PLYMOUTH MATTERS Citadel Officers’ Mess from Bath’s Bastion
Mayflower 400 celebrations in 2020.” At one time, there were 113 guns in the upper part of the Royal Citadel, with 40 more at the lower level close to where Madeira Road is now. The oldest of the remaining guns was forged in 1710. It’s believed that none of the guns has ever been fired in anger; testament to the Citadel’s deterrent factor and also a sign of their limited shelf life. The Citadel was, however, hit by the Luftwaffe during the Blitz, when 17 people – gunners and family members – were killed. As well as the Citadel’s own guns, there are the ‘spoils of war’ including a French 16 pounder captured at Waterloo and one of the regiment’s own howitzers, sold to Argentina before the Falklands War in 1982 and retaken during the conflict. The old fortress holds so many stories and legends that it would take a book to do it justice. Anyone who’s anyone has visited here, including Nelson, Wellington and several monarchs. Built under the orders of King Charles II, the foundation stone was laid 350 years ago in 1666. Famously, the Royal Citadel was built with the guns not only facing seaward, but landward, too, as a deterrent to potential uprisings from the people of Plymouth, who had fought on the side of the Parliamentarians in the English Civil War. It originally had a moat and an outer wall to protect the main entrance but these are long since gone. The inner gate with its drawbridge chain remains though, and is a protected historic building. While the fort is a largely 17th century structure, the origins of parts of the site go back further than that. The Chapel dates back to 1371 and is actually a parish church, which means that local residents are able to attend Sunday Service – another of the Citadel’s little known stories. It was granted its Royal status in by King George V, after he visited in 1927 and is one of just six chapels to be bestowed the ‘Royal’ title. The Citadel also houses the remnants of the original Plymouth Fort built by Drake in 1590. The Citadel has been home to 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery since the Regiment’s return from Cyprus in 1960. It’s not just the Regiment’s national HQ (there are two other bases in Poole and Arbroath); it’s also home for over 200 of the Regiment’s 350 Commando Gunners who are based here in Plymouth. Lt Col Cresswell will be saying “au revoir” to all of this when he takes up a new posting overseas. September saw his 20th anniversary in the Armed Forces and this is his third spell at 29 Commando. As regiment CO, he is the Queen’s keeper of the key at the fort, which must be offered up to the Monarch for the duration on any visit. In November, the key will be passed on to the new CO, Lt Col Mark Dornan. “I’ll be very sad to leave here,” said Lt Col Cresswell. “But the main thing is that the renovation continues and that our outreach work grows. We might appear separated from the city by these huge stone walls, but both the Regiment and the Citadel are very much part of the community in Plymouth.” The Regiment also supports 289 Commando Troop of the Army Reserve for the people of Plymouth which parades at The Royal Citadel twice a week and new recruits are always welcome. Phone 01752 236116 for information or visit the Facebook page.
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The Plymouth Magazine October 2016
Plymouth's popular and biggest circulation "lifestyle" magazine delivered to 45,000 homes every month.