Published: 11/07/2017 17:57 - Updated: 11/07/2017 18:03

Historic rifles return north after lord-lieutenant's intervention

 

The rifles are on display at Wick Heritage Society
The rifles are on display at Wick Heritage Society

 

TWO German guns that were probably brought home by a Caithness solider as spoils from the World War I have been finally repatriated to the far north.

The Mauser rifles which date from 1906 and are stamped Amberg had been moved to the Territorial Army HQ in Inverness after the closure of its base in Dempster Street, Wick two-and-a-half years ago.

The Highlander Museum had subsequently taken the rifles into its collection where they would have remained were it not for the concerted effort of Anne Dunnett, lord-lieutenant of Caithness. Miss Dunnett wrote countless letters to try and have the mementoes returned to their rightful place in Wick.

It was quite common for serving troops to take an enemy gun, flag, medal or other piece of memorabilia from the battlefield. The rifles were probably taken as souvenirs during the 1914-18 conflict and brought back by serving members of the army.

Kevin Mackay, who left the Territorial Army in 2010 having attained the rank of captain, was one of several former soldiers from Wick TA who turned up for a special event at Wick Heritage Centre.

Mr Mackay said: “I am delighted the guns have come back and that Wick Heritage Society have them to show the public with the other military memorabilia.

“It’s only because our hall was closed that these rifles and other items went south to Inverness and we’ve been battling to get them back ever since.”

An assembled guard of former and still active TA members listened to Miss Dunnett praise the valour of the Highland troops. Miss Dunnett officiated at the private event on Monday evening and society chairman Ian Leith accepted the rifles for the museum.

Mr Leith was especially grateful for the efforts made by Miss Dunnett to have the rifles returned to Wick and take pride of place in a display case.

The Mauser rifles are now fixed within a beautifully lit tableau of museum pieces from the Great War and fittingly beside memorabilia from Lord Horne of Stirkoke who had helped turn the tide of war after the Battle of Vimy Ridge exactly 100 years ago.

The Mauser rifles are Gewehr 98.8mm calibre with bolt action and manufactured in Amberg in 1906. They were standard-issue rifles for German infantry men in WW1 and would have been taken back as souvenirs after being captured by Allied troops.

One was left in its original state while Gordon Galloway and Haygarth Gunsmiths in Dunnet refurbished the other. Both guns have also been deactivated.

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