Oaks WWI gun display brings history to life

Oaks resident Bob Stevenson checks out a British Vickers machine gun

Residents of the Oaks on Neville were treated to a rare display of guns from WWI on November 22, as part of the war’s centenary commemorations.

The display was organised by the Northland Branch of the NZ Antique and Historical Arms Association and featured around 40 machine guns, rifles, pistols and revolvers used by New Zealand, German, Russian, English, American, and Belgian troops.

Some of the weapons hold a significant place in history. For example, a Belgium-made FN Model 1910 semi-automatic pistol was the type of gun used by Gavrilo Princip to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914 – the event that triggered WWI.

A Mauser C96 pistol with wooden shoulder stock was the type of gun carried by Winston Churchill during a cavalry charge in Sudan.

A BSA rifle was the type used by New Zealand forces as they stormed the beaches at Gallipoli.

Two of the German machine guns on display were captured by New Zealand forces. One at the Battle of Cambrai and the other at the Battle of Messines, both of which occurred in 1917.

The captured guns were brought back to New Zealand and displayed outside RSAs and Town Halls.

However, during the depression of the 1930s, the government ordered them removed since they were still in working order and it was feared they might be seized by malcontents in the event of a popular uprising.  

Police disposal methods turned out to be rather eccentric. One of the German machine guns on display was discovered in the foundations of a Rangiora flour mill when it was demolished around 2015. It was then restored to full working order.


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