It’s certainly not every summer cottage in a serene setting surrounded by trees and nature that has a large artillery piece commanding the view out over the tranquil lake.
For many decades a German Krupp 150mm heavy howitzer from WWI, itself now over 100 years old, has been silently guarding an historic cottage at Sturgeon lake about 160 kilometres north-east of Toronto in the heart of Ontario’s cottage country.
Now the once deadly, but long since tranquil piece of military history is going to a new home in a more appropriate setting,
Robert Bell and Celia Denov are the current owner of the cottage known as Chateau de la Haie. I spoke to Mr. Bell by mobile phone from Dunsford, Ontario
When the First World War broke out, tens of thousands of young men rushed to be among the first of subsequent vast numbers of Canadian men and women to enlist. Among them were hundreds of Canada’s elite young men, students, graduates, and staff, from the University of Toronto. Eventually over 5,000 university affiliates would serve during the war. Although they joined several different units, the one directly associated with the university was the, 67th “Varsity” Battery, Canadian Field Artillery.
After the war, the men formed a tight bond with regular gatherings for decades and even a newsletter. A few years after the war they rented and eventually purchased a log cabin as a fishing and meeting place to get away from the city and enjoy the peace of nature.
They named it after the Canadian Expeditionary Force headquarters building in France at the Chateau de la Haie.
It also became a repository for many of their wartime artefacts and souvenirs, almost like a small museum. In late 1939 they acquired the Krupp artillery piece and it was moved up to their lodge where it has maintained its silent vigil for all these many decades.
Eventually with time and age and as the former members passed on, it was sold. Current owners, Robert Bell and Celia Denov recently decided that as time marches on and the cottage may eventually pass to other hands, the historic gun needs a proper, more public, and safe place for preservation and display.
As such it has been donated to the Royal Canadian Artillery museum at the military base in Shilo, Manitoba.
This weekend there will be music and ceremony with family, friends, other cottagers and local residents and some military personnel. There will also be some heavy equipment to load the gun onto a truck for its long journey out west and some restorative attention before display to the public at the impressive RCA museum.