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The Western Cape region of our country offers the discerning traveler a view into a fascinating and colourful history. The little coastal town of Hout Bay has its own incredible military story to tell.

Hout Bay reflects the history of not only the Cape, but of many world happenings dating back to Van Riebeeck’s arrival at the Cape in 1652.

Just after the colony was 100 years old, the military significance of Hout Bay, as well as Cape Town, became of global importance. Britain and France were at war and the American War of Independence was raging (1775-1783). Protection of the trade route to the East Indies was crucial. The Netherlands and Great Britain also declared war during this period.

Table Bay was considered adequately protected, but Hout Bay with its easy access from the beach was completely open to invasion – placing Cape Town in danger. It was therefore necessary to take urgent action.

On the first of May 1781, the Dutch Political Council decided in principle to build a twenty cannon battery at the western entrance to Hout Bay (Fort West as it is known today.) The fort was just a few months later put to use to protect four Dutch East Indiamen that took shelter in the bay to escape the British Naval Fleet, and successfully deterred an attack by a British Frigate.

The French, who virtually controlled the Netherlands, became involved and sent a French mercenary regiment to protect the Cape from British occupation. Indian Sepoys and Irish troops were part of the French contingent, which was welcomed by the Dutch authorities.

The regiment (the Pondicherry Regiment) then built the earthworks of the East Fort on the slopes of Constantiaberg to further protect the bay,

A further fort was built to protect the rear of both the East and West Forts, to repel a Hout Bay beach landing. This was called the Klein Gibraltar Battery.

The Battle of Hout Bay took place in 1795 when the British sent in a frigate to test the fortification of the bay. Both East and West batteries fired on the ship and proved that these were effective in deterring an invasion. This was the last recorded time that the East Fort guns were fired in anger. Soon afterwards, the British took control of the Cape and further strengthened Hout Bay's defenses - ironically this time against a retake by the French and Dutch.

Cannons with the VOC mark can still be seen on these sites in Hout Bay.

Hout Bay & Llandudno Heritage Trust is active in protecting the history of Hout Bay. You can watch the cannons being fired on a regular basis.

Part of the Cape of Good Hope Heritage

Telephone:+27 21 790-7951 Mobile:+27 83 628-5326 Fax:+27 21 790-7948
PO Box 26450 Hout Bay 7872 South Africa