18th Battalion Howitzer Mystery

On my first visit to the Canadian War Museum when it was located at the Dominion Archives building there was a large artillery piece at the entrance. My recollection is this gun was placarded as having been captured by the 18th Battalion. I made note of this as this was the battalion that my grandfather had fought with during his service with the Canadian Expeditionary Forces.

1910 210 mm Morser Howitzer. Credit: Canadian War Museum.

When the Canadian War Museum was moved to its current location, I was able to visit again as it is now located in the LeBreton Gallery. It stands amongst a range of military technology from the First World War until this century. It stands in stark contrast to the sleek, albeit huge 1960s fighter, the CF-101 Voodoo.

Its capture (for now) is virtually a complete mystery. Its capture is attributed to the 18th Battalion. Yet, the War Diary makes no mention of this event, nor does any of the notes in the appendices. An exhaustive effort to research these specific documents has not been completed but, as far as this author can recollect, there is no mention in any news clipping, soldier’s memory, or letter in the 7-years of research done about the Battalion.

The information found, so far, about this gun is limited.

An online blog, WHERE THE GUNS ARE NOW: War Trophies Database[i] furnished the following details from their database. The howitzer is a 210 mm Morser 1910 pattern and was assigned as a War Trophy to the City of Hamilton, Ontario. There is a transport note referencing the date June 26, 1926 and the railway moving this gun was the Canadian Pacific Railway. There is a photograph of the gun at the site stating: “Canadian War Museum gun 679 was originally on display at Dundurn Park, Hamilton. Captured by the 18th Battalion, action unknown.”

The mystery howitzer. Photographed in 1979 at Dundurn Park. Note the difference in barrel length between this photograph and the one above. The barrel has somehow moved forward in its breech, though it does not appear to be full length. Source: Daniel McLaughlin Dundurn Park, – Hamilton, Ontario 1979 via FLICKR.

This gun was located at Hamilton from 1921 until at least 1997 and was sent to the Canadian War Museum and was, if my recollection is correct, sat outside the main entrance of the museum when it was located at the Dominion Archives Building.

The question still stands – where the heck did this trophy come from? There is no mention of it in the War Diary or any other document reviewed by the author. Yet, something over 6,000 kg that was saved from scrapping after the war and shipped at tax-payers expense to Canada has no provenance. It may be the only sample of its kind fitted with its original “shoes” used to help transport and move this heavy gun over soft ground. It also has its sight mounted and is stuck in partial recoil.

Many of these guns are located throughout Canada. Many of them were used in anger at Allied troops and were captured and collected to be sent to communities as a reminder of the sacrifices and experiences of the men and women who participated in the war. Hopefully, the history of this howitzer can be discovered in time to help complete the picture of its connection to the 18th Battalion.


[i] WHERE THE GUNS ARE NOW: War Trophies Database. (2021). Retrieved 3 December 2021, from https://warsearcher.com/the-silent-batteries-war-trophies-of-canada/war-trophies-allocation-and-details-database/

One thought on “18th Battalion Howitzer Mystery

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  1. Hi Eric…a question…..why was the gun moved from Hamilton to the War Museum?? I have an interest in war trophies as we have a German Howitzer here in Uxbridge that was captured by the 116th in a VC action. When I drive through Haliburton the main drag has quite a collection of captured German trophies. Your point is well taken regarding any detail in its arrival here or how it was captured. Great story of interest. Oh…Pierre Berton writes poetically about the guns shipped to Dawson City?? Well the yukon anyway……and all the sweat and expense from start to finish.

    Bye for now,

    Glenn

    On Fri, Dec 3, 2021 at 2:52 PM War Diary of the 18th Battalion CEF wrote:

    > Eric Edwards posted: ” On my first visit to the Canadian War Museum when > it was located at the Dominion Archives building there was a large > artillery piece at the entrance. My recollection is this gun was placarded > as having been captured by the 18th Battalion. I made note of ” >

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