Local groups learn how to fire a three-pound cannon

A group of local clubs learned had a Remembrance Day ceremony they won’t soon forget.

The Ridgetown Beavers, Cubs, Scouts and Venturers recently learned about artillery canons, the role of the auxiliary and the War of 1812 last week at Watson Park in Ridgetown. Mike Robertson, with the help of his brother Craig Robertson, both from Strathroy, were the guests that night. The brothers, who are reenactors, shot off a 3-pound canon several times.

Scout leader Adam Frazee said he usually tries to do something similar each year for the kids to commemorate Remembrance Day. He added police and the necessary people were on hand for the demonstration.

During the demonstration, Mike and Craig shared stories with members of the local groups regarding the War of 1812 and shared a lot of history. The two also demonstrated to the kids the 15 steps to clean the cannon, get it ready to fire and fire the cannon.

The two brothers gave each group member a specific job to help prep the cannon for firing. He explained the cannon has to be empty, and the children had an opportunity to make sure nothing was in the barrel of the cannon to ensure safety.

“We’re always very careful to make sure the cannon is clear,” said Mike.

The children then grabbed a sponge, dipped it in water, and put it down the cannon’s barrel.

“The reason we dip it in the bucket of water is that we want to make sure that if the cannon just went off, or there’s anything dirty in there, we’re going to clear it out,” he said.

The children then learned to plug the hole in the back of the cannon to ensure no air getting in or out.

“In between the times we fire the cannon, it creates a vacuum. And inside a vacuum, there’s no air and no oxygen. What that does is ensures that whatever is on fire gets put out,” explained Mike.

The members then grabbed a dry sponge and repeated the process to double-check the cannon was clean.

Scout Leader Adam Frazee was used in the demonstration and helped demonstrate how to ground yourself, which means no sparks can jump between him and the cannon while he has gunpowder in his hands.

After putting the gunpowder near the edge of the front of the cannon, the brothers explained there would typically be a cannonball placed in the cannon’s barrel. For safety reasons, they fired the cannon without the use of a cannonball.

The children then learned about the process of lighting the quill with a linstock, which has a cotton cord, to fire the cannon safely.

“The gunpowder burns down through the quill into the bag of powder, it explodes, and the air gets big very quickly, creating pressure to shoot the cannonball,” said Mike. “When that explosion occurs, the cannonball goes about 290 yards, nearly the length of three football fields.”

Mike said every reenactment the two go to has something about it, which makes it really cool. He said his favourite part of reenacting and which fort he likes to go to is Fort George, which is down in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

“You get up, make yourself a pot of coffee over the campfire and then sit in the corner of the fort near the river. There’s some fog rolling around, and there’s nobody else around, and you hear the animals rustling and maybe a squirrel through the leaves. It just stuck. You’re not in 2022; you’re somewhere else,” he said.

Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News