Local trophies are retired Canadian weapons, not German guns

November 5, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Brian Lockhart

When you attend a Remembrance Day service at a park, or pass by a Legion or a local armoury, you have probably seen an artillery cannon, mortar, or some other kind of military hardware mounted on display.

They are located across the country in parks and next to cenotaphs, inscribed with the names of the fallen from two World Wars, Korea, Afghanistan, and various other incursions around the world.

Those big artillery pieces are a reminder of sacrifice and the destruction that war will bring.

Most people don’t give them a lot of thought. When something is permanently mounted in a park, it just becomes one of the fixtures. A lot of people assume they are just old surplus weapons that were handed out when no longer needed.

However, some people are surprised to find out that many of those howitzers, field guns, and mortars are actually captured German arms from the First World War.

Near the end of the war, Allied forces were overrunning the German defenses.

Canadian troops would often chalk their unit number on a captured gun as a proud identifier of their success.

Thousands of enemy guns, mortars, and machine guns were taken as the end of the war approached.

Many of them were shipped back to Canada as war trophies.

The list included 516 artillery pieces, over 400 trench mortars, 3,500 light and heavy machine guns and 44 aircraft.

Initially the plan was to create a national war museum to house the collection. That museum idea never really took off and was either delayed or ignored by government officials.

Eventually communities, veterans groups, schools, and military units, started making requests for the trophies.

They were distributed across the country and displayed in parks, near prominent buildings, and along side local war memorials.

Many were actually melted down during the Second World War and turned into artillery pieces, with the guns now firing back at the German forces.

Many communities still have these war trophies on display as a reminder of the valiant effort of Canadian soldiers during the Great War.

While the guns located in Orangeville, at Alexandra Park, are incredible pieces, they didn’t come from Germany. They were, in fact, retired Canadian weapons from around the era of the First World War. They have stood in their place in Orangeville for “many, many, many years”, according to both the local Legion and the Museum of Dufferin. 

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