Pattern 1914 .303" Enfield No3 MKI France 1940

Discussion in 'Weapons, Technology & Equipment' started by James K, Jan 16, 2020.

  1. James K

    James K Active Member

    I've read some references to these rifles being issued as an emergency measure to Pioneer and other support troops and RAF ground personnel in May and June 1940. Can anyone cast any light on this? I know that they were issued in the UK after the fall of France and used by some snipers in operational theatres later. But this is the first time I've seen reference to them in France 1940.
     
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  2. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA Patron

    Also where they ever issued to anyone in WWI?
     
  3. Robert-w

    Robert-w Well-Known Member

    I've seen a reference to snipers in the CEF having their Ross rifles replaced by the P14 and "A Rifleman went to War" the memoirs of a Canadian sniper named MacBride cited in evidence but as I don't have a copy I can't confirm
    About 70 P14s were supplied to the forces of the Irish Free State in the early 20s
     
  4. James K

    James K Active Member

    The Royal Naval Division had some
     
  5. Robert-w

    Robert-w Well-Known Member

    I'd guess issued to snipers
     
  6. James K

    James K Active Member

    I'm not sure, at first there was a shortage of SMLE and they had Lee Metfords or long Lee Enfields, especially when they were training at Blandford
     
  7. Robert-w

    Robert-w Well-Known Member

    The same shortage applied to a lot of new formations, however the P14 was significantly more accurate than the SMLE but much less suited for rapid fire and it does appear to have been used as a sniper rifle. By the time the Naval Division was in action in any significant numbers the problems with SMLE production had been resolved.
     
  8. James K

    James K Active Member

    Those deployed to Belgium in August 1914 were equipped with older pattern rifles.
     
  9. James K

    James K Active Member

    Use in France 1940?
     
  10. Robert-w

    Robert-w Well-Known Member

    There are photos of German 2nd line troops with P14s
    http://pic50.picturetrail.com/VOL437/658868/10754765/357726362.jpg
    This may have given rise to the belief that these were captured from the British in France in 1940. However Britain sold stocks of this weapon in the Baltic in the inter war period and these subsequently fell into Soviet hands in 1940 when the Baltic States were annexed and were later taken by the Germans in 1941. It was confusingly referred to by the Germans as the Ross Enfield
     
  11. ceolredmonger

    ceolredmonger Member

    I hate not being able to cite sources however I have to recall old research not having my original full notes -

    First WW: Arriving from Feb 1916 the first model of P14 was in the mix for issue to Kitchener units for training however those available weren't deemed suitable for service (that said, I have never seen any evidence of actual issue at this time). In December 1916 P14 MkI* models became available so issue as a serviceable rifle was theoretically possible however problems with the promised interchangeability of parts caused concern - hence the manufacturer's initial was used in the designation. It was recommended that issue was limited to one manufacturer per batch. This complication pushed the type to the back of the queue as various types of now mass produced SMLE MkIII arrived from around the Empire (lessons had been learned from the 'Spanish' revolver scandal).
    The Mauser style action was considered slower however more precise than the Lee-Enfield so lent itself to a sniper rifle and the P14 MkI*(W) was chosen as the preferred standard sniper rifle either with a fine adjustment open sights or a telescopic sights. This is the only variant I have seen positive proof being at the front.

    Second WW: Now Rifle No.3 Mk1*(E/W/R) in the 1930's they were audited and checked they were up to modern standards for repair in regular military armourer's workshops (a Mk2 standard was considered however doesn't appear to have been adopted). The No.3 Mk1*(W) T remained the standard sniper rifle and remained on the inventory after the No.1 and No.4 T variants became available.

    They were trained on as a standard weapon at depot and specialist level until declared obsolete in 1947 - armourers, instructors and such were familiar with them. Theoretically they were available for issue in discrete batches - where they were the single type in use so not complicating a supply/repair/training system - so an RAF unit would be a prime candidate. It is how they were issued post-Dunkirk (along with other small batch weapons - e.g.Ross Rifles). I am not sure that putting them in the BEF supply chain fulfills this criteria though.

