Our military gun has over a dozen pieces used in coastal defence spanning over 300 years of warfare, as well as a recreation of the Battery Observation Posts which would have targeted the guns on Spike Island.
12 POUNDER SMOOTH BORE CANNON
The cannon on display in our Gun Park is one of Spike Island’s oldest artillery pieces. The crest of King George III on the barrel dates it to the late 1700’s. Designed as a naval gun and also seeing service as a coastal gun, this role is revealed by the presence of a breeching ring at the rear of the gun, through which a strong rope was passed and fixed to either side of the gun port opening to control recoil when the gun rolled back upon firing. This is one of three such guns on Spike Island. They were used as bollards on the pier and were removed in circa 1999, restored and mounted for display.
7 INCH RIFLED MUZZLE LOADING (RML) CANNON
The 7” RML on display represents the progression of artillery technology, with the introduction of rifling grooves cut into the barrel to impart spin and stability to the shell while in flight. Dating from 1865, three of these massive 7” guns were mounted on Spike Island, one on each of the three bastions facing Cobh. The introduction of breech loaded guns rendered them obsolete.
ORDNANCE QUICK FIRING (QF) 12 POUNDER GUN AND SHIELD
Originally designed as a shipboard naval weapon, the 12 Pounder also saw service from 1894 as a coastal defence gun, batteries being positioned in Forts Carlisle (Davis) and Camden (Meagher), providing protection against torpedo boats and covering the Cork Harbour minefield. The thickly armoured shield provided protection for the crew operating in open gun emplacements. A battery of four QF 12 Pounder guns now form Cork Harbour’s ceremonial saluting battery on Number 3 Bastion.
ORDNANCE QUICK FIRING (QF) 4.7INCH GUN
Made by the Elswick Ordnance Company of England, 4.7 “ guns were based on Bere Island, West Cork and Fort Dunree in County Donegal. Our gun dates from 1910, one of only four deployed on Irish forts and one of only two known surviving examples in Ireland. This rare gun has been the subject of an extensive restoration project and must be among the best preserved examples of its type, drawing the admiration of the general visiting public and artillery enthusiasts alike.
DEFENCE ELECTRIC LIGHT
Three searchlights were operational on the south side of Spike Island, and along with the other searchlights around the harbour could illuminate targets up to 3650m distant, for both observation and night time engagement by the guns.
LEYLAND RETRIEVER MACHINERY LORRY
Built in 1938, this vehicle served with the Irish Army from 1940 to 1970. Weighing 7.7 tons and with a 6 litre engine, the vehicle provided repair and maintenance in the field, being fitted with a lathe, drills, grinders and a generator. Stored for many years in Collins Barracks Cork, in 2016 this rare vehicle went on display in our gun park.
BOFORS 40MM L60 ANTI AIRCRAFT GUN
Bofors anti–aircraft guns have been in Irish Army service since 1939, a number being based on Spike Island during the ‘Emergency’, 1939 to 1946. First developed in Sweden, the L60 proved a versatile weapon, used by many nations on land, at sea and even in the air. When the Cork Harbour Coastal Defence unit was re-rolled in 1979, Bofors guns became the main armament of the Spike Island based 4th Air Defence Battery. The L60 in our Gun Park was located on Spike Island between 1980 and 1985.
FLYCATCHER RADAR UNIT AND BOFORS 40MM L70 ANTI AIRCRAFT GUN
Our Flycatcher unit and L70 gun represent post war advances in air defence technology. With the advent of jet aircraft, the L70 was developed as an improved and advanced version of the older L60 gun. The Flycatcher radar was a self – contained all weather unit and could track multiple aerial target s and provide data for the battery of L70 guns under its control. The L70 gun saw service with the Irish Defence Forces until 2011.
ORDNANCE QF 18 POUNDER GUN
The 18 Pounder served with the Irish Army in a number of variants, the first ones seeing action during the Irish Civil War 1922 to 1923. Later models such as the one on display in our Gun Park were modernised with steel wheels replacing spoked ones, enabling the gun to be towed behind motorised vehicles. The 18 Pounder continued in Irish Army Reserve until 1974.
ORDNANCE QUICK FIRING 25 POUNDER GUN
The 25 Pounder on display in our Gun Park is a Canadian built example of this famous gun, seeing active service in World War Two. Rugged, durable and versatile, the 25 Pounder entered Irish Army service in 1949 and for the next 60 years successive generations of gunners developed a great affinity with this long serving gun. With a crew of six, the 25 Pounder could fire direct and high angle engagements, combining previous roles of gun and howitzer weapons.
ORDNANCE QUICK FIRING 17 POUNDER ANTI – TANK GUN
Developed in World War Two to counter new and heavily armoured German tanks, the 17 Pounder proved a battlefield success, variants serving both as a towed artillery piece and a tank mounted main gun on allied tanks such as the Sherman Firefly. The only Allied tank capable of defeating the feared German Tiger and Panthers tanks during the battle for Normandy. The 17 Pounder could also be flown into battle by heavy glider. The Irish Army used the 17 Pounder from 1949 to 1962.
BOFORS 40MM L60 NAVAL ANTI – AIRCRAFT GUN
The Naval L60 on display saw use with the Irish Naval Service. L60 naval guns first served on minesweepers bought from the UK in the early 1970’s and later on the newer Irish built generation of patrol vessels. Crewed by three, the naval L60 could operate manually or be powered hydraulically. Our example was donated to Fortress Spike Island’s display following the decommissioning of one of our veteran patrol vessels, powered unmanned gun turrets now fulfilling the role of main ships armament.
6” MK VII BREECH LOADING GUN
The 6 inch guns entered British service at the start of the 20th Century and saw use in naval, coastal and land artillery roles. Three of these guns were located on Spike Island from circa 1902. Two mounted operationally in open emplacements on Number 3 Bastion and the third for training purposes in the Drill Shed. In 1938, the Irish Army’s Coastal Defence Artillery took over Spike Island’s 6” guns. In 1943 the two guns were relocated to their present underground emplacements under Numbers 2 and 4 Bastions. Spike Island’s 6” guns were manned continuously throughout the ‘Emergency’ period.
Post war, the role of Coastal Defence declined, with eventual disbandment and re-rolling to air defence artillery. Spike Island’s 6” gun on Bastion 2 saw a new lease of life with the arrival of the Prison Service in 1985, with staff and inmates working on its restoration, a task which was taken up by a team of ex island residents and volunteers in the years after the prison closed. Today both guns 1 and 2 are open to the public and are kept in a high state of restoration, and continue to impress the visiting public. The 6” guns are the largest surviving examples of breech loading guns in Ireland.