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Waggoner

Weapons of the Indian Army

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Waggoner

I was reading a book about First World War logistics in which the author said that either the rifles or the ammunition the Indian troops used (I can’t remember which) was not compatible with those used in Egypt and the Western Front. This meant they had to be rearmed. I don’t recall reading about this before. Can anyone enlighten me?

 

All the best,

 

Gary

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calibre792x57.y

Most photos of Indian troops in WW1 show them using S.M.L.E. rifles, often with Patt. 1903 bayonets, and still using 0.303 inch ammunition  and No.23 rifle grenades.  - SW

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aussiesoldier

Indian cavalry are seen to have entered the war carrying a sword based upon a three bar guard (1822?) but a curved blade closely based upon the Tulwar. A specific design featuring a modern hilt and a curved blade was approved in 1910 but never issued. Some Indian units were issued a modified P1908 which had a smaller grip made of walnut wood and designated the IP08 and this remains the issued cavalry sword of the Indian Army.

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Steven Broomfield

Since the Mutiny (or whatever else you wish to call it), it had been policy to keep Indian units armed with a rifle preceding that in use in British regiments. As a result, the Indian Army was equipped with the Long Lee Enfield or Lee Metford, although some units had earlier (lower velocity) versions of the SMLE.

 

Before deaprture, or on arrival at Marseilles, the older SMLEs were replaced with up-to-date SMLEs, basically because ammunition for other marks was not available.

 

This led to one unforeseen consequence: the bayonet wasn't replaced, but the fixing of the bayonets the Indians had was not 100% adaptable to the new SMLEs and if fixed while sustained fire was being given, fell off. They were therefore replaced as and when stocks were available.

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Waggoner

Steven,

 

Thank you! That makes sense.

 

All the best,

 

Gary

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Ron Clifton

Another relevant point is that rifles needed to be re-sighted after the introduction of the Mark VII bullet.

 

Ron

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4thGordons
Posted (edited)
19 hours ago, Steven Broomfield said:

Since the Mutiny (or whatever else you wish to call it), it had been policy to keep Indian units armed with a rifle preceding that in use in British regiments. As a result, the Indian Army was equipped with the Long Lee Enfield or Lee Metford, although some units had earlier (lower velocity) versions of the SMLE.

 

 

Any sources for this Steven? While I understand the long standing idea that the British Army maintain an "edge" in terms of technolgy, there are several things I think I would probably take issue with (if I were at home with all my sources and not 1000 miles away dodging bears!)

 

The velocity question is not really a function of the rifle but the ammunition (Mk VI vs MkVII .303)  As noted by Ron Clifton

 This was an issue for rifles from all sources (UK, India and Australia) and while the earlier ammuntion would function in both (as would the later) feeding from the magazine and sighting would be compromised. (MkVI had a round nosed bullet MkVII a pointed bullet - they had different ballistic profiles)

 

Most TF units were also armed with CLLEs and most took these into combat with them in 1915.

 

From memory  I want to claim

Ishapore actually began producing CLLE versions of the MLE before the UK and converting MLEs into SMLEs prior to the approval of such in the UK

also - I believe India shipped significant quantities of her stocks of SMLEs to the UK early in the war (as did Australia)

 

I suspect the original observation mentioned by Gary (Wagoner) has t do with the Mk VI vs MkVII ammunition rather than the specific rifles.

Chris

 

PS on the bayonets -- I know we have been round and round on this before but the MkI (MkI*** etc) ShtLE and the MkIII are totally interchangeable regarding bayonets

It is the MLE/CLLE and the SMLE that are not interchangeable - not event close as they take different patterns of bayonet P1888 on the MLE or CLLE and P1903 or P1907 on the ShtLE

 

 

Edited by 4thGordons

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Chasemuseum

For the empire, the war came at the same time as the transition from the Mark VI (round nose) to the Mark VII (pointed) .303 cartridge. The mark VII had a higher muzzle velocity and required different sighting. The conversion of an SMLE rifle from one to the other required the removal of the rear sight bed and replacement with the sight bed for the new cartridge.  I do not know if the old pattern sight beds could be salvaged and machined to the new profile or whether an entirely new sight bed was required. Certainly the conversion could not be done on the rifle and the beds had to be removed from the barrel. This is a major armourers job (engineering workshops not unit armoury), breaking down the rifle, removing the fore-sight assembly, removing the barrel ring, dismantling the rear sight, removing the rear sight bed securing pin and then sliding the bed forward off the barrel. Reversing the process to rebuild the rifle and resighting the weapon. The AIF at Gallipoli was using Mk VI ammunition and in early 1916, whilst in Egypt the battalions were progressively re-equipped with upgraded rifles. To the soldiers this was just a one for one exchange, but for the AIF this was a major logistical exercise, to co-ordinate the collection, upgrading and re-issuing of rifles so that there was minimal interruption to the training and operations of the troops. The operation is described in the Australian Official history in Volume 3. 1916.

Cheers

Ross

 

 

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Steven Broomfield
7 hours ago, 4thGordons said:

 

Any sources for this Steven? While I understand the long standing idea that the British Army maintain an "edge" in terms of technolgy, there are several things I think I would probably take issue with (if I were at home with all my sources and not 1000 miles away dodging bears!)

 

 

PS on the bayonets -- I know we have been round and round on this before but the MkI (MkI*** etc) ShtLE and the MkIII are totally interchangeable regarding bayonets

It is the MLE/CLLE and the SMLE that are not interchangeable - not event close as they take different patterns of bayonet P1888 on the MLE or CLLE and P1903 or P1907 on the ShtLE

 

 

 

Some of th detail cames from Tom Donovan's book on the Indian Corps, but pretty well all Indian regimental histories of the period mention exchanging rifles for the modern variety. I suspect the 'old' rifles were with regiments nt earmarked for foreign service (home defence and internal security probably didn't require anything too modern whereas Frontier work or overseas service would be a different story). Tom Donovan references one history (which others I have seen confirm) the Afridi (i.e. cross-border Pathan) sowars and sepoys being amazes that several thousand ruppes'-worth of modern rifles were discarded.

 

I confess I know nothing about bayonets, but the story about them falling off is mentioned in a couple of regimental historie (though as everything is being piled ready for builders to move in I can't give chapter and verse), and was even mentioned in the Sirhind Brigade WD. It was felt to be a contributory factor in the 2/2nd Gurkhas breaking at (IIRC) Givenchy in late '14. Their rifles were clogged with mud and their bayonets had fallen off so they were defenceless.

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