The Silent Batteries: War Trophies of Canada

Welcome! This project intends to shed light on relics of the First World War’s Western Front scattered across Canada.  These captured weapons, in their day, were state-of-the-art. Quick-firing artillery did more than its share to turn the 1914-1918 war into a machine-age killing-spree of calamitous proportions.  Now they often sit on display beside the memorials that bear dead soldiers’ names.  The original intent was to glorify the deeds of the war-dead and the survivors, in a traditional display of the spoils of war.  Nowadays it seems ironic, poetic, or even sick to commemorate lives cut short beside the weapons which, in some cases, did the actual cutting.

For the Canadian Expeditionary Force they were also objects of pride; captures of large amounts of enemy matériel proved battalions had been tempered into shock-troops that, from April 1917 on, could overwhelm the enemy and break the deadlock.  Captured guns were proudly claimed by advancing units, and this was recorded on the guns themselves, and often in the War Diaries that units kept.  A century later, it is still possible to trace surviving guns, trench mortars, machine guns, and other odds-and-ends to specific actions. I tend to treat these pieces as artifacts in a single collection, in the style that the War Trophies Commission brought them to Canada, 1917-1919. When considered as a whole, this was, and even after a century of ravages, still is, one of the strongest collections of captured trophies in the World.

This project hopes to give folks from around Canada the tools to identify pieces, find items that I was unaware of, and bring attention back to these artifacts before it is too late.  Pages in this section will provide the database and explanation to link community guns to specific info about their history, will showcase notable examples of what has survived in Canada and what has not, and will briefly explore the great exhibits of this material that were staged across Canada soon after the War. With Canadians about to be bombarded by messaging about modern Canada having been shaped by the 1914-1918 experience of the CEF and at the home-front, time could not be more opportune.  BRING UP THE GUNS!!

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2 thoughts on “The Silent Batteries: War Trophies of Canada

  1. We have tow War Trophies on display at Boyle Barracks Yukon, Whitehorse Cadet Training Centre. I will forward photos if you wish.

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