WARRNAMBOOL residents will wake up with a bang on Anzac Day morning when two historic cannon are fired before dawn to mark the start of centenary commemorations.
It will the first time in at least 50 years that blank projectiles will have been launched from the 1866 Napoleonic-era weapons brought to colonial Australia for shore defence.
“If it’s a still morning I reckon pretty much everyone in Warrnambool will hear it,” said RSL historian and long-time cannon re-enactment volunteer David McGinness.
“They will be fired in succession at 5.35am as a lead-in to our dawn service starting at 6am.
“There will be three gun crew members at each cannon and a battery commander and I will be co-ordinating at the RSL on a phone calling “fire one, fire two”.
Then about 20 minutes later, three old .303 calibre rifles will be fired just before the start of the service. The 80-pounder artillery pieces are stationed at the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village fort, where one of them is regularly fired with black gunpowder at re-enactment displays.
On Anzac morning, both will be loaded with a polystyrene wad and about a kilogram of gunpowder packed in foil.
One cannon points towards the nearby lighthouse and another is directed towards the breakwater.
Back in their early days, the cannon would have been loaded with 36-kilogram iron projectiles and packed with 10 to 13kgs of powder.
“Every window within about 300 metres behind would have been shattered,” Mr McGinness said.
“Not too many places in the world will have access to working 80-pound cannon for Anzac Day.
“From a fortification perspective, Warrnambool is quite unique.
“We have the only two operational 80-pounders in the Southern Hemisphere for demonstration purposes.
“They last would have been fired with live shells in the 1890s.”
Adding to the nostalgia will be an overnight camp in huts and tents near the Flagstaff Hill fort with the gun crew and others in World War I replica uniforms.
The centenary program will start at 5.15am with the screening of locally-produced documentaries on an outdoor screen on Cannon Hill and continue until about noon.