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Non-standard, substitute standard, and captured weapons in British and Commonwealth service

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#1 TTH

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Posted 16 March 2012 - 07:12 PM

I have a particular interest in non-standard, substitute, and captured weapons and equipment used by British forces (including colonial and dominion troops) during the world wars and especially in WWII. I have consulted a wide range of print and online sources, including the works of Skennerton, Hogg, Weeks, and many others. I've learned quite a few odd facts already. I found out that the Canadian Army Pacific Force used US equipment in 1945. I learned that the Australians converted German MG08 war trophies from the Great War to .303 during 1942 for possible use against the Japanese. I learned that Mission 204 in China got some Czech-made ZB 26 LMGs from the Chinese...and so on. In any case, I am very anxious to learn more about this odd and inadequately documented subject, so I thought I'd open a thread here for members to make their own contributions. Simply write down any information you have, and if you can document it or give a picture or reference that would be even better.

Thanks all, TTH
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#2 TTH

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Posted 16 March 2012 - 08:25 PM

I'll start things off. Here is the reference to ZB 26's with the Australian Cadre Battalion of Mission 204. https://www.awm.gov....2-1-12-26-1.pdf
See Page 58 in the pdf file, which is Page 3 of Major Braund's private diary.
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#3 phylo_roadking

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Posted 16 March 2012 - 08:28 PM

TTH - are you just interested in small arms?
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#4 TTH

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Posted 16 March 2012 - 08:51 PM

Not just small arms, no; artillery, armor, and vehicles are all part of the subject, as are obsolete British items such as Long Lee Enfield rifles, Spanish-made Old Pattern revolvers, etc. If any of this has been covered in previous threads here I'd be glad to know.
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#5 phylo_roadking

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Posted 16 March 2012 - 09:46 PM

Well, in that case - one of the best examples I know is the Italian tanks re-used in late 1940/early 1941 by the 6th RTR and the Australian 2/6th Cavalry Regiment; the latter used three squadrons of M13/40s, the squadrons being named "Dingo", "Rabbit", and "Wombat". The Aussies painted kangaroos on their sides to identify them to Commonwealth gunners!

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A great soldier once said -
“What? Oh, nonsense, Benton. I tell you that's a beach out there. It's probably Norfolk or somewhere like that… See that nobody wanders in. We can't have the place overrun with holiday makers. I'll nip out, find a phone and tell the authorities exactly where we are. I'm fairly sure that's Cromer. Back in a jiff.”

#6 phylo_roadking

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Posted 16 March 2012 - 09:51 PM

In North Africa, a "liberated" Ju87D Stuka was used by RAF squadrons as a hack; first by 112 Sqn.,....

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...and then by 601 Sqn!

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A great soldier once said -
“What? Oh, nonsense, Benton. I tell you that's a beach out there. It's probably Norfolk or somewhere like that… See that nobody wanders in. We can't have the place overrun with holiday makers. I'll nip out, find a phone and tell the authorities exactly where we are. I'm fairly sure that's Cromer. Back in a jiff.”

#7 Owen

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Posted 16 March 2012 - 09:54 PM

we had a thread years ago about captured kit.
http://www.ww2talk.c...tured-ammo.html

TTH are you specifcally asking about captured stuff that was officially issued or stuff captured on battlefield & pressed into service ?
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#8 TTH

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Posted 16 March 2012 - 09:57 PM

Here is a link to an official source for US Lend-Lease equipment. Note that it does not include cash-and-carry purchases, or in-theater transfers.
HyperWar: Lend-Lease Shipments, World War II

Quite a few unusual and unexpected items appear under Britain and Canada, some of them in quite large quantities:
T70 (M18 Hellcat) tank destroyer
M3 3" heavy AA gun
M1 37mm light AA gun
M3 37mm AT gun
M1 81mm medium mortar
M2 60mm light mortar
M1/M9 bazookas
M1/M2-2 flamethrowers (to Canada)
M1917A1 Browning MG (later model than the M1917 used by the Home Guard)
M1 Garand rifle
M1903A4 Springfield sniper rifle
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#9 TTH

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Posted 16 March 2012 - 10:00 PM

Thanks for the link, I will look it over.

