You are a big hairy matelot boarding a ship, you want a weapon you can stab the enemy with, club him with and if you are really desperate shoot him with…you want a Lanchester!
At the start of World War 2 Britain was the only major power with neither a sub machine gun in its inventory, nor a weapon in development. It soon became clear that one was desperately needed and the easiest option seemed to be to reverse engineer an existing design and put that into manufacture. The British had two examples of German MP28s they had acquired from Ethiopia of all places and they used these as a basis for an almost exact copy that was to become known as the Lanchester. Initially the gun was to be produced for the RAF for airfield defence and for the Royal Navy for boarding parties. In the end the gun was not adopted by the RAF as Stens were coming into service and it was almost exclusively used by the Royal Navy, 79,790 being produced.
The gun is the complete opposite of the Sten gun, it is beautifully made with a wooden stock, brass magazine housing and extensive machining:A number of familiar elements were added to the German design, the butt stock is modelled on that of the Lee Enfield rifle:And includes a brass butt plate:A boss and bayonet lug are fitted:This allows a SMLE sword bayonet to be fitted:
Original Lanchesters were select fire, this example is a Mk1* meaning it can only fire in full automatic. A straight cocking lever is fitted on the right side of the receiver:Note the large brass magazine housing. This is the location of the weapon’s markings:From this we can see that this example was made in 1943 by Greener. The two facing /|\ marks indicate it was sold out of service and the Arabic script just visible on the curved part suggest it saw service in Egypt post war. The Lanchester uses large 50 round magazines firing 9mm ammunition. These magazines are identical to Sten magazines, just longer:Originally these guns were fitted with tangent sights, but by the time my gun was produced these had been simplified to a flip sight with a ‘U’ shaped notch:The front sight is a simple post inside a pair of protective wings:The gun’s safety is a locking cut at the back of the receiver that the cocking handle can be hooked into:To strip the gun down a large disassembly knob is provided at the back of the receiver:Turning this allows the main receiver to be pivoted out of the wooden handguard:This then allows the rear knob to be unscrewed and the internal parts of the gun removed:This Lanchester is of course deactivated so the main breach block has had a large part machined away. The Lanchester remained in service with the Royal Navy into the 1970s and can be seen in many period photographs. Here we see it being carried by a member of the Royal Canadian Navy during wartime:And here it is being carried on parade by an Australian sailor:Opinion on the Lanchester is divided, as explained by the ‘WWII after WWII’ blog:
Both sides agree on two things: the Lanchester was rugged and well-built, but, it had a dangerous flaw in that a cocked gun would discharge if the butt was jarred or dropped.
Sailors who liked the Lanchester said that it was reliable, and (in the early semi-auto Mk.I version) surprisingly accurate with single shots. In full auto, it’s balance kept the muzzle on target even when firing a full burst. The weight made felt recoil almost nothing, and cleaning and care was very easy.
Those who disliked it said that in addition to the danger of dropping a live weapon, the extractor could fail during full-auto fire (a field modification was later developed for the Mk.I* to address that issue). There were many complaints that the gun pulled to the right side when firing in full auto. The magazine was frustrating to load and the quick-loading tool became almost a must. After repeated use, the magazine’s lips would spread apart preventing insertion (Sten magazines had the same problem). During it’s post-WWII years, spare Lanchester parts (especially replacement firing pins) became scarce but this was more to do with the Lanchester’s strange background and short production run than any issue with the design.