In the years following the Crimean War (1854-1857J) there was a great concern in the Colony that Imperial Russia would attempt an invasion. Coastal defences in the colony of Victoria were greatly strengthened by the Government as a result.
Warrnambool was originally protected by cannons at Cannon Hill, approximately 1 kilometer west of the Flagstaff Hill Fortifications. These cannons included two 1866 guns, both 80 Pound Rifled Muzzle Loaders (RML) purchased by Victoria’s Colonial Government. They were part of a shipment of 26 such guns sent from England in December 1866. They are registered as No. 23 (80cwt-2qr-0lbs) - Gun 1, and No.13 (81cwt-1qr-12lbs) - Gun 2. They were cast at the Royal Gun Factory, Woolwich Arsenal, in 1866 and have a 6.3 inch bore. Both barrels carry the Royal Cypher of Queen Victoria, Insignia of the Royal Engineers, within the Garter and Motto surmounted by the Crown, with the Royal Cypher of Queen Victoria within the Garter (letters in centre “VR”, motto “HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE”, "Shame be to him who thinks evil of it."). The guns were originally supplied with wooden carriages.
(The Royal Arsenal at Woolwich, England, was established eleven years after the Restoration of King Charles II. It was the principal supplier of armaments to the British and Empire Governments. At the height of its operations during World War One the factory covered 1300 acres and employed very nearly 80,000 workers. Woolwich was the Headquarters of the Royal Artillery since the raising of that Regiment in 1716. The Arsenal was closed in the late 1960’s.)
These two cannons were transferred to the Warrnambool Garrison Artillery Battery Fortifications erected at Flagstaff Hill in 1887 as part of Victoria’s Coastal Defences. The original wooden carriages were subsequently replaced with the present iron garrison carriages in 1888. They are a “C” pivot. The ‘racers’ or curved track set into the floor of the gun emplacement (which enabled the guns to be traversed more quickly) are as specified for guns up to 10 inch, being of wrought iron 2.78 inches wide.
A temporary third gun, now no longer on Flagstaff Hill’s site, was a 5 inch Rifled Breech Loading (BL) Armstrong gun mounted on an Elswick hydro pneumatic disappearing carriage It was faster to load and fire than the 80 pound RMLs and its arrival spelt the end of the older 80 pound guns’ useful life, apart from being used for practice sessions. The 5 inch BL gun was the main defensive weapon of the Warrnambool Battery until the Battery was downgraded in importance and the gun was recalled to Melbourne in 1910.
The State of Victoria took over the ownership of the guns at the time of Australian Federation in 1901. In about 1901/1902 the Garrison Battery was converted to the Warrnambool Battery of the Australian Field Artillery (No 4 Field Battery). It was equipped with 4.7 inch naval guns mounted on field carriages. They were now a mobile unit but continued to use the Warrnambool Garrison area at Flagstaff Hill for practice.
When the Fortifications were declared obsolete the two 80 Pounder RML were relocated to Cannon Hill in 1910. On the outbreak of World War One the 4.7 inch guns were recalled to Melbourne, and the Battery was disbanded. Most of the personnel probably re-enlisted in the local 4th Australian Light Horse Regiment.
The two 80 Pounder RML were moved back to the Fortifications in 1973. They were both fully restored by Army First Year Apprentices at the Ordinance Factory in Bendigo in time for the centenary year of the fortifications in 1987.
The guns are capable of firing 80 pound (32.3kg) armour piercing exploding shells 3.65kms out to sea. They were original manned by volunteers before a paid Garrison was established. Now the Guns are again fired by volunteers on Special Event days. Since restoration the Gun Number 1 had been fired on a regular basis but Gun Number 2 hadn’t been fired since the mid 1990’s. In April 2015 Gun Number 2 was serviced in preparation for the firing of both cannons on the ANZAC Centenary commemorations on April 25th 2015.
Other guns from the original Cannon Hill location were obsolete by the time the 1887 Warrnambool Garrison Artillery Battery was built. These guns are (1) a 32 Pounder Muzzle Loading Smooth Bore (SB) cast in 1813 at the famous Carron Foundry, number 80837 and now located in the Warrnambool Botanic Gardens (2) a 68 Pounder Muzzle Loading Smooth Bore cast in 1861 at the equally august Low Moor Foundry, number 10310 and now located on the lawn area at the entrance to Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village. Both of these guns are mounted on their original wooden garrison carriages. There are only seven 32 Pounder SB made by Carron and fifteen 68 Pounder SB made at Low Moor known to exist in the State of Victoria
(Conservation Management Plan for Victorian Guns and Cannon, South Western Victoria, May 2008, ref W/F/05)
The Warrnambool Garrison has been added to the Victorian Heritage Register H1250 “for its intact battery and guns, a strong reminder of Victoria’s wealth and determination to protect itself from the perceived threat of invasion in the 1880’s.”
The City of Warrnambool is one of several custodians of a collection of artillery pieces of heritage significance at a state, national and international level. These pieces are directly related to the defence of south-west Victoria in the 19th century. The care and preservation come under the Heritage Act 1995.
Cannon. 80 Pound Rifled Muzzle Loading (RML) Gun on iron carriage and slide, installed in the Battery at Flagstaff Hill’s Fortifications. Made in 1866 at the Royal Gun Factory (R-G-F), Woolich, England. Gun Reg No 13. Flagstaff Hill Garrison Gun 2 (Gun No. 2). Insignia of the Royal Engineers, and the weight of the gun, stamped on top of the gun’s barrel. There is a brass plate on the side of the gun with the details of 1987 restoration.
Inscriptions & markings
Stamped into the metal on top of the barrel, Insignia of the Royal Engineers; Garter and Motto “HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE”, surmounted by the Crown, with the Royal Cypher of Queen Victoria “VR” within the Garter. Also stamped on top of the gun are 2 inward pointing arrows above the weight ”81-1-12”. Brass plate “RESTORATION / BY / FIRST YEAR / APPRENTICES / ORDANANCE FACTORY / BENDIGO 1987”
- flagstaff hill,
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