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WWII conservation project brings Gunners back to Horn Island for emotional unveiling

Norm Donehue who came back for the ceremony is seen here top right as a young gunner on Horn Island

Veterans, family, members of the RAAF, Army, Navy, Cadets, Elders, Emergency services, local businesses and community gathered at Horn Island on the 29thMay, to unveil a restored 3.7-inch Anti-Aircraft gun.

The veterans who served on Horn Island in World War II from 1942-1944, manning eight of the 3.7-inch Anti-Aircraft guns at two batteries and providing air protection for the airbase returned to commemorate the restoration of the gun and their shared history.

The Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) worked across government to facilitate during the transfer process for the successful return of the 3.7-inch Anti-Aircraft gun to the restored Horn Island battery.

The success of this project involved the co-operation of multi levels of Government, Elders, WW2 veterans and families, the Australian Army, Navy and Royal Australian Air Force, Emergency Services, local businesses, and community members.

The TSRA Chairperson, Mr Napau Pedro Stephen AM, said Horn Island provided a strategic defensive position during WWII and the restoration of the site and installation of the 3.7-inch gun to the battery was a timely reminder of that.

“Horn Island was the most advanced operational base to PNG while still being in Australian waters and the second most attacked location in Australia,” Mr Stephen said.

“And 5000 troops and airmen were stationed on the island by the end of 1942.

“Conservation projects like this restoration provide a reminder to the Torres Strait community of the region’s importance in the defence of Australia.”

For over 12 years, the veterans along with Vanessa and Liberty Seekee had searched for a 3.7-inch Anti-Aircraft gun to place back in the original gun pits at King Point, Horn Island.

The pits had been conserved in 2014 as part of Vanessa and Liberty’s WW2 Conservation Program, jointly funded by the Torres Shire Council and Torres Strait Regional Authority, under head archaeologist, Gordon Grimwade.

A 3.7-inch Anti-Aircraft gun was located in Darwin, and thus began an incredible effort to transfer, conserve and place the gun in the original gun pits where it was in WW2.

Conservation was completed by Maxims Consultancy, while Sea Swift provided freight at no cost from Darwin to Horn Island.

My Pathway has also provided on the ground support in preparing the site for this day of commemoration.

Placement of the gun was co-ordinated between Godfrey Constructions and Torres Strait Homes with assistance from the TSRA and Torres Shire Council.

It is one of only three such guns in Australia which are located in the actual gun pit from WW2.  This was once a weapon of war, however today it is a symbol of what can be achieved as a community.

Once the gunners from the 34thAust. HAA Bty served alongside members of the Torres Strait Light Infantry Battalion and now they return to share their history with families and community and to honour their mates.

Pictured: Norm Donehue, who came back for the ceremony is seen here top right as a young gunner on Horn Island.

Torres Strait Islanders and Aboriginal people are advised this website may contain names, images and recordings of people who have passed.