Rifles used by the Home Guard


#1

In the recent thread on drill rounds for Home Guard rifles, mention was made of their early use of P.17s in .300 calibre, and indeed at first all rifles and shotguns that were available were pressed into service until sufficient P.14s in .303 calibre were received from the USA to be widely issued.

Following the US Army evaluation of the .276 inch Pedersen semi-automatic rifle in the early 1930s, the UK also developed an interest in it and a number of rifles were made by Vickers Armstrong for trials. Ammunition was produced by Kynoch (hstps “K29 .276” and “K30 .276”) and by Greenwood & Batley (hstp “GB 0.276”). However when the US Army rejected the Pedersen in favour of the Garand, the UK trials were also abandoned and the rifles and ammunition put into store.

Over the years I have heard several rumours that at least one Home Guard unit was initially issued with these UK-made Pedersens and some of the ammunition, but I have never seen any published confirmation. Can anyone throw any more light on this?

John E


#2

It may well be the case, but I have never heard of Home Guard units being issued with the Pederson. AFAIK, Vickers only made about 200 rifles and a few carbines.

With regard to your other points, it was not the case that Pattern 14 rifles came from America in WW2.There were no Pattern 14 rifles in the US. Immediately before the war there were about 650,000 P.14s in store in the UK and these were refurbished under the Weedon repair scheme. Britian purchased a large number of .30 calibre Model 1917 rifles from the USA and more were supplied once the Lend Lease Act was enacted in May 1941.

After Dunkirk a decision was made that Home Guard units would be armed with .30 calibre weapons, Model 1917, Browning MMGs and BARs etc., and that regular army units would have the .303 rifles that were avaialbale. The Pattern '14 rifles were used for training and in limited operational use with commandos and others.

Regards
TonyE


#3

JJE

The number of Pedersen rifles manufactured in the US was well under 100 and I believe that Tony is correct in that 200, or less, were manufactured in England. I’d say that it’s possible that the England manufactured rifles could have been issued to home guard units although I’ve never seen it documented that they were.

He’s also correct that P14 rifles did not come from the US for use in WW II. I believe that all US contracts for P14 rifles ( a modification of the P 13) were completed before or during WW I when US manufacturers began producing the US M1917. The correct designation for rifles manufactured here is the Model of 1917, or M1917. There was no such rifle as a P 17. That has always led to some confusion with some thinking that the M1917 was simply the continuation of the P 14.

Ray


#4

Years ago, Weller & Dufty’s, London Auctioneers dealing mostly in Firearms and related items, sold off the last remaining Vickers Pedersen Rifles in the UK ( about 1980s).
The “provenance” of these Rifles was the stores of Vickers Ltd (By then Vickers-Ruwolt), and part of the “Sales Pitch” was that during WW II, these rifles were issued to Vickers Ltd. own internal security units and HG units, since it had several factories involved in War Production.

As to the truth or otherwise of this story, it sounds feasible enough; Given that at the end of the 1931 Trials, all the rifles were returned to Vickers Ltd, and probably some of the ammo as well ( R^L and K manufacture). It is unknown whether Vickers tried to sell these off, or promote the design before WW II…Japan did experiment with the Pedersen Design in 6,5mm, in both Military Arsenals and Private manufacturers Maybe Japan acquired some examples from Vickers in the early 1930s? Japan had acquired Vickers and Lewis Guns in the mid to late 20s, and of course adopted the 12,7mm (Semi-Rimmed) 0,5" Vickers design ammo (albeit with Breda Improvements).

Some of the V-P rifles were allegedly sold off in the late 1940s-early 1950s…

BTW, I actually viewed and handled the 1980s-sold example here in Australia in 1983-4, at a Collector’s meeting…I was the only member who correctly Identified it for what it was.( besides the owner). I don’t know whatever happened to it after that…maybe it was destroyed in the 1996 Confiscation & Destruction of Semi-Autos (or worst still “Deactivated” into a boat anchor!!!.

Regards,
Doc AV

PS as to HG rifles, the WW I Bannerman Springfield Put-togethers in .303, were by then in the hands of the British Movie Industry (Movie Gun Hire), and showed up in the 1970s TV series “Dad’s Army” ( about the antics of the HG in the south of England) and although most of the scenes use M17s and the occasional Lewis Gun, the “Title” and “End” scenes use the Bannerman Springfields…go figure. These 1,000 rifle donation by Bannerman in 1915 had been rejected for service as “unsuitable” ( reason not given…probably repair and maintenance considerations) and at the end of the war, along with many other “non-standard” Rifles sold off “to the Trade”…and the Bannerman rifles went to the Movie Industry… ( nobody wanted them)

Regards,
Doc AV


#5

Ray – my apologies for my sloppy nomenclature of the M.17 – I was fully aware of the correct name of the rifle but my brain must have slipped out of gear (as it seems to with increasing frequency nowadays!).

And thanks Tony for pointing out that the P.14s were WW1 imports from the USA. In fact my father, a WW1 veteran, joined the Home Guard when it was first formed (as the Local Defence Volunteers) in Sussex in 1940, and when they eventually received their first rifles they were Model 17s in .300 calibre. Later these were replaced in his battalion by P.14s (he had one by Eddystone), and they kept these until they were finally disbanded in 1945. His unit held a final shoot-off of accumulated ammunition with their rifles and STEN guns (in which I took part), and the only .300 calibre weapon they had then was a solitary BAR.

Doc’s suggestion that the Pedersons were issued by Vickers to their internal security and Home Guard units seems a likely answer, if indeed there was any truth in the story.

