Soon after the English occupation of the Cape in 1795, the Dutch guns were removed from Imoff at the castle and replaced by the latest English 18 pounders designed by Captain Thomas Blomefield. A time signal has been fired in Cape Town by one of these guns since 1806.
The daily noon gun is now Cape Town’s oldest living tradition and the two guns used are the oldest guns in daily use in the world.
The daily gun was fired as a time signal for ships anchored in the bay, but every Capetonian came to rely on the gun for the accurate time. Pocket watches were scarce and inaccurate during the 19th century and in the outlying towns, where time was loosely divided into four parts: day, night, morning and afternoon. A traveler from Cape Town could expect to be asked if he had the correct ”gun time”. Being fired from the observatory, the accuracy of the noon gun was never questioned and was accepted as the ultimate in accurate time.
As Cape Town developed and grew, the noise of the gun became too loud and violent for the city center and the guns were moved to Lion Battery. The first was fired on 4th August 1902. These same guns are still in use today. They are loaded every day by the South African Navy at about 11h30 with 3,1kg bag of gunpowder.
The second gun is loaded as a stand – by gun in case the first misfires.
11h30 – Remove tampions
11h35 – Check bores clear
11h40 – Load both guns
11h45 – Clear the gun deck
11h50 – Prime the guns
11h55 – Raise flag BRAVO
11H59 – Begin countdown
12h00 – Fire
12h02 – Unload stand – by gun
12h03 – Down flag BRAVO
Lion Battery was built from 1889 to 1890 and was armed with two 9 inch rifled muzzle loading guns. The Battery was remodeled in 1911, with new emplacements being constructed on top of the old works, and rearmed with two 9.2 inch Mk X breech loading guns. These guns could fire a 170kg shell to a maximum range of 28km. The firing of these guns ceased in 1935 due to blast damage caused in Green Point below the Battery.
Lion Battery also houses the four 12 pounder guns which are used for the firing of gun salutes on state occasions.
THE SILENT PAUSE
Two minutes of silence is a tradition observed world wide when fallen soldiers are remembered. Most people have observed it at some time or other, but few know who initiated the idea and when it came into being .
Sir Percy FitzPatrick , the South African author of “Jock of the Bushveld”, is credited with this honour. He came up with this idea after his son, Nugent, a major in the Union Defence Force, was killed in France.
Sir Harry Hands, the Mayor of Capt Town, initiated a daily noon day pause to follow the firing of the gun on Signal Hill on 14th May 1918.
The first minute is a time of thanksgiving for those who have survived and the second minute is to remember the fallen.
- Information by Noon Day Gun Personnel -