Centenary of ANZAC 2014-2018

Captured German Gun

The Clock Tower Memorial before remodelling, the German field gun captured by the 3rd Battalion in 1918 at Hargicourt, and the 1915 memorial fountain still in place. Anzac Day, 1947. Courtesy Dennis Jeans.

In many districts across Australia, captured German guns were allotted as trophies to Councils. One of the first of these official war trophies was a 77 M.M. German 18 pound quick firer captured by the 3rd Battalion, A.I.F., near Hargicourt on 17th September, 1918 just before the carrying of the Hindenburg line.

In early April 1920, it was sent to the headquarters of the sister battalion (2nd of the 3rd Regiment) at Belmore, Sydney as an historic memento in a district described as the birthplace of the battalion that captured it. The captured gun was placed into position in Anzac Parade, Campsie and officially unveiled by the Governor of NSW on 19th May, 1920 from beneath a blending of Australian, French, Belgian, and Russian flags the only Union Jack available floated over the platform. The gun was eventually removed due to concern it might collapse with children on it.

The unveiling was attended by the Sydney Morning Herald below is a transcript of the article which was published in the SMH on the 25 May 1920:


The unveiling by his Excellency the Governor (Sir Walter Davidson) yesterday afternoon, in Anzac Square, Campsie, of the 3nl Australian Infantry Battalion, was an epoch-making event in the life of the Canterbury Municipality. There was unbounded enthusiasm. Overhead were trailer of flags big and small. Even a backyard offering a fine point of vantage for onlookers had its gay dressing. The spectators must have numbered several thousands – among them about 1600 school children in line, and with flags proudly aloft as they marched to the square. How many more children were there was difficult even to estimate; there seemed to be few of Canterbury’s rising generation among them. Every shop window and balcony had its little sea of faces. For several hours it was a close holiday; the shops had all closed their doors.

The gun hidden beneath a blending of Australian, French, Belgian, and Russian Flags – and the only Union Jack available floated over the platform – was captured by the 3ld Australian Infantry Battalion, near Hargnicourt on September 17, 1918. The trophy had been handed to the Canterbury Municipality as the headquarters of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, of the Commonwealth military forces, to which the gun had been allotted, and whose property it will remain. It is merely in the council’s safe-keeping as an historic memento in the district which one of the speakers described as the birthplace of the battalion that captured it.

Among the big gathering were Mayor (Alderman G.F. Hocking) and the Mayoress, members of the council and their wives, General Cox. Colonel Timothy, commanding the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, Commonwealth Military Forces, and other representative citizens. His excellency was accompanied by Dame Margaret Davidson. A big body of soldierly-looking senior cadets acted as the guard of honour for his Excellency. Dame Margaret Davidson carried a bouquet, the gift of the Mayor’s daughter.

His Excellency, having been welcomed to the district, and having made the army of school children unspeakably happy by telling them he had asked for a holiday for them on Friday in honour of the day, went on to speak of the circumstances which had led up to the capture of the gun. It was the type of gun, he said, that did all the fighting in the war, apart from the heavy guns. It was the type of gun on which Germany largely staked its chance of winning the war. “We have most of these guns in our keeping now” remarked his Excellency, who went on to say that he thought over 12,000 of this type of gun were taken by the British in 1918. The gun now unveiled was taken just before the carrying of the Hindenburg Line.

At the suggestion of Private Arkins, MLA, in the unavoidable absence of the senior member of the district (Mr Cann) through pressure of work, the gathering remained silent for two minutes in memory of the dead, the band afterwards playing the hymn “O God our help in ages past”. Cheers were given for the regiment that captured the gun. The proceedings closed with a social gathering at St John’s Church of England Hall, where the ladies committee served afternoon tea.