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

Discussion in 'Weapons, Technology & Equipment' started by TTH, Mar 16, 2012.

  1. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    If this re-enactor site is correct (and it looks pretty well researched) then the photos of 1 Canadian Para were taken in Germany in April 45. Reenactor Guide Part 2a

    And how is the great book going? I await it eagerly.
  2. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    As far as I know no M1917s were ever officially issued with telescopic sights, so the weapon in question may have been a No. 3 (T), a P14 with the Aldis scope which was the standard sniping weapon until the advent of the No. 4 (T). Remington did make a commercial sporter between the wars based on the P14/M1917 action. This was the Model 30, which could be and sometimes was fitted with various commercial scopes.
  3. idler

    idler GeneralList Patron

    Di - you referenced it in the 'British Snipers' thread:

    British snipers
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  4. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Cheers for finding that - goes to show how crap my search skills were again yesterday...

    ...and my memory - scopes not rifles!

    1st Bn Irish Guards
    1939 October 15
    Wellington Barracks
    Seven Other Ranks proceeded to BISLEY to attend the 1st Course of the BRIGADE OF GUARDS Sniper School. This course is being run by Lieutenant STIRLING, SCOTS GUARDS and Lieutenant GORDON-WATSON went down some days ago to help him start it. They are reputed already to have persuaded an American millionaire to present them with 50 really first class and expensive telescopes.

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  5. TTH

    TTH Senior Member


    In the 1940 crisis all sorts of odd and old artillery was hauled out of various corners. I have heard that 13-pounder field guns and 6 inch Newton mortars were dusted off and pressed into use, but I have seen no particulars. Along those lines, I am trying to find out if any surviving examples of certain other obsolete Great War types were employed during the second war. To be specific, I am looking for information on the following pieces, all of which were fairly common WWI weapons:

    1. The 9.45" trench mortar, a French design in British service, where it was sometimes known as "The Flying Pig" after its massive bomb. We (U.S. Army) and the French also used it, so maybe the Germans captured some in 1940?
    2. The 2.75" mountain gun. This was sometimes called the 10-pounder, but it is not to be confused with an earlier non-recoil 10-pounder which was also used in WWI. The 2.75" seems to have survived in India until well into the 1930s, so I was wondering if any were still there in 1939.
    3. The 4.7" gun Mark IV. This was a medium gun, a naval weapon mounted on a field carriage before 1914 to give the army something until the 60-pdr came along. The 4.7" stayed in service in France and Flanders in diminishing numbers until 1917 and soldiered on in other theaters after that. A beautiful example of it is at Valladolid in Spain. I think it was captured from the Spanish Republicans, but where they got it from I have no idea. It does show that some were still extant into the late 1930s.
    4. The 6" gun Mark VII. This was used very widely as a naval and coast defense weapon and it was put onto a very big and weighty carriage to give the British Army a mobile heavy gun. This field version remained in service throughout the Great War, though it was gradually supplemented and replaced by the more mobile Mark XIX. The coast defense weapons remained and many served throughout WWII. One example of the field version wound up in Finland and was used against the Russians in WWII, so I was wondering if any more were kicking around.
    5. The 8" howitzer Mark I-V. This was the original 8" howitzer, a 1915 extempore design consisting of old 6" BLC guns bored out to 8" and hoisted onto wheeled carriages. They lasted in the field for much if not all of the Great War, though later gradually replaced by the much improved Mark VI/VII/VIII series. Online authorities says the Mk I-V pieces were simply scrapped as they wore out, but if any survived for later use I'd like to know.

    I can post images of these weapons if that will help. As ever, thanks to anyone who knows and is willing to share their knowledge.
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2019
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  6. PackRat

    PackRat Well-Known Member

    This page from 130 Field Regiment's war diary for July 1940 lists the antiquated weaponry mix they possessed to defend a section of the Essex coastline. Includes mention of a pair of 13-pounders at Dovercourt. Also mentions 12-pounders, 6" mortars and 4" naval guns.


    By the end of the next month 130 Field's kit had been 'upgraded' to 16 x 75mms and 8 x 4.5 howitzers. Would be interested to know what those 75mms might have been, though. French? American?

