Moving the 9.2-inch Gun pieces
The BL 9.2-inch Mk IX and Mk X guns were British breech loading 9.2-inch guns of 46.7 calibre, first entering service in 1899 as naval and coast defence guns. They had possibly the longest, most varied and successful service history of any British heavy ordnance.
The removal and restoration of the 9.2 inch gun was re-introduced into the HAAC Agenda in June 2020. The Gibraltar Heritage Trust volunteer to lead this project assisted if necessary by the Ministry of Heritage.
A number of initial discussions held with a view of identifying suitable locations for the 9.2-inch barrel. Weight and road restrictions mean that most potential sites have to be discarded.
Site meeting at Europa Point with Keith Farrell (GHT) and John Baldachino (TSD) to show location of potentially best site for displaying the 9.2-inch gun once the pieces are removed from the scrapyard.
- Area is large enough to display such an armament.
- Transportation route is much easier to circumnavigate via Eastside.
- Already have Harding’s Battery in the area, which was in fact considered as a potential site for a 9.2-inch gun emplacement.
Site meeting held at the Metalrok Scrapyard with Keith Farrell and Ian Balestrino (GHT). Metalrok asked to remove a number of derelict cars around the area of the 9.2-inch gun pieces to be able to inspect what parts remain.
Second site meeting with Metalrok, the site cannot be cleared until the end of September.
Third site meeting held, with area now clear.
It is now revealed that in addition to the barrel and the Mk V gun carriage, a section of the pedestal is seen. It is understood that the remaining section lies under a small scree of sand and rocks.
Other gun pieces may also remain extant and these would have to be located and removed.
Keith Farrell, Ian Balestrino and Pete Jackson (GHT) agree that such a task is beyond the scope of the Gibraltar Heritage Trust. Control is handed over to the Ministry of Heritage with the GHT offering support.
Group then visit to ECO Park at Brewery Crusher which has been identified by the Ministry as an ideal holding and restoration area for the gun pieces.
38 foot 9.2-inch gun barrel.
Main gun carriage.
Right hand section of the pedestal.
Planning Application for transfer of the 9.2-inch Gun at the Metalrok Eco Park to Europa Point is drawn up and submitted via the Gibraltar Government online public services.
Meeting held with Giovanni Monteverde of Monteverde Ltd, who offers full support for the project.
Meeting at Monteverde’s Offices to arrange transportation licences. Monteverde recommend Paul Davies, former RGP Officer with a keen interest on the 9.2-inch gun (see Report), as ideal person to liaise with in respect of obtaining all necessary permits.
A quick call and Paul is volunteered in.
Meeting between the Ministry for Heritage and Technical Services held in respect to mounting of the gun at Europa Point. TSD to submit all relevant site plans for erecting the gun pieces on the intended site in respect of the planning application.
Meeting held with Paul Davies and the Monteverde crew managers involved in the 9.2-inch project at their offices. The issue of how to get a 40-Ton crane onto the site to lift the heavy pieces was discussed and several alternatives proposed. The main problem remains both access to the site and the fact that the area around the guns have already begun to be filled up with scrap.
Having assessed the situation on the ground, it was agreed with Metalrok the following timeframe:
- Metalroc will clear all scrap around the three ‘smaller’ pieces; the gun carriage and the two pedestal mounts by the end of next week.
- Tuesday 1st February: The first phase of the operation will involve Monteverde bringing in a smaller 17-Ton crane and a 20-foot lorry to lift and transport those pieces out of the scrapyard and deposit these at the Brewery Crusher eco site.
- The 17-Ton crane will attempt to lift one side of the barrel to test if it is feasible. If so, we may only need two smaller cranes to lift and place the barrel onto the truck, which makes the second part of the operation much easier.
- Once the scrap near the main barrel will then be moved back to the area where the three pieces stood, thus clearing the area to tackle the lifting of the main barrel.
- Meanwhile, Paul Davies will get all the necessary permits and licences required to clear the area and transport the heavier load out of the scrapyard.
- Tuesday 15th February: Phase two of the operation will be carried out. Depending on Monteverde’s assessment, lifting will be carried out either by two smaller cranes or the much larger 40-Ton crane. The second option may complicate manoeuvrability onto the site but it is nevertheless achievable. Once out of the scrapyard, moving and depositing at Brewery Crusher is not an issue of concern.
The Ministry is informed by Monteverde Ltd that they will not have the service vehicles available on Tuesday 1st February so it is decided to move ahead of schedule and transfer the first pieces of the gun on Monday 31st January instead.
Metalrok informed and they have agreed to have the area cleared during the weekend.
A quick inspection by Keith Sheriff and Pete Jackson of the scree slope determine what could be part of the traversing gear buried under the sand. Not clear, what other pieces of equipment could be found beneath the scree.
Intact traversing gear found under the scree slope.
Runners for the traversing section, found under the scree slope.
Informed by Paul Davies early during the morning that Metalrok workers have uncovered 12 pieces of gun equipment under the rubbish and scree slope. Monteverde informed we would require more trucks for the operation.
4:00 PM: the first Monteverde trucks and crane arrives on site. The smaller pieces are lifted first, followed by the sliders and pedestals. So far so good.
