Gunner Dinner History


In 1921, a group of gunner officers met at dinner to honour Brigadier-General Walter Coxen, GOCRA (General Officer Commanding Royal Artillery), 1st Australian Corps, for his contribution to the success of the corps’ operation on 8 August 1918. At 0420 hrs, the battle commenced with 324 18 pdr guns firing a barrage 200 yds in front of the Infantry FUP ( Forming Up Place). An additional 239 medium to heavy guns and mortars were allocated to counter battery and protective barrages.


The artillery plan was a triumph of surprise and security involving the pre-positioning of ammunition, predicted fire, effective counter-battery fire and close support between the infantry and artillery. It was the prelude to the end of the First World War.


A legend grew from that day, that Coxen, an Australian officer, had commanded more guns in action than any one man. Coxen did command more than 550 guns on that day. The GSO2, HQRA, Australian Corps, Lt-Col HDK McCartney claimed that for the breaching of the Hindenburg Line on 29 September 1918, Coxen commanded 1,200 guns.


What is certain is that Coxen commanded more guns in action than any other Australian before or since. Furthermore, the professionalism achieved by Australian gunners during the First World War became the norm for Australians during the Second World War and subsequent operations.


It is not known who was present at the first dinner but it is likely that the list included CA Callaghan, TAJ Playfair, R Rabett, C Rosenthall and JC Selmes. All of these officers rendered distinguished service ending their military careers as generals.


The dinner has been held at various venues over the years including the Paddington Town Hall, Hotel Australia, Imperial Service Club (Barrack Street), School of Artillery, Coral Lines Holsworthy and the Willoughby Legion Club.

Next Annual Gunner Dinner Arrangements