Disappearing Armstrong Guns

Disappearing Armstrong Guns - November 15, 2006
Richard writes: I thought I would share with you some pictures I took during a recent press trip I went on to Phi Sua Samut Fort [and a full report is here]. This is an island fort in the middle of the Chao Phraya River between the city hall in Samut Prakan and Phra Samut Chedi on the West bank. The temple used to also be on an island just north of the fort, but after they dredged the river to make it deeper in the mid-20th Century the river changed course slightly. The gap between the bank and Phra Samut Chedi silted up and it stopped being an island. However, Phi Sua Samut is still an island. The land is owned by the navy and up to now entry was forbidden. However, they are presently renovating the fort and hope to open it to the public in 2007. In the 1890's, King Rama V purchased ten Disappearing Armstrong Guns from the UK. Seven were placed at Chulachomklao Fort (at the mouth to the estuary) and three on Phi Sua Samut Fort. These 6 inch guns were modern for their time and were the first rear-loaded guns in the Thai navy. The guns were loaded while they "crouched" in the gun pit. They were then raised by hydraulics to the firing position. The recoil from firing forced the gun back into the pit. This meant the guns were only visible to the enemy for a few seconds. The Armstrong guns only saw action in 1893 during the Paknam Incident. A pilot ship hired by the French navy was hit and ran aground. The other two French ships managed to slip past Chulachomklao Fort. By the time they reached the inner fort at Phi Sua Samut it was already dark. They then proceeded all the way to Bangkok with no resistance from the remaining forts. The Armstrong guns at Chulachomklao Fort are in good working order and were fired  during a recent anniversary. The guns at Phi Sua Samut Fort are being renovated and hopefully will be fired next year.
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