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German machine guns given to Naramata as thanks

Two German machine guns right from the First World War were seized and given to the founder of Naramata, John Moore Robinson, for the businessman's contribution to the war effort.
Image Credit: Supplied
November 22, 2013 - 3:33 PM

PENTICTON - Solving the mystery of how two First World War German machine guns came to Naramata hasn't dulled Jack Godwin's enthusiasm.

They were tucked away in the back of the Naramata Heritage Museum for an unknown number of years when Godwin learned of their existence. Knowing how they came to be in his hometown hasn't killed the wonder though. He still finds them thrilling to think about.

When the guns were transported to the Penticton Museum and Archives for a photographing session Godwin got to re-enact a bit of history, a subject near and dear to his heart. He and his band, the Kettle Valley Brakemen, sing songs about the past, about the rail line and Naramata's old days.

For Godwin, the experience of finding these artifacts, which have a strong Naramata connection, tucked away in some forgotten corner, left him a little breathless.

In order to properly man one of the water-cooled weapons, a Maschinengewehr 08, Godwin had to rest his knees on leather pads, then grip the rear handles and stare down the sights. If he was a German soldier during the First World War he would have been aiming on advancing British forces. Beside him would have been three other soldiers, to look after the ammunition, the water and other duties.

"To actually put your knees there and hold the gun and look down the barrel — it was amazing," he said in a near whisper.

It was like stepping back in time. The leather knee pads were worn from the knees of previous soldiers, it was nicked and scratched from use, and it bore the signatures of the western forces who captured it after the Battle of Amiens in August of 1918.

"That battle was significant because it was a breakthrough battle," Godwin said. "It was a battle where the British didn't just charge at the German trenches and get mowed down by this machinegun."

Following the allied victory the German guns, along with hundreds of others, were shipped to those who helped the war effort, such as John Moore Robinson, one of the chief founders of Naramata. Robinson made a fortune before coming to the Okanagan valley and during the First World War put $15,000 into war bonds. He received the captured machine guns as a thank-you.

During his research Godwin discovered a few older residents remembered the weapons. A couple of old-timers recalled sneaking into Robinson's old mansion when they were kids to play with the German guns.

After Robinson died the guns were forgotten but were eventually re-discovered and put into storage at the museum.

The plan now is to get the guns disabled, and then exhibit one of them at the museum and the other at the Naramata Heritage Inn and Spa, Robinson's former home.

To contact a reporter for this story, to send photos or videos, email Shannon Quesnel at squesnel@infotelnews.ca, call 250-488-3065, send tweets to @shannonquesnel1 or @InfoNewsPentict.

The markings of the western forces which captured this German machine gun in the First World War.
The markings of the western forces which captured this German machine gun in the First World War.
Image Credit: Supplied

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013
InfoTel News Ltd

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