For over a century, two 6-pounder guns stood on display at the Old Fort in Durban. These were no ordinary guns, but were 2.5 inch Rifled Breech Loader Armstrong guns which had fired a 17 – gun salute at the coronation of King Cetshwayo in 1873. On 1 September 1873, the two guns from the Durban Volunteer Artillery (today Natal Field Artillery) had fired the salute following the crowning of Cetshwayo as the Zulu King. NFA used these two guns until 1892 when they were “retired” to the Old Fort.
Durban’s humid, sub-tropical coastal climate eventually took its toll on the guns, necessitating a major restoration. Richard Lovell-Green (a former OC of NFA) and the late Ken Gillings (a former RSM of NFA), Chairman and Secretary of the Gunners’ Association (Durban) embarked on a fundraising drive.
In 2004, the guns were moved from the Old Fort to Pietermaritzburg where Rob Scott (also a former member of NFA) began the long and difficult restoration process. At the time, he was still working at the KZN Natal Provincial Museum, which assisted in the project.
Rob salvaged as much as he could before beginning to remake, rebuild and repair what was left. The original wood was English oak but the carriages and wheels were handmade using North American red oak. Rob learnt the metal-working skills and wheelwright’s craft of old in his remarkable restoration of these two guns. He even made his own nails.
At the official ceremony on Saturday 31 August 2019 at the old Fort, K.E Masinga Rd, Rob gave a most informative talk on the restoration process. Guests present included Heather Gillings (Ken’s widow) Col Guthrie, Maj Jele and MWO Dlamini (the Honorary Colonel, OC and RSM of NFA), Gnr Jan Olivier (Current Chairman of the Gunners’ Association Durban), Charles Whiteing (Chairman Military History Society), and many members of the public. Two members of the Dundee Diehards, Jandrè Smith and Daniel Myburgh, came in the uniforms of the 24th Regt of Foot (2nd Warwickshire), adding a splash of colour. Making a special trip from Johannesburg were Maj Gen Andersen (Chief of Defence Reserves), Gnr Wiid and Gnr Hoole, who had all supported the initial fundraising effort.
Other fundraiser contributors were the South African National Society, KwaZulu – Natal Museum Services, DLI Headquarters Board, Magnum Magazine, Winston Churchill Shell Hole, the South African Military History Society (KZN branch), the Gunners’ Association of South Africa, Maj Gen R.C. Andersen, Lt Col (Ret) R.C Lovell-Greene, Mr Rob Lovemore and Mr Ian Knight.
Now housed in a museum room at the Old Fort, the restoration of the Cetshwayo coronation guns is the largest such project in Durban for many years.
After the invitation had been sent out for this ceremony, it was announced that Natal Field Artillery’s name had been changed to King Cetshwayo Artillery Regiment (KCAR)