‘Gigantic’ recreates First World War history at Havant

Gigantic towing a howitzer, ammunition truck and  living quarters' caravan.''Picture: Ralph Cousins
Gigantic towing a howitzer, ammunition truck and living quarters' caravan.''Picture: Ralph Cousins

THIS WEEK IN 1978: Woman murdered in her flat in Buckland

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Not surprisingly when a steam traction engine pulling an enormous gun rumbled through the streets of Havant, heads were turned.

Ralph Cousins got the picture, below, last week, sent it to me and we wondered if anyone knew the story behind it.

Up popped Robin Marshman, from Clanfield, who was one of the crew on board the engine towing three large pieces of kit.

Turns out it is a 1912 McLaren Road Locomotive affectionately known as Gigantic.

It was built in Leeds by John and Henry McLaren and exported to Australia where it spent its working life hauling five loaded trailers out of a quarry.

Robin says: ‘It came back to this country in 1978 and was rallied until it needed a major rebuild.

‘It was purchased in 2012 by steam engineer Neil Gough, of Washington in West Sussex. He rebuilt it in his extensive workshop and has restored her in War Department livery for the centenary of the First World War.’

Many of her type were used during the war to haul howitzer guns on the front line so it is a fitting tribute to those who lost their lives during the war.

In the Havant picture Gigantic was towing a replica 8in howitzer which was commissioned by the Great Dorset Steam Fair for its First World War special shows.

And what was Gigantic doing trundling through Havant?

Robin adds: ‘She was travelling home to West Sussex as part of her 500-mile round trip to Worcestershire and back stopping off at shows on the way.’

She will next be appearing at the Lord Mayor’s Show in London on Saturday, November 14 representing the Royal Artillery.

While we’re on the subject of the so-called Great War, don’t forget the memorial service in memory of the nurses and orderlies from Portsmouth who did so much to care for the wounded and dying. Nurse and deacon Emma D’Aeth has organised the event at the Church of the Holy Spirit, Fawcett Road, Southsea, on Saturday, October 17 at 2pm.