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Army gift to New Zealand museum

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THURSDAY, MARCH 15, 1979. NO. 49/79 .


A replica of possibly the first example of modem

weaponry to be manufactured in Australia is to be presented

to the New Zealand Army Memorial Museum next week.

It is a 5^ in. Coehorn mortar forged in Sydney

in 1845 for use by British troops in the Maori wars in

New Zealand. '

The replica, made by Australian Army craftsmen

of the Adelaide Workshop Company, will be presented to the

Museum at Waiouru by the Chief of the General Staff,

Lieutenant General D.B. Dunstan, on Monday (March 19),

during an official visit.

Lieutenant General Dunstan leaves Australia today

and returns on 23 March during which time he will have

routine discussions with the New Zealand Chief of the General

Staff, Major General B.M. Poananga, and other senior Service

officers on subjects of mutual military interest.

Attached are a photograph and brief description

of the Coehorn mortar.

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Further Inquiries; Captain Brian Cummins 65 2999 (office hours) 26 2161 (after hours)


' In 1845, a number of 5% inch Coehorn mortars were

manufactured in Sydney for use by British regular soldiers iii>

New Zealand. They were cast in the foundry of Peter Nicol .

Russell to the design of Captain Gother Kerr Mann, a

retired officer of the Royal Bombay Horse Artillery who

became an Army engineer, then a civil engineer, in Sydney.

The weapons were despatched to New Zealand in

time to be used at Ruapekapeka Pa (the Bat's Nest) in the

war against Hone Heke and Kawiti. ,

The Coehorn mortar was invented by Baron Van Menno

Coehorn, a Dutch soldier and military engineer, of Swedish

extraction, who was born at Leeuwarden in Friesland. The

first recorded use of the Coehorn mortar was in the seige

of Grave in 1673 and they caused the French garrison

considerable trouble.

The first mention of the use of the Coehorn by

the British army was the employment of 20 mortars by ,

General Oglethorpe in his bombardment of St Augustin, Quebec, in

1740. This Coehorn was of 4 2/5 inch calibre and fired

two types of projectiles, a type of incendiary shell and

an explosive shell. These mortars were still in use in .

, Gambia and British Honduras in 1924..

The mortar was never mounted on a wheeled carriage,

but was always fired from its bed at a fixed angle.

Reports and despatches of early battles in New

Zealand were sent to Whitehall and to Sydney and one of the

requirements which was clearly delineated for future operations

was the need for a weapon of "portability with sufficient

accuracy of range and direction to throw a shell at from . .

500 to 600 yards into an enclosure air among large bodies

V, . .

. . . / 2

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of men".

Mann's mortar differed from the standard British

Coehorn on a number of counts, apart from the calibre.

Firstly, the external configuration was cup-like (pot-like)

rather than the cylindrical barrel normally adopted.

Presumably this was to save weight. The chamber, too,

was conical rather than cylindrical. Mann expressed doubts - .

that the shape of the chamber was the best design and drew

an outline plan for a second mortar some time after having \

a report from New Zealand upon the effectiveness of the

first, ones used there. Finally, for New Zealand the mcrtafs

were mounted on a "piece of two inch plank 24" X 16" designed

to keep the mortar portable - in fact, "capable of being

carried by two or three men".

Perhaps the best evaluation of the Coehorn is

told by an old chief of the Ngapuhi tribe contained in

the book "Old New Zealand":the old chief refers to the

Coehorns as "pot-guns".

"The ρόέ-guns (mortars) had shot which were hollow;

and were full of gun-powder, and they came tumbling into

the pa one after another, and they would hardly be on the

ground before they would burst with a great noise, and no

sooner would one burst than another would burst; and so

they came one after another so fast that the people in th<=

pa could get no rest, and were getting quite deaf."

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