Canary Military Museum, It’s Much More Than Nelson

Wed, May 1st, 2013 - By Colin

Standing in the courtyard of the former Fort Almeyda in Santa Cruz I was surrounded by canons of great destructive power but it still felt eerily serene. Maybe it was the cleaning lady pushing her broom around the huge metal cartwheels or the beautiful catalogue of plants and flowers in the museum garden that I had browsed through on the way in.


Military Museum


The whitewashed frontage of the two floored military museum and the precision neatness of the grounds also added to that first impression. I didn’t think it was a glorification of war but rather a respectful homage to history and the people caught up in its events.


Military Museum


A 56 mm anti aircraft gun outside and several suits of armour inside the ground floor hall underlined the historical scope of the museum. The polished wooden floor and the low domed ceiling of the circular hall gave it an intimate feel as I worked my way around the glass cases of medals, model sailing ships, and portraits. Columbus, a frequent visitor to the Canary Islands got plenty of attention, as did the Spanish conquest of the islands but it was only a matter of time before Admiral Nelson made an appearance.


Miltary Museum


The third of the defeated British invaders, Nelson was the most famous and he is held in an unusually high regard in Tenerife. His adversary General Gutierrez, the military commander of Santa Cruz, glares at him where their polished bronze busts adorn the wall but after Nelson’s defeat they dined together and parted as friends. The Tiger canon widely credited with blowing Nelson’s right arm off now lives in its own shrine under Plaza de España but the museum points out that it was musket balls that peppered his arm and they have a framed copy of the doctor’s medical journal for the removal of his damaged arm on HMS Theseus. The Union Jack surrendered by Nelson has pride of place in a glass cabinet and there are some splendidly rousing paintings of the battles with the Brits. The museum in its fort days housed 40 canons and played a key part in the defence of 1797.

Upstairs there was a full working model of the Santa Cruz coast showing key forts and artillery points and the position of British ships but also marked a move to more modern warfare. Conflicts like Bosnia featured a large Spanish contingent in the United Nations ranks. State of the art field communications get their own section and the work of the Engineers and Signals Corps was brought into focus. In contrast there were more dated reminders of the freeing of Spanish colonies in America and even the defence of Tenerife from pirates who regularly cast an envious eye on our shores.


Military Museum


My tour didn’t finish with the main building, in the back yard there was a selection of helicopters, tanks, and jeeps and one of the old artillery rooms inside the fortified wall showed how the canons were set up with a direct line of fire out to sea. A large library and archive room helps to protect the written history of Canarian conflict and ensures easy reference for future generations. For a soldier’s eye view of what was being protected I took the short path past the old living quarters to the mirador and café bar. The terrace now looks out at modern cruise liners and commercial ships but reflecting over a cold drink I closed my eyes and thought of how this small island had fought off many mighty foes.

Historic Military Museum of Canary; Almeyda, Calle San Isidro, Santa Cruz; tel (0034)  922 845 732; open Monday to Friday 10 am to 2 pm; free entry but passport required

Posted : Wednesday, May 1st, 2013 at 10:30 am
Category : about tenerife
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