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Playground gun a WWI trophy

Tuesday, 16th April, 2019

James O’Neill when he was four years old, a few years ago, climbing over the gun in Penrose Park. PICTURE: Gavin Schmidt James O’Neill when he was four years old, a few years ago, climbing over the gun in Penrose Park. PICTURE: Gavin Schmidt

By Emily McInerney

The Penrose Park Trust, with the help of the Royal Australian Artillery Historical Company, has uncovered some fascinating history about the gun that sits at Silverton.

Trust spokeswoman Helen Murray said they had started looking into where the piece had come from because it had been in Penrose Park for as long as anyone could remember.

Mrs Murray said they had been in contact with the Royal Australian Artillery Historical Company’s collection manager, Kevin Browning, who was able to research the gun thanks to the measurements of the barrel and serial number.

It is believed to be a 105 millimetre Light Field Howitzer Model 1916 that could fire shells weighing 14.8kg over a range of 9,225 metres.

It was originally allotted to the Second Battalion Fifth Pioneer Regiment at Broken Hill as part of the first allocation of war trophies following World War I.

Trophies were allotted to units of the militia with affiliation to the capturing unit.

But in 1921, the Army was reorganised along the lines of the Australian Imperial Force and many of the militia units were disbanded.

The trophy guns held by those units may have been moved to a new location associated with the unit, returned to the Trophy Committee for redistribution or given to the local town for safe keeping, Mr Browning said.

“This gun had been captured by 32 Battalion near Etricourt, France, on September 29, 1918,” he said. “Broken Hill was to receive two guns in later allocations.”

Due to it being painted and repainted many times, Mrs Murray arranged to have it stripped back to see if there were any markings and to measure its calibre.

The Barrier Miner reported on May 4, 1920, that the gun had arrived and was at the Infantry Drill Hall in Railwaytown.

“It is all rusty and it would probably be more dangerous to the gunner than to a target to attempt to fire a charge from it,” the newspaper noted.

“It is a modern weapon of the 1917 type, and not the least interesting feature of it is the camouflage-great daubs of colour, red, green, blue, yellow, and white, splashed about its surface, apparently indiscriminately, while on the shield are marks which are evidently the results of a shell exploding not far away.”

Mr Browning said there were no further reports of the gun but it would appear the other two guns were displayed in a prominent location.

The third gun (Silverton’s) may have remained with the Army unit at their Drill Hall but eventually it was moved to Silverton.

The wheels had probably collapsed at this time and have been replaced with cart wheels.

Mrs Murray said the Trust was aiming to restore it when they had the funds.

She said they would also like to know more about the gun being moved to Silverton.

“If you know how or why it got there, we would love to hear,” she said.

Penrose Park opened in 1937 as a recreational reserve for miners and their families. 

The Penrose Park Trust manages the facility with funding from the NSW Government.

 

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