Richmond River Historical Society member Marelle Lee.
Richmond River Historical Society member Marelle Lee. The Northern Star

Marelle loads up for gun battle

SOMEWHERE in Ballina lie buried relics from World War I and Marelle Lee is determined the historic guns be found and preserved.

But despite the pleas of the local historian and those of the Richmond River Historical Society, it looks like the trophy guns will remain buried, at least for now.

Ms Lee has been waiting anxiously on Ballina's heritage study in the hope it would recommend that the guns be found and preserved.

The study is due to be released for public comment tomorrow, however, it is understood the document will not make the recommendation.

"I'd like a genuine attempt to locate them and dig them up," she said.

"This is the 90th anniversary of the end of World War I, grants are supposed to be available, let's get them and dig up the guns."

Ms Lee's interest in the guns started when a former Ballina man and Vietnam veteran contacted her a year ago to say he'd discovered them when he was 10 at a Ballina site, which is now being kept secret to deter collectors from finding and selling them.

The 77mm field gun, captured in 1918 near the Somme in France, and a 76mm trench mortar, captured in the same year at Accroche Wood, were spotted by Bruce Buchanan while playing at the old Ballina tip in the early 1960s and he has been pushing the council to search for them ever since.

Ms Lee addressed Ballina Council's last meeting to again push for the guns to be found, but was told there were a number of obstacles in the way. Councillor Alan Rich said he could not disclose the heritage study's full recommendations until its release tomorrow.

But he admitted the study recommends finding the trophy guns was not a heritage management priority.

Some of the hindrances to finding them include the costs involved in lodging a development application to dig up the approximately 50-square metre site and the possibility that after so many years buried in what was once acid sulphate soil they may be badly corroded.

"We're talking about a significant cost just to lodge the application," Cr Rich said.

"The way to go is to involve the RSL and other bodies local or at a state level and see if there isn't the possibility of partnerships with them to dig up these guns."

Ms Lee agrees and thinks there are several opportunities for funding, including the Army Reserve in Sydney which houses trophy guns in its museum.


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