Gun Barrels

Tom Newman

Frankston, Australia

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Artist's Description

Two gun barrels at Fort Nepean,barrel 1489, right, which fired the first allied shot of World War I, and barrel 1317, which fired the first shot of World War II.
On the morning of 5 August 1914, the German freighter Pfalz was being hurriedly loaded by its crew at Victoria Dock in Melbourne. The ship’s captain wanted to reach the open sea before war was declared — but he was too late. As the Pfalz set out across Port Phillip Bay the forts at Queenscliff and Point Nepean received the news that Great Britain and Germany were officially at war. At Fort Nepean they received ordered to halt the Pfalz. The German captain ignored the signals to stop so Captain Mortimer Williams, in command of a 6-inch Mark VII breech-loading gun, fired a shot across the ship’s bows. Within five minutes the Pfalz hove to and surrendered.
The story of the first shot of World War II is somewhat more prosaic. At 1.30 a.m. on 4 September 1939, within hours of war being declared in Europe, a small Bass Strait freighter, the Woniora, ignored an order from Fort Nepean to identify itself as it tried to enter Port Phillip Heads. A warning shot was fired
from one of the Mark VII guns and the freighter, on its way to Melbourne from Stanley in Tasmania, quickly complied.

Artwork Comments

  • Samantha Lewandowski
  • Michael Rowley
  • Tom Newman
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