War Trophies Allocation and Details Database: WHERE THE GUNS ARE NOW

Here is the link to my database project of 1914-1918 War Trophies in Canada: Database of First World War Trophies in Canada©* This database is current to April, 2015. Transcribing the War Trophies ledger in the Library and Archives Canada collection to excel over the summer and early fall of 2013 and then adding nifty details from other sources was a labour of love, yet the volume of data-entry and minute attention to detail required many hours of tedium…which friends and family then had to hear about in agonizing detail!**

Some explanatory notes will help with consulting this resource: Items coded green are still in existence. I am hoping this project will have interested folks from all over identify many more items that have survived, and am seeking feedback to keep this list updated. If you are aware of a surviving First World War war trophy (usually a captured artillery piece) in a Canadian community, please leave a comment on this page.  Note that 1939-1945 items, as well as British, American, or Canadian artillery, are not part of this project at present. War Trophies that were sent to Newfoundland by imperial authorities are also be part of this project, even though Newfoundland was not federated into Canada until 1949. Their provenance records are harder to come by.  The fairly detailed listing of trophies is thanks to the generous help of Craig Tucker at the Rooms Provincial Archives, who sent me the 1922 Journal of the House of Assembly of Newfoundland, pp.152-53, which has a listing (without serial numbers or exact info about caliber).  For all trophies, Items coded blue are possibly still in existence, and I am seeking evidence of their survival. Items coded orange are problem items needing further investigation.  The communities the pieces were originally allocated to are listed, in the same text used in the ledger.

When known, the type of trophy is identified: FG is Field Gun, How. is Howitzer, TM is Trench Mortar, MG is Machine Gun, and there are some more unique entries.  Serial no. is usually deeply inscribed on Rheinmetall and Krupp manufactured cannon, at the rear of the breech block immediately above the opening for inserting the shell.  Normally it is written as “Nr. ___”  Sometimes I note later on the carriage no. of the gun.  This can often be found at the base of the trail towing ring at the rear of the carriage.  Trench Mortars are identified by the serial no. found somewhere on the barrel.  They had many other serial numbers for other parts such as the bed and the mounting, and these rarely match up.  Machine Guns often have a large serial no. inscribed in numerals on top of the gun (along with the maker and type) between the feed slots for the cloth belt of bullets. Early MG08s had this number on top of the rear of the “fusee spring” cover which is a strange long lever-shaped object on the left side of the gun (looking forward). This number should be repeated on other components like the cooling sleeve around the barrel, the back sight, the rear of the gun, and is sometimes abbreviated to the last few digits.  On Spandau manufactured guns,watch for minuscule “a”, “c”, and “d” after the numbers, as these indicate whole different production series (Spandau avoided moving to 5-digit serial numbers-serial numbers go something like this: 0-9999, no letter, 10000-19999, minuscule “a,” first digit will be omitted, 30000-39999, minuscule “c,” no first digit, 40000-49999, minuscule “d,” no first digit. This made no sense to me until an expert, Bob Brown, went to the effort of mailing me the relevant chapter of Dolf Goldsmith’s The Devil’s Paintbrush. Sir Hiram Maxim’s Gun.  For some reason there does not seem to have ever been any guns with serial numbers in the “b” range produced (20000-29999).  For DWM manufactured guns, serial numbers up to 5 digits appear on fusee covers or upper stamp.  Given how complicated this is, I do not believe the War Trophies ledger or most of the staff working with the War Trophies Commission would have understood this.  Even if they did, their system did not distinguish between Spandau and DWM manufactured guns, so there would be no way in the documents to distinguish between the two, provided they were in the range Nr. 1-9999.  MG trophy types included the MG08, the lighter MG08/15, and the air-cooled lMG08/15.  Most, whether noted as “heavy” in the file or not, will be MG08s.  A small quantity of imperial Russian model 1910 Maxim guns, recognizable by their small wheeled carriages with shields, had been captured by the Germans on the Eastern Front, shipped west, and captured again by Canadian battalions.  These were part of the War trophies displays and early Ottawa collection, but unfortunately do not seem to have survived.

