naval guns from a bygone era are back in Navy hands, refurbished
by HMAS Stirling gunnery staff, and now adorning the entrance
to the Fleet Base West Armoury.
ABPH Jarrad Oliffe
A telephone call in July last year through the ‘Old Boy’ network
has seen the preservation of two important examples of colonial
naval guns in Western Australia.
The call was from a great supporter of the Navy, Mr Norm O’Neill
of the WA Maritime Museum advising that these two guns were
going to scrapped if a suitable home couldn’t be found.
A prompt e-mail to HMAS Stirling’s Commanding Officer, CMDR
Phil Orchard drew a rapid and short response: “when can we pick
With this favourable reply, and an equally promising response
from Mr R. Fryer, Manager of Horticulture and Assets of the
King’s Park and Botanic Garden, it was “full ahead”.
In an informal ceremony the Acting Chief Executive Officer of
the King’s Park Botanical Gardens, Ms Marcelle Broderick handed
the documentation of the historic guns to CMDR Orchard who accepted
them on behalf of the Navy.
Gunnery Officer LCDR Peter Radburn quickly made arrangements
for the conveyance of the guns to Fleet Base West on Garden
Island for refurbishment and display.
The two Mk. I rifled muzzle loading 7-inch naval guns (S/Nos.
148 and 163) were shipped from England in 1881 onboard the ship
Suffolk for use as a coastal defence battery in the WA Colony.
Dating from 1866, they were manufactured by the Royal Gun Factory
in England and fired an explosive fused 115lb shell to a maximum
effective range of 5,500 yards with the propellant charges consisting
of 30lb of gunpowder.
Both saw Royal Navy service with records revealing that gun
no. 148 was for a time mounted aboard the 1860 crew ship-of-the
line HMS Gibraltar (V) and both seeing service aboard the turret
ship HMS Dreadnought (VI).
Sadly, the plan to use them in WA did not come to fruition and
they lay on the beach at Fremantle after their landing for several
years, as it was not considered a functional arrangement with
financial constraints to mount them.
Finally, the decision was made to place them in storage at the
Karrakatta Army barracks.
In 1905 they were acquired by the King’s Park Board and erected
on display on steel mountings on Mount Eliza overlooking the
City of Perth and the Swan River. The guns were to be sold for
scrap and dismantled in 1932.
They were buried and later recovered by means of a magnetometer.
Once again in favour, the guns were restored and mounted on
replica wooden cradles similar to their 1866 appearance with
their restoration being heralded with the firing of blank charges
Sadly, the guns were allowed to fall into disrepair again until
refurbished by HMAS Stirling.