Great Guns! The Artillery Heritage of New Zealand

Three years in the making, Great Guns by Peter Cooke and Ian Maxwell is now available.

With a BA (Hons) in history, Peter Cooke started thinking about this issue when he was contacted in the mid-2000s by staff from the government department which administers the Protected Objects Act. They were trying to see if a trophy cannon from WWI was of cultural significance for NZ.   Could they legally deem it a 'protected object' and withhold permission for its export? Export was not halted in this case but it got Cooke thinking that the heritage significance of trophy cannon could be determined if their story was better known.

Ian Maxwell held similar curiosities and in March 2010, while on a DONZ field trip to Northland, they agreed to collaborate on a book that documented why NZ brought trophy guns back from foreign wars, and where these and pieces of local ordnance were displayed in parks and other public places.

The result includes over 1000 images of current and historical examples of large tools of war on display. While each photo is indeed worth 1000 words, the authors confined themselves to around 200.

A calibre of 20mm was determined as the lower cut-off, therefore excluding small arms. An inclusive policy was adopted on other large munitions - mines, bombs and related technology such as armoured turrets. Warbirds and tanks are included in relation to their main guns.

An introductory essay discusses the nature and practise of taking war trophy guns, especially from the South African and First World Wars. This section includes many quotes from New Zealanders on capturing trophies on the battlefield and how they were received back home.

The abhorrence felt by some at displaying weapons of war is contrasted with those for whom the trophy represented a fitting commemoration of sacrifice or an unalloyed celebration of victory.

From page 107 the country is divided into 18 regions, from Northland to Southland, Eastland to Westland, in which all known incidents of cannon on display are documented.

The research is fully footnoted, referenced and indexed.

Many stories of how the weapon was acquired, presented, used and discarded are related. These include humorous accounts of authorised and unauthorised firings of the guns, and their unwitting inclusion in wider debates on war and peace.

At the end appendices list all known WWI trophy guns and the shipments on which they arrived.

Great Guns - The Artillery Heritage of NZ (452pp) retails for $NZ45. Discounted copies may be purchased at the Reunion, 18-20 October. Or, to order a copy now at the retail price, write to the Defence of NZ Study Group at PO Box 9724, Wellington 6141, phone (04) 934 6817, email or download and forward the Order Form to the NZ Study Group.