This is a photograph of my mother-in-law Jean Riley (nee White) in Ropner Park when she was a little girl about 75 years ago, c1940. It shows her standing on the old cannon which used to be situated next to the fountain. The cannon was captured in about 1885 at Sevastopol in the Crimean war and was brought to Ropner Park to be displayed to the public.
Photograph and details courtesy of John Callender.
When the phoney war ended in the German Blitzkrieg Spring 1940 we had to evacuate our troops from various ports in France, a matter of note as many were rescued from Normandy after some epic battles as from Dunkirk with a great loss of ships and seamen, why is that never mentioned?
We fully expected to be invaded and I remember my Parents being very afraid of course us blood thirsty young lads were saying bring it on we will show them as I sharpened the prongs on the pitch fork.
The Government in their wisdom decided to engage the people in helping hoping to take their minds off the immediate threat, so began the great scrap collection. We had several of those Cannons in Middlesbrough and Stockton, plus a World War 1 tank at Middlesbrough all were taken as well as iron railings old iron pans and aluminum paper cardboard rags and anything else us Boy Scouts Girl Guides and others could get our hands on. Did it help? well we did feel we were helping though the railings turned up after the war having been stacked at the back of scrap yards and then sold back to the parks and schools. The aluminum turned out to be the wrong kind and could not be used in making planes, the waste paper was used along with some of the iron added to the furnace to make steel.
What happened to the Guns and Tanks, one turned up after the war and was outside of the Middlesbrough Drill hall for years as to the rest, it probably went into making medals who knows.
The war turned everything we knew on its head, it was here and now not in some distant place we could ignore. The adults were genuinely expecting the worst us kids thought it a great adventure until the horror came home to us during the Bombing when we lost people we knew. Helping the war effort was a placebo, we all felt we were doing something worthwhile, some may have been a waste at least we did not sit on our hands weeping, “stop moaning and get on with it” was the motto, I still live by it.
The cannon that was outside the Drill Hall on Stockton Road, was the one that had been given to Middlesbrough about 1858. It had previously stood in Albert Park. When the new A66 road was built, the Drill Hall had little passing traffic, so the cannon was moved to outside the Dorman Museum. A few years later, when Albert Park was renovated, the wheel turned full circle, and the cannon went back to the Park, where it had been originally.
Not all Council’s surrendered their cannon for scrap during WW II. In addition to the cannon in Middlesbrough, there is one in the park in Darlington, and one on the Headland at Hartlepool.
The oval plaque on the side of the wooden gun-carriage stated “Captured at Sevastopol 1855”.
Interesting info. Where is the Cannon now?
Wonderful photo John, many thanks for posting it. Most photos of the cannon are taken from a distance and so not show any of the details. This must have been one of the last photos of the cannon, as it was sacrificed during W W II to go for scrap to make more modern armaments.
So that’s what happened to it. A lot of people on here in the past have asked that question–‘I wondered whatever happened to the cannon’. Now we know.