Belfast Metalworkers Create Replica Guns From World War I

Part of United Kingdom history has been recreated by Belfast metalworkers. They have successfully manufactured replica guns for the only surviving ship that actively fought in the biggest naval battle of World War I.

HMS Caroline is set in the city docks and is finally ready to open up as a museum after the completion of a much needed restoration. It was 1916 off the cost of Denmark when it fought in the Battle of Jutland. This revival cost a total of £14.5m due to the seven large-scale model weapons originally on the warship.

The front end of the ship will have four individual four-inch guns. There will be another one located on its waist and, finally, two six-inch guns positioned at the rear. Do not forget about the large replica torpedo.

It took a 60-ton crane to lift the first three reproductions into place on Friday. The rest will be set up on the ship this Monday. Acapple Construction did the manufacturing; they are a firm used to build sets for big time television shows such as Game of Thrones, which was mostly filmed in Northern Ireland.

The HMS Caroline was manufactured in 1914, before it was launched into war nine months later. As a result, the Acapple metalworkers had very little to provide them guidance on how to make additional replicas. Peter Brown works for the company and explained that there were only a few drawings, and those did not even have specifics. The ship was made with quite a fast turnaround time, and very few of the drawings were kept.

Mr. Brown and his team did see this project as a special one. They began making the weapons about three months ago. He said, “Once we’d got the job we all sat round as a team. This has got to be good; this is something our kids are going to be taken on school trips to see. When people come on to the ship, the first thing they want to do is tap or feel the guns, so we wanted to make them feel as real as possible.”

For a group that is used to making things for something like Game of Thrones, which is impressive and wins awards, it’s a given that what they make is destined to be pulled down so something else can take its place. Therefore, to actually have a chance to make something for a historic warship that will be maintained for decades to come is a lovely opportunity.

This was one of the fastest warships to be used in World War One. It fired four and six-inch rounds and torpedoes during the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916. Since 1924 it has been located at Belfast’s Alexandra Dock, where it was utilized as a training vessel. That is until 2011 when it was decommissioned. Jonathon Porter is the lead man on the HMS Caroline.

The goal is to make the vessel feel and look as authentic as possible on board. It is critically important to do so, and adding the weapons makes a strong statement. Porter said, “The good thing about HMS Caroline is that 80% of it is as it was when it was first constructed back in 1914. These guns have basically been manufactured more or less as they would’ve been, bar the fact they won’t shoot anything.”

Fortunately, the HMS Caroline will be opened in time to match up with the centenary of the Battle of Jutland. On Friday, dozens of workers were feverishly laboring to complete the restoration by the deadline. According to Mr. Porter, essentially everyone that had been involved in the work had fallen in love with the vessel. An opportunity to work on something like this does not come around very often.

People are willing to go the extra mile for such a project, and they are prepared to go even further than that to make sure this kind of job gets completed right. All of this adds to the authenticity of the project and final product.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE