Highlands & Islands

Musket training at Fort George for army officer cadets

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Media captionOfficer cadets are getting hands-on learning from battles of the past at Fort George and Culloden

A hundred army officer cadets have fired working replicas of 18th Century muskets and a cannon on a military range at Fort George in the Highlands.

Archaeologist Dr Tony Pollard and engineer Alan Birkbeck, both of Glasgow University, led the training using lead balls and grape shot.

Glasgow and Strathclyde Universities Officer Training Corps took part.

The fort's 300m (984ft) range is much longer than what is normally available to Dr Pollard and the university.

The replica half-tonne cannon used was built by Mr Birkbeck and first test fired in 2008. The muskets were replicas of the Brown Bess used by government and Jacobite forces at the Battle of Culloden in 1746.

Under the command of Lt Col Simon Higgens, the cadets fired the weapons in an effort to better understand their range and capabilities.

Muskets were not thought to be accurate beyond 80 yards (73m) and in battle were fired in large numbers to take down ranks of opposing troops.

The cadets usually train with SA80 assault weapon, the British Army's standard issue weapon.

When it was introduced as a replacement to the SLR, the Ministry of Defence said it proved so accurate that Army marksmanship tests had to be redesigned.

The University of Glasgow usually has access to a 50m (164ft) range.

Fort George was built near Ardersier on the southern shores of the Inner Moray Firth on the orders of King George II following Culloden.

It was completed in 1769 and remains a working barracks.

Following their visit to the fort, the cadets will carry out a terrain analysis exercise at Culloden, some from the perspective of the Jacobites and others from the point of view of the government troops.

Later, a wreath will be laid in memory of those fell in the battle.

Dr Pollard said the exercises were an exciting new direction for the university's Centre of Battlefield Archaeology.

He said: "I'm pleased to be working with people who may one day be putting their lives on the line as soldiers on active service.

"Simon, who has a postgraduate degree in military history, and I got talking and recognised the mutual benefits of his cadets and our students sharing the experience of exploring historic battlefields and discussing them from different perspectives.

"It's a long established tradition for the British Army to visit historic battlefields and to learn not just about the history of the action but also about how the terrain influenced victory and defeat."

The archaeologist added: "This is the first time we've tried this and both of us hope it will become a regular event - perhaps we'll do Prestonpans next year so we can look at a Jacobite victory."

Lt Col Higgens said, like other professions, the British Army had to understand past events.

He said: "While the character of war changes, its nature and facets endure.

"Culloden, along with other historic battlefields, therefore affords valuable lessons and the study of the engaged forces in the months and days preceding the battle and the events on the battlefield itself, can help us prepare for the challenges of future conflict."

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