Weapons, when not in use need to be carefully stored. As most weapons are awkward shapes a sturdy purpose built wooden box is ideal. It protects the weapon, can hold any accessories, is easy to transport and by its boxy shape is easy to stack up in a warehouse or store. The 2” mortar is no different and thanks to Gary Hancock I have now been able to add the transit case to my little mortar set up. The transit box is a sturdy wooden box, painted in gloss green paint:A pair of sturdy rope carry handles are fitted to each end to allow it to be easily moved around:A pair of heavy duty metal clasps is fitted to secure the lid, and as the box contains a weapon each of these is fitted with a loop to allow a padlock to be fitted to secure the contents:Inside the box wooden cut outs are fitted:These, together with the webbing strap, hold the mortar snuggly and prevent it from moving around in transit:A pair of wedges on the underside of the lid press down from above:The ends of the box and the edges are lined with felt to help protect the contents and make a tight seal where the lid meets the box:Note the chain to prevent the lid from falling too far back. A contents label is pasted to the underside of the lid to indicate what should be carried inside the transit case:There appears to be at least a couple of different patterns of transit cases for the 2” mortar. As well as this design there is an earlier case for the early pattern of 2” mortar which had a different type of base plate and so needed different chocks inside the box to secure it. These boxes also seem to have specific places to put the sight, cleaning kit and spares tin. Mine does not, but they fit around the mortar easily enough and I managed to get them all in with no difficulties.
Until the widespread introduction of the Sten gun into British service, the Thompson was the prominent sub machine gun used in the British Empire, with nearly half a million being supplied to the British government form the US. The story of this British procurement is often wrapped up in rumour and anecdote rather than fact- for instance according to popular legend most of the guns ended up at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean after the ships carrying them were sunk by U-Boats. Up until now most histories of the Thompson machine gun have concentrated on the development and manufacture of the weapon and its extensive US service. British sales have often been relegated to a few paragraphs.‘Great Britain- The Tommy Gun Story’ by Brian Davis Jnr seeks to address this gap by looking at the specific purchases of guns by the British, both under the Cash and Carry scheme and under Lend Lease. Davis has gone back to the original documents and telegrams sent by the Ministry of Supply in Great Britain and he looks at each order in turn, how many guns were purchased, what spares and magazines were supplied with them and how the MoS tabulated them. From all this it seems that we finally have an accurate figure for the number of weapons acquired, rather than the guesses put forward by previous authors. Equally important is his analysis of the ships transporting the weapons and how many of these were actually sunk. By looking at the figures he comes to the conclusion that only around 4% of the weapons sent across the Atlantic actually failed to complete the journey due to enemy action. I must confess this figure was far lower than I had already assumed and shows the importance of actually looking at the original documents rather than relying on anecdote!This book is very much a history of procurement, rather than the service use of the Thompson by the British and as such does not have any information on the British combat use of the weapon. As mentioned it does not cover the development history of the weapon either, however other books have already covered this topic and this is a niche publication that sets out to look at how Thompsons were procured, how many were purchased and how these orders were fulfilled. As such this book may not appeal to every reader, however for those with a specialist interest in British small arms of the Second World War this is an invaluable volume and helps clear up several myths once and for all. One area of particular praise is the number of original documents that are reproduced in the book, either as transcripts or as copies of the originals. Primary source based history is always to be commended and it is clear the authors spent many hours going through archives to find this information.The book is a print on demand paperback title from Amazon and as such normally takes a few days for delivery. This is the first print on demand book I have purchased and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the printing and binding and this sort of esoteric title is ideally suited for this medium as it allows it to be available on a continuous basis despite the presumably limited sales it would generate. The book can be found here.
In the past we have looked at the brass Mk IV oil bottle for the Lee Enfield rifle here. These brass oil bottles were very well made, but heavy and used a valuable resource, brass, that could be better employed in making cartridge cases. During the Second World War a new design, the Mk V or Mk 5 was introduced that was made of plastic. Not only was this lighter, but it did not use a valuable commodity such as brass in its manufacture. Early bottles were prone to warping, but by the end of World War Two the design had been perfected and the bottles would continue in service until the 1990s. A number of variations of the oil bottle was produced and tonight we are looking at some of the more common black plastic examples:Each bottle is made of black plastic with a knurled section near the lid to aid grip. Unscrewing the lid reveals a plastic rod with a small spoon like tip that is used to precisely place oil in the right parts of the weapon:A rubber washer is fitted to help seal the oil inside the bottle when the lid is attached:Like many of these bottles this one is now starting to show its age and the rubber has dried and perished. A variation can be found in the lid of the bottle, with some being plain and some having the initials ‘DCP’ and an arrow logo moulded into the plastic:Unfortunately I have not been able to determine who actually made them and which company used this logo. These bottles were not only used with the Lee Enfield rifle but also saw service to carry mineral oil in the Bren gun spare barrel bag and as part of the SLR cleaning kit after the war. These humble bottles are still very common and can be found for a couple of pounds each.