I am most interested in enemy items that were captured AND USED, officially or otherwise, not simply displayed as trophies or sent to the rear for evaluation.
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#10 TTH

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Posted 16 March 2012 - 10:02 PM

Thanks, beautiful pictures. The Stuka had such a distinctive profile that I would think using it as a hack even in a rear area would have been highly dangerous.
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#11 TTH

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Posted 16 March 2012 - 10:19 PM

That's a good thread, too, Owen, but I am interested exclusively in British forces.

It's interesting that some British troops did pick up the odd Kar98K, but they seemed to use MP40s and ex-German MGs and pistols a lot more often. No doubt the troops considered the Lee-Enfield a better rifle than the Mauser.
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#12 phylo_roadking

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Posted 16 March 2012 - 10:20 PM

The Home Guard was of course a wonderful mishmash of obsolete and re-used small arms for some years....especially in Northern Ireland!

A mounted "Horse Platoon" was raised in Ballymena, and attached to No. 2 Antrim battalion of the Ulster Home Guard. It seems this body of men was mapped straight across from a similar "Horse Platoon" raised in 1913 by the old UVF during the Home Rule Crisis....and they broke out their old illegally-obtained weapons! For several years the Platoon was wholly armed with single-shot .45 Martini-Henry carbines :lol: They were later issued .303 SMLEs but apparently these were not as popular with the men of the Platoon...:rolleyes:

A variation of the old Lee-Metford Cavalry Carbine was ordered in 1905 for the Royal Irish Constabulary once they became surplus in the British Army with the introduction of the MkIII SMLE, ten thousand of them :mellow: These were identical to the later Mk.II version of the Lee-Metford so could be charger loaded. Several thousand of these remained with the RUC after Partition...and were used by several platoons of the Ulster Home Guard.

At least one complete detachment of the Ulster Home Guard, the Short Bros. and Harland (Aldergrove) airfield defence detachment, was equiped with the infamous Canadian-made Ross Rifle MkIII :P Well, at least it was in .303 calibre...:lol:

Several units here were also equiped with the P14 (.303 Pattern 1914) for a couple of years only....then they were taken off them for re-use by the regular Army! :mellow: Apparently the same thing occured on the mainland UK - P14-equiped Home Guard units lost them in favour of the .300 P17...

For years I thought the story of them being re-issued to the Army was an urban legend...but if you look at an episode of the "Battlefield" documentary series, the two-parter dealing with El Alamein, you can see two very short film clips of Commonwealth forces in the Western Desert using P14s!
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A great soldier once said -
“What? Oh, nonsense, Benton. I tell you that's a beach out there. It's probably Norfolk or somewhere like that… See that nobody wanders in. We can't have the place overrun with holiday makers. I'll nip out, find a phone and tell the authorities exactly where we are. I'm fairly sure that's Cromer. Back in a jiff.”

#13 phylo_roadking

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Posted 16 March 2012 - 10:23 PM

The Stuka had such a distinctive profile that I would think using it as a hack even in a rear area would have been highly dangerous.


Of course....but the RAF did what it did with ALL odd-looking, prototype or training aircraft - the guy with the paint brush is applying a fresh coat of bright YELLOW paint! :lol: In 601 Sqn use anyway, I've seen a three-way view of its colour scheme in 112 Sqn use that would indicate a pale grey undersurrface with RAF theatre brown/green upper surfaces.

Edited by phylo_roadking, 16 March 2012 - 10:33 PM.

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A great soldier once said -
“What? Oh, nonsense, Benton. I tell you that's a beach out there. It's probably Norfolk or somewhere like that… See that nobody wanders in. We can't have the place overrun with holiday makers. I'll nip out, find a phone and tell the authorities exactly where we are. I'm fairly sure that's Cromer. Back in a jiff.”

