Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Big guns


Much as it offended my liberal principles later, when I was an art school rebel, it was kind of cool having a dad who fired very big guns when I was a kid. This is a picture of my father at Napier Battery in Gibraltar where we lived in the mid 1960s.

By a strange coincidence, given where my father ended his days, this 100 ton monster of a gun was manufactured by Armstrong of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1879. Nicknamed The Rockbuster could send a 2,000 lb shell up to eight miles.

My father (that's him on the left, with his hand on the gun) was also stationed in Gibraltar during WWII, sailing there on a troopship in 1943. He was, as always, on anti-aircraft duty and some of the guns were set up on Napier Battery for that purpose, though they were never actually fired in anger.

What must it have been like, I wonder, for this Middlesbrough boy to end up here, at the tip of Spain, within sight of Africa? It was strange enough for me twenty years later when I arrived there. I still remember the flight (a much more exclusive form of transport then) and the sensory confusion and excitement when we left the plane. My father's journey there was longer and more uncomfortable, but that probably only served to make the place even more exotic.

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