Big guns find new life

The Vancouver Island Military Museum in Nanaimo displays a 40mm gun from HMCS Nanaimo. Photo credit DND

The Vancouver Island Military Museum in Nanaimo displays a 40mm gun from HMCS Nanaimo. Photo credit DND

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

Instead of being turned into scrap, the phased-out 40mm gun of Kingston-class warships will serve as monuments and tourist attractions in their namesake cities and other distinguished locations across the country.

Currently, some of the 40mm guns are in the process of being transferred to museums and public parks; one gun weapon system has landed on a golf course.

In 2014, the Department of National Defence decided that the 22 Second World War era 40mm NC 1 L 60 gun weapon systems had come to the end of their service life. However, the ships’ Commanding Officers and Materiel Group organizations within DND and the federal government were able to re-purpose them into outreach tools.

“A key aspect of the disposal plan was to retain and preserve the unique maritime artifacts, as well as strengthen the relationship with the ships and their namesake cities,” said Lieutenant-Commander Kevin MacDougall, a Naval Combat Systems Engineering Officer who works at Ottawa’s Director of Naval Combat Systems office. “The intent is part of the Navy’s ongoing outreach efforts with the Canadian public. The process will get some of this reconditioned weaponry to far-away inland locations and allow people to see some tangible equipment and take a moment to think about the Royal Canadian Navy.”

LCdr MacDougall says the initiative is also a morale booster for the sailors onboard the ships that have an overwhelming sense of pride for their namesake cities. He also notes the donation process is cheaper than the cost of destroying the weapons, which saves the Canadian tax payer money.

He says this weaponry has been in the naval inventory since 1943 making them of historical value. The guns were used on Canadian warships during the Second World War, once saw service on Tribal-class destroyers in the 1960s, served as air field defence in the 1970s and 1980s, and were also installed on Her Majesty Canadian Ships in support of the Gulf War.

Then after undergoing mechanical and hydraulic upgrades the guns were installed on the 12 Kingston-class warships during the 1990s. An additional ten units were reconditioned to support training at several naval reserve units across the country.

Preparation to turn the gun weapon system into a public artifact includes the physical demilitarization at either Fleet Maintenance Facility Cape Breton or Cape Scott where they weld the breach (the rear of the barrel) closed, plug its barrel and make sure there are no hazards that could be dangerous to the general public once on display. From there they are loaded onto transport trucks and shipped to far-off locations.

LCdr MacDougall notes that Maritime Forces Pacific has taken the lead on the initiative as three of the six Kingston-class weaponry that operate from Esquimalt have already found homes in their namesake cities. HMCS Saskatoon donated its gun to reserve unit HMCS Unicorn in August; the gun from HMCS Edmonton was shipped off to the Edmonton Garrison Memorial Golf and Curling Club in April and is now part of an 11th hole tribute to the Battle of the Atlantic, while HMCS Nanaimo’s gun is positioned near the entrance of the Vancouver Island Military Museum.

Three remaining West Coast vessels have yet to find homes for their guns but LCdr MacDougall says plans are currently in the works. HMCS Whitehorse is working with the territorial government’s Highways and Public Works Department to find a home for its gun, while HMCS Brandon is working with the CFB Shilo Artillery Museum. HMCS Yellowknife has been unable to find a home for its gun in their namesake city, however they are currently in discussions with representatives in London, ON at HMCS Prevost.

Eventually, the former 40mm gun weapon systems from all West Coast Kingston-class warships will be in a position to show off Canadian Naval history across the country.

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