Restoration project targets rare WWI big gun

Trench mortar in situ in Speers Point Park before restoration.

One of the last remaining examples of a rare World War I artillery piece is undergoing a major overhaul at a time when the country is commemorating 100 years of Armistice Day on Saturday, November 11.

The 25cm Minenwerfer German trench mortar has stood sentinel in Speers Point Park since 1926, but is now in Sydney undergoing specialist restoration, as part of a Lake Macquarie City Council project to revamp war monuments and memorials.

25cm Minenwerfer c.1915

Australian troops captured the fearsome siege weapon in August 1918, during the decisive Battle of Amiens in France.

Lake Macquarie City Council Integrated Planning Manager, Wes Hain, said the mortar was shipped to Australia two years later as a war trophy, but it had significantly deteriorated after more than nine decades of exposure to the elements.

“Relatively few of these giant mortars were deployed to the battlefield and a far smaller number still survive today,” Mr Hain said.

Trench mortar – Speers Point Park, January 1966

“With Remembrance Day this Sunday, it is timely to recognise the importance of preserving and respecting war monuments and memorials across our City.”

Crews used a crane last month to remove the mortar from its plinth in Speers Point Park and place it on a truck for transport to Sydney.

Mr Hain said the restoration, expected to be complete by early December, would include a new support system for the mortar to reinforce its badly corroded base, removal of rust from the gun and other parts and treatment of the entire piece with a protective coating.

West Wallsend memorial restoration

Restoration work is also underway on war memorials at West Wallsend and Killingworth.

West Wallsend’s Soldiers Memorial on the corner of Carrington and Hyde Streets is a traditional sandstone obelisk, with marble plaques commemorating locals who fought and died in WWI.

The first stage of work restoring the West Wallsend memorial will be completed later this month.

Meanwhile, Mr Hain said the Killingworth memorial was an unusual example of a WWI monument due to the inclusion of a globe sitting atop a cylindrical marble pillar.

“The lead inlay of the marble pillar was missing in parts and the sandstone base was badly weathered,” Mr Hain said.

Council and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs have jointly funded all three restorations.

More than 10 percent of the 1000 plus WWI servicemen linked to Lake Macquarie never made it home. The youngest was aged just 18, while the oldest casualty was aged 47.