The larger of the two cannons, the mighty 110mm K14, is one of the most important War Trophies in existence in Canada. The K14 was captured by the 27th Battalion, C.E.F. on April 9, 1917, during the attack at Farbus, near Vimy Ridge. You can read about the exciting capture of the cannon in the War Diaries of the 27th Battalion, from Bandsman Patty Smith playing the regimental march on his piccolo throughout the attack, to the final 50 yard charge to over-whelm the cannon firing point-blank muzzle rounds. The detail of the capture is so accurate, we can pinpoint the location of the gun today on Google Earth with the exact coordinates given in 1917 (50.354563, 2.826163). It's an astounding story of courage and bravery.
One of the consequences of the massive artillery bombardment during the attack on Vimy Ridge, was the absolute destruction of the terrain, and this coupled with the rain and snow made the ground almost impassable with mud. Once the Canadians gained control of their objectives they tried to move their artillery forward but found the ground just swallowed up the massive artillery pieces. At the end of day two of the battle (April 10), only a few pieces had been moved forward enough to be of any service.
The Canadians then seized some of the captured German guns and put them into action. The 6th Canadian Artillery Brigade records sending up a heavy artillery crew to put the K14 in action. In the War Diaries of the 27th Battalion it records several thousand rounds being sent back to the Germans on the guns they captured. It is also recorded in the War Trophies Allocation Report of 1920 that the K14 cannon was used by the R.GA..
So not only was the gun used by the Germans against the Canadians, but the Canadians turned the gun around and used it against the Germans. There are not many guns in existence who fought on both sides during the war!
It also turns out that the damage on the barrel of the K14 cannon was probably caused by shells fired by the 4th or 6th New Brunswick Siege Batteries. .The exact location where the K14 was captured on Vimy Ridge is well documented and when checked against fire mission records for both N.B. batteries it was discovered that both N.B. Batteries fired heavy concentrations of 8 inch high explosive shells on those very German gun positions. Thus it is very possible that the fire that cut the gouge in the barrel was inflicted by New Brunswick's Heavy Artillery!
Those NB Siege Batteries were formed in Saint John and included many men from Albert County, including Cyrus Gaskin (d. April 11, 1917). Gaskin is commemorated in the museum's First World War Roll of Honour, and was killed with the 4th Siege Battery not long after Vimy Ridge was captured as the heavies moved forward to help defend it.
Now as amazing story as that is, it gets better, with how the K14 cannon got to Hopewell Cape. As the War came to a close in 1918, the government still had the enormous costs of repatriating and settling the men who fought, so they ran a final Victory Loan Campaign. The 1919 Victory Loans Committee created goals for each area of the country to meet to raise the monies necessary. They also created a number of incentives to encourage people to meet these goals, one such incentive was the awarding of a War Trophy to the area that raised the most money over their set target. One prize was to be awarded to each
The Victory Loans Committee set a goal of $110,000.00 for Albert County, which is a sizable sum for 1919. (This would be equivalent to $2.2 million today (According to Bank of Canada Inflation index)). Albert County not only raised the set goal but surpassed it by $237,000.00 for a final total of $347,000.00. (In today's dollars $6.5 million) This was with a population less than 10000 people! The people of Albert County surpassed their set goal by the largest percentage of any area in the province, and were award the War Trophy, the 110 mm K14 cannon! What a testament for the people of Albert County!
That's not all though! It turns out that the K14 cannon is extremely rare, in fact there are only 7 left in the entire world!
Now the information we have on the two cannons couldn't be more opposite, with the 110mm K14 we know almost everything you could wish to know about the capture and history of the cannon. However, it's counterpart the 77mm FK96 field cannon (serial number 784) we know almost nothing. In the records on captured war trophies from the Great War there is nothing recorded on a 77mm cannon with the serial number 784. In the 1920 War Trophies Allocations Record it is listed, but no mention of where or when it was captured is listed.
What we do know is why this cannon sits in the square in Hopewell Cape. The 77mm FK96 was awarded to the people of Albert County in recognition of the number of men from Albert County who volunteered to fight. Albert County has the distinction of being the county with the most people per capita joining the CEF in all of Canada. A remarkable achievement and a testament to the bravery of the men from Albert County!
The Albert County Museum is in the process of restoring these Great War Trophies to their as captured condition through the Victory Cannon Campaign. The Victory Cannon Campaign currently sits at 2/3 the final goal of $15,000.00 with over $10,000.00 raised so far.
The Victory Cannon Campaign restoration plans are: New Wheels – Built from the ground up in Nova Scotia by experienced, professional Wheelwright; Refurbishment of Steel- replacing and fixing rusted sections, sand blasting, welding, etc. to stop further deterioration; New Paint- in the original camouflage, as captured condition. Cement Pad Refurbishment- bringing the cement pads the cannons rest on up to modern safety standards, fixing cracks and gaps to last another 100 years; and A New Interpretive Display- to tell the story of the cannons, and their significance to Albert County, New Brunswick and Canada.
You can donate to the Victory Cannon Campaign by going to the museum's website:
www.albertcountymuseum.com and following the links to the Victory Cannon Campaign, or by visiting the museum.