Gun trophy from the 1/5th Bedfords

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The Luton News , 30th September 1920
Wardown gun gift from 1/5th Bedfords

Seven months after Luton's temperamental presentation tank was set in position in Wardown Park, a second war trophy was added - a naval gun captured by the Bedfordshire Regiment. And, unlike the tank, it was taken to its destination with some ceremony.

Fitting honour was done by the town of Luton on Saturday [September 25th] to the trophy captured by the 1/5th Bedfords from the Turks at Gaza, said The Luton News of September 30th, 1920. The gun, a 4.7 naval piece, made by Armstrong Whitworth's, had lain in the Corporation yard near the parish church since its informal handing over to the town. Now, looking spic and span, it was hauled out by four strong horses and escorted by the Territorials to its final resting place in Wardown Park.

Crowds lined the streets through which the pageant passed. The colours, which had been brought from Bedford, and were carried by Lieut Waldron and Second-Lieut J. H. Gutteridge, were a striking feature and attracted much attention.

The Territorial band, under Bandmaster Goodger, led the way to the park, and at a spot between the suspension bridge and Old Bedford Road, the company halted and disposed themselves about a concrete platform which had been specially prepared for the reception of the gun. On to this the huge implement of war was hauled with infinite care by means of a traction engine and a stout wire rope, and when the tackle had been taken away and all was in order, Lieut-Col Clutton formally handed the gun over to the Mayor (Councillor Arthur Bennett Attwood) as representing the Borough.

The history of the gun was related by Col Clutton, who said it was not in any sense of the word an ordinary trophy of war. In the days before the war the gun was made for the Turkish navy, and he believed the first time the 5th Battalion met it was at the landing at Suvla [Gallipoli campaign, August 1915]. After the retirement fro the peninsular they saw nothing more of the gun until the battle of Romani [Sinai peninsular, August 1916], where he personally made its acquaintance. They did not see it again after that until Gaza, where it peppered them persistently and continuously, and was finally captured by the Battalion at the taking of Gaza.

Col Clutton added that he handed the gun to the Mayor because he thought it should remain as an everlasting memorial of the gallantry and self-sacrifice of the men of the Battalion, and also as a token of the unremitting efforts the town made on behalf of the Battalion in the way of comforts and in every other way during the war.

The Mayor accepted the gun, which bore on one side a brass plate inscribed: "Presented to the town of Luton by the 1/5th Batt, Bedfordshire Regt. This gun was taken by the Battalion at Gaza, 1918." Councillor Attwood hoped it would rest there in peace for many years. The gun would remind them of the men who did their bit and he hoped that, thinking of them, they would ever respect it.

The date on the plaque was disputed by ex-servicemen, who said the gun was captured in 1917 and that there was no fighting in Gaza in 1918. The issue was resolved when Lieut Col Edgar Brighten, writing from India in 1927, said the gun was indeed captured in 1917 but it had not been allotted to the 1/5th Bedfords until 1918. He suggested the inscription should be corrected.

The gun, together with a second one presented to Bedford, had been abandoned by the Turks as the 1/6th Bedfords made a night attack. But trek chains and ox yokes had been attached to the guns by the Turks in the hope of rescuing them from their gun pits. One of the slideshow pictures below shows the gun after it was captured by the Bedfordshires, as photographed by Col John Brown, 162nd (East Midland) Infantry Brigade, in November 1917.

"I saw the guns myself at dawn on 8th November [1917] before it was light enough for photography," wrote Lieutenant Colonel Brighten. "They appeared to be naval guns on field mountings and I thought they had originally been manufactured in England.

"It seemed to me that probably they had an interesting history, if it could be traced, and accordingly I put in a claim for them to be allotted to the Battalion. This claim later was recognised by GHQ and we presented the guns to the county in the person of the Lord Lieutenant."

[The Wardown gun was broken down for scrap during World War Two.]


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Author: Deejaya

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