Gun memorial to air heroes

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A HISTORIC anti-aircraft gun has taken pride of place at a military museum after a touching service.

A 1950s Bofors 40-70 gun has been unveiled at the Heugh Gun Battery, on Hartlepool’s Headland.

The weapon has been dedicated to all ranks of Royal Air Force Regiment members and was officially accepted during a poignant service.

Morgan Williams, squadron leader of 34 Squadron RAF Regiment, gave a moving speech in front of squadron members, who have recently served in Afghanistan, and air veterans.

A minute’s silence was also held during the ceremony.

The service was a special milestone for veteran Wally Stewart, who helped to bring the gun to the museum from RAF Spadeadam, in Cumbria.

The 69-year-old former flight sergeant and dad-of-two from Seaton Carew, who is a volunteer at the battery, officially accepted the gun.

Mr Stewart was joined by his two grandsons, James Johnson, 16, and Sam Johnson, 14, who plan to follow in their grandfather’s footsteps and sign up to the RAF.

He said: “I was in the Royal Air Force Regiment and worked on one of these in the regiment.

“It would have been a low-level air defence gun and it fired four rounds a second.

“It put up so much metal in the air that any aircraft flying through that would just run into metal.”

Mr Stewart said he used a similar gun in 1974 in Cyprus when the Turks invaded the Mediterranean country.

He added that the gun became outdated in the 1970s with the introduction of more super-sonic weapons and was replaced by the Rapier missile.

The grandfather-of-four added: “When John Southcott from the battery said he was going to get one, I said I would help him get one on the premise that I could dedicate it as a memorial to the Royal Air Force Regiment.

“I spent 22 years in the regiment and for me to get one of these and to get the officer to come and unveil it for me, I’m over the moon.”

Squadron leader Williams, whose squadron is based at RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire, told the Mail: “This reflects our history and where we came from. “This is the sort of gun the squadron used to use in Cyprus.

“It’s always an honour to have something with your squadron’s plaque on it.”

Gun battery manager Vanessa Sanderson said: “When the gun first arrived it was covered in rust and had grass growing out of it.

“The volunteers have worked really hard to bring it back to this status and it’s a great addition to the museum.”