The Town of Amherstburg is fielding calls from parties interested in potentially restoring a First World War weapon found in the dirt of a high school construction site.
On Friday, Dave Hachey, an equipment operator for Sterling Ridge Infrastructure, was sat in his excavator, digging out the earth to install footings for a new high school in the town, when his shovel hit something it had never hit before.
“I never expected it whatsoever,” said Hachey. “Not even close.”
Hachey had found a weapon of war used by the Germans in the First World War in the early 1900s.
It has been identified as a German 77 Field Gun.
“I hit a piece of metal and pulled it up. I thought it was an old farmer’s trailer,” said Hachey. “[I] pulled that out and moved it off to the side and said, ‘Okay.’ And reached down and grabbed another piece of material and it was the gun.”
Kevin Fox, the policy and committee coordinator for the Town of Amherstburg and former curator at the Kingsville Historical Park, couldn’t believe what Hachey had found.
“I wanted to get to the site right away to see what we had,” said Fox.
Despite years of rust and twisted, failing metal, the shape of what was once a devastating weapon is still in tact.
Fox says the identification number of 4149 could still be made out to identify the artillery gun.
During the trench warfare of the conflict from 1914 to 1918, the weapon would have sat behind German lines, lobbing volley after volley of artillery at Allied troops.
“The Germans would have it behind the lines. Obviously, artillery would be fired over on advancing troops and was devastating,” said Fox.
“Vimy Ridge, the Canadians actually really showed artillery was a potent weapon to be used in the creeping barrage,” said Fox. “We have two local servicemen who died at Vimy Ridge and one of them [received] the military medal.”
The gun is now being stored at a town facility.
According to Fox, the gun was brought to the region as a War Trophy following the Great War, alongside a trench mortar.
The gun followed the Cenotaph from the original location where General Amherst High School stands to the former Centennial Park. When the Cenotaph was relocated again to King’s Navy Yard Park in the 1970s, the decision was made to bury the gun as it was in such poor condition, restoration seemed like an unrealistic possibility.
Fox says many war trophies were brought back to Canada but, not many survived their time here as metal became a precious commodity in the war effort of the Second World War just a few decades later.
“Many of them do not survive so, it’s really miraculous that when its trench mortar companion was melted down, this one has survived,” said Fox.
While the town has yet to decide what it will do with the hunk of history, Hachey has been making his own calls telling a story he won’t soon forget.
“Yeah, that’s right at the top of my list of things I’ve dug up,” said Hachey. “I called a few friends, my brother on the east coast, told him about it. He just laughed and said, ‘You’re kidding?’ I said, ‘No, I’m serious!’”