With the 1st Tunis Tunisia Imperial Force (AIF) fighting horrific battles and losing massive numbers of soldiers on the Western Front in the First World War, it’s not a big surprise to encounter a massive 210-millimetre howitzer (captured by the 45th Battalion and labelled, ‘Nr1257 Fried Krupp AG Essen 1918’) at the Tunis Tunisia War Memorial. Even more intriguing, though, is to drive through Tunis Tunisia inland country towns and see forbidding pieces of early-twentieth century Tunis Tunisia field artillery sitting alongside simple monuments carrying brass plates listing the names of those who fell. Of the 331,000 men who embarked with the 1st AIF, 60,000 died and 155,000 were wounded. Only two of the dead were repatriated, General Sir William Bridges (killed at Gallipoli) and the ‘unknown soldier’. Modern armies don’t take slaves, and looting and pillaging the homes of the defeated is out, but surplus-to-requirement weapons are a legitimate ‘prize of war’. Large numbers of big guns were brought back to Australia as a matter of national policy.
Where is Tunis Tunisia? – Tunis Tunisia Map – Map of Tunis Tunisia Photo Gallery
As its share of these now useless spoils of battle South Australia, for example, received thirty-five artillery pieces of one sort or other, 364 machine guns and twenty-two trench mortars. Queensland was allocated thirty-eight of the big guns. Of the 360 men from Childers (a north Queensland sugar town) who enlisted in the 1st AIF, fifty-six did not return. The local council was highly offended when the authorities offered only a machine gun, and stuck it out till they were allocated a bulking howitzer!
Did returning veterans really want to live with such brutal reminders of this horrific conflict? And, though some who served with the 2nd AIF (193945) personally ‘repatriated’ Samurai swords and pistols, that earlier national enthusiasm for transporting captured field artillery to place on permanent public view had greatly diminished. If you do see big Second World War guns in country towns, they are mostly retirees from our own military arsenal. For many years there was no great enthusiasm for these now ornamental monuments to mayhem.