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Remembered Today:

Rifle home on leave?


PaddyO

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Apologies if this has been covered previously (I couldn't locate where in a topic search) and if I've posted it in the wrong forum area.

 

I used to quiz my grandfather about his war service and that of his brothers and especially about their father in the Great War. I still recall him telling me how his father used to bring his rifle home on leave. Was this common practice? In this instance it was Ireland (Tipperary). If so how about ammunition?  

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57 minutes ago, PaddyO said:

Apologies if this has been covered previously (I couldn't locate where in a topic search) and if I've posted it in the wrong forum area.

 

I used to quiz my grandfather about his war service and that of his brothers and especially about their father in the Great War. I still recall him telling me how his father used to bring his rifle home on leave. Was this common practice? In this instance it was Ireland (Tipperary). If so how about ammunition?  

Ammunition stayed behind, there were regular orders to men to not try and take it home from France. I suppose the idea was that it was safer to provide ammunition at the other end if needed than to allow a man to travel with it.

Craig

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Considering the Combined Cadet Force were quite relaxed about my taking a No.4 from the Armoury in 1967, and nobody turned a hair when I carried it by bus, tube and train from Essex to Wiltshire (to attend a course), I wouldn't've expected any issues with a WW1 soldier taking his on leave. Current attitudes to firearms are relatively recent.

 

Ammunition would probably only be issued in the line, and expected to be handed in on leaving it, though it's hard to imagine how this could be enforced absolutely if a soldier wanted to circumvent it.

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Ammunition would probably only be issued in the line, and expected to be handed in on leaving it, though it's hard to imagine how this could be enforced absolutely if a soldier wanted to circumvent it. 

I'm sure one of the divisional orders I saw indicated that men could be searched at the port and if they were caught with ammunition he would be sanctioned by loss of leave. How many were searched or not is another matter and I;m sure that there were a hundred and one ways around it.


Craig

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7 minutes ago, Stoppage Drill said:

Seems pointless. Anybody could buy ammunition - or firearms - perfectly freely prior to the 1920 Firearms Act.

But that wasn't from the Army's stock and that seems to have been the most important issue - keeps the QM happy.

Craig

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Thanks everyone. Interesting that the date of the Firearms Act was 1920. I wonder if the Irish situation precipitated this legislation? 

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1 hour ago, Stoppage Drill said:

Seems pointless. Anybody could buy ammunition - or firearms - perfectly freely prior to the 1920 Firearms Act.

 

Indeed, but neither were easily within the price range of the ordinary soldier. Such a man going into a gunsmiths to purchase such would certainly be noted by staff and might provoke comment or even be refused if he didn't have a convincing explanation. Class would be almost as substantial a barrier as law.

Edited by MikB
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5 hours ago, MikB said:

Considering the Combined Cadet Force were quite relaxed about my taking a No.4 from the Armoury in 1967, and nobody turned a hair when I carried it by bus, tube and train from Essex to Wiltshire (to attend a course), I wouldn't've expected any issues with a WW1 soldier taking his on leave. Current attitudes to firearms are relatively recent.

 

Ammunition would probably only be issued in the line, and expected to be handed in on leaving it, though it's hard to imagine how this could be enforced absolutely if a soldier wanted to circumvent it.

 

4 hours ago, PaddyO said:

Thanks everyone. Interesting that the date of the Firearms Act was 1920. I wonder if the Irish situation precipitated this legislation? 

 

By the time I did my stint in the CCF beginning in 1975 our Armoury had been stripped of all the .303 Lee Enfields and that was definitely precipitated by another, later Irish situation.

 

I think the IRA had successfully raided some cadet armouries in the late 60's or early 70's.

 

We were left with a dozen or so No 8 .22 cadet rifles, which we used on our 25 yds range, plus two or three DP .303 Lee Enfield No 4s and a Bren gun, all with their firing pins removed and used for instruction only.

 

We only got to fire .303s in anger once a term at the Army range at Norton Barracks.

