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German mortar ‘home’ in Honing for war centenary

13:44 30 July 2014

WWI mortar returned to Honing church. Left to right, Major General Sir William Cubitt, Dr Geoffrey Cubitt, Rev Barry Furness and Diana Howes.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

WWI mortar returned to Honing church. Left to right, Major General Sir William Cubitt, Dr Geoffrey Cubitt, Rev Barry Furness and Diana Howes. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2014

A piece of captured 1917 German heavy weaponry has been brought back to its small north Norfolk village home in time to mark the centenary of the start of the First World War.

The German First World War heavy mortar outside Honing Post Office. Picture: SUBMITTEDThe German First World War heavy mortar outside Honing Post Office. Picture: SUBMITTED

For decades the imposing 250mm heavy mortar stood outside Honing Post Office where small children rode it like a horse, stuffed sweet wrappers inside it, and even put bangers in its barrel on Guy Fawkes night, according to parish council chairman Diana Howes.

But in 1970, older villagers say Col Reginald George Cubitt, of Honing Hall, gave the piece to the Strumpshaw Steam Museum whose founder, Wesley Key, used to live in Honing.

Organisers of this Sunday’s First World War centenary exhibition in Honing Church decided to ask if they could borrow it for the event - and the museum has said the village can have the weapon back permanently.

“I’m over the moon. It’s wonderful to have it back in the village in time for our events,” said Mrs Howes.

Reginald George Cubitt during the First World War, in the Norfolk Regiment.  He later became Colonel RG Cubitt.  He served in France in the latter part of the war. Picture: SUBMITTEDReginald George Cubitt during the First World War, in the Norfolk Regiment. He later became Colonel RG Cubitt. He served in France in the latter part of the war. Picture: SUBMITTED

Village legend says the mortar was brought back from the war by Colonel Cubitt. But his great nephew, Major General Sir William Cubitt, said there was no evidence to prove this.

Instead, Sir William, who lives in the village, and his older brother Dr Geoffrey Cubitt, of Honing Hall, believe the schwerer Minenwerfer weapon may have been given to the village during the First World War by the War Trophies Committee, established in 1916.

“Apparently, quite a few weapons were distributed to parish councils but many were collected in again at the start of World War Two for scrap metal for the war effort. Therefore, this mortar may well be one of few remaining ones in public hands outside of museums,” said Sir William.

The exhibition, from 2pm, will remember the 59 men of Honing and Crostwight, from 28 families, who went off to war between 1914-1918, and the 17 who did not return.

The dead included three men from the Flaxman family, of Honing, and three members of the Cubitt family.

They included Sir William and Dr Geoffrey Cubitt’s grandfather, Edward Randall Cubitt, and one of his brothers. They were members of the tragic Fifth Battalion of the Royal Norfolk Regiment, who became known as the Sandringham “Vanished Battalion”, killed at Gallipoli in August 1915. A third brother died later in the war.

Sunday’s exhibition will be preceded by an 11am service and a bring-and-share lunch in Honing Village Hall.

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