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Volunteers working to restore ‘national treasure’ from WW I

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BerichtGeplaatst: 22 Feb 2013 19:16    Onderwerp: Volunteers working to restore ‘national treasure’ from WW I Reageer met quote

Niagara volunteers working to restore ‘national treasure’ from First World War

The guys look at the old gun with a mixture of awe and respect and curiosity and wonder. They run their hands over the peeling, rusting metal. They shine lights into dark corners. They bash it with a hammer. They try to imagine what it must have been like almost a century ago when Canadian soldiers captured it from the German in the Battle of Vimy Ridge. And they are more determined than ever to make this heirloom whole again so its story can be shared.

Doug Reece hovers over the huge weapon that is being lovingly – if not always delicately – restored in a back garage of Ground Aerial Maintenance company property in south Niagara Falls.

“This is an important piece of Canadian history,” Reece says. “We didn’t even know what we had for the longest time. It just sat out there by a road and people used to climb on it and sit on it and eat their lunches.”

Reece, a former member of the Lincoln and Welland Regiment and now part of the unit’s Foundation that has taken on this gun salvation project, says the push is on to get it completed in time to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War next year. It’s a tight timeline, though, and he admits 2017, the centenary of Vimy Ridge, might be more realistic.

In either case, it’s going to happen.

John Richmond is heading up the involvement of the Garrison Community Council of Niagara, which has partnered with the Lincs and Winks Foundation in the restoration endeavour.

The gun was manufactured by Krupp Armaments in 1914. It’s a horse-drawn, 105-mm weapon that was used to launch gas shells at the Canadian forces storming Vimy. However, on April 16, 1917 the gun was captured by soldiers of the 7th Batallion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

“That was a pivotal point for Canada,” says Richmond. “That’s when heads started to turn and people realized these Canadians were pretty good tacticians. They did what the French couldn’t do. They did what the British couldn’t do. They took Vimy Ridge.

“This gun was alongside a railway. It was pulled by horses and mounted on a carriage with wooden-spoke wheels. When the Canadians came up the ridge they were able to capture the gun and turn it around 180 degrees and fire it back at the Germans. The gunners spun it around and put the shells up the snout and started firing.”

Richmond says the Canadians were able to do this because their training included use of enemy weapons.

“Whoever thought of that was a pretty smart guy.”

The gun was eventually transported back to Canada as a wartime souvenir and wound up in front of the village school in Queenston around 1920. When the Niagara Parkway was realigned, the gun was found to be a traffic hazard and moved to a Niagara-on-the-Lake farm and eventually a Parks Canada storage shed. A few years ago it was discovered by volunteers from the Lincoln and Welland Regiment Museum, who decided to do a little research.

“We found out it’s a national treasure,” says Richmond.

Brothers Larry and Jim Vaughan of Ground Aerial Maintenance were contacted and asked if he could help move the gun to a location for repairs. They not only agreed, but also volunteered space where the work could be completed.

“It’s just something that needs to be done,” says Larry Vaughan. “It’s an important piece of our military history – of our country’s history – and I’m pleased to help in any way I can.”

Fundraising is under way to help pay for the work, but much will be done by local volunteers. The carriage, for example, is already under construction and the wheels have been rebuilt with 100-year-old hardwood.

“Our goal is to get it back to battlefield condition,” says Reece. “When it’s done it will be part of the new Lincoln and Welland museum, but there is no reason it can’t be paraded for significant events.

“You look at this now – the metal is paper thin in some places and you can put your fingers right through it. But saving it is of real importance. When people see it and put their hands on it, they get a real visual of all those who died and served.”

For more information on the project or to donate, please go
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