On Monday 11th January 1915, The Daily Mail published a letter from a Violet Bryce that read:
Sir- I see an announcement that about 150 of the captured German guns, including field guns, machine guns, howitzers and mortars are at present stored at Woolwich and that the authorities intend distributing them through the country as marks of appreciation of local success in recruiting.
An exhibition of these trophies of war before distribution would attract an immense number of visitors, and if a moderate entrance fee were charged a very large sum of money might be collected for the benefit of our soldiers and sailors.
Miss Bryce was actually very prescient, and in October 1916 the same paper reported, arrangements are being made for some of the guns captured form the enemy to be exhibited at home.
Tonight we are looking at a postcard of some of those German artillery pieces, captured and on display for the public:This card was an official photograph by the Daily Mail and was presumably sold at the location where the guns were on display as a souvenir for visitors.
It seems the British government were slow off the mark in displaying captured guns, but once they had realised the public interest it became commonplace to show off this booty and indeed after the war many towns and villages were presented with examples. Most of these are sadly long gone, scrapped in WW2 for their metal. Guns were allocated based on the size of settlement- the bigger the settlement the larger the gun they were presented with. A 1922 publication recorded:
“The War Trophies Committee was formed in November, 1916, the terms of reference being “to deal with all questions in regard to the distribution of trophies and watch the interests of the Imperial War Museum.” ~
When a claim for a gun etc, had been substantiated, the unit in question was asked its views as to the destination of the trophy, with the proviso that it went to a Regimental Depot, a recognized public body, or museum; up to present some 3,595 guns, 15,044 machine guns, 75,824 small arms and 7,887 other trophies had been distributed.
Large numbers of applications were received for allotment from County Authorities, Mayors and Corporations of cities and towns, Urban and Parish Councils and other communities. The Committee decided that allotment of the trophies to which no claim had been substantiated, had to be recommended by the Lord Lieutenant of the County.
A small number still exist and after years of neglect are now being appreciated once more. This example of a German trench mortar at Honing in Norfolk has recently been restored: