Belfast Telegraph

Armistice Day 2014 in Northern Ireland: Firing of cannon at Grey Point Fort marks the fallen from two World Wars

By Ricky Thompson

A cannon has been fired from a Northern Ireland wartime fortification to mark Remembrance Day.

A service to commemorate the fallen took place at Grey Point Fort in County Down, part of a network of coastal defences which guarded the mouth of Belfast Lough during the two world wars.

The firing of the cannon came after World War One trenches dug by soldiers training for the Western Front were uncovered by schoolchildren and volunteers in recent weeks.

The structures at Grey Point Fort on the North Down coast were created by soldiers learning how to dig trenches and deal with battle in that environment, but also played a defensive role in protecting the fort, which is one of the best preserved Coastal Defence Batteries in the UK.

Up to 500 soldiers at a time would have trained at Grey Point Fort as they prepared to head to the front, according to Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) principal inspector Dr John O'Keefe.

Now an archaeological dig organised by NIEA is uncovering many of these 'practice trenches', including trench pickets which would have been used to hold entanglements of barbed wire.

The excavations are being led by the Department of the Environment's NIEA, in partnership with volunteers who are taking part in the Defence Heritage Project.

More than 200 schoolchildren from the local area are also taking part in the excavation.

Dr O'Keefe said similar trenches are thought to be present at Ballykinler and Magilligan.

The excavation has uncovered one trench that cuts off the headland and has the fort built on top of it.

The firing of the cannon on Tuesday was only the second time the weapon had been used since it's restoration. It was last fired in August to mark the beginning of World War One.

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