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New thoughts on an old gun

21 March 2012

One of the things I’ve been doing over the winter is trying to fill in some of the gaps in our knowledge about the St Kilda gun.

gun in 2010

Its history since it was installed in 1918 is quite well known, but its earlier story is still mysterious.

It was one of the first Mark III 4” Quick Firing naval guns, made in 1896, originally for mounting in sets of eight with other artillery on Pelorus-class cruisers, designed for ship to ship battle. Unfortunately we don’t yet know which of the eleven Pelorus vessels our gun came from. Most of them saw active service, but others were disarmed before the Great War, their guns redeployed for coastal defence in places like Dover and the Forth, and it was perhaps one of the guns from the Forth that was despatched to St Kilda in its hour of need. Although by 1918 these guns were no longer fitted on warships, they were still serviceable against U-boats – the main threat to Village Bay - and so were perhaps not as obsolete for that purpose as we thought. It seems to be the last surviving example of its type in the country.

Next time I get to St Kilda, the first thing I shall do is look with new appreciation at the familiar old gun, and see if I can still decipher the date on its breech block.

If anyone has any reminiscences about the gun, however recent, we would love to hear about it (please e-mail

Carol Knott

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