 

Mark

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2 points:    1) Ireland.  I am not aware that the situation in Ireland after the Great War was behind the legislative clamp-down on weapons in the mainland UK. I am not on top of this aspect-but I have never seen the Firearms Act 1920 put down to the Irish situation.  As with WW2, the clamp seems -to me- to be that there were simply an awful lot of weapons out there- legit, souvenirs, British stocks, etc.  And I am not at all sure that weapons such as  Lee Enfields could be bought over the counter in the UK during the war-I feel sure DORA put a stop to that. In addition, the Irish- all varieties-seemed to have no trouble getting hold of weapons anyway- Larne? Howth?  (To me what triggered the escalation after 1918 was the return to Ireland of significant numbers of men with military service experience- it was not just the Tans who brought the hardness of war to Ireland after 1918)

 

2)   CCF et al.    The idea for raiding  WW2 stocks kicking round  the UK was certainly out there. I remember distantly there were reports of the occasional raid on a remote store- There again, the idea would have been very,very well-known anyway-  Anyone seen "The League of Gentlemen" lately? My CCF days overlapped with the beginning of the Troubles from 1968. Our CCF store was not alarmed, was an army hut with glazed windows and the generous stocks of Lee Enfields were secured only by a trigger-guard chain (Just as the weapons at IWM used to be). The store held all sorts of other kit-  the rifles seemed to be ordnance leftovers- the nice Mark IV airborne version -with the scaled down woodwork was my favourite (even though they were stamped "Property of U.S.Army"). Some stocks of 303 ammunition as well-although we usually got to fire all sorts of guns and use up lots of ammunition, courtesy of the Royal Navy  quite often-at HMS Raleigh (My school was near Plymouth). The  Grey Funnel Line seemed glad to be able to use the stuff and get rid of it.. But the Lee Enfields were not taken away in my time-and,I think, later only updated when there were spare stocks of the 7.62 SLR available. Ireland was not a factor.

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Thanks again to all. I can think of one raid on a school weapons store: Felstead, Essex in 1953. Future IRA Chiefs of Staff Sean MacStiofain (Provisionals) and Cathal Goulding (Officials) were arrested when their van was stopped on their getaway by police who noticed it was going too slowly for the main road and seemed to be heavily laden!

I did my school CCF in the 1980s. We had .22, .303 and Brens at our store/range and as mentioned they were chained through trigger guards. 

You raise an interesting point about this men who had served in the war and who returned to then use their training during the future conflicts. Tom Barry springs to mind but there would have been very many I'm sure.

My grandfather recounted to me about a Tan raid on their lane in Tipperary Town (when he was about ten or eleven) in which their home was searched and witnessing his father remonstrating with the soldiers that he had served in France.

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In my opinion the timing of the act would make it very likely it was related to the troubles in Ireland. 

 

Access to arms and more pertinently ammunition was the single biggest problem for the IRA in that period. The gun running never came near to satisfying the demand. Tom Barry's memoirs and many other sources make it clear the IRA spent a lot of time trying to "acquire" weapons from soldiers either through aggression (raids & attacks) or through carelessness or complicity of individual soldiers. There are examples of unscrupulous soldiers (Irish and English) willing to sell arms for drink money. 

 

It seems to me, in this context the military authorities would have had to tighten up security of their arms and the timing of the act is no coincidence.

 

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13 minutes ago, Jervis said:

 

In my opinion the timing of the act would make it very likely it was related to the troubles in Ireland. 

 

Access to arms and more pertinently ammunition was the single biggest problem for the IRA in that period. The gun running never came near to satisfying the demand. Tom Barry's memoirs and many other sources make it clear the IRA spent a lot of time trying to "acquire" weapons from soldiers either through aggression (raids & attacks) or through carelessness or complicity of individual soldiers. There are examples of unscrupulous soldiers (Irish and English) willing to sell arms for drink money. 

 

It seems to me, in this context the military authorities would have had to tighten up security of their arms and the timing of the act is no coincidence.

 

 

        Good thoughts indeed  but 2 small points in response:

 

1)  If the problem was within Ireland then why not an Act specific to Ireland?   