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  7. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA Patron

    Dad's Army had a 13 pounder in season 3 episode 7 - "Big Guns"

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  8. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    The whole business of the 75mm field guns in British service is complicated and confusing. I don't have time to cover it all in detail right now, but the British got at least three basic types from the US: the 75mm M1917, the 75mm M1916, and the 75mm M1897. The M1917 was a Great War extemporization, the 18 Pdr Mk III altered to take French 75mm ammunition. The M1916 was an original American WWI design with some potentially good features, but it turned out so poorly that it became a minor ordnance scandal. The M1897 was of course the famous "Soixante-Quinze." We got some from the French and made some here, and there were a variety of minor variations of both gun and carriage in US service. These older M1897 variants on the original pole trail did go to the British. Late in the 1930s we modified and improved the M1897 design drastically with a new streamlined barrel and a new split-trail carriage, the M2. This latter improved type was pretty new in US service in 1939-41 and I don't know if we ever sent any to Britain or other allied nations.
    Last edited: May 1, 2019
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  9. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    Marder III in British Service

    Well, here's something you don't see every day. I positively stumbled across this while browsing some modeling sites: a Marder III Ausf M in British use in Italy. It's got an RAF roundel and what modelers report as a standard British camouflage pattern too, so some workshop did put in some effort on it after it fell into British hands. The formation sign is for 8th Indian Division, the '65' denoting the 1st Royal Fusiliers of 17th Indian Brigade. I'd say that shows commendable initiative by the unit. From the angle of the gun and the vehicle, I suppose it's being used as a field gun rather than in the anti-tank role. I'd love to know the story behind these images, which I read come from the IWM.

    Attached Files:

  10. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    I think that one is in a booklet I have about captured German vehicles in Allied service. I'll see if there is some explanation to it, later.
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  11. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    An Ordnance Coelacanth: the BL 6 Inch 30 cwt Howitzer

    This British weapon was no longer in British service in 1939 but it's such a weird story that I have to include it here. The 6 Inch 30 cwt How was the only medium or heavy field howitzer available to the British Army when the Great War broke out in 1914. The design dated back to the 1890s. The short trail, limited elevation, and somewhat primitive recoil system limited range to just 7,000 yards with a 100 lb. shell. For lack of anything better the 30 cwt saw a lot of use in the first two years of the war, most notably at Gallipoli. The much better and more modern 6 Inch 26 cwt displaced it in France and Flanders but it lasted into 1917 at least in the Mediterranean. Many of the surviving pieces were then given to the Greeks, who used them against the Central Powers and later in their disastrous war of conquest in Turkey. Those still left went into reserve until Mussolini's attack in 1940. The 6 inch 30 cwts were no longer in good shape by then and of course they were as obsolete as Noah's Ark but they were hauled out of store anyway and installed in the Metaxas Line, where supposedly they saw service against the Germans. I imagine the Germans must have captured some, but God knows what they made of them. Did they even bother to give them a stock number? Anyway, at least two survived somehow and remain in Greece today, one in a museum in Athens and another in a museum in Salonika. What stories those guns could tell if they could only talk.

    Attached Files:

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  12. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    The Lord: the 6-Inch Mark VII on Field Carriage

    When the Great War broke out in 1914 the British Army found itself terribly short of heavy guns, nearly all those it had being reserved for coast defense. To provide a mobile heavy field gun, the army mounted some 6-Inch Mark VII coast defense pieces on a very heavy mobile carriage designed by Percy Scott, who had done the same sort of job with the 4.7 Inch gun during the Boer War. A somewhat better (but still very heavy) series of carriages followed later. The Mk VII field piece stayed in service throughout the war though it was gradually superseded in front-line service by the 6-Inch Mk XIX, which had better range and was one third lighter. During the Winter War of 1939-1940 the Finns went shopping for a heavy gun which would be mobile enough to employ both in the field and coast defense roles. They wanted a modern weapon but the best they could come up with was the obsolescent Mk VII field gun. The excellent Jaeger Platoon Website says the Finns purchased and received seven of them in 1940 together with ammunition. It doesn't say they bought them from the British, but that is implied and I certainly can't imagine who else would have had any of them. This would suggest that these old crocks were still in the RA inventory in 1939, and doubtless the gunners were glad to see the last of them. The Mk VII proved of limited use to the Finns. The thing weighed 35,439 pounds on its carriage (the carriage mark of the Finnish pieces is not given) and seems to have been the heaviest mobile weapon in Finnish service. It required two tractors to tow one gun, and even then it wasn't an easy job since the guns were so heavy that bridges and roads had to be reinforced to support them. Finnish troops called the gun Loordi (The Lord), doubtless in tribute to its size and weight. The guns were used in action against the Soviets in 1941 but their barrels wore quickly and the range with the 100 lb shell was just 13,670 yards, not much compensation for the effort of moving the damned things. The Lords were mostly kept in reserve after that and they were still in the Finnish inventory in the immediate postwar years, when there was an unrealized project for employing them as railroad guns. Britain kept the Mk VII in service in coast defense mounts throughout the war, in which role it was more useful.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: May 4, 2019
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  13. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    American Committee for the Defense of British Homes: Preferred Types

