LEGEND has it Camperdown’s long lost war memorial cannon was removed in the dead of night for the payment of two boxes of beer.
Gifted to the Town of Camperdown in 1920, the 1.5 ton field gun was permanently displayed in Finlay Avenue near the clock tower along with a cannon mortar but mysteriously disappeared in the early 70s.
Local resident Denise Gore said the gun’s disappearance had been a family curiosity for decades, dating back to one fateful night when her late father Jack Gore was enjoying a quiet ale in the Leura Hotel.
“Dad said the town clerk of the day walked into the pub and offered two boxes of beer to anyone who could make the cannon disappear, no questions asked,” she said.
Records show the town council was planning to install a sprinkler system into the avenue and felt it would be an easier process without the cannon in place.
The cannon was offered to the Camperdown RSL, which turned it down, fearing the costs involved.
“Dad was the foreman at John Hayes Mechanics at the time and remembers one of the workers asking for the keys to the garage for an after hours project,” Ms Gore said.
“That person took the workshop’s blitz truck and low loader at about midnight and removed the cannon.
“He lived on the edge of one of the local lakes and dad said he took the cannon home, backed it up to the edge of the lake and just let it go.”
Ms Gore said her father swore the family to secrecy until all the parties involved had passed away.
“They’re all gone now, so it’s time to talk about it and hopefully find it and put it back on display,” she said.
“Every town has some sort of machinery or cannon on display as a reminder of the war and Camperdown should too – it’s our history.”
Harbouring a fair idea as to where the gun is located, Ms Gore said their hunch was largely confirmed after her father was chatting with a mate about his arthritis.
The mate said he swam regularly in one of the local lakes to help ease his pain and commented that his leg had brushed against something large and metal.
“Dad asked him to take particular notice if it happened again and his mate came back and said it was a large curved piece of metal, which we think would have been the cannon’s shield,” Ms Gore said.
“It was also located in the area where we had summised the cannon ended up.”
Determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, Ms Gore and her partner Philip Robertson have already had several unsuccessful attempts at locating the cannon by trolling an underwater camera from a boat.
The pair has now enlisted the help of Fishsticks fish farmer and habitat researcher Stephen Mueller and are confident of a positive result.
Mr Mueller often uses an underwater remotely operated vehicle (akin to an underwater drone) as part of his research and is keen to tackle the cannon mystery.
“The equipment is top quality and can pretty much see what the human eye can see, but in high definition 1080 video,” he said.
“If the cannon is there, it’ll pick it up.
“A lot of my relatives were in the war – my grandfather was in Changi for five years – so I know the importance of war memorabilia to history.
“That cannon belongs to Camperdown’s history and it would be great to see it back on display.”
Ms Gore said early discussions with Heritage Victoria had already secured an undertaking from them to cover the costs involved of treating the cannon against deterioration once it was recovered.
“I’ve also approached the Camperdown RSL about having it placed on permanent display near the Lone Pine in Queens Park and the members are happy with that,” she said.
The trio hope to have located the cannon by the end of this year, with 2018 marking 100 years since the end of World War I.