“Every school got a machine gun”
Great Guns Media release
For Immediate use Friday 20 September 2013
“Every school got a machine gun.”
New Zealand has a long tradition of war trophies as memorials to the fallen – a tradition ignored by historians until now. “Trophy guns captured from the enemy came back from the Crimean, South African and First World Wars – and virtually every town in NZ displayed them as memorials,” says Peter Cooke and Ian Maxwell, co-authors of the only book on this colourful topic. Great Guns – The Artillery Heritage of NZ has been published by the Defence of NZ Study Group, 2013.
The book describes the background to taking war trophies and how they were distributed in NZ. At least 340 captured artillery pieces - and 1500 machine guns - were brought back to NZ after WWI. Every school got a machine gun.
Great Guns describes the clamour for a trophy gun, as well as the opposition to displaying them publicly. Regional sections then cover all artillery known to have been on display, including those from local forts and forces – and the stories associated with them. Guns were fired in celebration at festive occasions, victorious moments, weddings, funerals/tangi, major hui - and accidents caused some deaths and many injuries.
The books also gives a snapshot of artillery pieces in private collections, a hobby popularized by Sir Peter Jackson. All known cannon in museums are listed, as are those no longer around.
Peter Cooke is a professional military historian who has previously written on the Royal NZ Artillery, Territorial Force and coastal defences. His interest in this subject grew when he was asked what cultural significance could be attached to a restored cannon which was being sold overseas. Ian Maxwell writes on the subject in Forts & Works, the journal of the Defence of NZ Study Group which has published Great Guns.