Monterverde service vehicles arriving on site.
Crane being positioned next to the slavaged gun pieces.
First truck ready to receive the smaller gun pieces.
Part of the gun carriage shell pit shield holder being lifted.
One section of the slider and trunnion being lifted onto the awaiting truck.
Gun slider section lowered onto the truck.
6:00 PM: Pieces of the original bolts are found beneath one of the pedestals. Metalrok welders are at hand with oxy-acetylene equipment to remove the excrescences.
Each pedestal is weighed at 9.5 tons and we are relieved the pieces are being lifted with skillful ease by Adelino.
6:30 PM: We are informed that the traversing gear is over 3m in diameter. As this will overspill from the sides of the transport truck, a police escort is required.
Paul Davies is on the case. Within 20 minutes, two police motorcyclists arrive and the pieces depart.
We keep going!
6:50 PM: The main carriage is full of sand and accumulated rubbish. These need to be cleared away and holes need to be made in order to secure the lifting hooks.
Light is fading fast so all hands on deck to clear the rubbish and get the oxy-acetylene to work…
8:00 PM: All is ready for the final lift. The gun pieces are being unloaded at the Brewery Crusher eco site. The transport vehicle is delayed and it is now dusk.
A check on the carriage weight reveals it is 16 tons and the crane is able to lift the piece with ease.
At last, the transport vehicle arrives and the carriage is lifted onto the truck. It leaves for Brewery Crusher at around 8:20 PM.
Meanwhile, the crane supports and pads are dismounted, as this crane is required at Brewery Crusher to unload the final piece.
9:00 PM: The crane and truck are in place. The final piece is ready to be unloaded. It takes 15 minutes.
9:30 PM: The pedestals are moved into a better position and the crane supports are again dismounted.
10:00 PM: Mission accomplished. Time to call it a night!
UNLEASH THE BEAST
D-Day has arrived. Time to move ‘The Beast’ from Gibdock to the Metalrok Scrapyard for the final lift. If all goes to plan, the gun barrel will be moved today. If not, then it is back to the drawing board….
‘The Beast’ is ready to leave the compound. Police escort is ready and waiting.
‘The Beast’ is out…We are on our way.
The convoy arrives at Flint Road. One car is causing an obstruction. The driver is located and the first hurdle, a ninety-degree turn is successfully accomplished.
7: 20 AM
The decisive moment arrives, turning the ten-wheeled crane into the scrapyard compound. The crane inches forward, reverses, turns…and finally it is in. Our maths was spot on!
‘The Beast’ is parked and ready for this afternoon.
Adelino is already on site, two hours before the lift. The clamps and counterweights need to be put in place. Swivelling the crane proves a tight fit: there is a hairsbreadth between the building and the crane pivot…literally!
Press start to arrive for the big event. Francis Silva, who originally transported the barrel into the scrapyard, arrives to watch proceedings with keen interest.
Ozzi from Gibdock and Adelino from Monteverde expertly co-ordinate together with respect to the placement of lifting cables and supports for the barrel. Despite the growing anticipation and dare I say growing impatience from the small crowd, they take their time to ensure everything is perfectly placed before the attempt to lift the ordnance piece is made. Everyone is in no doubt this crew are the real deal!
The barrel is secured and steadily, surely it begins to rise. It takes a few minutes of expert lifting to wrench the gun from its 50-year-old carriage, but it is soon free and begins to rise. The sheer size of the gun as it is lifted in the air is an impressive sight – press cameras begin to flash in unison – the scoop they have been patiently waiting for at last!
The barrel is placed on the ground.
The flatbed arrives on site; it manoeuvres expertly into the compound and reverses towards the gun. The barrel is lifted with its supports and the load is fastened and secured. Police escort is scheduled to arrive at 6:00 PM. Even though it may seem like slow progress to some, we are in fact working ahead of schedule.
Time for the Metalrok crew to say goodbye! The fifty year-old bromance is finally over.
The convoy navigates its way out of the scrapyard into Flint Road and onto Devil’s Tower Road. The Beast needs to do all this in reverse! This is slow, tedious work!
Once again, expert driving by Adelino ensures that The Beast is out of Flint Road and ready to rumble. Under police escort, the three-truck convoy makes way to Europa Point. Traffic needs to be stopped at various points to let the convoy though, but especially at Dudley Ward Tunnel, as the sheer size and height of The Beast requires Adelino to use the centre of the tunnel to drive through it. It takes almost an hour just to escort the convoy 3 km from Flint Road to the end of Europa Advance Road.
The vehicles finally arrive at Brewery Crusher. More traffic re-routing, as the vehicles now need to reverse into the Brewery Crusher site. Paul Davies’s drone records the convoy as it drives down Europa Advance Road.
The counter-weights, clamps and cables are re-applied. Dusk sets in and visibility is impaired but the assembled crew work diligently and professionally. Again, time is secondary to preparation and observation of safety protocols. The slow, steady process of preparing The Beast is repeated.
The 9.2-inch barrel is finally lowered onto the ground. The whole operation is a resounding success. The equipment is removed back into storage the convoy exits Brewery Crusher and the gates are closed. Time is 8:59 PM.
Time for Adelino to call it a night. Crack!