Petawawa Legion gets big gun
Royal Canadian Legion Branch 517 member Bob Howell and Branch 517 president Helene Hahn stand in front of a M-109 self-propelled howitzer, which was delivered to the Petawawa Legion May 30. The vehicle, once its treads are welded in place, will be permanently on display at the branch.
PETAWAWA – Branch 517 has a new military artifact on its grounds.
On May 30 after five years of trying, the Petawawa Legion finally accepted delivery of a M-109 self propelled howitzer, at 155 mm once the biggest gun fielded by 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group. The massive decommissioned vehicle, engine and other parts removed, was shipped from Montreal, and set up on a cement pad located roughly between the Cenotaph and the branch’s building.
Supervising the operation was the two who had helped make it happen: Branch 517 president Helene Hahn and branch member Bob Howell, who served as a gunner for 43 years.
Asked why Branch 517 got a M-109, Hahn said it is the history factor.
“If it wasn’t on display, it would be scrapped,” she said. “This way, they exist to show what our veterans served in.”
Howell said he also wanted to save one of the M-109s.
“Being a long time gunner, I hated to see them lost,” he said, “I’m so glad we’ve got it.”
Howell said an official commemoration of the howitzer, complete with commemorative plaque and VIPs, will be held soon.
Once the largest armoured fighting vehicle ever fielded by the Canadian Army, the M-109 first served with 2 Royal Canadian Horse Artillery in 1968, when they had first received the guns from CFB Gagetown after completing a tour in Germany. In July 1970, the Regimental Headquarters and D Battery moved to Garrison Petawawa, when they were equipped with the 105 mm L-5 Pack Howitzer.
E Battery stayed in New Brunswick until 1975, when it too arrived in Petawawa, without the M-109s.
In 1994, both batteries received the self-propelled guns once again, a situation which remained until 2004, when the artillery unit lost their 10 M-109s. This was due to the army changing into a more mobile force, where it was decided there was less need for firepower more suited to the Cold War battlegrounds in Europe.
The M-109s were transferred to Wainwright, Alberta as part of that restructuring of the Canadian Forces, joining the Leopard tanks used by the Royal Canadian Dragoons. There, the equipment was used at the new Canadian Manoeuvre Training Centre. The vehicles were phased out in 2005.
As for 2 RCHA, after two years with 105 mm guns and 81 mm mortars, they were equipped with the towed 155mm M-777 howitzer in 2006.