 

2)  Powers against  gun acquisition within Ireland were powerful enough already- DORA and the various emergency powers, esp. after Easter 1916 meant that a new Act would be a fifth wheel on a wagon?

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There had been several pre-war attempts to introduce legislation to control the sale and possession of firearms, notably in 1887 and 1893, but they either failed completely or resulted in ineffective instruments like the 1903 Pistols Act. A draft Bill to strengthen the 1903 Act was drawn up in 1911, but was never even placed before Parliament.

Lord Salisbury, PM in 1900, famously asserted that the liberties of all Englishmen were assured by the complete trust of the ruling classes in the working and labouring classes. He would "laud the day when there was a rifle in every cottage in England."

Blackwell's "Commentaries" had it that, "These rights consist, primarily, in the free enjoyment of personal security, of personal liberty and of private property." He went on to say that an Englishmen had a right to defend these liberties by a free course of justice in the courts, then by petition to the King and Parliament, and lastly to the right of having and using arms for self preservation and defence. 

My, how that was changed by 1920! 

 

The rationale behind the 1920 Act was purported to be based on the recommendations of the Blackwell Committee which was convened in December 1917 and reported a few days before the Armistice. However, more recent research indicates that there was a fear of revolution in post-war Britain and the government of the day wished to make a start on disarming the populace. The ancient liberty has.by now been virtually legislated to extinction.

 

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3 minutes ago, ss002d6252 said:

Ireland was already covered by the Restoration of Order Act in respect of firearms etc (albeit only since Aug 20) - the Firearms Act 1920 was consequently introduced to Ireland after the rest of the UK.

https://api.parliament.uk/historic-hansard/commons/1920/oct/20/firearms-act

 

Craig

   

   That's the beggar Fawlty!   Must admit I had forgotten the exact name. Thanks Craig

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20 minutes ago, Stoppage Drill said:

The rationale behind the 1920 Act was purported to be based on the recommendations of the Blackwell Committee which was convened in December 1917 and reported a few days before the Armistice. However, more recent research indicates that there was a fear of revolution in post-war Britain and the government of the day wished to make a start on disarming the populace. The ancient liberty has.by now been virtually legislated to extinction.

 

      Thanks SD- Yes, that accords fully with what I thought had happened. Blackstone is always a good source for rights and liberties-oft quoted as an "authority" but, in reality, he was not in charge of making legislation and his work is,after all, only "Commentaries".  But,alas, liberties quickly disappear when the  oiks want to use them.  It is an enduring question for me as to just HOW the British state survived and did not go the way of many other states involved in the war. And the guff about good ol' King George, parliamentary democracy et al just does not stack up. We still have a much more controlled and controlling  system-and the sub-text of the war for me was just how much effort the powers-that-be put into keeping it that way.  

      On a sidenote, I think the Met. (or City of London) still had provision for officers to carry  pistols after dark-was it stopped in 1918 or earlier??  That to me was indicative of a broader policy of disarming the country even further than the low level of weapons possession that already existed. By the way, would you know (I suspect you do), what the regs. were for buying firearms was during the war?? It intrigued me when reading the letters home (Privately published) of an officer killed early on in the war-Lt Loscombe Law Stable, 2 RWF KIA October 1914). 2 RWF took a battering in the great retreat (very poorly covered by Dunn,as he was not serving with 2 RWF then)-Law lost most of kit-including a Colt.45 yet he wrote home with a list of stuff for his family to replace-socks, shirts, etc-Oh-and could his father (a distinguished barrister) just pop down to a shop in Piccadilly and buy him another one and some spare clips to go with it . SD-if buying military grade weapons was stopped during the war-or regulated-would you know the regs. chapter and verse. eg-If an officer was required to buy his own pistol, did the gunsmith need any paperwork from officialdom??.

