Tag Archives: The British Army

Webley .38 Revolver

The Webley .455 revolver had been the standard firearm of the British Army since 1887, with its powerful bullet designed to stop a charging native in his tracks. Following service throughout the First World War it was decided in the early 1930s to replace it with a smaller and lighter firearm firing a .38 cartridge which would be easier to train soldiers with as the recoil would be substantially reduced.imageWebley came up with a .38 version of their famous revolver and submitted it for trials, whereupon the British military took the revolver and gave it to the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield, who changed it enough to avoid infringing patents and the British Army adopted the Enfield made Revolver, No2 Mk1 in 1931. Webley sued and were awarded £2250. There the matter might have remained if not for the outbreak of the Second World War.

With the outbreak of the Second World War there was a massive shortfall in small arms for British Empire troops and manufacturers were encourages to maximize output, therefore Webley was officially contracted to produce their previously rejected .38 revolver for the British Army. This revolver was also classified as Revolver, No 2 Mk1 as were other .38 revolvers from the United States such as the Smith and Wesson Victory revolver. This led to the absurd situation where officially an armourer had a matching set of Revolver No2 Mk1 on stock, however they could be of four different patterns with no matching parts!

The gun itself is a top breaking revolver with a six cartridge capacity, it weighs 2.4lb unloaded and had an effective range of 50 yards. The manufacturers name is clearly visible moulded into the grips:imageThe revolver is undated, but is marked ‘War Finish’ on the frame indicating it was manufactured for the War Department.imageThis example has been deactivated by fitting a rod down the barrel, removing the firing pin and filling up the cylinder:imageOn the base of the grip is a ring for attaching to a lanyard to prevent the revolver being lost or stolen:imageThe Webley revolver was an iconic weapon and remained in service up until the widespread introduction of the Browning Automatic Pistol in 1963, many revolvers being in mint condition when withdrawn due to a lack of ammunition to fire!

1979 Pattern Body Armour

British Body Armour

The British Army was, arguably, rather slow to adopt the widespread use of body armour for troops. One of the earliest theatres where body armour was used on a regular basis was the streets of Northern Ireland during the troubles. The earliest body armour was made in America, however the British Army soon adopted its own covers, adapted for use on the streets of Belfast.imageMy example is typical of that used in the 1980s, being a ‘1979 Pattern Vest Fragmentation’. This was a revised cover for the US M1952A armour that covered the same ballistic core of the earlier body armour. It features rubber pads on each shoulder to prevent a rifle from slipping when brought up into the aim position and pockets on the lower abdomen for easy access to a personal radio system. The addition of pads on both soldiers is not to accommodate left handed firers (left hand firing not being officially permitted in the British Army) but rather to allow a soldier to fire from the cover of a wall to his left or rightimageThe sides of the armour are secured with cords (or in this case a shoelace) which allow the armour to be adjusted; they also allow the armour to be removed quickly if a soldier was injured by cutting the cords with a knife.imageThe use of so many practical design features- the cords, rubber pads and radio pockets indicates the ongoing evolution of armour throughout the period based on operational experience. These changes suggest an input in the design process from those who had to use body armour on a daily basis. Inside is a label detailing the care instructions for the cover:imageThese particular vests are still fairly easy to find and range between £25 and £50 depending on the condition and dealer, however they do seem to be creeping up in price and are becoming increasingly collectible as militaria collectors start looking beyond the two world wars to more recent conflicts.