#14 TTH

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Posted 16 March 2012 - 10:45 PM

Thanks for the info. I saw a reference on a gun page (I'll get it if I can) that said the Ulster police used the Spanish Old Pattern .455 revolver during WWII and possibly still later, as did some police in Australia. (By the way, when I say 'British forces' I also mean the navy, home guard, irregulars and 'levies,' police, customs & fisheries, etc.) The O.P. was apparently a decent enough gun, though it may not have had a cylinder stop.

The P14/M1917 wasn't unusual; it is well recognized as a common British substitute standard rifle. It wasn't bad either, though it was heavy and the canted bolt-handle took some getting used to. It was quite accurate, it could be fired rather faster than a standard Mauser action, and the Chinese and Free French used large numbers. The British regular army used it too, most successfully as a sniper rifle (No. 3(T))

The Ross, too, is well recognized as a substitute type, though unlike the Enfield it doesn't seem to have seen much front-line action. The RN got them (as they had in WWI) as well as the HG, and Spike Milligan was issued with one during the desperate 1940 days. I saw a war diary of the 9th Australian Div in Tobruk which reported at least one Ross in their inventory. Immediately after the war, the Ross was issued to the tiny Luxembourg army. (Again, I'll try to get refs on these.) Like the P-14/M1917 the Ross was very accurate, but unlike the Enfield it was somewhat fragile.

Edited by TTH, 17 March 2012 - 03:46 AM.

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#15 phylo_roadking

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Posted 16 March 2012 - 10:57 PM

As an aside to the mian subject - yes, the RUC did continue to use the .455....but also used Webley&Scott's "weaker" .45 and .38 types - it being reckoned that they would be more useful in the hands of quickly-trained recruits....and of course the various classes of Special Constabulary here in NI, the "A", "B" and "C" Specials.

The 1932, '38 and '42 versions of the .45 were quite common in the Ulster Home Guard for officers and don-rs, while the .38 was issued as a secondary armament for NCOs with Lewis Gun teams. There was quite a store of small arms here in NI that could be issued to the UHG, given that the RUC was ALWAYS an "armed" constabulary in all ranks...for obvious reasons! ;)

Edited by phylo_roadking, 16 March 2012 - 11:15 PM.

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A great soldier once said -
“What? Oh, nonsense, Benton. I tell you that's a beach out there. It's probably Norfolk or somewhere like that… See that nobody wanders in. We can't have the place overrun with holiday makers. I'll nip out, find a phone and tell the authorities exactly where we are. I'm fairly sure that's Cromer. Back in a jiff.”

#16 spider

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Posted 17 March 2012 - 03:35 AM

Interestingly, Lugers were issued to the Northern Australian Observer Unit (2/1 NAOU) in WW2, largely due to a shortage of service revolvers which were required for OS service, and believed to be captured German Lugers.

However, they could have been Vickers 1909
Luger's from the Dutch East-Indies sent to Australia when the Dutch East-Indies fell.

http://www.ww2talk.c...7140-post9.html

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#17 TTH

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Posted 17 March 2012 - 03:45 AM

Thanks, Spider, that's very interesting about the Lugers. Ironically, the ex-Dutch Australian Lugers may actually have been British made; according to John Weeks (Infantry Weapons, Ballantine Books, 1971, P. 29), the Vickers company made 10,000 Lugers under Dutch contract during the 1920's.
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#18 TonyE

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Posted 17 March 2012 - 09:20 AM

As an aside to the mian subject - yes, the RUC did continue to use the .455....but also used Webley&Scott's "weaker" .45 and .38 types - it being reckoned that they would be more useful in the hands of quickly-trained recruits....and of course the various classes of Special Constabulary here in NI, the "A", "B" and "C" Specials.

The 1932, '38 and '42 versions of the .45 were quite common in the Ulster Home Guard for officers and don-rs, while the .38 was issued as a secondary armament for NCOs with Lewis Gun teams. There was quite a store of small arms here in NI that could be issued to the UHG, given that the RUC was ALWAYS an "armed" constabulary in all ranks...for obvious reasons! ;)


I am not sure what you mean by the "weaker" Webleys. I would much rather have a Mark VI than an O.P. pistol!

Also, the Webleys were .455 not .45 and which pistols do you describe as the 1932, '38 and '42 versions?