The next column contains scrapping info, when known.  “LSC” refers to Local Salvage Committees, formed during WW2, to scrap trophies for the war effort.  Several pieces marked LSC in the ledger have been found to still exist.  “Claimed by” is fairly obvious, though some abbreviations of units of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) might be problematic.  The best online source for these would be the CEF study group listing of battalions, whose parent site is a fabulous resource for most things CEF 1914-1919.  Numbered battalions are, unless noted, Canadian Infantry Battalions.  Capture info is clear, and cardinal reference points are abbreviated (eg. NW for North-West).  “AC notes” brings in a wealth of additional details (or absolutely nothing!) the author has come across.  I have added info about where the trophy has ended up, more details from another itemized list of trophies, first-hand impressions, War Diaries entries from relevant units about specific actions/captures, and anything else of interest from other random sources I have consulted.  “HS” refers to Major (Ret.d) Harold Skaarup, whose excellent published works and his illustrated companion web-sites, here, have provided the most significant info about what is still out there.  In this section I also usually identify the model info of the trophy, to distinguish it from other weapons of similar type.  Wikipedia has most of these types described, using the standard texts on German First World War artillery by Herbert Jäger and Ian Hogg, and links to the Lovett collection and the French site “passion.compassion” which has photos of all relevant types (though its international listing is incomplete in terms of the wealth of remaining Canadian trophies). I have naturally focused my additional research into trophies that I know still exist.

The last column, from the original ledger, indicates what rail line (usually Canadian Pacific, Grand Trunk Railways, Canadian National) was used to ship the trophy to the community, and on what day it arrived there.  This could be used to check local newspapers for relevant reports of the trophies’ arrival and initial reception into communities.  One interesting fact is that the GTR transcontinental system was in financial difficulties, and the network was eventually placed under control of Canadian National on July 12th, 1920, which is reflected in the ledger)  Lastly, Machine guns (MG08s, MG08/15s, and lMG08/15s) were part of the original ledger.  Rather than enter all 2,500 entries, I have only entered guns that I know are still in existence. This listing is evolving, and I can be contacted for specific requests to check the original ledger against known MGs.

a003509-v8Cambrai guns

Canadian Official photo O-3597 (Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/PA-003509) of trophies captured at Cambrai by Canadian units, Nov. 1918. This photo gives a good idea of the range and disposition of most trophies: many 7.7 cm Field Guns, many light trench mortars, some 10.5 cm howitzers (short and long) and some medium trench mortars in the foreground, and what appears to be a huge number of MGs laid out on the ground in front. It also gives a good idea why specific info about the pieces could be lost or jumbled-up.

Canadian War Records office Official photograph O-3601, in the same series as the above, shows the crescent of guns from the other direction. Interesting pieces include an Austrian infantry gun, several old 105mm short howitzers without recoil systems (sFH98), and at least one gun with a blown muzzle.

Canadian War Records office Official photograph O-3601,(Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/PA-003557)  in the same series as the above, shows the crescent of guns from the other direction. Interesting pieces include an Austrian infantry gun, several old 105mm short howitzers without recoil systems (sFH98), and at least one gun with a blown muzzle.

*This is copyrighted material. It is more than just the original War Trophies allocation ledger, as it has been enhanced by the author and contains intellectual property generated as a result of original research.  See the terms and conditions for claiming copyright in “about copyright.”

** When I began this project, I believed this to be the only digitized version of this ledger (transposed to electronic spreadsheet) in existence.  Near the end of my data-entry phase I became aware of Bill Smy’s and Dion Loach’s word and excel version(s) of this same ledger (Library and Archives Canada, RG 37 Vol. 688), available on the CEF study group site.  These very usefully contain a complete listing of the Machine Guns that were allocated. I did not consult this until later, in attempting to add detail to specific problem guns.  I acknowledge on a case-by-case basis when I added detail from these sources.  Although I list whenever appropriate what items I have added that were not included in the original ledger, these other documents offer a more faithful copy of the original info, whereas my database attempts to identify what is still in existence and insert as much detail from other credible sources and visual examination as I possibly can.  One shortcoming of the Vol. 688 ledger is that it only lists trophies that were allocated and sent out, mostly from Toronto and Ottawa.  The many items kept back in Ottawa for the proposed museum (a selection of the most important trophies) are not therefore included. I have searched out a number of additional sources which have given me a fairly good idea of this special collection (mostly scrapped), and this has also been added.

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3 thoughts on “War Trophies Allocation and Details Database: WHERE THE GUNS ARE NOW

  1. Brandtford has a german field gun out side their armoury and 2 at the museum. Collingwood has a French field gun outside their museum.

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