Battery in national top three

John Southcott at the controls of the self-propelled gun
John Southcott at the controls of the self-propelled gun

A HISTORIC attraction has become the third largest artillery museum in the country after taking delivery of a new gun.

Staff at the Heugh Battery, on Hartlepool’s Headland, yesterday welcomed the arrival of the 1960s-built Abbot self-propelled artillery gun.

The gun, which was transported from Lincoln on a low-loader, means the Heugh Battery has a 41-strong collection of heavy guns and barrels.

The Heugh Battery is now second only to The Royal Artillery Museum in Woolwich, and Fort Nelson, in Southampton, in terms of the amount of artillery it houses.

John Southcott, chairman of the Battery, said: “We are becoming short of space but this delivery makes us the third biggest artillery museum in the country.

“We are very proud of the battery and we think we have an amazing collection.

“I never thought we would get this far.”

Museum bosses are even considering entering the gun into this year’s Hartlepool Headland Carnival.

The gun, which can fire 105mm shells 14,000 metres, is on a long-term loan from Ordnance Test Solutions, in Lincoln.

The loan was agreed between John, who served nine years with the Royal Horse Artillery, and a couple of friends who he served with.

He added: “We are really pleased to be able to look after it.

“The self-propelled gun has been given a designated area on the parade ground and because it still drives we are hoping to get it ready and enter it into this year’s carnival parade.”

The diesel powered 15-tonne gun, which was never used in action, was built in the early 1960s and taken out of service in the late 1980s.

Pieces of historic equipment and artillery are often loaned to the popular museum and in December staff took delivery of a rare World War II gun.

Only 1,000 of the 1936 artillery gun machines were ever made, and museum chiefs believe it is the only one of its kind in the country.

Its last home was the Woolwich museum where it had been kept in storage.

As well as the hoard of artillery, the battery in Moor Terrace also has scores of other smaller wartime artefacts.

The site, which defended the town against the German sea bombardment on December 16, 1914, has been restored in recent years and new visitor attractions added by the Heugh Gun Battery Trust, including a toilet block, cafe, class rooms and exhibition centre.

The Heugh Battery is open Thursday to Sunday between 10am and 4pm and also Bank Holidays.

For admission prices and more information call (01429) 270746 or email enquiries@heughbattery.com