The bores of rifles and other weapons become clogged with fouling after repeated firing. Although modern smokeless powders leave far less residue than black powder did, the bores can still become dirty and this fouling can affect the accuracy and safety of the weapon. To help clean the Lee Enfield rifle, all soldiers were issued with a pull through that was kept in the small compartment in the butt of the rifle:Tonight we are looking at a rifle pull-through that I believe is the correct one for the Lee-Enfield:A metal weight is fitted to one end; initially brass, white metal was often used as an economy measure in the Second World War:The cord of the pull-through needs to be tightly coiled and this example has clearly not been undone for many years:The small arms manual for the Lee Enfield Rifle explains how to use the pull-through:
- Open butt trap and remove oil-bottle and pull-through. Unroll and straighten out pull through. Remove sling.
- Fitting gauze- in war-time the gauze will be kept fitted to the pull-through. To fit it, fold it as in Fig.2, the longer sides taking the shape of an “S”. Open the loop of the pull-through nearest the weight and put one side of it in each loop of the “S”. Coil each half of the gauze tightly around the cord until the two rolls thus formed meet. Remove loose strands. To make the gauze fit the bore tightly, pack it with a small piece of flannelette if necessary. The gauze will always be oiled before use.
- Cleaning the Barrel
- Place a piece of flannelette, size 4 inches by 2 inches, in centre loop and wrap it around the cord. Insert weight into the breech. With butt on ground, pull the cord straight through the barrel. Avoid cord rubbing against the side of the barrel. Repeat as necessary, changing flannelette when required.
Happy Empire Day! If you have not already checked out our sister site ‘British Empire Uniforms’ on Facebook please, take a look. There are plenty of period photographs and reconstructions of uniforms from around the Empire in the Interwar and Second World War periods.
Like all countries, the British made extensive use of blank ammunition in training. The .303 round had a number of different types of blank ammunition before settling on the Mk V. in 1894 when cordite was introduced. This round was to remain in service 1957 when the Mk 9 blank was introduced that had a nitrocellulose propellant. Tonight we are taking a closer look at the ubiquitous Mk V cordite blank and we have two different examples:The round on the right is, I believe, a WW1 blank as it came from a WW1 charger of WW1 dated spent rounds so it seems logical to assume it is of that vintage. The round on the left has a 1942 date stamp so is most likely a WW2 blank round. The reason I am being cautious with the dates is that these blanks were often made form cartridge cases that were rejected as not being suitable for ball ammunition, but were still good enough to be converted to blanks. This means the head stamps do not necessarily correspond to the blank itself as they would have been added before the case was relegated to use as a blank. The case heads of these two examples therefore may only tell us when the case itself was manufactured, not when it was converted into a blank:The round on the right is dated 1942 and was manufactured for a Mk VII ball round by Radway Green, that on the left has the ‘K’ for Kynoch. These rounds are Berdan primed rather than having the earlier Boxer primers and the blank itself used 10 grains of sliced cordite. The neck of the case was closed with a rosette crimp:Blanks were used extensively for training, and rounds that had been dropped by accident provided great, if dangerous, fun to local children as recalled by Raymond McElvenney:
During the war, these old building were used by the army for training purposes. To make the exercises more realistic, they fired blanks from their guns and there was much banging from large firework things called ‘thunder flashes’…
After the soldiers had gone, we went around the building collecting the spent cartridges up. We also found a number of unfired bullets, so we put them in a crack in the wall. We found a piece of wood with a nail in it; we placed the nail against the bottom of the bullet and hit it with a brick causing the bullet to explode. We thought this was great fun.
In this instance I think the boys actually found unfired blanks, despite the author’s reference to bullets!
