Jump to content
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Webley MKVI out of service (opposing broad arrows) stamp question


dutchbarge
 Share

Recommended Posts

My understanding is that from May 1917 officers had to purchase their .455 and .450 revolvers from government stores.  Were revolvers thus sold to officers stamped out of service (opposing broad arrows stamp) as they were now private property?  Cheers, Bill

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I too would like an answer to that. Logically what you suggest ought to be true, but the ways of armies and their ministries are sometimes arcane... :o;)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My understanding was officers purchased their own sidearms from the outset, or do you mean post 17 they had to purchase from military stock ? 

Edited by rsparso
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

Officers were expected to purchase their pistols.  Prior to May 1917, pistols could be acquired in many ways.  'Private purchase' was generally understood to be a purchase from any number of commercial vendors (military outfitters, gun makers, directly form the manufactures, etc.), but many officers were gifted pistols (by friends, family, business/university colleagues, etc.).  Just before the war Webley purchased a quantity of MK Is and IIs from the government (mostly Boer War surplus) which they refurbished and sold on to the trade (most of which were subsequently 'private purchased' by officers).  Unless during the refurbishment process Webley ground down the broad arrow acceptance stamps originally stamped into them by the government (which would have reduced the strength/specs of the components) these revolvers would have carried both the single broad arrow acceptance stamp AND the govt's sold out of service stamp.  An officer could also purchase his sidearm from the government.  Theoretically the sidearm had to accept government spec. .455 revolver ammo.  Some ignored this.  If memory serves, Churchill carried a M1911 in .45 ACP; Canada likewise purchased 5,000 M1911s in .45 ACP.  But I digress.

 

Upon the outbreak of war the government bumbled and dithered to provide munitions to the BEF and it wasn't until the scandal of the artillery shell shortage at Neuve Chapelle had incited public outrage that from May 1915 the procurement of munitions was taken away from the Sec. of State for War (Kitchner) and given to the newly formed (by Lloyd George) Ministry of Munitions.  At this time the MKVI (basically a cheaper to produce version of the high quality pre-war WS) was accepted into service and approx. 300,000 were eventually (by 1920) produced.

 

Of course it took time for Webley to begin delivering MKVIs to the military.  Inevitably, there was a still a severe shortage of pistols and the M of M, to fill the gap, bought from the US Smith and  Wessons and Colts in .455, both of which which pre-war had been a popular sidearm in both Canada and the UK.  They also bought Spanish versions of the 1881 Smith and Wesson re-tooled for .455 (many of these pistols failed to pass inspection and were shipped elsewhere, mainly Australia and Ireland).  Pre-war Webley commercial models were also pressed in to service.  Still shortages persisted.

 

So, trying to finally gets its act together (after nearly 3 years of war) from May 1917 the M of M decided that all commercial sales of  .455 pistols were banned, all such available pistols were acquired by the M of M and officers had to purchase their .455 sidearms from the government.

 

It seems to me that when an officer purchased a .455 pistol from the government that pistol would have been covered in government broad arrow acceptance stamps (if it was the government's property to sell, they had to have acquired it and stamped it beforehand).  Further, as with the pre-war MK Is and II, if they were sold out of government service, the would have to have been so stamped with opposing broad arrows.  I've seen many Webley marks here in the US with both acceptance and sold out of service stamps with no import stamps.  This leads me to suppose that they were 'privately purchased'.

 

What do the other members think?

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

Edited by dutchbarge
Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, dutchbarge said:

 I've seen many Webley marks here in the US with both acceptance and sold out of service stamps with no import stamps.  This leads me to suppose that (unless they were smuggled in after having been stolen from the government) they were 'privately purchased'.

 

What do the other members think?

 

 

It's a fascinating question which I do not know the answer to -- however I am not sure I understand this last bit.

Wouldn't the most straightforward explanation of the absence of import stamps simply be that they were imported into the US prior to the passage of the 1968 NFA which first required import stamps? So they were purchased -- but not by a private individual but but an importer/gun dealer

 

So Broad Arrow applied on "acceptance", SoS stamp applied when sold off, and prior to 1968 it could have been brought legitimately and in large numbers into the US with no need for an import stamp.

Apologies if I have misunderstood.

Chris

 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

Sorry, Chris, my reply was very hasty and the bit you quoted was poorly written.  I've used import stamp in my thread as it is the term most used (incorrectly) by gun dealers to describe what is correctly a country of origin marking (ENGLAND, BELGIUM, etc.)  Most WW1 era gov't owned Webley service revolvers were sold out of service and imported for resale into the US some years after the US Tariff Act of 1930 which requires foreign made goods (excepting some foods) imported to the US for resale to be marked as to country of origin.  So, if a Webley turns up in the US without a country of origin marking it was probably brought in as private property rather than an import for resale.  If the revolver has broad arrow acceptance stamps it was at one time gov't property.  If it has SoS stamp(s) then the revolver was sold by the gov't.  Before and during the war officers could purchase revolvers from the gov't (I don't know if NCOs and EMs could...simple economics would suggest that if they could there were not many who could afford to avail themselves of the opportunity).  The most logical conclusion I can come up with for a Webley revolver with broad arrow acceptance stamps and SoS stamps that is not stamped ENGLAND is that it was purchased from the gov't and brought in as private property, most likely by an officer.  No doubt there are other explanations which elude me and I'd very much like to hear them.  Cheers, Bill  

Edited by dutchbarge
Link to comment
Share on other sites

OK -- gotcha - yes I am familiar with the "England" vs post 1968 import stamp proper idea and the use/abuse of the term by dealers and collectors.