    I trust this helps in some way.
     
  12. Robert-w

    Robert-w Well-Known Member

    The main difference between the two rifles was in the design of the bolt. The P14 had the locking lugs at the front and the SMLE at the rear. This made the P14 more precise but working the bolt was slower. The P14 magazine held 5 rounds as opposed to the SMLE's 10. These two features made it less apt for rapid fire than the SMLE. It was also more difficult to clean. It was therefore not regarded to be suitable for issue to front line infantry if the SMLE was available and to be used for second line troops where possible to allow priority for SMLEs for front line infantry
     
  13. James K

    James K Active Member

    From what I understand they were issued to some Pioneers, Gunners of heavy anti aircraft batteries and RAF ground crew who were otherwise unarmed or insufficiently armed
     
  14. Robert-w

    Robert-w Well-Known Member

    Before or after Dunkirk?
     
  15. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA Patron

    Worth a mention that it was originally designed to fire the new .276 Enfield round, which had a higher chamber pressure than the .303

    .276 Enfield - Wikipedia
     
  16. James K

    James K Active Member

    I'm not sure if it was before or after Dunkirk, but certainly before the final withdrawal of the 2ndBEF/LoC troops. Apparently the Pioneers had two thirds of their rifles withdrawn, for supply to other units, earlier. A supply of P14's was brought in so that every Pioneer, RAF ground crew and other troops who would have been without weapons were able to defend themselves.

    There is also some question about the Indian Animal Transport units and their use of the Vickers Berthier LMG. They were equipped with one Vickers LMG per section of ten men when they left India so I presume, given the apparent shortage of Bren guns, they were used in France.
     
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  17. Robert-w

    Robert-w Well-Known Member

    And given that the P14 was regarded as a weapon for 2nd line troops this at first makes sense but thinking about it implies one or more of the following

    1. There were first line troops already in France without SMLEs
    2. There were first line troops being shipped to France without SMLEs
    3. SMLEs were being shipped back to Britain to equip first line troops there
    of these 3 would seem the least unlikely as they could be being used to rearm soldiers who had lost kit at Dunkirk but what is the evidence?
     
  18. James K

    James K Active Member

    Certainly the gunners in Anti Tank Regiments, were very much "First Line Troops" yet were often unarmed.

    Infantry Division Anti Tank Regiment RA
    Officers/SNCO/Men x 550
    Revolver x75 (.38")
    Rifle .303" x 182 (MKIII)
    Light machine Gun x 66 (Bren)
    Anti Tank Rifle .55" x 13 (Boys)
    2 Pdr AT Gun x 48

    As you can see there is a significant shortage of personal weapons with just 313 men out of 550 being armed. Anti Tank Regiments were not only Front Line Troops but among the best equipped of all RA regiments. Field Regiments had an even more significant shortage and by the time it came to Heavy Anti Aircraft Regiments only a small proportion of men had any personal weapons at all. This information comes from "History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery - The Years of Defeat 1939-41" by Gen Sir Martin Farndale. Front Line Troops might also reasonably include RASC drivers in Field Ambulances, who were often armed only with revolvers if they had anything at all. Major EH Rhodes-Wood, mentions in his book "A War History of The Royal Pioneer Corps" that those Pioneer units with weapons had 75% of them withdrawn as they were required by front line units who were lacking in weapons. He then, later, goes on to mention "old rifles being found for every man" at a later date.
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2020 at 4:17 PM
  19. Robert-w

    Robert-w Well-Known Member

    Nothing new here arttillery men in the past were not issued with small arms on a one to one basis. For example in WW1 a field gun crew only had a couple of rifles carried on the limber
     
  20. James K

    James K Active Member

    Perhaps, but whereas Field Artillery is usually, but not always, located some way behind the battle area Anti Tank Regiments were located IN the forward battle area, making them subject to the same dangers as the infantry.
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2020 at 4:34 PM

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