War History Online presents this Guest Article by Tim Randle
This WW1 1916 Vickers 4 Inch Mark IV Naval Gun was presented to the Talisman Sea Cadets (Nelson New Zealand) in the 1960s. Little is known of its history before that despite contacting Vickers in the UK and the NZ Military. The Gun was largely forgotten due to it being mounted at the back of the Sea Cadet Hall and was not an easy thing to move to a more suitable position because of its size and weight, so it languished in a storage area along with small boats and sailing equipment.
In early 2016 it was decided that it deserved a birthday as it was 100 years old. The gun was to be stripped down, cleaned up, and moved to a new reinforced concrete plinth at the front of the Hall to be displayed in a more prominent position.
During disassembly, it was discovered hidden under the layers of paint that many large components were bronze. Initially all parts were going to be sand-blasted but the bronze would be damaged so instead Ultra High Pressure Water blasting was used. This removes paint but will not affect the base metal.
The plan was to paint the gun in its original color scheme but when the parts arrived back from water blasting it was clear that we had something special and covering it with paint would hide the incredible quality, detail and workmanship of the Gun.
Each major part is serial numbered to its original gun, with various proof marks, Out Inspectors stamps, part numbers, and Foundry codes. All this would be obscured if it was painted, so the Cadets decided that clear coating was the best option.
Although not traditionally correct, it would have looked like this prior to painting in the Vickers factory. The steel and bronze parts were polished and Industrial Marine clear-coat was applied. It was then reassembled and placed on its new plinth.
Although there is no official history of the gun, during the restoration some of its past was revealed. It is actually made from four different guns, probably done at the start of WW2 when military equipment was in short supply in New Zealand, and Japan was advancing unchecked through the Pacific.
The gun has chipping hammer marks all over it where the paint was hastily removed (at that stage it was a tool of war and not a priceless piece of history). The gun has sustained battle damage and part of the indirect fire sighting system has been torn off, the remaining direct fire sights were bent and show signs of repair that was done in a hurry. There is also a slight bulge in the barrel about a foot from the muzzle.
In New Zealand, another Vickers 4-inch IV is located outside the gates of Kauri Point Naval Armaments Depot. In the United Kingdom, the Mk IV gun from HMS Lance is on display at the London Imperial War Museum; another sits on Ordnance Point Falklands Island.
Hopefully, more of the history of the gun will be found in the future.
Author: Tim Randle
All photos provided by the author.