By GRAHAM BROADHEAD
BRUCE BUCHANAN is in no doubt why Ballina Shire Council should be digging up its buried World War I trophy guns: "They're memorials."
The Townsville military collector and Vietnam veteran was in Ballina yesterday showing council's heritage officer, Kate Gahan, where he saw the two guns buried at one of the town's old tips in the early 1960s, when he lived in Ballina. "Men would have died capturing those weapons," he said of their importance.
"I'd like to see them recovered. They should never have been buried in the first place." Mr Buchanan was just 10 years old when he discovered the two guns ? a 77mm field gun, which was captured in 1918 near the Somme, France, and a 76mm trench mortar, captured in the same year at Accroche Wood ? while playing at the tip, which was closed not long after he made his discovery. He has been pushing council to search for the guns for the past 12 years.
Yesterday he estimated the search area would need to take in about 50 square metres of the former tip site, which was levelled after its closure. He said a ground-penetrating radar, or even a metal detector, could pick up the 'two tonnes of metal'. "It wouldn't take much before you start digging," he said. Mr Buchanan collects smaller pieces of military memorabilia like helmets, firearms and bayonets.
He said trophy guns were presented in the 1920s to towns which supplied troops to the war effort. The trophy guns were particularly sought after by collectors, and were 'very valuable', Mr Buchanan said.
Ballina Shire Council is keeping the location of the Ballina trophy guns under wraps for security reasons. The council's heritage officer, Kate Gahan, said the heritage value of the two guns would be assessed as part of the Ballina shirewide Heritage Study, which was due to be finished by the end of this year.
Ms Gahan said recommendations on the guns, and other heritage items, would be made to the council after the study had been placed on public exhibition.
She said heritage items were assessed using guidelines determined by the NSW Heritage Office, the State Government body that administers the NSW Heritage Act.