His­tory be­hind Childers’ can­non

Isis Town and Country - - News - By MAX EMERY

AT A BLOODY bat­tle in Flan­ders in 1916, the Aus­tralian Army cap­tured a large Ger­man 210mm how­itzer.

After a long jour­ney from the other side of the world, and an even longer bu­reau­cratic path, it fi­nally came to rest in Childers.

The story of how this can­non came to be here is one of war and of dogged de­ter­mi­na­tion by mem­bers of the early Isis Shire Coun­cil.

On De­cem­ber 2, 1918, Isis Shire Coun­cil’s shire clerk Mr H. Epps wrote to the Fed­eral Mem­ber for Wide Bay, Ed­ward Corser, ask­ing him to “take such ac­tion as will se­cure to this dis­trict, two at least field guns with which to adorn the memo­rial when erected”.

Mr Corser, re­ply­ing from the Fed­eral Par­lia­ment in Mel­bourne, stated: “The dis­tri­bu­tion of war tro­phies will be de­ferred un­til the fi­nal ship­ment has been re­ceived from over­seas”.

War tro­phies were to be al­lo­cated ac­cord­ing the size and im­por­tance of the trophy, with the larger towns hav­ing pri­or­ity.

On this ba­sis, it was con­sid­ered that Childers did not qual­ify for the al­lo­ca­tion of a large field gun.

But Isis Shire Coun­cil ar­gued that “some 360 men en­listed from Childers, with 85 not re­turn­ing from the war”.

Childers was ini­tially al­lo­cated a ma­chine gun, much to the coun­cil’s dis­plea­sure.

“To sug­gest that a ma­chine gun ad­e­quately ex­presses that part this dis­trict has played in the Great War ... is so ab­surd as to only arise from a want of ap­pre­ci­a­tion as to the fact and to the im­por­tance of this as the cen­tre,” the coun­cil re­sponded.

This de­bate went back and forth be­tween Isis, the Fed­eral Par­lia­ment and the Queens­land State Trophy Com­mit­tee in Mel­bourne.

A let­ter from Mr Corser dated March 14, 1922, no­ti­fied the Childers coun­cil mem­bers they had fi­nally re­ceived what they had been fight­ing for – one field gun.

Ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial doc­u­men­ta­tion, the 210mm how­itzer was fi­nally al­lot­ted to Childers on May 29, 1922 and was despatched in Septem­ber 1922.

The of­fi­cial al­lot­ment form said Childers was also al­lot­ted one ma­chine gun on June 27, 1921 and a 75mm trench mor­tar.

For Mr Epps, the strug­gle to gain this can­non had been per­sonal.

Two of his sons had en­listed in 1916. Robert, aged 19, was wounded in France and re­turned to Aus­tralia. James was killed in ac­tion on Fe­bru­ary 18, 1917, just short of his 21st year.

Lt James Epps is buried in Ar­men­tieres.

Through Mr Epps and lo­cal Fed­eral mem­ber Mr Corser, Childers gained a ma­jor trophy.

Only two 210mm guns were cap­tured and Childers’ how­itzer is the only one of its type in Queens­land.

It is pos­si­bly the only one sur­viv­ing in Aus­tralia.

The how­itzer was man­u­fac­tured in Essen Ger­many in 1916 by Fried Krupp and was cap­tured in Flan­ders by the Aus­tralian Army.

It was pre­sented to the Com­mon­wealth of Aus­tralia by the French Gov­ern­ment and in 1922 came to Childers to be used as a memo­rial to the young men who en­listed from the Isis re­gion.

The can­non re­mains to­day a strong re­minder to all of the com­mit­ments and price paid by the young men of Childers and Isis dur­ing the Great War of 1914–1918.

PHOTO: MATTHEW MCIN­ER­NEY

MEMO­RIAL: Wreaths laid at the base of the big gun.

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