Collections | November 25, 2021

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The largest gun ever used to defend Bermuda’s shores has found a new home at the Museum. The 9.2-inch Mk X breech-loading gun has been restored, repainted, and remounted at the Grundy Bastion (Bastion E) and has been aptly nicknamed by Museum staff as “The Big Gun”.

Originally installed at Fort Victoria, St. George’s in the late 19th century to defend the East End, it could fire a 380 lb shell over 16 miles, and required some 12 men to load, aim and fire the weapon. The gun consists of a barrel, shield, and platform with a combined weight of 100 tons.

Manufactured by the well-known British Vickers Company, it was used in conjunction with its sister 9.2-inch Mk X guns at St. David’s Battery to defend St. George’s and the Narrows Channel. All three guns of this type were originally manned in part by British soldiers of the Royal Garrison Artillery. However, by the end of the First World War local soldiers from the Bermuda Militia Artillery took control of Bermuda’s channel defences, and made Fort Victoria their citadel and home barracks.

The guns were decommissioned in the 1950s with the withdrawal of the permanent British Garrison on the Island, but they were deemed too heavy to remove and were left in situ. The gun represents the final era of upgrades the Island would encounter as part of a sweeping refit to the British Empires’ coastal defenses worldwide and a rare example of defenses manned by an organised Bermudian force.

As part of the redevelopment of the area in 1973 for tourism, Fort Victoria became part of the foundation of the pool for the then Holiday Inn (later renamed Club Med).

9.2-inch Mk X rifled breech loader gun in situ at North Ravelin, Fort Victoria in the 1980s, with the Holiday Inn/Club Med Hotel in background.

The gun was left untouched, remaining as a tourist attraction through to the early 2000s. After the hotel closed and eventually demolished, the gun was dismantled and moved from Fort Victoria to Dockyard in 2008 thanks to NMB’s Executive Director Emeritus, Dr. Edward Harris, the hotel re-developers and assisted by Ministry of Works Bermuda Government and Island Construction Services.

On the move: transporting the gun from the St. George’s to Dockyard in January 2010.

Gun shield being unloaded in Dockyard, January 2010

Since then, “The Big Gun” has been meticulously taken apart, chipped of rust, sandblasted and cleaned, and corrosion inhibitors have been applied. Finally, a barrier layer, applied along with new coats of paint, will ensure the stability of the gun for future generations. To prepare for the installation, the Bastion E gun emplacement concrete platform had to be reinforced to withstand the additional weight of the gun.

The gun underwent heavy rust removal to prepare for sand blasting and painting. Pictured: Shawn Simmons of Crisson Construction chipping rust from the cradle base

All components of the gun underwent chipping and sandblasting to prepare them for treatment and painting

Gun components with red undercoat ready to be installed

Extensive reinforcement of the gun emplacement took place to ready it for the heavy gun.

Readying the 30-ton barrel of gun for install

Zoe Brady, NMB Conservator, Andrew Harris, NMB Head of Facilities and Andrew Percy of Crisson Construction inspect the newly installed breech cover

The install crew included NMB staff, Crisson Construction, and Island Construction Services.

The Museum is delighted to see this gun find her final resting place at the Keep Fort. This project was no easy feat, requiring the generous sponsorship of the Ernest E. Stempel Foundation & Neil Stempel and the expertise of the team at Crisson Construction. The placement of the gun would not have been possible without extensive restoration of Bastion E (which included the addition of longtail homes) carried out in 2016, which was sponsored by Joy Chambers Grundy in honour of her late husband Dr. Reg Grundy. Thanks also to Henric Ehrenblad for capturing the aerial footage of the installation.

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