- Stevens, Errol and Smyth, Margaret
- History - pre-Federation
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- March 1999 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
The two Rifled Muzzle Loading 7 inch, 6.5 ton Mk1 naval guns serial No. 148 and 163 were made by the Royal Gun Factory, England in 1866. They were a lighter and more compact version of the land guns normally used in contemporary coastal batteries which weighed 7 tons and had a barrel about 18″ (0.45m) longer. Serial No. 148 once served in HMS Dreadnought (a predecessor of the more famous Admiral Jackie Fisher’s pre World War One HMS Dreadnought).
After several reports and recommendations in the 1870’s and early 1880’s that the port of Fremantle should be fortified at the colony’s expense, the. British Government offered to assist with the gift of the 2 naval guns. They arrived in Fremantle along with a quantity of ammunition aboard SS Suffolk in July 1891. No arrangements had been made for the emplacements for the guns.
They were landed on the beach near Fremantle for use by the Naval Artillery Volunteers raised by Leut. G.A. Forsyth in 1879. However, it was not a functional arrangement and the guns were left on the beach, where they had been unloaded, for some years until taken later to Karrakatta Army Depot.
In November 1905 the guns were brought from Karrakatta to Kings Park and erected the following year on steel coastal defence mountings on Mount Eliza overlooking Perth Water. They were by then taken off charge. The State War Memorial Cenotaph was constructed nearby and dedicated on 24th November 1929. Three years later the Concourse was made on the western approach to the Cenotaph. In order to do this roads and paths were rerouted and the large mound of sand known as the Butts terminating the rifle range parallel with Fraser Avenue was levelled. The spreading out of the spoil from the Butts covered the locations of the two guns which had been dismantled beforehand. The mountings were removed and sold for scrap. The guns were buried on site between the Cenotaph and the first Rotunda.
In May 1966 the guns were located by means of a magnetometer after several other unsuccessful attempts and dug up. One was intact but the muzzle end of Serial No. 163 had been cut off and lost. The recovered guns were sand-blasted to remove rust, reconditioned and mounted on wooden cradles, which are shortened non-traversing versions of much earlier naval gun carriages of the previous century. The restoration of these Rifled Muzzle Loading Guns was celebrated in a ceremony at which blank charges were fired on 25th February 1969.