TTH- I would also describe the Pattern '14 rifle as considerably better than "quite accurate". I have owned two (still shoot one) and both were very accurate without any "target" work done on them.

With regard to secondary weapons in WWI, the four volumes of my "British Secondary Small Arms 1914-1919" are still available and cover in detail all the weapons and ammunition discussed previously, e.g. Arisaka, Ross, Remington and Winchester .44 and .351 inch rifles, Colt, S & W and O.P. pistols etc.

They are:
Vol.1 The Arisaka in British Service
Vol.2 RFC and RNAS Small Arms
Vol.3 Land Service Small Arms
Vol.4 Royal Navy Small Arms.

I did not cover the Pattern'14 rifle as with 1.2 million delivered it was more "mainstream", but I have a book in (long term) preparation on it.

Regards
TonyE
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#19 ceolredmonger

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Posted 17 March 2012 - 09:41 AM

Fascinating about the Pistols .455in, Spanish, Old Pattern. These were obsolescent when new, S&W copies by the Eibar consortium were only intended to be acquired as 'substitute standard' during the First World War and were being withdrawn from front line service in 1916. Needs must.

My Dad did his RAF basic drill and musketry in 1943 with P14 and Ross rifles. He liked the Rifle No.2 (P14) and hated the straight-pull Ross - "how could you put confidence in a bolt that doesn't close?".

Keith
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#20 Wills

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Posted 17 March 2012 - 11:34 AM

Tony mentions the .455 W&S revolver - Young cadet and I got to fire one belonging to an ACF officer, The name cut into the barrel was so unusual it has stuck with me all these years Lieutenant Im Thurn Hampshire Regiment (WW1)The officer who owned it (1964) was a collector so I imagine it is still out there in a collection. We got to fire many weapons belonging to Lt Frank Spencer ACF - coaching pistol. 1911 Colt, a replica Brown Bess, the black powder Navy Colt. Springfield and a collection of black powder pistols. Not allowed now!



Some of the tales older RUC officers told of the .38 and .45 yarns about hitting someone wearing an overcoat and giving them a huge bruise and nothing else. Not so sure myself! Sgt H, R (RUC)- allowed me to fire his Rugger .44 down the pipe range at Glassmullin blimey that was a beast.

Edited by Wills, 17 March 2012 - 11:50 AM.

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#21 TonyE

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Posted 17 March 2012 - 11:58 AM

Fascinating about the Pistols .455in, Spanish, Old Pattern. These were obsolescent when new, S&W copies by the Eibar consortium were only intended to be acquired as 'substitute standard' during the First World War and were being withdrawn from front line service in 1916. Needs must.

My Dad did his RAF basic drill and musketry in 1943 with P14 and Ross rifles. He liked the Rifle No.2 (P14) and hated the straight-pull Ross - "how could you put confidence in a bolt that doesn't close?".

Keith


The quality was indeed poor and large numbers were rejected on inspection at Enfield which was eventually resolved by sending Spanish craftsmen to the UK to rectify faults. However, we eventually had over 30,000 of them.

They did see front line use as well, as I have pictures of their use.

Regards
TonyE
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#22 phylo_roadking

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Posted 17 March 2012 - 06:16 PM

Also, the Webleys were .455 not .45


Well, I must admit that's something I wondered at - it's a comment from David Orr's Duty Without Honour, the history of the UHG...but could .455 Webleys fire the old Webley Bulldog .45 Adams round that the "Webley RIC" did? The RUC inherited a lot of that from the RIC. It might also account for the "underpowered" .45 issue that Willis has also heard of in RUC service...

and which pistols do you describe as the 1932, '38 and '42 versions?


Again it's another quote from David Orr, but it could also refer to purchase batches by the RUC in those years rather than production versions.

Edited by phylo_roadking, 17 March 2012 - 06:22 PM.

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A great soldier once said -
“What? Oh, nonsense, Benton. I tell you that's a beach out there. It's probably Norfolk or somewhere like that… See that nobody wanders in. We can't have the place overrun with holiday makers. I'll nip out, find a phone and tell the authorities exactly where we are. I'm fairly sure that's Cromer. Back in a jiff.”

