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German artillery gun captured by Canadians at Vimy Ridge unveiled in St. Catharines

The gun was captured during the Battle of Vimy Ridge and 'used to good effect' against German forces

Vimy Gun

People gathered at the Lincoln & Welland Regiment Museum in St. Catharines on Friday view the newly restored Vimy Gun, 7.5 cm Krupp german artillery gun captured by Canadians at the battle of Vimy Ridge. (Lincoln & Welland Regiment Museum)

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Friday in St. Catharines one more piece of the story of the battle of Vimy Ridge, where one hundred years ago 3,598 Canadians were killed, is being told.

It's the story of brave Canadian soldiers and a deadly German artillery gun. 

It's a gun that, in 1917 at Vimy, Canadian troops captured in battle and turned against their enemies. 

Now, on Friday, that gun is being unveiled in St. Catharines after being restored to mark the centennial anniversary of the World War One battle. 

"They turned this unit around and used it against the Germans — to good effect."  - Drew Neufeld, Lincoln & Welland Regiment Museum

"It's what we call a 7.5 cm Krupp gun," said Drew Neufeld from the Lincoln & Welland Regiment Museum. "It would fire a shell that's just over 35 pounds. It could fire as far as 2,860 meters."

The battle took place between April 9-12, 1917, and Neufeld said the unit was captured sometime later in that range.

"It was abandoned by the enemy," he said.

vimy gun snow

The captured artillery Krupp gun used at Vimy Ridge fired shells weighing over 35 pounds, with a range of over two and a half kilometers. (Lincoln and Welland Regiment Foundation)

"The Canadian troops had been trained on German artillery prior to the battle, so they turned this unit around and used it against the Germans — to good effect."

After the war, the gun was brought back to Canada as trophy. In the 1920s, it was placed in the Niagara region town of Queenston, Ont. and there it sat until 2009, when the Lincoln and Welland Regiment Foundation became its new custodians.

Though a century ago the gun was deadly, it became a relic.

"It's not functional anymore. It sat outside for almost a hundred years," said Neufeld.

The restoration was completed almost a year ago, but they saved the unveiling for the centennial anniversary. The public ceremony was scheduled for Friday at 11 a.m.

"It's a national-level artifact," Neufeld said. "Canadians are very proud of their accomplishments at Vimy Ridge. We often say it's a 'battle that forged a nation,' and to have something of such significance is truly remarkable."

French and British soldiers had previously failed to take Vimy and hold it from German forces, although they suffered thousands of casualties in their attempts. The famous battle where Canadians claimed victory was the first time all four divisions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force fought side by side, and their victory was attributed to innovation, extensive training, and powerful artillery support.

More information about the ceremony can be found here.

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This is the restored Vimy gun as it stands today, although it is no longer in working order after sitting outdoors for almost 100 years. (Lincoln and Welland Regiment Foundation)

dave.beatty@cbc.ca | @dbeatty

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