Big bang prac­tice for The Square

The Tribune (NZ) - - FRONT PAGE - RICHARD MAYS

Some 300 years ago, May 26, 1716, British King Ge­orge I is­sued a Royal War­rant to form the first Royal Reg­i­ment of Ar­tillery (RA). Ever since then, tra­di­tion and cus­tom de­crees that Com­mon­wealth ar­tillery reg­i­ments ac­knowl­edge May 26 as their com­mon birth­day.

To­mor­row, Palmer­ston North gets to host the first of the world­wide 300th cel­e­bra­tions with Lin­ton Camp’s 16 Field Reg­i­ment in town to add a whole new di­men­sion to the term, ‘square­bash­ing’.

From 10am to 1pm, the reg­i­ment will have a dis­play in The Square of its equip­ment and sys­tems based around the 119 British light gun, the 105mm how­itzer that is its main­stay.

Event or­gan­iser RSM WO I Richard Theodore says the dis­play of ar­ma­ments will in­clude weaponry dat­ing back to World War II, in­clud­ing guns used in Korea and Viet­nam, a ‘gun run’, and the fir­ing of three blank rounds.

A gun run is a tra­di­tional part of the cel­e­bra­tions.

‘‘As a Com­mon­wealth ar­tillery reg­i­ment al­lied to the Royal Ar­tillery, we recog­nise their cus­toms and tra­di­tions.

‘‘The pub­lic are wel­come to turn up to watch and to com­pare the older guns along­side the cur­rent weapons sys­tems.’’

At mid­day, 1200hrs, with its muz­zle pointed sky­ward, a sin­gle blank round will be fired, alert­ing ev­ery­one within earshot that the gun run will be get­ting un­der­way at 1215hrs on The Square’s li­brary quad­rant.

‘‘Two gun teams will get to man­han­dle their gun around a slalom type course and over one or two ob­sta­cles. It’ll be chal­leng­ing if the grass is a bit soft. The guns weigh just un­der two tonnes, and re­quire a bit of ef­fort to lift and push.’’

The two crews of seven will be com­pet­ing for brag­ging rights.

‘‘It’s a big pride thing and a long­stand­ing tra­di­tion in the ar­tillery. By tak­ing RA Day pub­lic, we’ll hope­fully get the pub­lic along in sup­port.’’

Both crews get to fire their guns at the course com­ple­tion. Richard says the noise will be on a par with the Speed­way fire­works dis­play.

Defence Force per­son­nel will be hand­ing out in­dus­trial strength earplugs be­fore the fir­ing, and ev­ery­one is wel­come to bring along their own ear­muffs.

PHOTO: NZ DEFENCE FORCE/SUPPLIED

A 16 Field Reg­i­ment gun crew prac­tic­ing with 105mm how­itzers for the 100 gun salute to com­mem­o­rate the be­gin­ning of WW1 last year. Two gun crews will be put through their paces, in­clud­ing blank fir­ing for Gun­ners’ Day in The Square to­mor­row.

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