HUTTON MAGNA is a small village on which the First World War had a big impact.

In fact, so big was the impact that, with 12 of its young men killed, in 1919 it was agreed that no village in southern Teesdale had contributed more to the war effort.

Therefore, Hutton Magna was selected to receive a captured German gun which it could proudly display as a trophy of war.

The D&S Times reported on October 11, 1919, that the vicar, the Reverend AWM Close, whose own son had been killed in the conflict, had been despatched to the offices of Startforth Rural Council to receive the honour.

The paper reported that “he believed every man in Hutton had volunteered for military service and their children would look upon the gun in the years to come as a reminder of the valiant part the inhabitants played on a great national occasion”.

This weekend, Hutton Magna is indeed remembering its men who went to war.

But not by looking upon the gun. It is holding a flower festival on the theme of “war and peace” – and the gun has long since gone because it was a war memorial that quickly became despised.

The British government started distributing captured German armaments after the Battle of Hooge in 1915, in which the 2nd Durham Light Infantry played a major role – of the 650 Durhams who went into battle on August 9, 60 were killed and 330 wounded.

In 1915, these trophies were popular. They showed that although the war was voraciously devouring the men of places like Hutton, progress was being made and the Hun was being defeated.

In November 1916, the government established a War Trophies Committee to officially distribute the pieces of captured weaponry, which the receiving towns often used as a fund-raising tool.

Once the war was won, as part of the Armistice, the Germans were required to leave behind all their heavy guns and a quarter of their field artillery. Suddenly, the War Trophies Committee had 100,000 pieces to send to every corner of Britain.

Hutton Magna, where today the population is just 194, was given its trophy to mark its outstanding war contribution. Of its 12 dead, three were Hind brothers.

Bertie Hind, a farm worker, was the first to die, in April 1917, near the France-Belgium border. He was 26 and left a widow, a son, and a six-week-old daughter, Edna, who he had never seen.

Later that year, Gilbert, a 19-year-old chauffeur at Stubb House, near Winston, was injured in the Western Front trenches, and he died in a Staffordshire Army hospital in January 1918. His body was returned by train to Winston station, loaded onto a cart and pulled by a horse to Hutton Magna where, with a full military funeral, he was buried in the churchyard.

And then John, a Shoeing Smith Corporal in the Royal Field Artillery, died on the Somme on October 17, 1918, after he contracted pneumonia on top of his injuries. He was 32, and left a wife and a son.

This gives us a clue as to why the trophy guns were so unpopular. Imagine being a soldier who survived years of looking down the barrels of enemy guns only to return home to find one of those same enemy guns staring down at him from a plinth in the middle of his home town or village.

Or imagine being the parents of a lad who never returned and who may have been killed by the very gun that was now mounted in glory. Imagine being the vicar of Hutton, picking up the gun from Startforth council and knowing that something similar had killed his own son – it must have been doubly difficult for the vicar, as his Robert's body had never been recovered from the battlefield in northern France.

Little wonder that these trophies that gloried in the war were hugely unpopular in peace.

In some places, local councils quietly disposed of them. In others, the people forcibly disposed of them. For example, in Coniston in the Lake District, a Victoria Cross winner came out of the pub one night in the early 1920s and rolled the gun down into the lake. Some towns have stories of the police being forced to stand aside to prevent provoking a riot as large groups of men dragged the guns into ponds and rivers.

In 1991 in Dornoch, on the northern coast of Scotland, a golfcourse lake was dredged and, surprisingly, along with thousands of lost golfballs, up came its trophy gun which had been submerged in 1921.

Nowadays, only a handful of First World War guns survive in situ – Campbeltown in Scotland has a minenwerfer gun, and Chepstow has a U-boat gun.

And Beamish Museum has a 150mm Krupp Kannon in its Redman Park. This was captured at Hooge in 1915, and was displayed in Leeds, Wakefield and Bradford until, as attitudes changed in the 1920s, it was removed from its public plinth and taken to Esholt Hall, near Leeds, which was the home of the Yorkshire Water Authority.

In 1929, the authority expanded the sewerage works at Esholt and took the opportunity to bury the hated memorial under 16ft of clay.

It was rediscovered in 1981, during more works on the sewerage works, and it was found that the clay had preserved its metal pretty well. So it was sent to Beamish, where it was restored and unveiled on August 9, 1987 – “Hooge Day” – as a memorial to the Durhams who had lost their lives in the battle.

Hutton Magna’s trophy gun doesn’t have such a remarkable story to it. It just disappeared without trace.

Instead of a bellicose trophy, most places preferred to remember their dead with a sober stone monument. Hutton Magna raised £800 for a wooden lychgate to go at the entrance to the churchyard.

It was built by Robert “Mouseman” Thompson, of Kilburn, although it is one of his few works that doesn’t have a mouse on it. It was unveiled on April 19, 1921, amid great ceremony.

Carved on one of the rich panels is the inscription: “This lychgate is erected to commemorate the men of this parish who, at the call of king and country, left all that was dear to them, endured hardness, faced danger, and finally passed out of sight of men by the path of duty and self-sacrifice, giving up their own lives that others might live in freedom.”

Then come the names of the 12 men who died: the three Hind brothers plus the vicar’s son along with George Barry, Charles Butler, Leeming Clark, James Jackson, Charles Patrick, Wilfred Jackson, John Stockdale and Thomas Thompson.

The Darlington and Stockton Times concluded its report of the unveiling by saying: “Hutton indeed has reason to be proud of her share in the Fight for Freedom.”

It is still proud and next weekend photographs of all 12 of its fallen will be woven into the floral displays.

BLOB War and Peace in a Festival of Flowers is held at St Mary’s Church, Hutton Magna, on Saturday from 11am to 5pm, and Sunday from 11.30am to 4pm. Entry and programme is £3 and tea and cake will be available in the village hall.

THE big question is whether you know of any other First World War trophy guns. Every community in our area must have received one, but we are not aware of any that survive. If you have any information, please email