8mm Lebel Bullets

I was wondering if anyone is able to identify these bullets for me. They weigh about 12.4 grams (~191 grains) and are ~39mm long. Diameter at the widest point is about 8.2mm. They are non-magnetic. Both are stamped on the base, bullet 1 with: V.E 2.12 and bullet 2 with: ARS B 1 1.5. I believe that these may be German luftwaffe, 7.92 x 57mm Mauser machine gun rounds dating from WWII (I found them on the foreshore of the river Thames), although they appear to be slightly longer than the standard round of this type? If anyone can shed any light on what the numbers mean, that would be a bonus! . Pictures follow:
Bullet 1

Base stamp
Bullet 2
Base stamp

Sorry James88,

These are French 8mm Lebel bullets.

V. E. = Cartoucherie de Valence 2e. Q 1912
Could it be A.B.S. = Atelier de construction de Bourges 1e. Q 1915


Anyone have any explanation as to how these French bullets got into the Thames? Did the British Home Guard use Lebel rifles in WW2?

  • Dutch is 100% right. Note also the left-hand rifling on the fired bullets, typical for so many French rifles firing the 8mm Lebel rimmed rounds. Liviu 03/31/07

Perhaps souvenirs someone wanted to dump?
Dumped ballast?

Thats possible but more likely is that some of the French troops, with their rifles, that were rescued at Dunkirk had rifle practice on one of the shooting ranges by the Thames.


Would French Troops still be using ammo with bullets made 1912 and 1915 in 1940? Surely all of that would have been used up during WW1

Thousands of tons of ammunition were left after the close of WW1 and much of it was still in storage decades later. I like the idea of these being from the French army which was evacuated from Dunkirk. Loaded ammo that old may not be good but the bullets would have been fine if stored properly. They could have been reloaded anytime after the production date. A recent example - Some of the ammunition used in the 40mm Bofors guns on our C130 gunships was made in WW2 and reconditioned 50 years later. You can find the WW2 projectiles used in recent actions which you would not expect. The AP and APT projectiles worked well enough.

Of course, throw it in the lake , is the answer for lots of unwanted items and many people react to “bullets” in ways which we consider unreasonable. I have met women who are terrified of “bullets” and have thrown their fathers or husbands souvenir “bullets” in the nearest body of water when in a position to dispose of them.

The ballast idea is good too. Lots of old stuff gets left in the drink after long periods in the ballast tanks of ships.

I suppose the French were in a desperate situation after 1933, with Hitler threatening to crush them in return for the Treaty of Versailles, so they would have issued/reconditioned any ammunition they had. This makes sense. As well as the Bofors rounds, I remember the thread discussing WW2 made .50 BMG API being issued to US troops in Iraq. I am looking to acquire a metal detector, the side of the Thames would be one of the places I would go with it, as I know there is an awful lot of ordnance in there.

Did you just find a few scattered bullets, or a large quantity piled together in one place? That answer might help us find the true source from the good list above.

Hi Falcon - never assume that all of anything is used up in the longest, most horrible war one can imagine. I was in the U.S. Army from 1956 on for a number of years. In that time, I never saw a cartridge dated after WWII. Of course they existed, but they were mostly warehoused while they used up WWII stuff. This was especially true for .45 ammo - of course there never is much pistol use during a war, but their was plenty of use of Tommy Guns and Grease guns, and still, our mainstay of .45 ammo in the 50s (this is AFTER even the Korean war), was Evansville Chrysler WWII steel-cased .45 ammo. Heck, you still find full boxes of the stuff around at gun shows 62 years after the war! The 3/4 ton truck I was assigned to in Alaska in 1958, by the way, (everyone is assigned to a vehicle in case of the need for “bug-outs” from an established base), was either a 1941 or some other 1940s WWII date (it has been a lot of years) Chrysler. Still running fine at that time!

All of those explanations are possible. Exact location might give an indication as there were many ranges and military establishments in that area.

It is also quite possible they were fired in WWI, either in a Lebel or a Hotchkiss. Why? Weapons tests by the British? Demonstration? I doubt if we will ever know.

To answer Falcon, the Home Guard were certainly issued with French 7.5mm rifles and MGs that had come back with the French from Dunkirk, and it is quite possible some 8mm Lebels were also issued.


