Cannon restoration project reaches completion

cannon restorationA major restoration project has been completed on a Norwich University cannon to ensure that it will provide cadets with many more years of safe and reliable operation. The 853-pound breech-load cannon, located on the Upper Parade ground in front of Jackman Hall, is used twice a day, Monday through Saturday, for flag raising and flag retreat, and on special occasions.

The cannon, which was built in England in 1899 by Sir. W.G. Armostrong Whiteworth& Co., had been showing signs of age. Former Deputy Commandant of Cadets Col. Eric Braman coordinated the effort to have the cannon restored.

"I was following through on a project that was started last year," Braman said. "Every fifteenth or twentieth round would misfire and crush the shell, and there was quite a bit of rust on the weapon."

Braman contacted Master Gunsmith Paul Fitzgerald, who restored the Dewey Gatlin gun in Jackman Hall several years ago, and asked if he could help restore the antique breech-loader. The colonel then enlisted help from members of the Norwich Independent Battery to deliver the artillery piece to Fitzgerald's workshop in Middlesex, Vermont.preparing to fire cannon

Fitzgerald explained that the breech-load cannon is a weapon where cartridges of black powder are loaded in the rear rather than the front of the barrel. "Through extensive use, the breech and firing mechanisms on this cannon had worn down," Fitzgerald said. "I was able to rebuild the lanyard, breech and firing mechanism, and strengthen the frame."

After Fitzgerald made these repairs, cadets from the Independent Battery sandblasted the rust off the cannon and gave it a new coat of paint. The cannon was then returned to Norwich and put back into service.

Fitzgerald said that at some point the weapon's frame, which is custom-made, will need replacing, but added, "This gun can be used forever if you keep maintaining it."

by Mark Albury
photos by Diana Weggler
January 2004

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