Small arms "Bring Backs" from WWII

Discussion in 'Weapons, Technology & Equipment' started by TTH, Jul 18, 2014.

  1. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    I have a question that relates to something I am writing. In the US at least one sometimes hears of "bring back" or souvenir weapons which ex-servicemen brought back home after leaving the service. Sometimes these were enemy trophies (Lugers, etc.), sometimes they were service weapons that troops decided to keep. ("Sonny, this is my old M1/.45/carbine that saved my ass during the Big One.") The US Army had regulations against this, and one hears of men stuffing things in their barracks bags and so on. Does anyone have any idea how common this really was, or how difficult/easy it was to evade regulations? I am particularly interested in service weapons, less so in enemy trophies. I am most interested in American examples, but I also wonder about the British and Commonwealth.
  2. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    I don't think that theft of British weapons as trophies was a great problem. Few British households would have countenanced a rifle and who would have preferred a spell in the glasshouse when they were about to demob ?

    The British were continually warned about bringing back captured trophies, right up until departure. My Dad lost his nerve on the boat on his first post-war leave from Germany and threw a handgun in the Channel. His father though was more successful in WW1 and I can still remember my mother calling the police when they found a pistol and ammunition whilst clearing the house. The village Bobby turned up in his bicycle clips and cycled away with the handed-in gun. How times have changed !
  3. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron


    Your Dad and I were of the same mind.

    When I dumped a Jerry dagger overboard the channel ferry boat I was thinking "Who's going to risk losing my first leave home !"

  4. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Doesn't really relate to what you're most after by way of examples ...

    My father brought back the usual captured luger etc, but got rid of it when he realised he wanted nothing more to do with guns. He did keep a dress sword, a bayonet and daggers: btw the latter bore evidence of crude attempts to break off the points. So bringing stuff over didn't seem to be a problem for him.
    However, relating to regulations and how easy it was to evade detection - he did tell me that he was queuing up to embark when word went back down the line that MPs were checking everyone and everything for any contraband; that included anything they deemed to be loot. Men quietly stepped out of the queue, at first singly and then in groups, to chuck things into the water. One very burly Scots Guardsman at the top of the line was heard having an argument with MPs. He was balancing what appeared to be a large, well-made wooden cabinet on his shoulder. This he threw down on the ground to smash into pieces, and a few well-aimed stomps ensured that the radio and record player housed inside would never work again. "If I cannae have it, then none of you bastards can have it either!" which indicates what was probably at the back of many minds. Of course, it could well have been a great distraction from what he might have hidden away in his kit bag.
    So as Ron mentioned also, a lot of gear was probably dumped at the last moment & voluntarily, for fear of consequences. Not a bad outcome for those tasked with enforcing the rules.
  5. Deacs

    Deacs Well i am from Cumbria.

    I can always remember a dagger in my granda's tool kit with swastika's on the handles it always intrigued me.
    But being very young it was a look but no touchy.
  6. gtblackwell

    gtblackwell Junior Member

    I can clearly recall a US event but am reluctant and many do not believe me and I have received emails to that effect. I was born in 1940, have tried to live a truthful and honest life but I cannot prove this story.

    I had an older cousin, Atlas Milhouse who returned from the ETO after the war as a Captain . I do not know his Division or regiment. We visited him in the early 50's and he had a the Thompson issued him, an M2 carbine and an M1 carbine. He also had a M1 Garand and an 03 Springfield but they may have been after the war purchases. He had a standard issue Luger and a P-38, a German youth dagger and helmet. , two military binoculars, a 16X50 and a 7X50 pair as well as his gear and several German flag or banners, small. My brother and I never questioned how he got them but my dad ask sand he said in duffel bags and he returned by ship. He gave us the M 1 carbine, the Luger and the dagger and a German helmet..

    Obviously he broke more than a few rules but he indicated it was rather easy. He never talked about the war and I never knew what happened to the items he kept. The Thompson and the M2 being full automatic are now illegal without a permit but I do not know if they were in 1945

    I write this as a indication of how one soldier managed to bring home a good bit of stuff. I would guess they were outlawed in the rather wild 30's in the US.
    dbf likes this.
  7. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron

    From stories I've heard of men returning from India; attempting to keep their own weapons, none. Field glasses, compasses and such like, many.