Personally I find the early development of automatic hand guns fascinating, with many different and experimental weapons developed. Some would see great success like the Mauser C96, others were finicky and prone to breakages and dropped into obscurity. Britain was slow off the mark to create an indigenous automatic handgun and it would be the first decade of the twentieth century that finally saw the Webley and Scott company produce commercially viable guns. Before this the company had experimented in a unique concept, the automatic revolver in the form of the iconic Webley-Fosbery, which today has a cult following far in excess of its actual utility as a weapon. The automatics the company did develop had some unique features and were produced in quite large numbers, culminating in a contract to produce a large bore handgun for the Royal Navy just before World War one. It is the story of these weapons that Gordon Bruce’s book Webley and Scott Automatic Pistols covers.The book starts with a fascinating biography of William Whiting, the creative mind behind the company’s automatic revolvers and pistols, it was very much due to his combination of charisma, vision, technical competence and sheer bloody-mindedness that kept the company in the market for automatic pistols. It then continues by taking a detailed look at the Webley Fosbery and then the various iterations of the Webley automatics in a variety of calibres for both the civilian and military-police markets. The book covers in great detail all the various manufacturing variations and mechanical changes to the guns over their lifetime, as well as including a number of official reports from various testing the different models underwent in the quest for a large scale contract. If this was just text it would soon become overwhelming for the reader. Happily the book is profusely illustrated with photographs of existing guns, showing their internal workings and how their designs were modified over time. These photographs are accompanied with close ups of markings, diagrams of the internal workings taken from patent applications and pictures of the weapons stripped down to their component parts. As is typical for these books all the illustrations are in black and white, however they are clear and easy to follow and help demonstrate the more technical aspects of the text well.This book was first published in 1992 and I would argue that it was and will remain the definitive tome on the subject of Webley automatics for many decades to come. There is a huge amount of detail in this book and happily the author’s writing style is engaging enough that it avoids becoming too overwhelming. For a book first published a quarter of a century ago, it is still available new from Amazon for under £40. This seems an absolute steal to me, especially when compared to the prices Collector’s Grade books of the same vintage go for. If you are interested in this subject at all, I heartily recommend you pick up a copy. Sadly I suspect I will never get to own either a Webley Fosbery or a Webley Automatic as they are now scarce and expensive weapons, but their story is fascinating and they remain one of a very few indigenous British automatic handgun designs.
The Browning Hi Power is one of the most successful post-war 9mm military pistols of all time. Although the vast majority of these automatics were manufactured by the FN company in Belgium, during World War Two production was started in Canada at the Inglis factory with plans reconstructed from memory by FN employees who had escaped the Nazi occupation of Belgium. Production at Inglis was relatively short lived, but numerous variations within the basic design of the pistol abound and the pistol was to have a profound influence on post-war commonwealth militaries in finally persuading them to drop revolvers in favour of automatics.
The story of the Inglis manufactured Browning therefore is a fascinating one and tonight we are looking at a wonderfully detailed book on the subject “Inglis Diamond: The Canadian Hi-Power Pistol” by Clive Law, released in 2001 by specialist weapons publishing company Collector’s Grade.For such a specialist topic this book is quite lengthy, coming in at 312 pages and starts with a brief overview of the pistol’s design and how Canada came to be manufacturing it. The book is profusely illustrated and covers all the contracts for pistols produced at the factory, alongside variations in design, sights and markings. Detailed photographs are provided of many different pistols as well as close ups of markings and slight mechanical changes to the design. The book also covers experimental models, prototype lightened pistols, presentation fire arms and even mentions illegally manufactured pistols created by Inglis staff who pilfered components from the assembly line! Added to this is a detailed study of the pistol’s accessories so different holsters and magazine pouches are covered which for someone who is fascinated by Canadian webbing as I am was very interesting! It is not just the Inglis made Hi-power’s career with the Canadian military that is covered, but also its service overseas with everyone from the Chinese to the Dutch. It is particularly interesting to see the weapon in its global context.
The book is very well written and packed full of original source documents to illustrate the political wrangling surrounding the pistol’s adoption and continued production; indeed the quantity of information in this book is astounding and if you are a collector of Hi-Power pistols then you will definitely want to get a copy; the more casual enthusiast might find the level of detail a little overwhelming however. Do not let that put you off however as it is an eminently readable book and although it has been out of print for a long time, copies are still available: Jeremy Tenniswood Militaria have copies available for £44.95 here.