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4 minutes ago, voltaire60 said:

      On a sidenote, I think the Met. (or City of London) still had provision for officers to carry  pistols after dark-was it stopped in 1918 or earlier??  That to me was indicative of a broader policy of disarming the country even further than the low level of weapons possession that already existed. By the way, would you know (I suspect you do), what the regs. were for buying firearms was during the war?? It intrigued me when reading the letters home (Privately published) of an officer killed early on in the war-Lt Loscombe Law Stable, 2 RWF KIA October 1914). 2 RWF took a battering in the great retreat (very poorly covered by Dunn,as he was not serving with 2 RWF then)-Law lost most of kit-including a Colt.45 yet he wrote home with a list of stuff for his family to replace-socks, shirts, etc-Oh-and could his father (a distinguished barrister) just pop down to a shop in Piccadilly and buy him another one and some spare clips to go with it . SD-if buying military grade weapons was stopped during the war-or regulated-would you know the regs. chapter and verse. eg-If an officer was required to buy his own pistol, did the gunsmith need any paperwork from officialdom??. 

 

The Metropolitan Police back in 1884, after the murders of two constables, were given permission from the Commissioner of the day to carry revolvers during uniformed night time patrols. These were called ‘Comforters’ and each Officer would make up their own mind if they wished to carry them. This was the nearest we have ever been to a fully armed service and that was over a hundred years ago. This remained the case until 1936 when the revolvers were taken off the constables and kept locked in a cupboard back at the station.

http://www.oldpolicecellsmuseum.org.uk/content/history/police_history/firearms

 

Craig

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Raids were not only on CCF armories-
 

Following is a statement on the theft of weapons and ammunition onth August, 1955, from 5 Training Battalion, R.E.M.E., Arborfield, Berks.

At about 2.15 a.m. on 13th August about a dozen armed men raided the lines of 5th Training Battalion, R.E.M.E. One was in battledress with R.E.M.E. and 5th Training Battalion shoulder flashes; the rest were in civilian clothes. They overpowered the un-armed sentry on the gate and the sergeant in charge of the guard who was alone in a room apart. The members of the guard in the main guardroom were also overpowered and forced into cells, and four sentries patrolling the lines were similarly dealt with. The raiders then forced the doors of the armoury and magazines and stole:—

Weapons—Rifles, 2; Bren Light Machine Guns, 10; Sten Carbines, 55; Sten Magazines, 359; and Pistols .38, 1.

Ammunition—52,315 rounds .303; 30,899 rounds 9 mm.; 1,332 rounds .38; and 1,300 rounds .22.

The raiders left in motor vehicles at about 3.30 a.m. leaving behind for a short time a small party to cover the guard. The guard commander, who was bound but not locked up succeeded in freeing himself and raised the alarm at about 5 a.m. All the weapons and ammunition were in due course recovered by the civil police.

8W

The guard, including the sentries, consisted of two non-commissioned officers and sixteen privates. They did not carry arms or any kind of weapon.

 
 
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Monsieur Arouet - yes, constables on night patrol in Met outer boroughs could apply to carry a pistol. I could look up the dates, but right off the top I would say 1880s to 1935.

 

Our police should be routinely armed  now. But this is getting into Skindles territory . . .

Whoops. Just seen post #18 !

Sorry Mr ss002

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I know that German soldiers on leave were not allowed to take their rifle home. They didn't take home their ammo pouches, bayonet, entrenching tool, gas mask, backpack and helmet etc. either.

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Equally these soldiers, in this image from the IWM collection do not appear to be carrying their rifles as they arrive at Victoria for home leave

 

http://www.iwmprints.org.uk/image/744016/two-british-soldiers-arrive-at-victoria-station-london-at-the-start-of-a-period-of-home-leave-during-the-first-world-war

 

One imagines it was a bit risky if they could get ammunition.  I recently read a newspaper account of a soldier home on leave and the first thing he did was go to his lock up and drink a bottle of whiskey, the arresting officer who was assaulted described him as 'mad drunk'.

 

Ken

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15 minutes ago, kenf48 said:

Equally these soldiers, in this image from the IWM collection do not appear to be carrying their rifles as they arrive at Victoria for home leave...

 

Ken

At the risk of taking this thread off-topic again, were all soldiers serving on the Continent issued with rifles? What about those whose duties would not normally involve fighting?

 

Moonraker

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