WORLD WAR I PRESENTATION STORY
On November 1, the Galt Museum in Lethbridge hosted a presentation discussing the last gun fired at the end of World War I.
The presentation, done as a Heritage Fair Project by 7th grader Abigail Reimer, was done because she wanted to know more about a gun that she had seen in September 2016, when the Reimer family when they went to the Mons Memorial Museum in Mons, Belgium.
“I saw the gun at the top of a flight of stairs and immediately had to know more about it,” Reimer said. “This gun had a plaque saying that it was given to the City of Mons by Canada and so we thought it was the gun from Lethbridge.”
In January 2018, Reimer decided she needed to know more about the gun she saw and so her mother contacted Captain McDonald and was put in contact with retired Warrant Officer Glenn Miller, a man served in the Royal Canadian Artillery.
“We arranged a meeting and he told us that we saw one of two guns given to the City of Mons by Canada and the gun that we saw was the 4.5 inch Howitzer from the 35th Battery,” Reimer said. “The gun that we were looking for was the 18 pounder, but it was in storage.”
The beginning of the gun's history, Reimer says, is not clear, as both the record and logbook are lost in time. What Reimer does know, however, that the gun's journey began with the 39th Battery after the Battle at Vimy Ridge on April 9, 1917.
In 105 days at Vimy Ridge, Reimer said, 18 guns were destroyed and the 18 pound gun from Lethbridge showed up as one of the replacements. The 39th Battery saw more than 30 battles and on the morning of November 11, 1918 at 3 a.m., the 39th Battery entered Mons, Belgium and they were the first Battery to arrive and they fired one of the last shots of World War I before the Armistice.
At 3 p.m that same day, Reimer said, there was a parade for General Curry and 20 gunners were asked to represent the 39th Battery. The gun went with the Battery outside Mons for four days and about three kilometers away to protect the city should the ceasefire fail and the Germans return.
“Though the war was over, the gun still kept moving and it traveled to France and the center of Belgium as part of the occupational forces,” Reimer said. “On February 6, 1919, the drivers and horses were released and sent to England and then back to Canada. The guns were then sent to the supply depot in Belgium.”
Reimer said that on August 15, 1919, Lt Colonel Wilfred Wilby represented General Curry and presented the mayor of Mons with the Act of Transfer. The Act of Transfer gave the two guns to the city of Mons in commemoration of the entry of Canadians into the city of Mons on November 11, 1918.
The guns were not mentioned again until the curator of the Mons Museum at the time wrote a personal letter to General Stewart on November 17, 1968 letting him know that he found the guns in disrepair, having been badly damaged by weather conditions. In the Second World War, Germany occupied Belgium quickly and the curator hid the guns under a woodpile outside of a school to protect the guns should the Germans find them If the Germans had found the guns, they would have been melted down.
The guns stayed under the woodpile until after the Second World War and then they were returned to the museum and moved around to different storage places. Today, only the 4.5 Howitzer is on display at the Mons Museum.
On March 18, 2018, the King and Queen of Belgium presented the 18 pound gun to the Canadian War Museum and it is on loan to Canada for approximately five years.
Because of constant communication with Warrant Officer Miller, Reimer was able to go to Ottawa recently and see the gun in person at the Canadian War Museum, where it is currently part of the 100 Days exhibit.
“One thing I hope Canadians understand is how important this part of history is,” Reimer said.