Saturday, May 25, 2013

Our Gun, a Wanganui Krupp Gun Story - a Book Review


Our Gun, a Wanganui Krupp Gun Story

By Geoff Lawson

Geoff Lawson, New Zealand black powder enthusiast and restorer of old firearms, set out to restore his biggest challenge ever. Krupp Number 4, a breech loading black powder 75 mm cannon of Boer War vintage that had sat out in the weather by the Wanganui Museum for over 100 years. He realized that the gun had great historical significance to New Zealand but found no one knew much about it.  This book, the history of Krupp Number 4, is the result of his research.

Lawson is a good writer and the story moves swiftly and smoothly.  In 96 pages with many photos, illustrations and a couple of maps, Lawson conveys a great deal of information.  No words are wasted.  In the first part of the book he outlines the events that led up to the war.  Most of the book is then describes in more detail the battles in which Krupp Number 4 participated.  Having waded through Pakenham's The Boer War, I was delighted to find that Lawson did not use it as a reference, instead using several other sources.  So I learned things that were not in Pakenham's book, always a plus for me. 

Krupp Number 4 was one of a number of cannon purchased from Krupp (see Manchester's The Arms of Krupp) by Orange Free State (Oranje Vriestaat or OVS) in the build up to the Second Anglo-Boer War.  OVS artillery under the command of Major Albrecht was part of General Cronje's Boer army on the western front. 

The gun participated in initial attacks establishing the siege of Mafeking and of Kimberley. The British sent a relief force under Lt General Methuen who planned to march up the railway to Kimberly pushing the Boers out of the way.  The Boers prepared to push back and the gun went with them.

Krupp Number 4 played a role in the battles of Graspan, Modder River and Magersfontein.  Magersfontein (December 11, 1899) handed the British a severe beating. The relief force ground to a halt and the two armies sat facing each other.

The Boer War was the first foreign conflict in which Canadian, Australian and New Zealand participated.  New Zealand was the first to volunteer assistance in case of war and the first colonial troops from the Dominions to arrive in Cape Town. The Colonials made the fight a little more even as they could at least ride and shoot.

Field Marshal General Lord Roberts, now in charge of the campaign set out to relieve Kimberley by going east outflanking Cronje.  Cavalry under French, including New Zealanders, had to gain control of the river crossings.  New Zealanders participated in the battle of Klip Drift on the Modder River, arriving just in time to drive off the Boers before they could set up their defenses and were first into Kimberley.

Cronje was now trapped between Methuen and French.  He and his army, including Krupp Number 4, tried to escape to the east and got as far as Paardeberg when they were surrounded and could go no further.  After a 10 day siege ending February 27, 1900) they were forced to surrender, the beginning of the end of the war and definitely the end for Krupp Number 4.

The cannon was eventually awarded to the Fourth New Zealand Contingent by Lord Kitchener (who took over from Roberts) and arrived in NZ in 1901.

The last section of the book describes the fate of the gun in New Zealand, the decision to restore it and the restoration process (no small task in itself), as well as a full list of references and bibliography.

Lawson published the book himself so it is available only from this website: www.ourgun.co.nz.  I suggested to him that he might consider converting it to electronic format to gain a wider set of readers, though one would perhaps lose the value of full page photos. 

I would certainly recommend this book to anyone interested in the Boer War. It was a fascinating read and took less than two days to finish; I couldn't put it down.

4 comments:

  1. Quite th story, BF. I appreciate the details.

    Blessings and Bear hugs!
    Bears Noting
    Life in the Urban Forest (poetry)

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  2. I miss cannon. In Mississippi, there were a great many of them leftover from the American Civil War, but it's rare to see even one from any war here in Oregon.

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    1. There were breech-loading cannon used in the Civil War as well, I've learned.

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