Cannon fire to mark military milestone

The ground-shaking boom of cannon fire will be felt and heard in Warrnambool, Port Fairy and Portland this Saturday, December 4.

The cannon salute will mark the 150th anniversary of the Royal Australian Artillery.

A cannon at Portland will be fired – for the first time in several decades – at 9am, followed by Port Fairy at midday and Flagstaff Hill in Warrnambool at 3pm.

For Flagstaff Hill volunteer and former soldier Steve Ivey, the cannon firing is an acknowledgement of military history and brings with it the excitement of heavy artillery in action.

“Years ago we would fire the cannon at Flagstaff Hill with very little ceremony,” Mr Ivey said.

“Over time we researched the history associated with the Australian artillery to being a more accurate military element to the whole process of firing the cannon.

“The team at Flagstaff Hill made uniforms with great attention to detail including sourcing the correct fabric and buttons.

“We also assigned roles to volunteers at the cannon – including ranks and orders – to recreate the scenario of a colonial artillery battery as it carried out drills.”

This creates a greater spectacle and sense of anticipation leading up to firing.

“You can feel the ground shaking so it’s a pretty powerful caper,” Mr Ivey said.

Mr Ivey said the garrisons were built around Australia in the 19th century with initial fears around a possible French invasion. Later, Russians were perceived as a threat.

The Australian Artillery Association had identified August 1 as the official date for the 150th anniversary of the Royal Australian Artillery however the anniversary ceremonies were postponed as a result of COVID restrictions.

Warrnambool Mayor Cr Richard Ziegeler praised the efforts of the volunteers in maintaining the cannons in working order and to coordinate activities across the “South West Cannon Trail”.

“The garrison at Flagstaff Hill is an important part of Australia’s military history and it has been kept alive thanks to the dedication of Flagstaff Hill staff and volunteers.”

Visitors to Flagstaff Hill will be able to view the cannon firing.

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