A GUN AS WEIGHTY AS 17 DOUBLE-DECKER BUSES! - Monday, 2 September 2013

Royal Armouries at Fort Nelson takes delivery of the world’s largest surviving 200-tonne military gun on Friday, following its long journey by ship and road from Holland to Hampshire.

Visitors to the Victorian fort can see the mighty British 18-inch Railway Howitzer unloaded onto specially-installed railway track on Friday (September 6), from 1pm onwards (subject to traffic and delivery times) on the museum’s parade ground.

The gun – originally designed for the battlefields of the First World War – weighs about the same as 17 double decker buses and is so large it will be split into two sections, barrel and carriage, during transit and delivery.

The logistical operation to move this huge piece of metal along some of the busiest roads in South East England has taken weeks of careful planning.

This culminates on Thursday night and Friday morning when it will be spotted by thousands of motorists during its transit under special “wide load” escort along a route from Harwich to Fareham – including the M25, Dartford River crossing, A3, A31, A272, M3 and M27.

The Howitzer is on loan from the Royal Artillery Historical Trust and joins “historical heavyweights” at the Royal Armouries Museum, near Fareham – home to the big guns. It has previously formed the centrepiece of an exhibition at the Het Spoorwegmuseum (Dutch Railway Museum) in Utrecht.

In a specialised and precision unloading exercise, it will be lowered onto the newly-laid tracks, in preparation for it to be moved into the museum’s artillery hall.

The massive Howitzer will then take centre stage at the Fort, throughout the centenary commemorations of the First World War which start next year and run until 2018.

Museum director Peter Armstrong said, “Fort Nelson is famously known as the home of the big guns – but this Howitzer is a whopper, even by Royal Armouries’ and British Army standards. It promises to be quite a spectacle as it completes the long journey from Holland to Portsdown Hill and we are inviting people to come along and watch as it’s unloaded.”
The Howitzer was developed during the First World War as part of the trend to build bigger calibre guns capable of firing heavier, more destructive shells in the battle to break the stalemate on the Western Front.

The First World War ended before any 18-inch Howitzers were ready, but five were completed soon afterwards.

Some were used for testing purposes on artillery ranges and one had a new lease of life in the Second World War – serving on a railway line in Kent, in readiness to blast the beaches if a German invasion force landed. Each 18-inch shell weighed about a ton but the Howitzer was never fired in anger as the feared invasion never occurred.

Entry to Fort Nelson – home to the national collection of artillery – is free.

For more information about Royal Armouries and Fort Nelson, visit www.royalarmouries.org

Notes to editors

To find Fort Nelson, follow the brown Tourist signs from the M27. The Fort is open seven days a week, from 10am to 5pm.

Download the PDF press release.