Portsmouth field gun crew in action more than a century ago

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The pictures on the right and below are excusably grainy because they come from a remarkable snippet of film apparently shot about 1900.

It shows the Portsmouth field gun crew going through their paces at what is thought to be Whale Island.

Portsmouth Field Gunners 1900

Portsmouth Field Gunners 1900

If the date is correct, it was just a year after the gruelling run was played out for real in the second Boer War in South Africa.

The legendary story tells of the siege of the British garrison at Ladysmith in 1899. In support of the British army, the Royal Navy landed guns from HMS Terrible and Powerful to help in the relief of the siege. The Naval Brigade transported guns over difficult terrain and brought them into action against the Boers.

The navy landed two 4.7-inch guns and four 12-pounder naval guns, creating improvised field guns using makeshift gun carriages.

The guns were taken inland by rail and then drawn on makeshift carriages by oxen.

For the final part of the journey, sailors from the Naval Brigade manhandled the guns over very difficult terrain. One story tells of sailors carrying one of the 12-pounder guns for two miles after one of the wheels collapsed.

To see the clip go to portsmouth.co.uk/video.