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History brought to life with a bang

25 November 2005

History brought to life with a bang

North Head’s rare disappearing gun will be fired to mark St Barbara’s Day on Sunday 4 December in what is only its third firing since the early 1900s.

Minister of Conservation Chris Carter will fire the gun as one of a number of demonstrations, displays and activities open to the public at North Head Historic Reserve, Devonport on the day dedicated to St Barbara, the patron saint of artillery, mariners, tunnelers and prisoners.

The eight inch Armstrong disappearing gun is one of few remaining in the world and was mounted on North Head in 1887 as defence against a Russian attack. The gun was designed to ‘disappear’ below ground between firing 100-kilogram shells. It was restored to ceremonial firing condition in 2004 when it was fired for what is thought to be the second time since about 1915.

The gun won’t be disappearing on Sunday but it will make an impressive ‘boom’ said Department of Conservation Programme Manager Bill Trusewich.

“Both the Royal New Zealand Navy and Army are returning on the day to their one-time home at North Head and the Historic World War II Re-enactment Society will be on hand as Kiwi and American soldiers from the past.”

“There will be displays and demonstrations throughout the afternoon including rifle salutes and the firing of the Army’s artillery field gun. The military heritage of North Head will come to life and it will be easy to imagine or remember what life was like here around the 1940s.”

For those wanting to learn more about the history of North Head there will be regular screenings in the Summit Barracks of DOC’s new DVD, ‘Maungauika – the story of a mountain’, in the Summit Barracks, as well as temporary information signs in place around the reserve.

The free event will run from 12-4pm with the disappearing gun scheduled to fire at approximately 2.00pm. Members of the public can bring a torch and explore the usually closed Summit and North Battery tunnels which are usually closed and there will be a history hunt in the South Battery.

Community groups involved with restoring Auckland’s historic coastal defence network will be on hand to recruit new volunteers and historic experts. Anyone with historic military memorabilia from North Head, Fort Takapuna, Rangitoto Island (either military or bach history), Motutapu Island, Motuihe Island or Stony Batter on Waiheke is encouraged to share it by bringing details along on the day.

There will be no public parking within the reserve from 9am -5pm on 4 December. However, street-side parking is available nearby and special arrangements can be made at the gate for people with limited mobility as the hike to the summit may prove a challenge.

The public are advised that there will be loud noise from the firing of the disappearing gun and ten large blank rounds being fired from the NZ Army’s artillery field gun, as well as and further blank rounds from rifles, between the hours of 12 noon and 4.00 pm..


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