Somewhere in my failing memory I seem to remember that some American troops in WW-1 used the 8mm Label round IE: for some reason we equipped some troops with the Chauchat M-15 LMG. I don’t know if any British troops used the same weapon.

There are several plausible explanations for these projectiles:

  1. Somebody’s WW I or later battlefield pick-up souvenirs were “thrown out” into the river to dispose of these “dangerous articles” ( an all too common occurrence, when the widow or children "clean out all dad’s or granddad’s “rubbish”).
  2. The French did recondition ammunition on a regular basis ( as did many European countries up till WW II), and so the projectiles (Balle D type, solid turned GM) were "recycled into later cases.
  3. The French also had very large quantities of Loose projectiles after WW I, and so continued loading them into new cases well into the 1930s ( have examined several cartridges where there is up to 20 years difference between projectile date and case date (idem 2 above);
  4. It is possible that French troops rescued at Dunquerqe did engage in some target practice training along the Thames (but I doubt it, unless the projectiles were found either down towards the Medway and the Estuary, or alternately, further upstream from the City).

An interesting find; also shows how long a solid Balle D will last in a very unforgiving environment.

regards, Doc AV
AV Ballistics


Last year I was contacted by a British underwater EOD unit working the Thames to clear ordnance still there from various wars , this work leading up to the Olympics which are to be held there in the future. Their work could easly have dredged up a variety of souvenirs from WW1 era. Many US units used French weapons in WW1. Did they receive them in France or before? I suspect that they got them in France and left them there when they left for home.

Some years ago a fellow brought me a clip of 6.5 Japanese ball rounds which he had found in a creek in West Virigina. They were entirely black except for the part under the pink mouth band. I assumed that they turned this color from chemicals in the water over time. How they got there ? Likely a tossed souvenir.

Thanks to everyone who responded. I never expected to get so much information. You people certainly know your stuff!

In response to Jon.C’s question, i only found the two Lebel bullets shown lying close together on the surface. I did find a couple of other complete rounds however, with the following headstamps: DM (12 o’clock) 18 97 (9 & 3 o’clock respectively) K (6 o’clock) This round appears to contain a very corroded round nosed bullet. One other smaller round is stamped WRA Co. 88 LONG and has a lead bullet. I understand WRA to mean Winchester Repeating Arms Co, (pistol round?) but can’t identify the other one. Once again, any help would be appreciated!

I also have a few other bullets picked up over previous months that i would like to try and identify. I’ll post 'em up when i get the chance.

One could speculate for ever how they got to be there. There is so much history attached to the river, almost any scenario may be possible. Interesting links to the past though. I just like doing the research.

The first cartridge is a 7.65 Mauser made by Deutsche Waffen u. Munitionsfabriken (DM) in Karlsruhe, Germany (K) the 1897 is the year of production.

The second round is a .38 Long Colt Army. It was the standard Revolver issued to U.S. officers in WW-I.

Photos would help alot but here goes:

The first is probably a 7 x 57 Mauser made by the famous German firm of Deutsche Waffen-u. Munitionsfabriken AG, Karlsruhe, Germany in 1897. You are right in saying that the bullet is corroded, as these had steel jacketed bullets. See photo below: If your round is what I am pretty sure it is, then it should be identical to the top one. Metric cartridges are often measured by the bullet diameter and the length of the case in mm. So this round has a bullet diameter of 7mm and a case length of 57mm.

The second round you found almost certainly says “W.R.A.Co. 38 LONG”. This is a .38 Long Colt revolver round. You are right in saying that “W.R.A.Co.” means “Winchester Repeating Arms Co.”

I Hope this helps. By all means post the others, preferably with pictures.

Have a look at my site (the address below where it says “my collection can be seen online”, and see if the others look like anything on there, and let us all know if you find anything that looks like what you have.

Falcon–You are right. It could be 7 x 57 Mauser but it could also be 7.65 x 53 Mauser as I said above. We need to know the case length to be sure. If the bullet is corroded, measuring the bullet most likely won’t help decide.

On the line of “it could have been old ammo the French were useing”. In 1999 at Ft. Lewis Washington I was qualifing on the rifle range. We were useing M-16A1 rifles and all of the 5.56mm ammunition was LC 68. I was on the advance party and when we picked it up it was still in sealed 1968 dated crates (two ammo cans in each crate). That means it was 31 years old at the time. That is several years older than any WWI dated rounds would have been in 1940. The ammo worked fine by the way.