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Nov 27, 2017 5:01 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach Resident Refurbishes Century-Old Spanish Cannon

Left to right, restorer John Berdinka, Westhampton Beach Trustee Ralph Urban, Westhampton Beach Mayor Maria Moore and Westhampton Beach Historical Society President Jon Stanat. KATE RIGA
Nov 29, 2017 4:15 PM

A 93-year-old cannon stands gleaming at the edge of the lawn in front of the Westhampton Beach Historical Society.

Several decades ago, the now newly refurbished cannon had traveled all the way to Westhampton Beach, having originated in the winding streets of 1924 Seville, Spain. It was a country then on the brink of a vicious civil war.

Though the cannon’s 4,000-mile journey remains shrouded in mystery, a neighbor, Westhampton Beach Historical Society President Jon Stanat, several years ago felt enough investment in the relic to enlist village leaders and a local restoration hobbyist to help save it.

Mr. Stanat first reached out to Gordon Blaker, curator at the U.S. Army Field Artillery Museum at Fort Sill in Oklahoma, to pinpoint the cannon’s origins and what was needed to renew its former glory.

“He suggested that the rust needs to be removed or neutralized, and that it then needs to be coated with a POR (paint over rust) paint,” Mr. Stanat wrote in a letter to Westhampton Beach Village Mayor Maria Moore dated December 12, 2016. “Also, the wooden spokes on the wheels need to be treated with epoxy and painted.”

Mr. Stanat asked the village for $500 for materials to assist John Berdinka, a Westhampton resident, restoration hobbyist and retired supervisor of the Southampton Town Highway Department, with his free-of-charge refurbishment services.

The Village Board followed through on Mr. Stanat’s request nearly four months later in a resolution in April, allocating $500 from a “publicity” fund to assist Mr. Berdinka with the materials he’d need for the project.

“It took six weeks,” said Mr. Berdinka in a recent interview, gesturing to the cannon he had finished so quickly. He added that the work did not challenge him any more than the antique cars he likes to fix up, and that he was not intimidated by the new territory. “Well, I did have to borrow a band saw,” he conceded.

During his work, Mr. Berdinka stumbled upon an inscription that may elucidate how the cannon arrived at its current home. A plaque affixed to the cannon says that the Klein family donated the weapon to the village on November 11, 1985, in honor of John E. Klein. Mr. Stanat intends to do more research into Mr. Klein to discover how he got it in the first place.

The cannon’s origins are much more concrete. It is a Spanish 7-cm Schneider Mountain Gun, produced a decade before the Spanish Civil War raged from 1936 to 1939. The conflict pitted the leftist Republicans of the Spanish government against the conservative Nationalists. Nearly 1,000 Americans joined in the fight on the side of the Republicans in an international brigade, many feeling that the war represented a struggle between democracy and fascism. After nearly three years, the Nationalists won, ushering in General Francisco Franco’s 36-year reign.

This specific cannon was made to be easy to assemble and disassemble for rapid troop movement through mountainous terrain. According to information from the U.S. Army Field Artillery Museum, it could be taken apart into five pieces and easily transported on horses or mules.

It weighs 223 pounds and could fire 12 rounds per minute for two minutes, hurling projectiles nearly 1,500 yards. There were about 200 of the cannons in use during the war, 56 of them utilized by the Republican side.

“Our cannon has some historic significance and is, at this point, somewhat rare and deserving of care,” said Mr. Stanat.

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Amazing, a cannon that truly has absolutely no historical relevance to Westhampton, Southampton Town, Suffolk County, Long Island, NYS or the U.S.A.. !!!
By pw herman (1135), southampton on Nov 28, 17 11:24 AM
1 member liked this comment
How about just acknowledging it is an interesting piece of world history and they did a nice job of restoring it.
By Preliator Lives (304), Obamavillie on Dec 5, 17 8:58 AM