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Johannesburg Zoo Gun – Unveiling of the Granite Marker

On the 30th May 2022 Councillor Vasco da Gama, Speaker of council of the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality unveiled the marker at the event attended by many dignitaries. The silent guard was provided by the South African Army Artillery Formation under the command of Bombardier Motlapema who executed his duties under the watchful eye of CWO Jacques Niemand the Formation WO of the South African Army Artillery Formation.

Gnr Kevin Ashton, National Chairman of the Gunners’ Association of South Africa, welcomed everyone to the formal function. Gnr Roy Andersen then delivered a short overview of the restoration project, which is actually the second time that the Gunners’ Association has restored this same game in the last 15 years.

The restoration of the 6” gun in the Johannesburg Zoo commenced in early 2020 and was completed in December 2021. It was uploaded by artificers and logisticians from the SANDF and delivered under the watchful eye of Gnr Ivor Rimmer as well as CWO Niemand of the Artillery Formation to Potchefstroom. Gnr Dirk Bloem fully rebuilt the wheels – an enormous task.

Bead blasting, the replacement of rusted sections and powder coating were professionally done by Potchefstroom Powder Coaters and a new tampion with the SA Heavy Artillery badge procured by Gnr Niel Wiid. By the time the gun was returned to Johannesburg its plinth and the plaque containing the roll of honour had been spruced up by the Johannesburg Branch of the Gunners’ Association, led by Gnrs Albert Pestana and Dominic Hoole.

Chairman of the Heritage Gun Restoration Committee, Gnr Roy Andersen said: “We are committed to identifying artillery ordinance of historical importance and to the extent funds permit, restoring as many as possible. We are receiving excellent support from the School of Artillery, Ditsong National Museum of Military History and MOTH amongst others.” The register currently contains details of 467 guns. The Committee’s mission includes restoring guns of historical importance either through its own resources or by providing technical support to other organisations.

Gnr Andersen also gave the history of the gun. Major General Tim Lukin who commanded the South African forces at Delville Wood requested that six guns be brought back from the Western Front after World War 1. In 1921 the Imperial Government presented six 6” breech loading 26 cwt Howitzer MK1 guns, manufactured by Vickers Ltd in 1918, to the Union of South Africa. These guns from the so-called Nugent battery, which was deployed in Flanders, formed part of memorials to the South African Heavy Artillery in the main centres. Major Percy Nugent George Fitzpatrick, eldest son of Sir Percy Fitzpatrick, lies buried in Flanders Field.

The six guns from the Nugent Battery are located as follows:

• Company Gardens, Cape Town

• Johannesburg Zoo • Kimberley

• Union Buildings, Pretoria

• Warriors Gate, Durban

• Queens Fort Museum, Bloemfontein.

Thereafter the Speaker thanked all those involved before unveiling the marker.

Veteran Colin Bowring,

SAMVOZA National Chairman,

Veteran Godfrey Giles,

SAMVOZA National Vice Chairman

and Veteran Roy Andersen were present.

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