Gerry de Vries (above left) is undoubtedly the most experienced cannon authority in South Africa and probably the Southern Hemisphere. We are very privileged to have him resident in Cape Town. Before he retired from the SA Navy, as Cdr de Vries, he was the Officer Commanding at Wingfield Base and amongst his assigned duties was the staffing of resident personnel at Cape Town’s Lion Battery where the noon gun is fired daily. His responsibilities included the training of gunners which led him to take great interest in the Cape’s cannons in general having a fascination for their individual history and locations.
Gerry’s interest extended to the co-authoring of a book with the late Jonathan Hall called “Muzzel Loading Cannon of South Africa”. It has been revised over the years and is now the de facto standard work on the subject for the whole of South Africa. Since retiring from the Navy, Gerry has pioneered the restoration of many cannons around the country. The above picture shows Gerry and his son Leon working on the restoration of the first of the eight 18 pounder guns at Hout Bay’s East Fort. The most challenging job was the clearing of the vents and barrels of 200 years of debris after which the guns were found to be in very good condition. Thereafter the guns were proofed with the help of Hout Bays Master Gunner (the late Peter Gibb) in collaboration with the SAPS Forensic Explosives Dept and given the “OK”.
Gerry subsequently went on to establish the “Cannon Association of South Africa” in which he is still very active.
Gerry de Vries (left) is seen here in 2001 commencing the restoration of the first of East Forts 8 cannons.