The Howitzer Gun
Military Seaham County Durham

The Howitzer Gun

Military In Seaham, County Durham

A 5.5 inch Howitzer Gun to celebrate Seaham's links to the Royal Artillery and coastal defence during WWII.

While Seaham is well known for its “Tommy” sculpture by Ray Lonsdale, it is also the location of another tribute to the armed forces, “The Howitzer Gun”, which sits in an area of grass behind Featherbed Rocks, where the town's northern gun battery was situated.

The Howitzer Gun is not a sculpture as such but is actually a decommissioned 5.5 inch British Medium Gun of the type used extensively by the British Army during World War II. The gun is around 7.5m in length and 2.6m in height and was designed to fire high-explosive shells over long distances, providing vital support to the infantry on land and navy as part of coastal defence networks.

Seaham played a vital role in the defence of the British coastline during WWII and this type of gun would have been used during German bombing raids. It has a hydro-pneumatic recoil system, could fire two rounds per minute and would have been operated by 10 personnel.

The history of Seaham's links with this type of artillery go back much further than the 1940s however. Raised in 1860 by the Vane-Tempest family the 2nd (Seaham) Durham Artillery Volunteer Corps embodied the spirit of volunteerism and patriotism that pervaded at this time.

The corps' origins lie in the tense atmosphere of the early 1860s. Fearing a potential French invasion, Britain witnessed a surge in volunteer movements. The Vane-Tempest family, influential landowners who had significantly developed the town of Seaham, saw a need for local defence. Frances Vane, Marchioness of Londonderry, took the initiative, equipping a company drawn from the ranks of Seaham Colliery workers. This marked the birth of the 2nd Durham AVC on March 14th, 1860.

By the late 19th century, the corps boasted a well-equipped force, regularly participating in drills, competitions, and national reviews. Their dedication paid off, as they secured numerous prestigious awards, including the National Artillery Prize and the Queen's Prize.

The true test of the corps arrived with the outbreak of World War I. Transitioning from a volunteer force to the Territorial Force, the Seaham unit deployed to the Western Front as field artillery. Facing the horrors of trench warfare, they played a vital role in supporting frontline troops. Their bravery and resilience earned them the respect of their peers and solidified their reputation as a formidable fighting force.

The Howitzer Gun is a fitting monument to Seaham's military past and it was unveiled on the 13th April 2023 by local councillors and representative of the Royal Artillery at a public ceremony.

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Parking is available nearby at the Terrace Green Car Park.

Contributed by Andrew Gardner

I love being outdoors, in nature, and experiencing the relaxation it brings. Wandering through the northern countryside seeing unexpected buildings, historic places and occasionally surprised wildlife is one of life's great pleasures.

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Andrew Gardner

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The Howitzer Gun was listed in Military // County Durham // Seaham