2020 marks 75 years since the end of the Second World War. To commemorate this important year, the NSW Government is interviewing WWII veterans about their experiences. Read our 75th Anniversary Stories.
The remains of First World War German gun, believed to be a Minenwerfer. A short-barreled low-velocity high-trajectory mortar, designed for lobbing mortar bombs into opposing trenches. The barrel is rifled, and has a semi-circular gear at one side to control the angle of elevation. The rear of the barrel is marked “Nr.1480 Rh.M.F. 1916 JK”. The steel cradle has a rear spade to dig into the earth and resist recoil. The M.F. stands for Rheinische Metallwaaren – und Maschinenfabrik. The short cast iron barrel is mounted on a riveted steel cradle, which in turn is mounted on a classical-style cement-rendered brick plinth. The monument includes a later memorial plaque to the Second World War.
The barrel is in good condition, considering its long exposure to a salty atmosphere, but the steel cradle is badly corroded.
Following the First World War a number of “war trophies”, or captured enemy militaria, were distributed to local councils throughout Australia. Lake Macquarie Shire Council received two German minenwerfer. Both were placed on display in Speers Point Park during the depression years but only one survives.
The weapon is a 25 cm Schwere (Heavy) Minenwerfer, a large calibre weapon captured in relatively small numbers by the Australian Imperial Force (A.I.F.). The smaller Mittlerer (Medium – 17 cm) and Leichte (Light – 7.6 cm) mortars were much more common, and the Light Minenwerfer, in particular, survives in quite large numbers in this country.
Serial number 1480 is recorded as being captured by the 17th Infantry Battalion (5th Brigade, 2nd Australian Division) in the Warfusee – Framerville area, and the capture date is given as 10 August 1918. This all ties in with the great Allied attack, commencing on 8 August 1918, which ultimately won the war. The 17th Battalion was indeed involved in the capture of Warfusee on the 8th, and of Framerville two days later. The two villages (both in the Somme area of northern France) are about 10 kilometres apart, which gives some idea of the rapid advance being made. The 17th Battalion’s unit diary gives considerable detail of the actions, and lists quite a large number of German weapons and other items captured, but unfortunately, no specific mention of a heavy mortar, although a light one and several field guns are described. In any case, the Minenwerfer was transported to Australia as a war trophy aboard SS Booral in 1920, and (the 17th being a NSW battalion) was eventually assigned to Boolaroo. There is a published history of the unit: The Story of the Seventeenth Battalion A.I.F. in the Great War 1914-1918 by KW Mackenzie, which also gives a vivid description of the fighting for the two villages, but fails to mention the capture of Minenwerfers.
In honour of the men & women who served Australia in time of conflict during World War II. Lest we forget.
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