    Mention has been made here before of the American Committee for the Defense of British Homes, a pro-Allied citizen's group formed in 1940 to enable Americans to donate small arms and other items to Britain for home defense. This outfit tends to be dismissed as unserious and it's certainly true that it collected some curious and antiques of no military value, some of which are still held in the Imperial War Museum. It is possible that the the committee and its work were more valuable as propaganda than anything else, but newspaper evidence shows that it was not entirely an amateur operation. The main committee in New York operated through local sub-committees right down to the county level and coordination between the center and the localities was quite close. For one thing, the central committee very definitely had preferences about which types of weapons were most desirable. The local committees received type lists as circulars and these were often publicized in the newspapers. These preferences changed and became more specific from 1940 to 1941. At the outset, the ACDBH particularly wanted pistols and revolvers in .32, .38, .45, and .455 calibers, sporting rifles in .22, .30, .303, .44-40 (Winchester) and "metric calibres from 7mm to 8mm," all military type rifles and especially Mausers and Lee-Enfields, and shotguns in 10 gauge and 12 gauge (no damascene barrels, please). The committee preferred military-style jacketed ammo (nothing round-nosed) as well as No. 4 and 00 buckshot, rifled slugs, and "pumpkin balls" (?) for shotguns. Most of the calibers listed were already in British service to some extent, even the .44-40 Winchester. (Some Winchester rifles in that caliber had been purchased in WWI and I suppose were still around--or at least the ammo was.) The ACDBH seems to have kept going right up until Pearl Harbor, that is well after the worst of the Dunkirk crisis and the British rush to re-arm had passed. By the early autumn of 1941 the ACDBH (and the War Office, one supposes) was more specific about its needs and had greater means too. Donations were still solicited and small sums of money were now available to purchase arms at a "reasonable price." Pawnshops and arms dealers became special targets for the committee, which by now was focusing on pistols. The weapons sought were .32 Colt and .32 Savage automatics, .32 Browning "Pattern FN" and "Pattern FL" automatics (whatever those designations meant), .380 Colt, .38 Colt (pocket, military, and sporting), and .45 Colt automatics, .455 Colt and .455 Smith & Wesson revolvers, and 9mm Browning, 9mm Luger, and 9mm Mauser automatics. Again, most of the weapons, calibers, or both were already in British service if only to a limited degree or at least common in Europe. So, whatever it wound up with the ACDBH was not out just to collect junk for propaganda reasons. One other myth also needs to be corrected. It's often said (especially among the Joseph Kennedy types on our firearms websites) that despite promising to do so the British never returned any of the donated weapons to their original American owners. That is not true, as newspaper articles from 1948 show. By that year at least some guns were returning to this country, and so while it took a while and sometimes a few irate letters the British government did make some effort to show its gratitude.
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  14. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    The second photograph is IWM NA10439. I found it in British Armor in Sicily and Italy (Dennis Oliver). You can look at it on the website of the IWM but there really aren't many details. It's a much higher resolution image though!

    "Men of the 1st Royal Fusiliers operate a captured German Marder 75mm self-propelled gun, 30 December 1943."

    Apparently (per Oliver) it must have been repainted in "Light Mud" and "Blue Black" plus the roundel. I'm not sure why they put an RAF roundel on the side per se - that was an aircraft recognition symbol and usually put on the top. Then again the Marder doesn't have much of a top.
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  15. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    This takes Non-Standard to an entirely new level.


    Poor kids!
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  16. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA Patron

    What's going on with that one?

    Guessing looted baby carriages in France?
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  17. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA Patron

  18. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

  19. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    Sorry, but I don't think that's terribly funny. Ever see Rules of the Game? In May and June 1940 the roads of Belgium and northern France were clogged not only with retreating Allied troops but with hordes of civilian refugees, of course including many children. My own elementary school teacher, a Jewish girl from Antwerp, was one of those children. The Germans showed no mercy whatsoever to these people, often deliberately targeting them for air attack and artillery fire. I've read accounts by veterans of 50th Division who saw this happen and who were outraged by it. Where do you suppose the children who were riding in those carriages are? Dead in the roadside ditches, that's where. I expect that many of the arrogant young bastards marching along in that photograph later froze or starved to death in Stalingrad or were murdered by Allied air and artillery in the Falaise Pocket. Serve them right.
  20. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

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