The British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar houses Breakneck Battery, an artillery battery on Ministry of Defence property within the Upper Rock Nature Reserve, just north of Lord Airey’s Battery.

Around the turn of the twentieth century, this battery, along with a dozen others in Gibraltar, received installation of 9.2-inch (233.7 mm) guns.

It currently showcases a 9.2-inch Mark X breech-loading gun on a Mark V mounting. In 2012 and 2016, 10 Signal Regiment refurbished the battery during their Ceremonial duties, while the Gibraltar Regiment was on exercise. This site stands as one of the three remaining 9.2-inch gun emplacements at the Upper Ridge of the Rock of Gibraltar.

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By the late twentieth century, similar 9.2-inch guns located in Gibraltar, Bermuda (also known as “the Rock” and a former Royal Naval Dockyard site, often referred to as “the Gibraltar of the West”), Portugal, South Africa, and Australia represented the last examples of this kind of emplacement, which had once been widespread across strategic locations in the British Empire.

Breakneck Battery has a 9.2 inch Mark X breech-loading gun installed on a Mark V mounting and is one of three surviving 9.2-inch gun emplacements at the Upper Ridge of the Rock with the others being Lord Airey’s and O’Hara’s Batteries.

Breakneck Battery

Breakneck Battery stands in Gibraltar, at the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula, a part of the British Overseas Territory. You can find this artillery battery on the Upper Ridge of the Upper Rock Nature Reserve, property of the Ministry of Defence.

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Located north of Lord Airey’s Battery, it occupies a site formerly known as Mount Misery, renamed in 1901. The “Breakneck” name draws inspiration from the nearby Breakneck Stairs, which partially descend the steep cliff the battery overlooks, facing the Mediterranean Sea.

Breakneck Battery is on Ministry of Defence property near Lord Airey’s and O’Hara’s Batteries

The installation of 9.2-inch breech-loading guns in Gibraltar’s emplacements stemmed from the explosion of a 38-ton, muzzle-loading gun on HMS Thunderer in 1872. This explosion, occurring on 2 January 1879, led to the formation of a Committee on Ordnance to revamp the United Kingdom’s artillery approach, with a focus on breech-loading guns among other issues.

Breech-Loaders

After thorough research and discussions, the committee opted for rifled breech-loading guns, a significant upgrade from the usual rifled muzzle-loading arms. Initially serving as naval guns, these 9.2-inch breech-loaders soon became a staple in coastal defense. They effectively countered hostile warships and their long-range attacks. For over fifty years, the 9.2-inch gun played a vital role in British coastal defense.

The Mk IX/X guns succeeded the BL 9.2-inch Mk VIII naval gun and increased the bore length from 40 to 46.7 calibres, increasing the muzzle velocity from 2,347 to 2,643 feet per second (715 to 806 m/s).

In the 1890s, Gibraltar began mounting 9.2-inch guns on its batteries. By 1914, the territory had equipped twelve batteries with a total of fourteen 9.2-inch weapons. Breakneck Battery featured a 9.2-inch Mark X breech-loading gun on a Mark V mounting. Lieutenant G W Dallison captured a photograph of the battery in 1942 during World War II, which now resides in the War Office Second World War Official Collection.

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Workers carved out a shell store and a bombproof shelter for the crew directly beneath the gun position from the solid rock. Originally, the gun had a steel shield in front to protect the crew from counter-battery fire. However, during the Second World War, they expanded this shield into a steel enclosure, open at the back, offering some protection from shrapnel and bomb splinters.

Decommissioned in 1953

Breakneck Battery stands as one of three remaining 9.2-inch gun emplacements at the Upper Ridge of the Rock, alongside O’Hara’s Battery and Lord Airey’s Battery. O’Hara’s Battery remains in the best condition of these three Upper Ridge emplacements. Breakneck Battery was the first to be decommissioned in 1953.

Inside Breakneck Battery

The Levant Battery and Spur Battery, which also had 9.2-inch guns, saw their removal in the late twentieth century. The Levant Battery was decommissioned in the 1970s, and its gun now lies in a scrapyard. By 1981, when Spur Battery’s gun was dismantled for transfer to England under Project Vitello, Gibraltar’s 9.2-inch guns were among the 25 remaining worldwide.

These guns had once been widespread across strategic locations in the British Empire and its allies. Bermuda, known as “the Gibraltar of the West,” still has three Mk. X variants: two at St. David’s Battery and one at Fort Victoria.

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For many years, the Upper Ridge batteries were off-limits to the public in Gibraltar, with unauthorized entry considered a criminal offense. While Breakneck Battery remains closed, O’Hara’s Battery and Lord Airey’s Battery opened to the public in May 2010.

Mark V Gun Mount and Magazine, Breakneck Battery, Upper Rock, Gibraltar

In early April 2012, the 4th Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland (4 SCOTS), also known as The Highlanders, arrived in Gibraltar. They temporarily took over the Royal Gibraltar Regiment’s responsibilities, who were in the United Kingdom at the time.

Their duties included training, guard roles, and community projects, such as the refurbishment of the coastal artillery gun at Breakneck Battery. After the Royal Gibraltar Regiment returned, the Highlanders departed for their base in Sennelager, Germany.