal Armouries will re-open Fort Nelson from the 11th August but access will be controlled in-line with current safety requirements, which included no events, meetings or gatherings.

17/10/2020 - PFS Annual General Meeting

The PFS Committee has regrettably cancelled this year's AGM at Fort Nelson due to the on-going Covid-19 situation. Royal Armouries will re-open Fort Nelson from the 11th August but access will be controlled in-line with current safety requirements, which included no events, meetings or gatherings. Howewer, the PFS will hold the AGM at the same date and time - 17th October 2020 at 14.00hrs - by a Zoom meeting. All PFS members are invited to attend.

News

Fort Nelson reopens on 11th August

Fort Nelson will be open from 11 August 2020. Once again, visitors will be able to enjoy the panoramic views from the fort’s ramparts, explore the main tunnel, get up close to collection highlights in the Voice of the Guns gallery and visit the newly refurbished Artillery Hall. Although the main cafe will not be open there will be a takeaway menu and plenty of picnic space. Social distancing and various other forms of safety control will be in place, and so the number of people on site can be managed it is necessary to book advance for the three timed daily sessions. Admission is free but on-site car parking incurs a small charge. For advance booking: https://bit.ly/338cVrN

PFS Annual Outing is cancelled

The PFS Committee has regrettably cancelled the Annual Outing to the Chatham forts Horsted and Luton due to the current Covid-19 situation. It is not certain that the forts will be open to visitors on the 19th September but, even if they are, the hire of a coach from Fort Nelson is subject to too many social distancing restrictions that the trip would be commercially nonviable. This is a disappointing but necessary decision, and the first time in more than twenty years that there has not been an annual outing but, hopefully, next year will return to normal. 

The Palmerston Forts Society and Covid-19

The PFS Committee has regrettably cancelled all PFS activities for the next three months due to the current Covid-19 situation. It is hoped that by June 2020 the situation will have improved enough so that normal services and activities can be resumed, and the membership will be kept informed accordingly. Royal Armouries has closed Fort Nelson to the general public from the 18th March until further notice.

Fort Gilkicker back on the market

The roller-coaster ride for Fort Gilkicker continues, as it's back on the market yet again.... 
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Drop Redoubt Open Weekend dates for 2020

Drop Redoubt Open Weekend dates for 2020: 30th – 31st May and 5th – 6th September. For full details: https://doverwesternheights.org

A new animation of the 100-ton gun at Fort Rinella, Malta.

Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna (The Malta Heritage Trust) were involved in the creation of the animation and Mario Farrugia, who represents the trust, wrote an excellent article about the fort and gun for Redan 48 back in 1998. To see the animation click on the link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eyItmfUO3WA
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Merry Christmas!

The PFS Committee would like to take this festive time opportunity to wish the members of the Society a 'Very Happy Christmas and a Prosperous 2020'.
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Hurst Castle storm damage sparks safety fears

Fears over the future of Hurst Castle have been heightened after storm damage forced the historic building’s closure at the weekend. English Heritage, which owns the scheduled monument near Milford, has shut a number exhibition rooms for the foreseeable future after large cracks appeared in the walls and ceilings.
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Redan 80 Availability

The 2019 issue of The Redan has been received from the printers, and will be distributed to members who attend this year's AGM on the 12th October. A general mail out to members who have renewed will commence from the 14th October.

PFS Membership Renewals

The new PFS membership year commenced on the 1st October, and thanks to all members who have renewed, but a reminder to those who have yet to renew that their subscription for the 2019-2020 year is now in overdue.

Peter Ashley Activity Centres: Fort Widley Heritage Evening - 4th October 2019

The Peter Ashley Activity Centre at Fort Widley will be open for a unique evening on Friday 4th October with a tour of the Secret Nuclear Bunker. The two hour guided tour begins at 6.30 pm and will include access to the Nuclear Civil Defence Bunker and a talk about the changes to civil defence since the 1950s. The cost is £15 per person and does include refreshments, including Pompey Pals Ale. To book call Lydia on 02392 321223 or email: lydia@peterashleyactivitycentres.co.uk
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Fort Cumberland Heritage Open Days

Fort Cumberland Heritage Open Days will be from Friday 13th September to Monday 16th September. Full details and tickets are available on the website: www.heritageopendays.org.uk/visiting/event/fort-cumberland1
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