Thursday, November 8, 2012

Veterans honoured with upgraded memorial

The impressive WWII Howitzer gun at Queens Park Cemetery underwent a much needed make-over this fall and has been returned to its home just in time for Remembrance Day.

The Howitzer is a 12,850 pound weapon of war that played an important role in WWII. Used by the Royal Canadian Artillery 1st, 4th and 7th Medium Regiment RCA, the B.L. 5.5 inch Medium Gun was one of the two British medium guns of WWII. Presented to The City in 1979, it sits in the Field of Honour in Queens Park Cemetery.

Although 90-year-old WWII veteran Ed Page did not operate this type of weapon, he has a vivid memory of being bounced awake by one that was firing 150 meters away. “It was a 25 pounder, the most common,” he remembers.

Joe Blunden, City of Calgary cemetery supervisor, wished the Queens Park Howitzer was only 25 pounds when he began to look at how to best restore it. When The City decided to refurbish the gun and Blunden began to examine the logistics of the process, he had to consider its huge weight and placement before beginning. “The gun is set up in the middle of the Field of Honour with its legs straddling a concrete monument,” he explains. Originally Blunden had thought he could fix the Howitzer on site, but possible environmental impacts did not make that option feasible.

Instead, Blunden approached The City’s Fleet Services business unit and was excited to hear that they had the resources to help move the Howitzer. The City’s Water Services business unit supplied the crane that lifted the one tonne gun onto a flatbed truck so it could be transported to the Fleet Services body shop.

The Howitzer got the royal treatment down at the body shop, and was sandblasted, primed and painted back to life. To the body shop’s surprise, brass was found under the old paint, and an executive decision was made to keep the original brass when it was repainted.

For Page, the refurbishing of the Howitzer is a well deserved tribute to those veterans who served in artillery units. “These guns were essential to those units,” he remembers.

Juno Beach Academy, in partnership with The City of Calgary, will host a Remembrance Day Ceremony at the Field of Honour in Queens Park Cemetery on Nov. 9, beginning at 11 a.m. After the ceremony, the school will provide cookies and a warm cup of coffee for those in attendance.

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