John E


#6

Doc - The British .276 Pederson ammunition was made by Kynoch (1929-31, Ball, Proof and Blank) and Greenwood & Batley (1930 Ball). Royal Laboratory (R^L) never made any, although of course they made plenty of the .276 experimental rounds for the Pattern 13 rifle and the later 1930s experimentals, but these were completely different cartridges.

Not all the Vickers Pedersons were lost. Some years ago an elderly lady turned up at a police station in the south of England and said her late husband, a retired senior naval officer, had a lot of guns she wished to surrender. They turned out to be about twenty Vickers Pedersons, three of them carbines. They are now all in the Royal Navy “Explosion” museum at Priddys Hard, Gosport. Somewhere I have a list of the serial numbers.

I know of a couple in private collections, one in Oz, possibly the one you saw.

Surprisingly the ammunition is quite common here in the UK as it was made in considerable numbers. I also have a .276 headstamped FA29 that was recovered from Kynoch’s store when they closed.

Regards
TonyE


#7

Thanks for the clarification on K and G&B as makers of the .276 Pedersen ammo…I do have an FA 29 round in my collection, and have seen a K31 round as well here in Australia…NO G&B though.

There was an interesting Article in the British “The Mechanical Engineer” during 1931, about the Semi-Auto Rifle trials and detail of the VP rifle. Saw this article whilst researching our University Engineering Library back in 1976, on something totally different…The ME Journal was a weekly?forthnightly? publication with articles on all the latest innovations in the British Mechanical Engineering world, from Railways though IC engines, and Ordnance, and everything else “mechanical” one could think of. Articles on Ordrnance ( from SA to Large naval Guns) were quite regular.

Sadly, the Collection of Old MEs and similar Journals have disappeared from the Eng.Library shelves, and the last reference to them I had in 1983 was “Store” ( ie, a dank, dark Warehouse, where they will probably moulder away in Qld’s Tropical heat.)I doubt that the modern IT age has seen then\m digitised or Microfiched, or similar Information storage systems used.
On the other hand, may be the British Institute of Mechanical Engineers may still have archived copies of the old ME available for consultation. ( Unless they too were lost in the Blitz or Pulped subsequent to WW II?).

Regards,
Doc AV


#8

About ten years ago I spent some time in the Imperial War Museum looking through old photos of the Home Guard to try and find evidence of any being issued with SMLEs. I didn’t find any but I am still not sure one way or the other. Perhaps somebody else will know.


#9

[quote=“DocAV”]Thanks for the clarification on K and G&B as makers of the .276 Pedersen ammo…I do have an FA 29 round in my collection, and have seen a K31 round as well here in Australia…NO G&B though.

There was an interesting Article in the British “The Mechanical Engineer” during 1931, about the Semi-Auto Rifle trials and detail of the VP rifle. Saw this article whilst researching our University Engineering Library back in 1976, on something totally different…The ME Journal was a weekly?forthnightly? publication with articles on all the latest innovations in the British Mechanical Engineering world, from Railways though IC engines, and Ordnance, and everything else “mechanical” one could think of. Articles on Ordrnance ( from SA to Large naval Guns) were quite regular.

Sadly, the Collection of Old MEs and similar Journals have disappeared from the Eng.Library shelves, and the last reference to them I had in 1983 was “Store” ( ie, a dank, dark Warehouse, where they will probably moulder away in Qld’s Tropical heat.)I doubt that the modern IT age has seen then\m digitised or Microfiched, or similar Information storage systems used.
On the other hand, may be the British Institute of Mechanical Engineers may still have archived copies of the old ME available for consultation. ( Unless they too were lost in the Blitz or Pulped subsequent to WW II?).

Regards,
Doc AV[/quote]

Your best bet if you are interested would be the British Library Newspaper Archive at Colindale which (supposedly) holds all old publications. An email would settle it and its not too far from where Falcon and I live.


#10

“The guns of Dads army” Small arms and ammo of the British home guard 1940-41 Part 1 in Shotgun news March 20 2012

Steve


#11

That sounds interesting I’ll try and get a copy of that.


#12

Vince – During the war I remember hearing tales that some Home Guard units had been issued with SMLEs, but while by no means impossible like you I have never seen any actual evidence of this.

Perhaps It may be that some Home Guard members, being WW1 or post-WW1 vets who used the SMLE while in the army, simply equated the name “SMLE” with any .303 calibre rifle, including the P.14, and so inadvertently started the rumour?

John E


#13

I find it hard to believe they weren’t issued espescially as we can identify regular units that were. But my search drew a blank. We really need one of the experts to pitch in here.


#14

I too have looked into the question of Pederson rifles being used to guard one of their many works. So far I have not found any evidence but I would not be surprised if they made use of them.They do not show up in the monthly Home Guard small arms return, but this is not surprising as they would have been considered private property and may have reduced their allocation of M1917 rifles if they were declared.

The Imperial War Museum has a dozen or so in their collection, they used to have double this number but used some for trading with other museums. The example in the Lithgow Small Arms Museum is from the IWM collection.

The Home Guard returns list 26,249 .303 rifles on issue on 1st February 1941, this would have included SMLE, P14 and private rifles. Private 303 rifles are listed for the first time on 1st September 1941 and numbered 760. SMLE rifles are distinguished for the first time 31st March 1942 with 3962 being on hand, along with 2153 P14 rifles also distinguished at this time.

By November 1944 the last return shows 48,386 No1 SMLE rifles on issue along with 52,681 P14 rifles, in both cases 90% odd being on issue to London District. Also on issue were 51,922 No4 rifles the bulk of which were with Easteren Command. The .303 rifle SMLE and P14 were issued were fighting with alongside the regular army was envisaged.

Regards

Alan David
Sydney