Location: Main Street, Hahndorf
We walk past it, children climb on it, but do we know why it is here?
(Information extracted from "We're Not Heroes" - by Moya Stevens and Trevor Gauld (pp46-47), the Hahndorf Village Voice Nos 12 and 43, and other sources)
The old gun between the CFS Station and the Hahndorf Community Hall is a minenwerfer, a German trench mortar weapon with a 25cm diameter barrel, captured by the 8th Division during fighting in France during World War 1. Its emplacement was the work of early CFS member Gordon Bernhardt who, as then Secretary of the Hahndorf Sub-branch of the RSL, called on his friend Senator Mattner, a local landowner and Federal Senator between 1944-1945 and 1950-1968 to assist.
The gun, the only one of its type in Australia, was procured from the Canberra War Memorial on the proviso that it be maintained in perpetuity. The Hahndorf RSL paid for the gun to be brought over by truck, and it was placed into a memorial garden, surrounded by a low wall, which was officially opened by Dr Bill Lawson a short time later in June, 1968.
When the local RSL group considered disbanding in the late 1970's, the gun was to be transferred to the Nairne RSL Sub-branch. However, the Hahndorf Lions Club, who owned and maintained the Community Hall at that time, intervened and promised to maintain the relic into the future. Gordon was pleased to receive that commitment, and to have the old gun remain in its prominent position along Main Street.
The RSL memorial garden was remodelled in the later 1980's, and the cement block wall taken down. The pleasant lawn area around the gun was planted using Brigade volunteer labour in April, 1986 at the suggestion of the then CFS Secretary Jon Cranna.
In 2002, with permission from the RSL and the Lions Club, a successful grant of $2,410 was received from the Department of Veterans' Affairs. With the support of the Hahndorf Community Association, restoration commenced. A wheelwright was engaged and the Kaesler Brothers removed the wheels which were then sent to Harrow in Victoria for rebuilding. The mortar was painted according to advice from the Australian War Memorial Curator of Military Technology. HCA volunteers paid for the painting.
In 2015, the Hahndorf Community Hall gardens were extensively upgraded and the Schwerer MinenWerfer Mortar was relocated to a new position. At this time, the Mortar was sandblasted and repainted in “Feldgrau”. After research, it was ascertained that Feldgrau was most likely the original colour used by the factory when the Mortar was made around 1910. While researching the colour of the Mortar it was discovered that some facts on the original information plate at the site were incorrect. Further research into the provenance of the Mortar continues with the assistance of the Australian War Memorial. It is hoped that more accurate information can be provided on the plate when it is replaced.
CAPTURED BY THE 8th BATTALION IN FRANCE - This 9.84 inch (25cm) heavy minenwerfer was taken from the Germans by the 8th Battalion on the Western Front. A rifled trench-mortar, it hurled projectiles weighing 139lb. and 210lb., the former to a range varying from 260 to 900 yards and the latter over a distance varying from 260 to 500 yards. The wheels and subframe were removed when the trench-mortar went into action. Four of these mortars were included in the heavy section of a German divisional minenwerfer company, the personnel of which totalled 8 officers and 202 other ranks.
For additional information please refer to: https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/history/special-features/great-war-memories/hahndorf-minenwerfer