#23 TonyE

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Posted 17 March 2012 - 07:40 PM

Yes, the .455 Webleys and others could fire the old .450 cartridge, although not very efficiently.

Your explanation also explains the odd "model" numbers if they are actually acquisition dates. They certainly are not recognised Model numbers.

In 1920 the RIC applied to the Disposals Department for Webley .455 inch Self Loading pistols but were told none were available. They were offered a raft of different pistols including .38 S & W, H & R and others, including the Old Pattern pistols a number of which that they eventually took.

Regards
TonyE
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#24 phylo_roadking

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Posted 17 March 2012 - 07:59 PM

Yes, the .455 Webleys and others could fire the old .450 cartridge, although not very efficiently.


That also confirms something I heard thirty years ago as a teenager LOL This was mentioned in passing at a lecture on handguns to a local wargaming society in Belfast by a replica collector and ex-RUC constable....a hobby that was NOT common in N.I. at the height of the Troubles! I always wondered if my memory had played me false or not...
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A great soldier once said -
“What? Oh, nonsense, Benton. I tell you that's a beach out there. It's probably Norfolk or somewhere like that… See that nobody wanders in. We can't have the place overrun with holiday makers. I'll nip out, find a phone and tell the authorities exactly where we are. I'm fairly sure that's Cromer. Back in a jiff.”

#25 TTH

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Posted 17 March 2012 - 09:30 PM

I am not sure what you mean by the "weaker" Webleys. I would much rather have a Mark VI than an O.P. pistol!

Also, the Webleys were .455 not .45 and which pistols do you describe as the 1932, '38 and '42 versions?

TTH- I would also describe the Pattern '14 rifle as considerably better than "quite accurate". I have owned two (still shoot one) and both were very accurate without any "target" work done on them.

With regard to secondary weapons in WWI, the four volumes of my "British Secondary Small Arms 1914-1919" are still available and cover in detail all the weapons and ammunition discussed previously, e.g. Arisaka, Ross, Remington and Winchester .44 and .351 inch rifles, Colt, S & W and O.P. pistols etc.

They are:
Vol.1 The Arisaka in British Service
Vol.2 RFC and RNAS Small Arms
Vol.3 Land Service Small Arms
Vol.4 Royal Navy Small Arms.

I did not cover the Pattern'14 rifle as with 1.2 million delivered it was more "mainstream", but I have a book in (long term) preparation on it.

Regards
TonyE


Many thanks, Tony, I did not know there was a good book on the subject of non-standard WWI arms and if you give the title I will definitely look for yours. I have learned through various sources about Arisakas, the Savage M99, Winchester M94, M95, and M07 carbines and various non-standard pistols in Great War use. This could get very weird, apparently the RN had a lot of M1903 Browning pistols in 9mm Long, acquired along with Turkish contract warships seized in 1914. I also read somewhere on the net that the RFC used some Winchester M97 pump shotguns in WWI, though there was no indication of which sub-type (Riot, Trench, or Trap). According to the Hyperwar Lend-Lease link, the British got large numbers of shotguns from the US in WWII, but again there is no breakdown by maker or model.
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#26 TTH

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Posted 17 March 2012 - 09:34 PM

The quality was indeed poor and large numbers were rejected on inspection at Enfield which was eventually resolved by sending Spanish craftsmen to the UK to rectify faults. However, we eventually had over 30,000 of them.

They did see front line use as well, as I have pictures of their use.

Regards
TonyE


As to the quality of the Eibar guns...I knew large numbers had been rejected. However, I looked them up on some gun hobby boards and some modern owners have shot them with good results. Whether that would make the O.P. a robust service weapon under trench conditions is a different matter. Some guns just aren't up to the battering of military use.
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#27 TTH

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Posted 17 March 2012 - 09:36 PM

On the P-14, when I say "quite" accurate I am using literary understatement. (I've read too many British books.) I know it had an excellent reputation, it wouldn't have been the standard British sniper rifle for so long if it hadn't.
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#28 TTH

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Posted 17 March 2012 - 09:40 PM

Tony mentions the .455 W&S revolver - Young cadet and I got to fire one belonging to an ACF officer, The name cut into the barrel was so unusual it has stuck with me all these years Lieutenant Im Thurn Hampshire Regiment (WW1)The officer who owned it (1964) was a collector so I imagine it is still out there in a collection. We got to fire many weapons belonging to Lt Frank Spencer ACF - coaching pistol. 1911 Colt, a replica Brown Bess, the black powder Navy Colt. Springfield and a collection of black powder pistols. Not allowed now!



