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Naval gun returns to Scapa Flow Museum following restoration

scapa flow museum
The newly restored gun from the HMS Hampshire will be housed inside the Scapa Flow Museum.

A naval gun from the deck of the HMS Hampshire has returned to the Scapa Flow Museum following extensive restoration.

The artefact has braved the elements outside the museum in Orkney for several years, leading to its corrosion.

Now after three weeks of restoration, the 106-year-old gun is back in its new home in the foyer at the museum – which has undergone its own massive upgrade.

The Scapa Flow Museum has had a £4.4million upgrade, with the exhibition space expanded to tell more stories about Orkney’s history during the two world wars.

The attraction, on Hoy, tells the story of Scapa Flow as the UK’s most important naval anchorage at the time, and is due to reopen this summer.

HMS Hampshire, an armoured cruiser, sank shortly after leaving Scapa Flow on June 5, 1916 after hitting a mine laid by German submarine in stormy conditions.

The vessel – which had just returned from the Battle of Jutland two days prior – was on its way to Russia, and was carrying war minister and hero Lord Kitchener, who was on a diplomatic mission.

He perished, along with 736 other men. Only 12 survived.

The naval gun was recovered from the wreckage, and Orkney Islands Council say it has a “great importance” to the community.

Restorers had to use hand-tools and a needle gun to remove the corrosion and prevent further damaging the artefact. Supplied by Orkney Council

‘Great importance to the local community and enthusiasts’

Nick Hewitt, the council’s culture team leader, said: “We’re all incredibly excited by the arrival home to Orkney of this gun.

“It’s been a long process for the team to secure the funds for her restoration, something we’re keenly aware was also of great importance to the local community and enthusiasts further afield.

“And although there are many more weeks of work yet to build cabinets and create mounts and backdrops before we even start bringing other artefacts back in, it seems a highly appropriate and poignant object with which to mark the start of that process, of moving from the construction phase to one of bringing a museum space to life with artefacts and the stories they tell.”

One of the challenges faced by restorers was the little information they had about the gun’s assembly.

They found that the gun was probably taken from another ship and modified for the HMS Hampshire.

After dismantling it, restorers had to repair and remove the corrosion before repainting it with a special primer to add protection.

The gun will be kept indoors at the Scapa Flow Museum in a climate-controlled environment where it can be protected.

Gwenda Shearer, the council’s leisure committee chairwoman, said: “What better way to ignite the process of bringing the museum back to life than the renewal and return of this gun – it holds so many stories and I look forward to seeing many more much-loved artefacts being installed in coming months.”

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