Book Review Sterling Armament Company - Laidler, Edmiston, Howroyd

Discussion in 'Books, Films, TV, Radio' started by von Poop, Feb 20, 2021.

  1. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    A History of the Small Arms made by the Sterling Armament Company.
    'Excellence in Adversity'


    By James Edmiston, David Howroyd, Peter Laidler
    Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
    Pages: 352
    Illustrations: 32 colour & 350 black and white illustrations
    ISBN: 9781526773302
    Published: 7th August 2020
    A History of the Small Arms made by the Sterling Armament Company

    Anybody who's ever delved into Small Arms history in any depth has doubtless come across 'Collector Grade Publications'. Ridiculously detailed, and (in the few I've seen) authoritative & serious weapon-specific titles, well-illustrated & presented in a very ordered & particular manner. The big barrier to accessing them, though, has always been price. If I wanted to get Handrich's 'Sturmgewehr' (which I rate as one of the best technical books I have in any field), you're talking over a ton on Abe.
    The above not just a distracting plug for those books... on first flicking through this, I thought 'The style seems familiar' very familiar in fact. Not plagiarism, but what they've done is contact the widow of the CG publisher & obtain rights to use a previous book to build on for this one. That book 'The Guns of Dagenham' by Laidler & Howroyd is near-unobtainium & at asking prices that make the Handrich seem reasonable.

    Seems like a laudable idea to me, bringing hard-to-get obscurity to a more accessible price point from a mass-market publisher.
    The name that's added to the Guns of Dagenham base Is James Edmiston, who actually owned Sterling 1972-83. I'm told by more firearm-specialist readers that this one contains parts of previous books by him too, and there's certainly a feeling of Collector Grade stuff with a little more anecdotal info added, though having not read any of Mr Edmiston's books I can't say how much is from them. I'm here to review the thing as-is.

    So... after that longish pre-amble. Has the approach worked?
    very much so.
    It's a weighty, serious, well-illustrated book on the British Army's later Small Metal Guns.
    I'm hesitant to say 'later' there, as it's pretty good on early 'non-Sten' work to close the SMG gap found in wartime too. From reverse-engineering the MP28, through Lanchester, Patchett & De Lisle. it makes thorough step-by-step progress on that stuff, before focussing more strongly on Patchett as the origins of the 'Classic' Sterling SMGs. (Including a nice picture of the man himself in Home Guard uniform carrying his own Patchett machine pistol. Imagine turning out with your own company's miniature telescoping SMG... bit flash).

    If you're unfamiliar with the Collector Grade style; their real strength is in that step-by-step thing. Every significant point of development is covered as chronologically as possible, with multiple short-ish sub-headings, all with specific photographs/diagrams of the item discussed. None of that is lost here, with the only noticeable difference being perhaps slightly weightier chunks of text on factory/production issues, which I'm assuming might come from the former MD's input. Those more wordy areas can seem a tad disjointed from the deeply nerdish stuff, but don't devolve into rambling. The thorough but concise nature that I think suits technical/machine history books isn't lost.

    One chapter that might interest the WW2 types more than others is that on De Lisle silenced carbines & other subsonic low noise work (also devotes a page or two to the 'Arnhem Patchetts' legend, giving a credible source for the origins of those guns... If they did indeed make it over). Despite it being pre-eminently about Sterling, if it touches on other weapons that are sometimes only indirectly associated with the firm, it never leaves you wondering. Everything is given a satisfying level of detail & illustration.

    The final chapters are a moderately depressing tale of hard times for a strange industry. They remind you that this is a book about a company as much as its products. One that went from Electrical, Radio & Gas Lighting products to weaponry, without missing much of a beat until that traditional latter decline.

    There's a fair few errors of type-setting in there. Some odd spacing & what look like they might be OCR issues while scanning original text. They can be a tad distracting, but nothing that really bothered me. I've seen some reviews calling the photographs 'rubbish quality', which I really don't understand. Having laid it next to the Handrich, yes the CG images are crisper, but there's absolutely nothing wrong with the ones here. Wondering if those reviews were for a Kindle edition. (It's pretty cheap on Kindle, but who wants books like this on Kindle...)

    Worth getting?
    If you like Small Arms: Absolutely. Post-war the main tale, but plenty to interest WW2 gun nuts as well.
    Is it a truly original title? I don't really know, not having any of the books it's apparently been assembled from, but it stands on its own, & presenting CG-style stuff in this accessible way is to be applauded. I hope a few more books get re-written/re-built in a similar manner, particularly when the 'donor' titles are out of print or crazy prices.

    Thanks to P&S for the review copy.

    Dave55, Nick the Noodle and TTH like this.
  2. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    Sounds excellent. I can't afford the Collector Grade books, alas, but I've read the ones on the BAR and the Bren and found them superb.

    I am a fan of the Lanchester, but I have heard three different stories about its development.

    1) It was derived from an MP28 obtained through Spain.
    2) It was derived not from a genuine MP28 but from a scaled up Spanish-made clone called the Naranja.
    3) It was derived from an MP28 obtained through Ethiopia.

    Which of these stories do the authors accept?
  3. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    They cite a report from the 1st of January 1940 of the Chief Inspector of Small Arms Being given two commercial MP28(II), one 9mm & the other 7.63, produced by Haenel & Obtained by the Addis Ababa Consul General. (No footnote on what that report might more specifically be.)
    Dave55 and TTH like this.
  4. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    Interesting. 9mm Parabellum?
  5. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Doesn't say, other than they tested it with some ICI ammunition that seemed to be underpowered, which may be a clue.
    Mention of trouble with extractors at first, eventually rectified with a bit of fettling.

    Does mention that they were 'commercial' guns, so maybe that indicates what chambering was available.

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