Queens Square
Waterloo County

Cambridge is a city located in Southern Ontario at the confluence of the Grand and Speed rivers in the Regional Municipality of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. It was formed in 1973 by the amalgamation of the Galt, Preston, Hespeler, the settlement of Blair and a small portion of surrounding townships. The following account is based on editorial in the Cambridge Times in May 2017.

At the foot of the fountain in Queen's Square is a relic of the Crimean War that has a history of its own in Cambridge. The 24-pound cannon, referred to locally as the Russian Gun, is a trophy of the year-long Siege of Sevastopol in 1856 by the British, French and Turkish Ottoman armies. The cannon, which fired a 24-pound projectile, was one of many guns captured following the siege.

During the Crimean War communities throughout southern Ontario, including Galt, thrived on the sale of wheat to the British army to feed the troops. Following the siege, a number of Russian cannons were shipped to Britain, where they sat while the government decided what to do with them. Eventually it was determined the war trophies would be distributed throughout the Great Britain and Empire. Galt had been a strong supporter of the British Empire and at the time was the largest municipality in Waterloo County. In December 1864 the Russian Gun arrived at the Galt railway station, where it attracted considerable attention.

The gun was initially mounted on a wooden carriage and put on display in Queen's Square. In 1866, a group decided to cap off the town's Victoria Day celebrations with a royal salute of 21 guns fired from the Russian Gun. for this the gun was taken from Queen's Square to the top of the hill overlooking Dickson Park. In A part of our Past: Essays on Cambridge's history the story goes:

"Mr. William Boge was assisted by Mr. James Armstrong, who attended to the ramming of the muzzle loading the gun, and by Mr. David Galletly who was working the vent of the gun. Three rounds had been safely fired when the powder for the fourth round was placed in the muzzle. Next came the wadding, which consisted of sod, with Mr. Boge and Mr. Armstrong ramming it home.

Suddenly and unexpectedly a fearful roar rent the holiday air as the powder exploded prematurely. The account goes on to say Boge and Armstrong were blown seven yards from the mouth of the gun. Both were frightfully disfigured. Three other people were also injured in the blast including Galletly, whose hand was burned, and two boys who were bystanders. They were both struck in the face and cut by flying debris.

The two men who died were both members of the Galt Fire Brigade. At their funeral service, their bodies were placed on Fire Engine No. 1 and taken to St. Andrew's cemetery for burial."

The cannon was left at the top of the hill Dickson Park for several weeks before being returned to Queen's Square, never to be fired again. By 1885 it was reported that the old cannon was "resting close to the sod" as the carriage upon which it lay was rotting away. It is thought that the gun rested on another wooden frame until May 1910 when the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire had the cannon remounted on a cement base. In the base was embedded the plaque. At about the same time the Defence Department is reported to have given the various municipalities which possessed cannons some 60 cannon balls. These were stacked in pyramids of cannon balls which flanked the cannon. The cannon balls were removed in the years following World War II because it was feared that the local children who insisted on playing with them might be hurt."

During World War II the call for metal scap went out and in spite of orders of the City Council which required that "all war relics owned by the City of Galt, be turned over to the Department of Munitions and Supply", the Crimean cannon was not included in the shipment. It has been suggested that the "Russian gun" was not sent because of strong local sentiment attached to the gun.

More recently Queen's Square was an untidy mess with the fountain area collecting more debris than water. The area was not the usual showcase of downtown Galt. In May 1910 the Daughters of the Empire had the Russian Gun remounted on the concrete base where it sits today. However over time greenery had overgrown the plaques on the cannon, a piece of Galt's old history. Now, the place has been manicured and things are looking up for Queen's Square. The budgeted cost of the work on the bridge and surrounding area kept creeping up until it hit $3.4 million, about a half million overrun. Now it's time to celebrate the new appearance around the square and the historical looking Main Street bridge.


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Crimean Cannon Location

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