The 25pdr gun at Dunbar

The background.

There is a long tradition of the presence of artillery in Dunbar

34 Battery of 16 Field Brigade [later regiment] was here before the Second World War and was armed with 18 pounders the predecessor to the 25 pounder.

57 Medium Regiment TA, the local regiment and its duplicate regiment,66 Medium, went to war with 5.5 guns. After the war 57 became 357 Medium  Regt but in 1955 became a Light regiment equipped with 4.2 mortars.

The Regiment played a significant part in Dunbar’s history when it conveyed the body of General Sir Reginald Wingate Bart. on a gun carriage from St Anne’s Church to the Parish Churchyard on 3rd Feb 1953.

357 Regt. held a training weekend, based in the barracks [No longer MOD property] on 20/ 22May 1960, and at the request of its chaplain the Rev HCM Eggo, parish minister of Dunbar the regiment paraded to the parish church. The salute was taken at the parade after the service by the provost, W G R Findlay. The Regiment was about to amalgamate and the Rev H Eggo was to retire as chaplain.

The new regiment, 278 Field Regt. was armed with 25 pounders  but had no presence in Dunbar.

357 regiment was the last military group to occupy the barracks.

In 1958 Frank Tindall, the county planning officer, proposed to develop Castle Park Barracks as a Coach and Sports Centre. The proposal foundered but he acquired four 25 pounders at a cost of £25 each plus £25 for transport. He placed these on the Barracks Square. These, as he says in his autobiography, he saw, as “great playthings for children of all ages” They were popular certainly with the young and were a source of interest to residents and visitors.

They had a chequered history over the years and eventually disappeared from view and three were disposed off. The Community Council and East Lothian Council came under pressure to do something with the one which remained.

This was a problem which faced the Community Council for several years.

If something was to be done, I felt it had to be done properly. There were various problems.

The main problems were finding a suitable location and the cost.

I was not happy with the adventure play idea for two reasons;

Firstly, the importance of the guns to gunners. The guns are the colours of the Royal Regiment of Artillery and when it goes on parade with its guns it takes precedence over any other formation in the army.

Secondly, I was concerned about the possible danger to children and others.

The solution to the problem of cost came with the special project funding which the local authority made available to Community Councils.

The state of the gun was a problem. I discussed the situation with the then, CO of 105 Regiment,

Lt Col N J Lipscombe R.A, who suggested the possibility of his making available one of the saluting guns, used at Edinburgh Castle which had been phased out on 30th November 2001and had been replaced by the 105mm gun. At that stage he could not commit one to us.

We gave ourselves a target of VJ day 2005 to establish a gun in a prominent position in Dunbar.

The Community Council confirmed its willingness to commit funds to try to achieve this date and a site was identified.

I asked the RSM of 105 Regiment, WO 1. C Walkin for advice on the restoration of the gun and he said he would try to make one of the remaining former saluting guns available to us, which he succeeded in doing. I would like to put on record how much I appreciated the support of 105 Regiment in bringing this project to a satisfactory conclusion.

The saluting gun came with no platform so we wanted to use the base from the older gun which was badly corroded and Michael Blair of S&P Blair and son of Dunbar kindly came to the rescue and sand blasted it. The restoration of the platform was otherwise done by J&A Coachworks. The gun itself went to a restorer.

A&J Thomson of Dunbar constructed the plinth and positioned and secured the piece.

An information board “ The Story of Artillery in Dunbar”. for which a grant was awarded from East Lothian Community Environmental Fund was erected nearby.

The Gun was handed over and dedicated on Sunday 4th September 2005.

The Guest of Honour was Col. T R R Weston OBE TD who was a former DCRA of 155 Brigade and later Hon Col. of 40 Field Regt RA [The Lowland Gunners] an exceptional honour for a TA officer. Col.  Weston   unveiled the information Board.

Major John Towers, second in command of 105 Regiment, representing Lt Col. E C Grace RA, handed over the gun to the keeping of Dunbar Community Council and East Lothian Council.

The Rev Neil N Gardner, a former chaplain to 40th Field Regiment RA, and a former pupil of Dunbar Grammar School, dedicated the gun as a memorial to those who were involved in the Second World War.

The gun and the information board are on ground managed by ELC.

After some time, the Community Council became anxious about the need for maintenance. It  declared an intention to carry out maintenance but this  proved difficult.

I was therefore delighted when the  RSM of 105 Regiment, WO1. Mark Paterson approached me to say that he had been alerted to the state of the gun and wished to offer to arrange for its restoration. After some discussion and with the agreement of East Lothian Council it was agreed that the gun should be taken back to the Regimental H Q at Colinton where  RSM Paterson and  S/Sgt Adrian Hales would carry out a voluntary restoration project. I was delighted that this was to be the solution to the problem because I knew that an excellent restoration of a very historic gun from the first world war period had  been completed by S/Sgt Hales.

East Lothian Council and Dunbar Community Council were  most grateful for this interest and support from 105 Regiment.

It was agreed that the gun would be uplifted on Tuesday 22nd May 2012.It was hoped it would be returned by VJ day.

In the event the restoration was not done by the regimental volunteers but the RSM accepted an offer from MTS Recovery and Repair Stirling, who maintained the regiments guns to do the work.

This was a fantastic offer. We got a job worth £20,000 done for a donation to Erskine hospital of £500

We received messages of encouragement and delight from several former gunners.

The Community Council awarded certificates of appreciation to 105 Regiment and to MTS Recovery and Repair in 2012.

A plate was put on the gun commemorating this work.

It was gratifying that this restoration was done in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year as Her Majesty is the Captain General of the Royal Regiment of Artillery.

I am aware that there is some concern about the current state of the gun. We are unable to do anything while we are shut down by this corona virus. I consider that it is important that it remains in situ as a focus for our thoughts during this anniversary year. The Community Council will address the problem after VJ Day [15th August].

This gun remains as a lasting memorial of the part played by artillery in two world wars and in the long history of Dunbar.

Stephen Bunyan

16th  July 2020

Photographs of the various guns that were mounted to defend Dunbar in the 19th and 20th centuries and of the gunners who served them can be seen in the Dunbar History room.

References

Fourth Statistical account of East Lothian vol 1 p240

Memoirs and Confessions of a County Planning Officer Frank Tyndall -1998