The Destiny of “Major Baden Powell”
This article follows on from Clunes Canon (linked here)
Last month a brief history of both of Clunes’ two cannons was outlined up to the end of World War One (The Great War), 11/11/1918. During end-of-war celebrations on that day, the smaller of the two cannons was over charged with gunpowder (the extra being “for the King”) and on firing, the cannon burst into large chunks that lobbed into properties around Clunes township.
One of these chunks of metal was incorporated into a rock garden wall for many years, and was donated in 2012 by Mr Syd Tancredi to Naval Historian Mr John Rogers, President of “Friends of the Cerberus”. Clunes Museum also has a chunk of the burst cannon in it’s collection. According to Mr Rogers, the surviving Clunes cannon, a 32 pounder, was larger than the burst cannon and had been christened ‘Major Baden Powell’ in 1900 when the news came through that British forces had been able to occupy Pretoria during the Boer War.
Major Baden Powell, the Clunes 25 cwt, 32 pounder (1.3 tonne, 14.5 kg) smooth bore cannon is one of seven surviving guns that served on Her Majesty’s Colonial Ships: the ‘Victoria, the ‘Sir Henry Smith’ and the gun raft ‘The Elder’. Positioned for many years on the hill above the sports oval, the cannon came under fire in 1944, not from enemy attack but by a devastating bushfire. As a result the wooden undercarriage was completely burned away and the cast iron barrel was conveyed to the Clunes Council yard where it lay for 40 years.
In 1985, with support from Clunes residents and Clunes Museum, a new wooden undercarriage was built by apprentices at Bendigo Ordnance Factory using timber cut from an Elm tree that had grown alongside Creswick Creek. The newly assembled cannon was then displayed in the Rivet Bland room in the Museum until the Museum building refurbishment commenced in 2012, when the cannon was loaned to be part of the Navy display in the Geelong Naval & Maritime Museum.
When building works were completed about two years ago, and the Museum became part of the “The Warehouse” at Clunes, the cannon couldn’t be displayed inside due to a reduction of display space. Instead of returning to Clunes, permission was given to the Williamstown Maritime Museum at Seaworks’ Naval Dockyard to display our cannon, and it remains there today.
Even though the cannon is the most valuable item in Clunes Museum’s collection, until a suitable area can be arranged for it to be displayed in Clunes, one that protects it from the weather, it is destined to remain on loan to various historical organisations around the State of Victoria as a travelling exhibit.