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YARMOUTH, N.S. – Ed Telfer spent weeks refurbishing the old gun that since the 1920s had sat alongside the First World War monument in Arcadia, Yarmouth County.

He had noticed it needed some TLC and so he asked the Arcadia Women’s Institute – the group responsible for the First World War monument site – if it would be okay if he gave it a fresh paint job. Only he didn’t stop there. He gave it a good overhaul.

“I sandblasted the gun and primed it and painted it and I made new wooden handles for it,” he said in a telephone interview from his Halifax home. “I sandblasted it down to the bare metal, welded up some patches, and then painted it with heavy Tremclad paint so it was good and thick.”

As he was doing the work he discovered that the gun was a Spandau MG 08 German machine gun.

“I wondered why there was a German machine gun at a Canadian war monument and at the same time I was reading a Pierre Berton book on the First World War and it stated in there that Canadian war monuments were adorned with captured German artillery to show victory over the Germans,” he said. The women’s institute said the gun was also a reminder of the sacrifices made by Canadians during the war.

After he finished refurbishing the gun he returned it to its spot alongside the monument in Arcadia. Telfer grew up in Yarmouth County and still has family and friends here and the gun is something he always looked at whenever he drove past the site.

So you can only imagine Telfer’s shock and disappointment – and that of the women’s institute, as well – when this past spring the gun went missing. The gun was stolen in May. Telfer found out it was missing in mid-June.

“My thoughts were not pleasant – unprintable,” he said when asked for his reaction. “I thought my God, that’s been there since the early ‘20s and someone has taken it now?”

The war monument in Arcadia, Yarmouth County. TINA COMEAU
The war monument in Arcadia, Yarmouth County. TINA COMEAU

In recent months there had been some sandblasting done to the memorial itself, which has given it new life and a new look. But the disappearance of the gun has left many disheartened.

“The theft was reported to the police, but with no real leads there isn't much they can do,” said Sharman Fells, a member of the women’s institute. She said they put postings about the theft on social media and are now turning to the media in the hope this might help get the gun back.

“Somebody must know something,” Fells said.

Telfer said when he had returned the gun at the monument site he had considered reinforcing it by anchoring it to the concrete pad. But then he figured it had been there for so long there was no need to. And even though he refurbished the gun, he said it was still in hard shape.

“It’s of absolutely no use to anybody. It would make a good piece to have in your basement, your mancave, I suppose, but other than that it’s a rotten old piece of machine. It’s completely inoperable. Not a hope in the world to make is usable again,” he said.

Telfer figures it was more than a one-person operation to remove the gun because it’s very heavy. “It weighed about 80 to 100 pounds and it’s just awkward for one person to take,” he said. “When I took it to clean it up the barrel came off of the stand, so you could pick it up in separate pieces. But I welded a bracket on there so the barrel couldn’t be removed,” he said.

Telfer just thinks it’s very disrespectful to take anything from a site that pays tribute to fallen Canadians.

“To have somebody disrespect a war monument…it’s as low as you can go,” he said, added he is offering a reward for the gun’s return.

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