Armstrong Cannon at Flagstaff Hill, Warrnambool. (yes, 2 r’s)

by John

Geelong is not yet in total lockdown, and the weather was beautiful sunny and cool.  And, the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum website indicated that it was again open!  So I grabbed my camera, jumped in my car , and had a very pleasant 2.5 hour drive to Warrrrrnambool.

Out the front, I spotted this…


It is a 68 pounder, smooth bore muzzle loader, not an Armstrong, but VERY similar.  But what excited me, was that it is on its ORIGINAL teak wood chassis.  Original chassis’ like this are incredibly rare.  The barrel date is 1861.

My Armstrong cannon would have been mounted on a wooden chassis like this.  The wheels are almost identical to the Armstrong chassis wheels.

Then I entered the museum, and asked where the Armstrong cannons were.  The very pleasant lass directed me to The Battery .  The museum itself is really interesting, with wonderful relics from the tragically wrecked “Loch Ard” and superb ship models, sextants, octants, clocks, a fabulous Minton porcelain peacock raised from the Loch Ard.  And heaps of other fascinating items.

But I was heading to the Armstrongs…


There are two of them.  80 pounders, identical to the one which I am modelling.  And they have parts which are missing on the ones which I had originally measured and photographed.  One item is the big wheel seen in the photo, which winds the cannon carriage on the sloped chassis, to its loading and firing positions.  It is almost 3′ / 1 meter in diameter.  The handles and rear platform are also in good shape.

And a comment about the black paint.  The cannons on HMS Warrior, of similar vintage, were also painted black.  So it is tempting to accept that as the original colour of the Warrrrnambool and Port Fairy Armstrongs.  But look at the colour of this Armstrong (Singapore or Hong Kong, can’t remember)..  the barrel is white, and the chassis a bluish grey.

Screen Shot 2020-01-22 at 10.17.28 pm

and this one… Portland Victoria I think.

Screen Shot 2020-01-24 at 9.05.33 am

It seems that in hot climates, black was not universal, at least for the carriage and chassis.  But I digress.  Back to the Warrnambool Armstrong…

This was the other item which I really wanted to measure and photograph…


It is the brass, or bronze,  (gunmetal, I discovered from one of my references) quadrant shaped protractor, which measures to a quarter of a degree, the elevation/depression of the barrel.  It had been broken off, probably stolen, from the Port Fairy cannons.

I spent 3 hours crawling over and under the cannon.

The manager of the museum casually wandered past, and started up a conversation, and gave me permission to take a rubbing of the VR crest on the barrel.  She seemed very interested in my project, and even suggested that I should join the cannon maintenance and firing volunteer group.   Maybe, when the virus has gone…..

I took 90 photos, and multiple measurements.  This time I had some calipers.  A beautiful day.  No whales seen, to my regret.