The British Army uses a wide variety of small arms, the SA80 rifle in 5.56mm, the GPMG in 7.62, Glocks in 9mm, 40mm grenade launchers and even some shotguns for shooting out door locks when entering compounds. Each of these weapons has its own cleaning kit with different brushes, pull throughs and tools. Recently however a universal weapons cleaning kit has started to see service that incorporates the correct brushes etc. to allow all these firearms to be cleaned. Produced by H&K, the L47A1 ‘Cleaning Kit, Universal’ is issued in an MTP Cordua nylon pouch:Opening the pouch up, it can be seen that there is a selection of elasticated loops and velcroed pockets to allow the different cleaning brushes to be carried:To prevent items being lost in the field, the edges of the pouch are elasticated so items dropped back into the pouch won’t go missing when it is rolled up, even if they have not been put into the loops:The pouch itself has a label indicating it was made by Heckler and Koch in 2011, along with the British Army NSN number:This set is almost complete, but there are still plenty of spare loops to allow soldiers to add their own pieces if needed:Taken out of the pouch it can be seen that the set has a variety of chamber and bore brushes, a multi piece cleaning rod, wire pull through, oil in a sprayer bottle and a wire brush:The full list of contents reads:Whilst the reverse of the instruction leaflet shows where to place each piece in the pouch:This cleaning kit seems pretty comprehensive and well thought out and I can imagine it would have been popular with many. It should have a small detachable field pouch to allow a cut down set of cleaning equipment to be carried in the field, but this feature is sadly missing from my example. The spray pump oil bottle seems a definite improvement over the old type and would allow oil to be directed to exactly where it is needed rather than using a piece of pull through to try and smear it in the right direction. This kit was picked up for £10 at Haworth WW2 weekend a few months back and as they usually fetch over £40 for a full complete set I feel I did rather well.
In the early post war period the British army made a slight up date to many of its pieces of webbing issued from pool; pieces for those with crew weapons, signal equipment etc. In the Second World War these pieces of webbing had been left un-blancoed, despite the requirement for individuals to blanco their personal load bearing kit. This left items such as signal satchels and Bren gun barrel bags in their natural colour which was a light tan and highly visible. It was therefore decided at some point, probably the early 1950s, that these items should be manufactured of pre-dyed cotton and so many items can be found in a deep shade of green including this post war Bren barrel bag:My thanks go to Andy Dixon who kindly gave me this piece for the collection.
Apart from the colour, the design is identical to that used in wartime, so it has a large pocket to allow the spare parts wallet to carried:A small pocket for a square oil bottle:And a set of three pockets near the top, each secured by a quick release tab and brass staple, to hold a pull through, oil bottle of graphite grease and a reaming tool:On the side of the bag a grab handle is sewn in to allow the bag to be carried:A longer shoulder strap is also provided, adjustable with a brass Twigg buckle:The main body of the bag is of course for the spare barrel itself and a large flap with the same quick release fastening ensures that the contents cannot be lost:Also carried inside was a wooden cleaning rod, that fitted into a small pocket that is just visible in this view:Date and manufacturer are stamped on the underside of the main flap, dating this example to 1955:These post war bags are often overlooked by collectors as they are obviously dated to after the Second World War, however the .303 Bren gun remained in service for many years after the end of the conflict, indeed this particular variant remained in use with cadets well into the 1980s. As such the post war accessories are worthy of as much consideration as the more popular WW2 era items.
Tonight we are looking at the so called ‘fat boy’ stock on the P14 Enfield Rifle. The P14 series of rifles were produced in the USA in the First World War for the British and were produced by three manufacturers; Winchester, Remington and Eddystone (a subsidiary of Remington). We have previously looked at the rifle here, that example having the standard stock. Tonight we have an opportunity to compare the standard stock with the ‘fat boy’:As far as I can ascertain, the ‘fat boy’ was only used on Eddystone rifles, and then not all of them, both the rifles in the above photograph are Eddystone rifles, but the upper is the ‘fat boy’ and the lower is the standard model. The ‘fat boy’ differs in two ways, firstly the hand grooves in the fore stock have been deleted:Secondly, this whole area has been thickened:This is particularly apparent when compared with the standard model:I have not found a definitive reason for this variation, but one theory is that it strengthened the stock at a weak point that then allowed the rifle to be used for firing rifle grenades with less chance of cracking. Incidentally, the wood used in the stocks is apparently American Black Walnut.
Amongst collectors, the standard rifle is generally regarded as being the more ergonomical of the two patterns, but I cannot find any hard evidence of when the change occurred or why and it may just be a manufacturing variation, although the rifle grenade story is intriguing.
