P R O F I L E
Near the main roads junction in main street Chobham there is a green on which stands what appears to be a Crimean Cannon. Nearby the Museum now occupies the former public convenience 'cottage' and in here further detail can be obtained about the events that led to Chobhams involvement with the Crimean War. Also the story of securing the cannon for the village can be unearthed.
In the mid 19th century problems were looming in the Crimea and the Prince Consort was concerned that the Army was out of training. Britain had not been to war for decades and army's regiments became decorative rather than prepared for battle. It was therefore decided to run a training camp on Chobham Common. Two batches of 8000 troops and 1200 horses each encamped on the Common for a month.
The Great Camp in 1853 was arguably the most important thing that has ever happened in Chobham. In particular the visit of Queen Victoria made a lasting impression. A year later the army was fighting in the Crimea. How much the Chobham Camp improved their effectiveness is unknown. We do know that one of the visitors to the camp was Lord Cardigan who was to figure so conspicuously at the charge of the light brigade in the Crimea. Possibly Cardigan was so impressed by the sight of the British cavalry charges on Chobham Common he thought it might be a good idea to replicate the same in the Crimea?
When Queen Victoria died in 1901, the people of Chobham still fondly remembered the visit of their Queen in 1853. In her honour, they erected a monument on the Common and set up a Russian 24 pounder captured in the Crimea on the green at Cannon Corner. The Russian Cannon was donated to Chobham by the War Ministry and in turn donated to the war effort in 1941/2 for scrap.
Few visitors to Chobham fail to notice the cannon displayed so prominently on the green opposite the Leat. However, not many realise the fascinating story which explains its presence. Chobham's original cannon was presented by the War Office to the village in 1901, after the death of Queen Victoria. On Empire Day, 1908, over 400 children dragged the Chobham Cannon down the street, and stood it where the war memorial stands today. The original foundation stone on which the Cannon was placed is now part of the War Memorial. The gun was a 20 cwt smooth-bore 24- pounder which had been used during that campaign. For the ensuing 41 years it stood on its plinth at Cannon Corner.
In 1941 and 1942, scrap metal collections were organised throughout the country to help the war effort during those desperate years. After some hesitation, Chobham's Cannon was sent for scrap in 1942 - its plinth remained as the sole reminder.
However, the Cannon was not totally forgotten and during the early '70s locals began to wonder if it really had been melted down during the war years. The Chobham Society undertook enquiries to learn its fate. Eventually the scrap merchant involved was traced and he confirmed that the gun and its carriage had indeed been broken up.
The next task was to seek an identical replacement or a historically appropriate 'piece'. The search covered museums, dockyards, churchyards, the Tower of London and finally the National Artillery Museum at Woolwich. It proved impossible to obtain a complete cannon but the Society was delighted to accept, on permanent loan, an excellent and appropriate barrel bearing the date 1788, which had lain for decades under Thames mud and had recently been dredged thence. Inspection reveals dates/numbers of 1786 and O.P. 1821 around the boss. One trunnion carries the letters RV and the other BA. There is no indication that the replacement is Russian.
An identical replacement cast-iron garrison gun carriage was next required. Many highly skilled local talents joined the co-operative effort. The full assembly was completed on 1 May 1979 and the gun installed, with due ceremony, on its waiting plinth a few days later.
The national Inventory of War Memorials at the Imperial War Museum records this gun (ref 41686) as located at SU 975619 on the A 319. It is incorrectly described as a trophy cannon of the Crimea War.
1. The gun on the green today.
2. Chobham Camp.
3. Queen Victoria's visit plate in Chobham Church.
4. The original Crimean War gun.
5. The date on the present gun.
6. Sign below present gun.
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