This article appeared in the Winter 1978 (Issue #54) edition of the Kent Archaeological Review.
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A Bofors Gun at New Tavern Fort, Gravesend.
Through the generosity of the Gravesend District Lions Club, a fine Second World War 40 milimetre Bofors naval light anti-aircraft gun has been saved from the scrapyard and put on display at New Tavern Fort, Gravesend.
The Bofors had stood for many years in front of T S Lennox, the Gravesend Sea Cadet Corps headquarters in Milton Road. In mid-1976 the gun became surplus to requirements following the move of the Sea Cadets to a new headquarters and Mr Ray Dawe of the Gravesend District Lions Club suggested to the Kent Defence Research Group that the gun should be saved, kept in Gravesend and displayed at New Tavern Fort. The need to preserve this historic weapon for future generations was a worthy objective in itself but there was also a local relevance: such guns were used in the Gravesend area during the Second World War and, on pedestal mountings like the Bofors at New Tavern, formed the secondary armament of the 1940 Thames offshore Maunsell Forts. Since the object of the New Tavern Fort Restoration Project (see KAR 44, 102-4) is not merely to restore the fort itself but both to re-arm it with a collection of guns representative of its history and to display weapons of a more general interest (into which category the Bofors fell), the gun was felt to be an ideal and welcome exhibit.
Some eighteen months of careful negotiations between the writer and the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office followed the decision to acquire the gun. Not unnaturally, both Departments showed some initial reluctance to release the gun to the Group, particularly since the request for acquisition had been initiated in a period of terrorist violence in Northern Ireland. However, after a Police enquiry had been made, the Home Office was satisfied with the credentials of the Group which was authorised to acquire the gun. The approval of the Ministry of Defence followed and the gun was thoroughly deactivated and rendered incapable of firing and then sold to the Group at scrap metal value. The cost was met entirely by the Gravesend District Lions Club and the gun was taken to New Tavern Fort in January, 1978 from Chatham Dockyard where it had been stored during the negotiations and it was presented to the Gravesham Borough Council who own the fort on 26 February.
The writer would like to thank Mr E. Lowman of HM Naval Base, Chatham, for his help, Mr Ray Dawes and the Gravesend District Lions Club for their assistance and generosity, the West Street Compressor and Plant Hire Company for the use of their crane and Mr W Stewart for carrying out a programme of welding to prevent damage to the gun by vandals.