Some of the tales older RUC officers told of the .38 and .45 yarns about hitting someone wearing an overcoat and giving them a huge bruise and nothing else. Not so sure myself! Sgt H, R (RUC)- allowed me to fire his Rugger .44 down the pipe range at Glassmullin blimey that was a beast.

Im Thurn...hmmm. I wonder if that was Donald Im Thurn, the ex-MI man who passed the Zinoviev letter to the Conservative Party in 1924.
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#29 TTH

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Posted 17 March 2012 - 10:18 PM

Skennerton's British Small Arms of WWII has a lot of information on odd small arms. The thousands of American handguns are a subject unto themselves, so I'll leave them aside for now. I also noted the following, with quantities and WO acquisition or contract dates where known:

M1888 Mannlicher rifles 475 9/41
Schmeisser and Solothurn 'automatic rifles' 500 5/42
7.92mm Bren Guns ('Far East') 189 2/41
Hotchkiss 13.2mm MG 35 1935/36
Suomi 9mm SMG 500
Vickers 7.92mm MG 750+326 12/39

I also found small batches of 7.63mm Mauser and Astra C96 type pistols and machine pistols, Mausers purchased through Liege in 1940 and both Mausers and Astras purchased through Shanghai before Pearl Harbor. Again, the exact models aren't specified.

These items raise lots of questions. The M1888's might be ex-Italian, ex-Austro-Hungarian weapons captured in North Africa. The Schmeisser and Solothurn 'automatic rifles' might be several things: Solothurn anti-tank rifles (ex-Iti again?), Schmeisser-Haenel MP28, Steyr-Solothurn S100? Who knows? The Hotchkiss HMG might be a trial batch. I presume the 7.92mm Vickers were foreign contract guns seized by the government. I don't think the 7.92mm Bren were actually 'Bren,' because I don't think Inglis started making them until later than 2/41. They might be an ROF trial batch, or ZB 26's that got into the pipeline in the "Far East." (I don't recall anything on this in The Bren Gun Saga.) Ordnance tested the Suomi before the war and were keen on it, but they couldn't work out a contract so the Thompson was bought instead. I have no idea when or how they got a batch as big as 500. So, if anybody knows anything on these, chime in.
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#30 TonyE

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Posted 18 March 2012 - 12:23 PM

I wonder if the M1888 Mannlicher rifles were ex UDF?

I don't think the Suomi SMGs were ever delivered, neither were the Schmeisser "automatic rifles" which were probably SMGs. We certainly took delivery of several Solothurn 20mm A/T rifles pre-war for trials as we did an Oerlikon 20mm on tracked mounts.

The 13.2mm Hotchkiss MGs were an Air Ministry order as we came quite close to adopting the 13.2mm as aircraft armament just before the war. I have details of the trial firing of 13.2mm AP and incendiary against Blenheim targets on the ground at Orford Ness in about 1937/8.

It is sometimes quite difficult when going through the contract books (as Ian did) to ascertain what was actually delivered. I have just been doing that for ammunition orders for a talk I am giving at the IAA meeting in St.Louis next month and it does not help to find entries like "Ordered Abroad" or "Cancelled?".

Another complication is that in most of the early records the Lanchester is referred to as the "Schmeisser gun", for example the order for 9mm ball and proof ammunition from Winchester in 1940 which is for "Schmeisser guns for Admiralty".

There is a book in preparation on WW2 non standard and substitute arms but it is still some way from completion as new information constantly turns up.

If anyone would like to order any of my WWI secondary weapons books they can be obtained from me directly. PM for details.

Regards
TonyE
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