It’s been nearly 100 years since last these guns unleashed a barrage of heavy artillery towards our own 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles in the European war theater of WWI. In 1917/1918 these German Field Guns grew silent as the Canadian forces overwhelmed the German infantry and took possession of them. Today they stand proud in Esquimalt’s Memorial Park as war trophies, reminders of the horror that is war, and the tools the armies used to try to annihilate each other. Completely refurbished over the course of the early months of 2014, they have recently been re-installed at the Memorial Park. The spirits of those who fought for and against these formidable weapons are almost tangible, and these links to our history, be it good or bad, are important for both current and future generations. After all, the horrors of World Wars are something not to be forgotten and the lessons we should take away are those of peace, understanding and acceptance of everyone, no matter where they came from or the history that preceded them.
For those who follow us regularly, you all know of our deep love for the history and heritage found here on Vancouver Island. Many of our citizens from the island participated in all the major conflicts in the world, and WWI is certainly no exception. Therefore it comes as no surprise that artifacts and items like these artillery guns are personally important and meaningful to our veterans and their families. For those, like us, who have no direct family members affected by WWI, they stand as artifacts that when observed and touched in person create links to a global history of incredible significance.
You can just imagine my surprise and delight when I learned the refurbished guns were going to be exhibited by the ocean several days before they were to be re-installed at the park. Our good friend, a local military historian, invited me to attend the exhibit and shoot it, and I can honestly say this was one of my key photography highlights for this year. Opportunities like this are few and far between. The German 77mm Feldkanone 96 neuer Art Field Gun was widely used in this conflict by the German Imperial Army, with 5086 of these weapons commissioned and engaged during the war. It was considered to be a workhorse and was used in all fronts and all battles. This gun was captured at the second battle of Cambai on September 29th, 1918.
This gun, the 77mm Nahkampfkanone L/27, was captured by the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles at Vimy Ridge on April 9th, 1917. Combined as a set, both these guns together form two of three First World War German Field Guns in the province of BC today. Close scrutiny reveals pock marks and signs of active fire against the guns, all of which serves to bring us closer to the story in the realization that real men stood on those fields during WWI, in the face of great personal danger to themselves. As we all know, many of them never returned home.
On the day I visited to photograph the guns, two very authentic looking reenactors from The Victoria Esquimalt Military Reenactors Association (VEMRA) were dressed in full uniform at the site to add a great layer and dimension to the pictures. I believe I even heard them speaking in German as they setup to provide striking poses for the photographs, making me look around nervously just in case an invasion was indeed imminent. No invasion came, I am happy to report. The only real shooting that happened on this day was with my trusty Canon 6D. To see the entire catalog of 22 images captured at this exhibit, please visit our gallery “German 77mm Field Guns“, or click here to see them in a full-screen slideshow. Further information on the guns and their storied history can be found at two Victoria News articles: “Rare First World War trophies in Esquimalt echo Canada’s military past” and “Esquimalt’s big guns coming out party“.