In the 1950s the British army introduced an update to their cotton ammunition bandoliers. The end of World War II had seen the MK 3 bandolier introduced with a light webbing carrying strap, the MK 3/1 added an extra row of cotton across the bottom edge to reinforce it. Originally issued to carry .303 ammunition, these bandoliers remained in service for the 7.62mm rounds as well. This example is typical of the post war bandoliers:The bandolier has five individual pockets, each secured with a brass wire hook, passed through a hole in the cotton and folded over to secure it:Each pocket would carry two five round chargers, giving a total of fifty rounds per bandolier. The webbing strap is 1 1/8″ wide herringbone twilled webbing:The reinforcing strap is clearly visible across the bottom:The bandolier has a number of stamps, this one dates the bandolier to 1967 and shows it is a MK 3/1:A stamp on the rear shows it was filled by Radway Green on 20th June 1967:There is also a random circular stamp which is poorly stamped so impossible to read:These bandoliers remained in service throughout the SLR era, the rounds being used to refill magazines during quiet periods. Here troops in the Falklands War can be seen with the disposable bandoliers slung over their chests:This account from the Falklands by Vince Bramley describes using these bandoliers:
The weight of the webbing was cutting into my shoulders, the bandoliers cutting into my neck. By resting the SLR on my webbing, I could reach up and pull then straps from my neck to help relieve the agony they gave me.
About three kilometres into the march, we stopped. I sat down quickly and swapped the bandolier straps over to my other shoulder, longing to rest for those vital five minutes we were given.
When used on parade it is not unusual for specialist accessories to be used with rifles to prevent them from damaging expensive and intricate parade uniforms. Rifles are hard metal objects with many protruding parts that can easily catch and damage lace, embroidery and epaulettes on a parade uniform so special covers are often developed. The SLR was no exception and a special pressed metal cover was available to go over the front sight:This was designed to slip over the front sight and attach to the barrel to keep it in place:The connection to the barrel was through a stiff spring clip:This clip was notorious for damaging the blueing on a barrel with repeated use and following advice from my fellow collectors I have decided that mine will not be going back on the rifle after these photographs were taken.
Inside the top of the cover are a pair of small triangular metal tabs that go either side of the front sight blade:The stores number and date are stamped across the back of the cover, here dating it to 1960:In this photograph of a corporal of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment at Buckingham Palace in 1971, the sight cover can be clearly seen on his rifle:
As has been discussed in the blog before, the L4 light machine gun was an updated version of the Bren gun for the NATO 7.62mm round. The shape of this round was quite different from the older .303 as it was a rimless rather than a rimmed round. This required a brand new magazine and the familiar banana shaped Bren magazine, where the rims necessitated a sharply curved shape, was replaced with a much straighter design for the new cartridge:Each magazine holds thirty rounds of 7.62 and is made of pressed steel. One important feature of the magazines insisted upon from the earliest development of the L4 was that they were to be interchangeable with those of the SLR. Side by side the L4 magazine is clearly larger:But the attachment points and feed lip geometry remain the same between the two designs with identical feed lips and follower design:Primarily this was designed to allow troops to put SLR mags in the LMG, but this worked equally well in reverse and an L4 magazine will fit in an SLR:Unfortunately as the L4 is designed to feed downwards, assisted by gravity, the spring inside it struggles to feed rounds upwards and into an SLR although it was not unknown for troops to modify the springs by stretching them to better work with the SLR. The magazine when sited on the L4 sits vertically above the main receiver:The L4 magazine has a locking tab on the front:And a corresponding hook for the magazine catch on the rear:The base of the magazine has a button that can be depressed with a cartridge tip to allow it to be disassembled for cleaning:At least two variations of the L4 magazine can be found. Early examples are seamlessly welded, whilst later production examples have a faint seam down the rear where the two stampings have been welded together:The magazines are each marked on their bodies with their designation, date of manufacture and the combined ‘E’ and ‘D’ logo of Enfield:The L4 magazine lacks the iconic status of its forebear, however it is a hard to find magazine now and commands high prices on the collector’s market. Filling a full 12 magazine box with L4 magazines therefore presents a much harder challenge than it does for the earlier Bren box.
The sling issued for use with the Self Loading Rifle was an update of the design that had been in service with the British Army since before World War One. Although the basic design did not change, instead of pre-shrunken cotton webbing, the new sling used heavy duty woven nylon that was dyed a dark green:This material had a distinctive shine to it, making it easy to distinguish from the earlier patterns which had a Matt finish. The brass fittings at either end of the sling remained unchanged except they were now blackened rather than being left as plain brass, they were however still attached with a pair of brass rivets:Like most rifles, the SLR had a pair of sling swivels. One securely attached to the butt which could only move back and forth:And a second one towards the front of the rifle, just in front of the gas block, which was on a swivel so could rotate around the axis of the barrel:In Northern Ireland it became common to attach the sling to just the rear sling swivel of the SLR, the free end being strapped around the soldier’s wrist to prevent someone from snatching the rifle and trying to run off with it. Alistair Mackenzie was a soldier in Northern Ireland in the mid-1970s with the Parachute Regiment and in his book ‘Pilgrim Days’ he remembers:
The primary weapon was the 7.62 SLR, and one end of the sling was attached to the butt of the rifle, with the other end attached to the holder’s wrist. This was to stop the weapon being snatched away in a melee.
This sling has the faintest indications of a black ink maker’s stamp on it, but it is too faint to read and doesn’t provide enough contrast for the camera to pick up.