Cannon re-captures former glory



The Royal Canadian Legion #23 in Neepawa set up a committee to restore its captured German cannon from WWI. Pictured with the gun on the day its restored wheels were replaced are Ernie Sydor, Steve Goudie, Brent Hunter and Harvey Ebner.


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

For 98 years, a captured German WWI cannon has been an item of interest in Neepawa.

From the Neepawa Press archives, the Aug. 31, 1920 paper reports: Neepawa Courthouse lawn is adorned with a German gun captured by Canadians in the great war. Naturally, it attracts much attention and inspires some pride of country and the achievements of it soldiers overseas. The only ceremony connected with its arrival was an escort by the band from the CPR station on Saturday evening when the streets were crowded and brilliantly lighted.

Action taken

In 2017, a group of Legion members took a look at the old cannon and found it was in a considerable state of disrepair. Time and the elements were slowly destroying the artillery piece. A committee was struck and action taken. 

Ernie Sydor who took a lead on the project said Bert deKoning sandblasted the metal work, Jack Kulbacki and James Paramor painted the gun. The cannon’s wooden spoke wheels had to be rebuilt and that work fell to Brian Reynolds of Rapid City. Reynolds used Pennsylvania hickory that he sourced through some Amish woodworkers. 

The gun was made in 1918 and was used in battle, the gouges from the flack are quite visible now that the gun has been sandblasted and new shiny paint applied.

Committee member Steve Goudie said the cannon would have been considered war booty and would have been shipped to Halifax. From there the various pieces of captured equipment were divided amongst the provinces based on the number of soldiers that signed up. Goudie noted that he thought Manitoba had the third highest sign-up rate in Canada.

During WWII, there was some thought the old gun might be taken away. Certainly, many pieces of artillery and other metal artifacts were gathered up and scrapped as demand for steel grew.

1941: Cannon at risk

In a 1941 edition of the Neepawa Press, some concern was expressed. A Town Council report of the day said, “Neepawa branch, Canadian Legion protested against any action for the return of the gun now resting in the Court House grounds unless it is asked for or demanded by the Dominion Government for war purposes. They further suggested that it be kept painted and in proper repair and that a railing of some kind be placed around it.” Obviously, the old gun wasn’t pressed back into service and at some point, it was moved to the local Legion property.

The gun is now 100 years old and as this year is the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI, the beautiful restoration is a fitting tribute to the huge sacrifice Canadians made in the 1900s to keep our land free

The cannon was captured on Sept. 2, 1918, during the 100 Days War. The Canadians fought non-stop for 100 days and the Germans regarded the Canadians as the toughest of enemies.