After a year ‘under wraps’ the Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre can reveal a star-studded exhibit – an ultra-rare machine gun recovered after nearly 75 years under water.
The Vickers ‘K’ Gun was brought up last autumn by the PDST Dive Group from the site of Sunderland T9044, which sank in the Milford Haven Waterway in 1940.
In remarkable condition, the gun underwent initial conservation work by Trust Volunteers, led by the late Mike Hurley.
It was soon realised that the gun might be capable of being brought back into action and it was entrusted to firearms and explosives consultant George Geear, of Chapel Bay Fort Museum, Angle. George arranged for the weapon to be deactivated and officially ‘proofed’, a process which took several months to complete.
Now the gun is back with the Sunderland Trust and on view at the Heritage Centre, alongside many other artefacts recovered from T9044 – itself a unique wartime survivor. The deactivation and proofing was funded through a generous donation from the Maritime Air Trust.
George Geear said: “Also known as the Vickers Gas Operated gun, this is a hugely significant discovery. Once so numerous, these guns are now so rare and there are very few in UK collections.”
Also delighted the Vickers is on public view are Dive Group members Nick Hammond and Will Fenneberg, who brought it up in September 2013, on the day helped by Chris Gammon and Rik Saldanha.
Added Nick: “The Mark I Sunderlands had a single Vickers ‘K’ in the front turret and we are so pleased to have been able to recover such a rare item. Many hours of conservation work were put in at the workshop by Mike Hurley and colleague Pat James. Sadly, Mike died in June but this gun, now in such amazing condition, is a legacy of his skills and dedication.”
Earlier this year major parts of the front turret of T9044 were brought up by the Dive Group and are undergoing conservation. In time the Vickers will be ‘reunited’ with its turret.
Sunderland T9044 is protected by a 100 metre Exclusion Zone from the Port of Milford Haven and only Sunderland Trust Divers are licenced to dive on and recover items from the site.
The Vickers ‘K’ Gun is on view at the Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre – in the Royal Dockyard Chapel – Mondays to Saturdays, 10 am to 4 pm.