Napier will receive an explosive early morning wake-up call on Thursday as three shots are fired from one of the Army's 105mm howitzers on the seafront.

The shots will be fired around 6am and as one of the first places in the country to see the sunrise, Napier will be the first of seven spots in the country where artillery gunfire will sound.

"You (Napier) will be the first in the country," New Zealand Defence Force senior communications adviser Sue Lyon said.

The event is built upon military tradition and will be carried out by a gun crew from the 16th Field Regiment, Royal New Zealand Artillery Regiment, as part of a national military salute to recognise the "dawn" of the 300th anniversary of the Royal Artillery.


The salute is part of major events around the world including a mounted review by the Queen as Captain General of the Royal Artillery on Salisbury Plain and a Royal Artillery tournament.

As the first country to see the sun, the dawn salutes will be fired first at Napier, then at North Head in Auckland, Hamilton, Waiouru, Linton, Levin, Wellington and Dunedin.

The artillery crew, which will arrive on Wednesday and be hosted by 7 HB Battalion, will set up the howitzer at the Soundshell. They will fire three rounds - one for each century of the anniversary - and will fire one shot at a time lined up to create a form of "ripple effect" on rotation from each centre involved.

The gun crew, which will number between six and 10, will be led by Lieutenant Tom Murgatroyd.

Members of the local Territorial Forces will also be in attendance.

On the other side of the world, at Salisbury Plain, the Royal New Zealand Artillery Regiment will be represented by Brigadier Evan Williams, the New Zealand Defence Force attache in London, and Lieutenant-Colonel Tony McLeod, president of the Royal New Zealand Artillery Association.

They will be accompanied by Staff Sergeant Jason Wells, a New Zealand artilleryman posted to the Royal Artillery.

The Royal New Zealand Artillery, of which the Queen has been Captain General since her Coronation in 1953, will present to the Royal Artillery a bronze gunner sculpture by well-known artist Matt Gauldie who is now a gunner in the 16 Field Regiment.

In its current form the RNZA was founded in 1947, with the amalgamation of regular and volunteer corps of artillery, and in 1958 became the Royal Regiment of New Zealand Artillery.

New Zealand artillery units fought overseas with British and Commonwealth troops in World War I, World War II and Korea, and with Australian and the United States forces in Vietnam.

The most famous New Zealand engagement was in Vietnam at the battle of Long Tan in 1966. There the accuracy of artillery fire stopped a Viet Cong regiment of about 2000 from over-running an Australian infantry company.

In appalling monsoon conditions, 161 batteries of the 16 Field Regiment fired 1100 shells in two-and-a-half hours and, together with Australian and American artillery, forced the Viet Cong to retreat with heavy loss of life.

For their part in the battle of Long Tan, New Zealand forward observer Captain Maurice Stanley was made an MBE and signaller Corporal Willie Walker was Mentioned in Dispatches.

Significant battles were also fought by 16 Field Regiment in Korea at Kapyong, and at the various battles around The Hook.

Past and present gunners around New Zealand will attend special Gunners Day 30th anniversary commemorative parades and functions at many centres to recognise the key role that artillery has played in many overseas actions.