Sunday, 21 February 2010

Going great guns

Written 19th february 

Of course it all went back together - although poor Jules is not happy about something still and keeps stalling at traffic lights :( poor thing - and after a drive through the top end of the national park

to the abandoned gold mine

and a night on Mojacar beach, we headed on northwards in search of big guns, the first travel recommendation we received, from an ex-colleague, way back when I was still at work - so long ago!!

In response to my request for free or cheap things to do in Europe, he had suggested visiting some spectacular gun batteries near Cartagena and had provided weblinks and google maps.  Having made the ridiculous assumption that the things would be signed I didn't download the map properly so it was a bit of a mission to actually find the things but when we eventually got there they were awesome!  So glad we persevered!

The harbour at Cartagena has apparently always been important for trade and the navy and hence heavily fortified since Roman times. In the early 20th century, two pairs of British built Vickers and Armstrong 38.1 cm guns - apparently the largest artillery pieces ever made - were installed on the high cliff tops as part of a complex, coordinated system of defence for the port in which each emplacement was part of a carefully planned scheme of fields of fire, overlapping target areas, different roles for different batteries, illumination, management and control.

The four massive guns remain in place, two at the Castillitos battery at Cabo Tiñoso, near Puerto de Mazarron, and two at the Cenizas battery, near La Manga Club. 

The directions for each are are respectively:

The road runs up into the hills behind Campilo de Adentro, which is to the right on the road leading from Puerto de Mazarron and La Azohia to Cartagena.  The road up to the guns is narrow and twisting and great caution should be exercised.   

A much more accessible coast defence battery can be found near the lighthouse on the left hand side of the bay at Portman, past the La Manga Club.

Guess which ones we went for... ;)

They are clearly in the process of renovating the site - which until recently had been left abandoned an in the hands of vandals - but there were no workmen there and an open, unobstructed path so we popped in (along with a couple of other people, clearly on the same mission as us)

and I have never seen anything so menacing looking, or clearly of such pure evil.

There are two identical guns, built by Vickers in 1923 with a maximum range of 35,000 meters

and a tube of 18.6 meters in length and more than 88,000 kilograms of weight. 

They are sited in such a way to be nearly invisible from all angles, above and expecially below and they lurk, like menacing snipers, but much, much bigger.  I can gve you the stats, but even with pictures it is hard to convey the true scale of the things:

Calibre:    38.1 centimetres (about 15 inches)

Made at:    Barrow in Furness, by Vickers.

Total length:   17.671 metres (about 56 feet)

Rifling:    76

Rifling inclination:    one turn in 30 calibres

Weight without closing mechanism:   86, 332 kilogrammes

Weight of closing mechanism:    1,663 kilogrammes

They are immense.  On 26 April, 1937, the two guns, which were in the hands of the Republicans, fired on a group of Nationalist cruisers and it is believed they were last fired in 1973.




 got a bit snap happy!  they are amazing things

We also went down into the disney castle like emplacement and through the great blast doors (Will had bought the torches!) and were able to get into the machines rooms, generators and even up the the iron runged ladders inside the guns themselves - well Will did, I wasn't quite brave enough! - and they are truly, truly awesome.  It will be a great attraction when it is all finished, but also pretty special when nearly deserted.

Heading back down and out we stopped briefly in Murcia for LPG - marked on the Repsol map, a station which only served gas and they had all the right adaptors so we didn't even need ours,  its great when things are easy! - and are now heading north on the motorway - Jules is still skittish at junctions so don't want to stop too much in towns :( - to Valencia for a brief paella stop.


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