Another .303 Standards enigma


#1

Back in October 1972, Ammunition Factory, Footscray were kind enough to send me their only specimen of an MF Mk VIIZ cartridge, which also happened to be a Standards round. Headstamp was MF VIIZ 5-45 S according to my records.

Under the impression Footscray didn’t load .303s with nitrocellulose I queried this one.
Attached is their reply with one typo viz they meant S indicated a standards round, not a Z.

While it is unlikely I will get any knowledge of quantity produced, I find it hard to believe they would have made a bunter for just a handful. Perhaps 1,000 or so.??? The question is now, what they did load, were they filled with cordite or nitrocellulose. The letter seems to indicate I found out it was cordite, but I honestly don’t remember. It is possible it was an error in making the bunter which was discovered early in production.

I would very much like to obtain one, or even a photo of this headstamp since mine is not legible.

Footscray Letter Re ,303 7Z.pdf (178.4 KB)

Edit to correct date error


#2

Hi John,
on page 20 of Tony Edwards ‘Headstamp guide: .303 inch British Service Ammunition’ he confirms that the S (within a circle) is a ballistic standard round in the Mk VII section, on page 22 he also shows a ballistic standard for a Mk VIIz.
As for using a new bunter for these rounds I think it would be fairly probable as first war US manufactured for the UK .303" ammunition were ‘marked’ AS for American Standard denoting a ballistic standard.

Tony


#3

Tony,

Yes, I’m familiar with the British .303 Standards. Australia normally followed the British drawings and specifications, as did most Commonwealth countries, in the interest of being able to supply each other with virtually identical weapons and ammunition.

The particular .303 Standard I’m interested in was manufactured in Australia. The bunters were made in Melbourne, Victoria. They were only made when there was sufficient cartridges ordered to warrant the expense. Small lots of special rounds were usually not headstamped, merely being identified by the label on packets.

I suspect two scenarios. Either there was a lot of cases headstamped VII Z in error, but loaded with cordite as seems likely, or the bunter was made as a VIIZ by mistake and very limited manufacture was done before the error was noticed.
An error like this occurred with a batch of GIIZ Tracers, which did not have the Z on the headstamps or on the packets. The second and subsequent lots were headstamped GIIZ and the labels overstamped with a Z. I believe the bunters in that case were produced from the normal GII drawings and used before the error was discovered.

The only certainty, as confirmed in the letter, was that I did have one around 55 years ago.

John


#4

Hi John,
the headstamps I refer to in Tony Edwards book are of Australian manufacture…MF 5-45 VII S and MF 5-45 VIIZ S.

Tony


#5

Tony,

Thank you so much for the reference, most interesting. Unfortunately I don’t have Tony’s book, although I do have a copy of one page. If this page is from his book, I guess all the headstamps are drawings.?
All the same, if at all possible I would like to see a copy of the relevant page.

I really need to track down the original cartridges. It would give credence to my theory that the VIIZ was an error in manufacturing the bunter and was filled with cordite as I found out in 1972…

It would also make me lean to thinking the 5-45 does represent May 45 not lot 5.

John


#6

I have the same book and there are a couple of different examples:

Capture2Capture Capture3

However, regardless of the layout of the HS, the S appears in a circle and the footnote reads "15 Ballistic Standard). The date format is month and year, and wouldn’t be seen that way on a standard Mk VII round, which were simply year dated during the years depicted. I think the month was dropped in 1927 or 1928.

The book includes examples of headstamps and is not an exhaustive list. However, it does contain a wealth of information and is well presented.


#7

Mayhem, Tony

I really need to get hold of a copy of the book.

Mayhem,
On ball rounds the month and year date started at CAC in 5 06 and continued until MF 8 36. After which it reverted to just the 2 digit year on ball rounds. Except for Air Service .303s which were identified by the full 4 digit year date from 1928, until 1944/45 depending upon the factory.

Standards are a little harder to track because they are not so common. The earliest record I have is ←CAC→ 18 with the S in a circle continuing up to at least MF 53 having the circle. In MF 57 the circle is omitted, but I don’t know if that was the only one, or whether earlier year were the same.

The issue is compounded by the possibility that standards were not produced in all years. Depending upon requirements, Footscray sometimes made batches of some loadings ( but maybe not standards) sufficient for a couple of years.

The 11 29 shown in the book is not new to me, the 5-45 VII without the Z, certainly is. Wonder where it is now?

Thanks again for both of your interest.

Cheers
John


#8

Thank you for the correction on the month and year shifting to year only. If I had looked a little more closely, I would have seen two examples on the same page from which I pulled those images!

The book is still available through Solo Publications (http://www.kenelks.co.uk/solopublications/index.htm). It took me some time to actually get a copy, as they don’t seem to cherish responding to emails…


#9

Thank you, I will contact Solo Publications.

I have a considerable collection of Aust. SAA military headstamps, so often can verify information I receive.
I also have an original copy of the Munitions Supply Board reports from August 1921 to 30th June 1938. Unfortunately they were usually only produced every second or third year. Makes it difficult to pinpoint dates at times.They also only touch on the activities of the SAAF but some of the information is like gold. When I can cross reference them with actual cartridges I feel pretty safe in making statements.

Like a lot of collectors, in the early years when information was scarce, we tended to jump to conclusions from headstamps alone, which conclusions were often incorrect. My friendly association with Footscray corrected a lot of errors and added more data, but even they were not always correct, but at least they tried real hard to help me. Can’t ask for more than that.

To be absolutely sure of my information I prefer to rely upon actual cartridges, or photos, rather than drawings. Not that I’m knocking drawings, but I have come across some which were not correct. Pedantic I know, but I really want facts so I don’t perpetuate incorrect information.

John