WW I trench warfare guns found in Manitoba shed
Thursday, April 17, 2008
ST. ANDREWS, Manitoba – After collecting dust in the back of a Public Works storage shed for decades, three forgotten World War I weapons were recently rediscovered and donated to the Royal Canadian Artillery (RCA) Museum in Shilo, Manitoba.
Staff at the Public Works site thought the weapons were Canadian. But museum staff immediately recognized them as being German, two MG-08 machine guns, and a 24-centimetre Flugel-Minen Werfer (mortar). The weapons are in remarkably good condition but missing many of the parts that would allow them to function.
"Canadian soldiers fought and died capturing these," said Marc George, Director of the RCA Museum. "They´ve been sitting in obscurity for years … and it´s good to have them back."
"This is a cool moment. This mortar was captured by Canadian troops 90 years ago and it´s just now returning into the hands of the Canadian Army," said Mr. George. "It´s very rare, I would be surprised if there was another one in Canada. There were never many made and only a handful left that we know of," he said, excited by the find.
There were probably fewer than 200 of the mortars manufactured, but they had a devastating effect on the battlefield. Deployed at the frontlines and used extensively to destroy trench lines in preparation for assaults, each mortar had a crew of 42 men. Each round weighed 100 kilograms and had a maximum range of 1300 metres. On impact, the round would create craters 6 metres wide and 3 metres deep.
Accounts from soldiers of the day described the bomb as easy to see in flight. Sentries would watch for incoming rounds. If the launch was spotted, they could track the bomb and alert soldiers in the target area to take cover, with as much as a minute to clear the area before impact.
How the weapons ended up in a storage shed near the St Andrews Lock and Dam, on the Red River about 20 kilometres north of Winnipeg, may never be known. An area supervisor, seeing them wasting away, suggested they belonged in a museum. Shortly afterwards, an on-site manager watched a war documentary featuring the RCA Museum in Shilo; he found the program very interesting and saw a solution to the weapons issue. A phone call was all it took to arrange a new home for the weapons.
"We really don´t know why the guns were here, they just were," said Brent Murray, Superintendent of Marine Facilities at the St Andrews Lock and Dam. "When I first started here years ago there were old stories that the guns were mounted on the bridge, but no one is really sure about that."
"We´re going to miss these guns," he added, "but we really thought they should be in the proper place, like a museum."
Article and photos by Sgt Dennis Power, Army News, Shilo