THEY were the ‘spoils of war’, brought back from the Western Front as objects of interest, but little did anyone know that they continued to house a deadly secret reports, NEIL HENDERSON.
Following the end of the Great War in Europe, captured mementoes and various ‘spoils of war’ including German guns were brought back as objects of interest and placed in municipal public parks in towns and villages across the country.
And Leslie was no different, three guns arrived in late 1919 with two being placed close to where the children’s play park is today, and a further gun positioned on Leslie Green.
An initial sense of public curiosity prevailed but interest quickly declined and by 1921 they became nothing more that climbing frames and playground objects for local children.
Conscious of just what horrors the war relics represented and mindful of the sacrifice that the village had made, Fife Councillors voted to have the guns removed in 1921.
Two of them were purchased by Motherwell-based Glencairn Metals Ltd and only then was the discovery made that one, indeed still contained a live shell- a 5.9 projectile capable of catastrophic damage.
Disaster was narrowly averted after a worker using an acetylene burner to cut through the gun’s breech, saw the live shell, firmly lodged close to where he had just been cutting.
He quickly dismantled the burner and raised the alarm to the many fellow employees working close by and an immediate evacuation of the premises was ordered while Army ordnance Corps rushed to the scene.
Commenting afterwards, the owner of the company said he ‘quite naturally presumed the guns to be safe’ and added; “Had boys found the shell they might have found some means of exploding it.”
Indeed, it seemed the residents of Leslie had also experienced a narrow escape as Leslie historian, Campbell Morris confirmed.
He said: “It’s a little known story involving Leslie but quite an astonishing one at that.
“Considering the guns were positioned here and used as playthings by the local children it’s incredibly lucky that there wasn’t a major tragedy.”