    And very much like stories from Ron and Rich, Bombay harbour would have needed to be dredged of Japanese souvenirs by late 1945.
  8. RCG

    RCG Senior Member, Deceased

  9. Omegaman

    Omegaman Member

    WW1 vintage but I remember several clips of .303 ammunition at my grandads house in the 1960s, he wasn't mobilised in WW2 but a reserved occupation. I have two champagne glasses from a mansion in Germany which Dad brought back somehow. It happens
  10. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic

    Probably it wasn't deactivated after all. And ignorance is no excuse. Sentence will presumably be proportionate.
  11. ceolredmonger

    ceolredmonger Member

    I have been told that whilst MPs gave people a thorough check, the volume of vehicles and packed up kit was harder to check. MT and Bn HQ (Office and Officer's Mess) Nco's became popular friends.

    Not WWII however food for thought - an ex gunner (Iraq 1990) told me "you can get an awful lot of stuff in a worn 155mm barrel with a conveniently jammed breech" adding "a gunner would never have done it to a good barrel". The culprits were caught within the unit so apart from confiscation of the contraband (which included firearms) no action was taken.
  12. chick42-46

    chick42-46 Senior Member

    My grandfather brought back a ton of stuff from the war. I'm not completely sure how he did it - the family story has him in a taxi while others on foot around him were being searched and having to dump their "loot". At some point after May 1945 he drove some sort of bigwig around in a staff car. I don't know if that helped. He also posted dolls and train sets back to Dundee from Europe. His unit came back to the UK sometime in the summer of 1945 before shipping for Cairo in September. So it is a bit of a mystery how he came to have an M1 carbine and ammunition, various silver spoons and other such items, cameras, collections of Nazi postcards and photographs etc etc etc. He sold most if it in the years after returning from Palestine in July 1946. The carbine and ammo was stll in the attic when he died but was handed in to the police for destruction during a firearms amnesty shortly after.
    dbf likes this.
  13. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA

    I posted this one over on WW2f a couple of days ago. George Reeves was an American actor who played 'Superman' on a popular TV show in the fifties

    Topic: George Reeves encounter with souvenir Luger

    Found this tidbit over on IMDB

    He was cautious in his interaction with the young children who were fans of Adventures of Superman (1952) because they often tried to test his "invulnerability" by assaulting him. At one appearance a young boy came up to Reeves, pulled out a pistol and pointed it at him. The boy had taken the weapon, a Luger that his father had brought home from World War II, to see if "Superman" really was invulnerable. Reeves convinced the boy to give him the gun by saying that someone else would get hurt when the bullets bounced off of "Superman".
  14. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

    As posted on another thread, Lorne Bartlett, a Canadian sniper, talked about sending home a fully functional MP40 to his father in Canada. He had killed the original owner.
    No discussion if that required some collusion with someone sending the parcels.
  15. RCG

    RCG Senior Member, Deceased

    Well that's what he got.

    A Wisbech councillor and former town mayor who was found guilty of possessing an illegal firearm has been given a 21-month suspended prison sentence.
    Jonathan Farmer, 57, of South Brink, Wisbech, was also ordered to do 250 hours of unpaid work, pay £2,000 costs, and a £100 victim surcharge at Cambridge Crown Court today (Friday).
  16. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

    Wow! What sentences do the hardened criminals get?
  17. chrisgrove

    chrisgrove Senior Member

    Who was the victim?

  18. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic

    I get the impression that he became the real victim when handed the weapon. He appears naive but still should have known better. The Councillor bit is a red herring and there have been a number of gun amnesties over the years. Sentence appears harsh in the circumstances in my mind but we don't know the rest of the background.
  19. NickFenton

    NickFenton Well-Known Member

    Clearly it was up to him to have it checked to make sure it was de-commissioned, especially with all the media coverage on such issues and the apparent ease in which they can be re-commissioned in some cases, but l think intent should also come into this.I wonder what some hood would get for wandering around with a dangerous knife or some other weapon? I am also sure that unlicensed guns have regularly been found in house clearances, etc. probably less now, where either the owners have long forgotten they were there or the original owner has passed away.

    I think returning RAF POW's may have found it easier as it was probably thought that they would not have had too much of interest as they would have had little time to collect.

    My Father returned with a German standard top and a pair of bino's, given to him by one of the guards rather than them being looted, not easily hidden, especially as he was flown straight to Cosford for recovery.

    He was unable to bring back his own service weapon as he left that floating or should l saw, sinking, in the North Sea!


  20. idler

    idler GeneralList

    Some good news on that story: Plod have also let Mr Farmer pay get the weapon deactivated so it can go to the local Museum. They must have been feeling generous after such a great result without having to deal with real armed criminals!

    The weapon is question was a Walther PPK that appears to have been surrendered at Cassino to a chap called Bruce Pearce who was with 5th Maratha Light Infantry. Their history mentions a 2/Lt B W Peace who joined 1/5 Marathas in Italy; that could be him but they are the only battalion in Italy for whom an officer's roll has been included.

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