Navy helps Bofors gun find a new home

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Mick Wheeler (author), ABIS Ronnie Baltoft (photographer)

Location(s): Aviation Heritage Museum, Bull Creek, WA

Topic(s): Fleet Support Unit - West

Facilities Manager Fleet Support Unit-West, Petty Officer Marine Technician Submarines Jamie Saunders, kneels beside the restored Bofors 40/60 gun at the Aviation Heritage Museum in Bull Creek, Western Australia. (photo: ABIS Ronnie Baltoft)
Facilities Manager Fleet Support Unit-West, Petty Officer Marine Technician Submarines Jamie Saunders, kneels beside the restored Bofors 40/60 gun at the Aviation Heritage Museum in Bull Creek, Western Australia.

A 40/60 Bofors gun has found a new home at the Aviation Heritage Museum after a combined effort from Navy, the Aviation Heritage Museum and the Western Australian Museum to prepare the gun for display. 

The gun was donated to the WA Museum some years ago and was held in the museums collectible storage facility. The Aviation Heritage Museum made a request of the Western Australian Museum to display the gun however, the gun whilst being inoperable required some work to bring it up to standard for display purposes. 

Navy was contacted by the Western Australian Museum and work commenced on the gun at Fleet Support Unit West. Petty Officer Marine Technical Jamie Saunders took on the project starting with the transportation of the gun to Fleet Base West, then finding a design option to make the gun suitable for display and finally delivering the gun to its final resting place at the Aviation Heritage Museum. 

“The project from start to finish has been a worthwhile one that had us all thinking for engineering solutions that would suit the Western Australian Museum’s requirements as well as keeping the gun in its original state for display purposes.”

“It is likely that the gun saw its final days on a Fremantle class patrol boat after beginning life in 1955. The Bofors gun was once common across the Fleet and provided outstanding service to the RAN. It was a very simple weapon to operate and was easy to maintain”

John Carlisle who is ex-RAN and now works as a contractor for Fleet Support Unit West was engaged to assist with some engineering solutions.

“It was fantastic to work on a project like this that required a number of technical solutions that tested me out. To stand here today to see the handover of the gun into a museum that will display it well is very satisfying for me” 

Scott Mitchell, Head of Collection Management Western Australian Museum commented on the importance of partnering between the Western Australian Museum, the Aviation Heritage Museum and the Navy to bring the Bofors gun to display.

“We rely heavily on partners to help us bring to display the many items that we have and to work with our partner museum being the Aviation Heritage Museum and the Navy who bought their specialised knowledge of the Bofors gun was fantastic. The gun will complement the other items on display at the Aviation Heritage Museum and will be a lasting piece from the Navy in the museum.” 

The 40/60 Bofors gun began service within the RAN in 1945 with the last three 40/60 Bofors guns firing for the final time at West Head Gunnery Range at HMAS Cerberus on July 19 2007.

Fremantle Class patrol boats were the last in the RAN fleet to have operational 40/60 Bofors guns. 

Prior to WWII the RN and RAN anti-aircraft weapon of choice was the 2 Pounder or 'Pom Pom' in a variety of mountings up to eight barrels for capital ships and some cruisers. The British Army adopted the Bofors 40/60 gun and it proved so successful as an anti-aircraft weapon in the Africa campaign, the Royal Navy began to fit it also. 

With a breech capacity of eight rounds and taking four round clips, the gun could achieve a rate of fire of 120 rounds per minute and a range of 5000 yards. Ammunition retained a contact fuse and a tracer making it easy to aim.

At one stage nearly all RAN ships carried some form of Bofors 40mm gun. The Battle Class Destroyers HMAS Anzac (II) and HMAS Tobruk (I) retained up to 12 Bofors guns, while the early River Class Destroyer Escorts originally fitted a twin mounting in lieu of the Seacat Missile System.

Daring Class Destroyers HMAS Vampire (II), HMAS Vendetta (II) and HMAS Voyager (II) mounted two twin and two single 40/60 Bofors guns. The carriers HMAS Sydney (III), HMAS Vengeance (I) and HMAS Melbourne (II) mounted up to eight single and eight twin guns, which included a twin gun being mounted forward of the island on the flight deck. 

Commissioned in the RAN in 1955, the fleet oiler HMAS Supply retained two twin mounts. HMAS Stalwart (II) also mounted 40/60 mounts forward and aft, while HMAS Success and HMAS Tobruk had their mounts removed in the mid-nineties. The Attack Class Patrol Boats and Ton Class Minesweepers mounted the old AN 2 Mod forward, while the survey ship HMAS Moresby (I) mounted two single Bofors guns in 1965.