Big old First World War German gun finds a new home in Kelowna

After years on display in City Park and at the Kelowna Armoury, the 70-millimetre gun has moved to the Okanagan Military Museum.

The refurbished 70-millimetre German cannon

Nearly 98 years ago, a B.C. military unit captured a German cannon on the battle field near Arras, France. The capture occurred on Sept. 2, 1918 during the First World War.

Seven Canadian soldiers who fought that day were later awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest military combat medal awarded by this country. Only 64 were awarded from the First World War.

That 70-millimetre gun made its way to Kelowna in 1920 for decades sat on display in City Park, before being moved to the armoury on Richter Street downtown, home the B.C. Dragoons.

Now, the freshly refurbished gun, has a new home—outside the Okanagan Military Museum on Ellis Street.

On Thursday morning, with a police escort, the repainted and restored cannon—which now looks as it did in 1918—was slowly towed the short distance from the the armoury, down Bernard Avenue to the military museum.

There it was installed in what is now a small, soon-to-be enclosed-on-three-sides plaza outside the museum’s front doors, surrounded by pedestals topped with stones marking First World War battles in which area residents gave their lives. The stones are from the original Kelowna Cenotaph, replaced in City Park several years ago.

“I think this means a lot,” said Capt. Jeff Daley of the B.C. Dragoons, who helped transport the old German gun.

“The unit does not have a museum of its own but by displaying it  down here, it shows how close we are to the community.”

The refurbishment of the gun was spearheaded by Tom Wolf, president of the Okanagan Military Museum Society.

He said the work took nearly eight months to complete but planning for it’s new home was in the works for about three years.

While the project cost about $7,000 in hard costs, much more was donated to the project in terms of time, services and goods donated by volunteers groups and individuals.

While the gun was installed in the plaza Thursday, an official unveiling was scheduled to take place today at 11 a.m. this morning as part of the 2016 Canada Day celebrations.

Wolf said he was very pleased with how the project turned out and was especially proud that stones from the first Kelowna Cenotaph were used. The stones had been on display in side the museum.

Wolf said it was fitting that the gun was captured on a day he described as one that marked the greatest show of valour by Canadian troops ever because of the bravery of the seven Victoria cross recipients. All seven men fought within a 30-kilometre stretch of each other that day.

Keith Boehmer, a military historian with the museum, said the cannon od surrounding display display, will include information about the gun and will help create a historical entrance to the museum.