I now understand you.

The logic of your reasoning appears sound to me.

 

I suppose another source might be bring-backs by US personnel (1919-20)  although I suspect the numbers coming in by that route would be quite small.

really interesting question

 

Are there examples of PERSONALIZED or ATTRIBUTED Webleys that show this pattern of marking so both broad arrow + SOS + personalized engraving this might go some way to confirm your thinking although my general sense is the engraving of personal weapons was an earlier practice (prior to 1917) although possibly also after the end of the war as a form of memento?

I have just got a new copy of the "The Broad Arrow" (2nd ed) and I have not had time to read the intro yet -- not sure how revised it is but I wonder if there is anything in there about the marking practices.

 

Chris

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Unfortunately, Chris, my argument is based on logic, something which all gov'ts seldom exhibit.  I'm afraid that in the end we will never get a satisfying answer, but rather a collection of possibilities.  Cheers, Bill  PS: I went back and edited the sentence in my posting which caused this confusion.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

6 hours ago, dutchbarge said:

...

The most logical conclusion I can come up with for a Webley revolver with broad arrow acceptance stamps and SoS stamps that is not stamped ENGLAND is that it was purchased from the gov't and brought in as private property, most likely by an officer.  No doubt there are other explanations which elude me and I'd very much like to hear them.  Cheers, Bill  

 

I'd think there were many who'd experienced a hard war, and would have been only too pleased to sell-on their purchased revolver and try to get back to what might be left of their former life. UK to US immigration appears to have been declining in the post-WW1 period but was still in the 350k per annum range, so some Webleys may have come by that route among the possessions of a varied range of people.

 

Thanks for the information to you and 4th Gordons. This forum improves the knowledge base of all who read it. :)

 

Edited by MikB
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dutchbarge,  Don't rely too heavily on the presence or absence of the England stamp. One of the founding members (1945) of my gun club was a civilian machinist working for the Navy. He told of buying Webleys in cases of 10 in the 1950s and either machining the cylinders for 45ACP or nearly smooth boring the barrels (leaving just enough rifling to not qualify as a short barreled shotgun) and selling them as snake pistols. I saw examples of both that he still had and none carried the England stamp. I don't know but I suspect adherence/enforcement of that regulation may have been spotty and applied more to big importers.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Surely many pistols were issued to soldiers other than officers? Military Police, tank crew, Machine gun teams etc? These would be the Sold out of Service pistols. No?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)
17 hours ago, 4thGordons said:

Are there examples of PERSONALIZED or ATTRIBUTED Webleys that show this pattern of marking so both broad arrow + SOS + personalized engraving this might go some way to confirm your thinking although my general sense is the engraving of personal weapons was an earlier practice (prior to 1917) although possibly also after the end of the war as a form of memento?

Hello Chris,  During the war appeals were made to the public for revolvers and subsequently a quantity were conveyed to the gov't by retired officer's, officer's widows, sportsmen, etc.  Upon receipt these would have been given the usual acceptance broad arrow stamps.  As you said, one occasionally comes across beautifully engraved revolvers (usually pre-war high quality commercial models) with rank, name, unit (and occasionally military/commercial presentation engraving) with broad arrow acceptance stamps AND SoS stamps.  Perhaps these were revolvers that were SoS'd before being given back to the orignal owners who had conveyed them to the gov't in response to the above mention appeals.   I've also seen engraved, broad arrow acceptance stamped, SoS'd and ENGLAND stamped examples which I am forced to conclude were among those conveyed to the gov't in response to the above appeals which were never returned to their original owners but instead were sold by the gov't to exporters for resale in the US.  Cheers, Bill

Edited by dutchbarge
Link to comment
Share on other sites

17 minutes ago, dutchbarge said:

I've also seen engraved, broad arrow acceptance stamped, SoS'd and ENGLAND stamped examples which I am forced to conclude were among those conveyed to the gov't in response to the above appeals which were never returned to their original owners but instead were sold by the gov't to exporters for resale in the US.  Cheers, Bill

 

There might not have been any dishonesty there - if the process of recruiting civilian equipment was similar to that for binoculars and telescopes, then my understanding is that donation and purchase were used as well as loan. It's possible that some such revolvers were never expected to be returned and were quite legitimately sold on - though finding documentation now to support that might be a challenge.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

11 hours ago, MikB said:

I'd think there were many who'd experienced a hard war, and would have been only too pleased to sell-on their purchased revolver and try to get back to what might be left of their former life. UK to US immigration appears to have been declining in the post-WW1 period but was still in the 350k per annum range, so some Webleys may have come by that route among the possessions of a varied range of people.

Good points.  As most of the Empire (Canada, Australia, Africa, Middle East) AND the US were still pretty wild immediately following the Great War (not to mention South America and Asia) I think it is fairly safe to say that many a de-mobbed officer took their sidearm with them and that those seeking to venture abroad who had not a sidearm purchased one (some no doubt from the chaps you mentioned above) before sailing.  Cheers, Bill

Link to comment
Share on other sites

5 minutes ago, MikB said:

There might not have been any dishonesty there

Hello Mike, I did not mean to give the impression that there was any hanky panky, only that the revolvers did not return to the original owner.  Cheers, Bill

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)
10 hours ago, reese williams said:

Dutchbarge,  Don't rely too heavily on the presence or absence of the England stamp. One of the founding members (1945) of my gun club was a civilian machinist working for the Navy. He told of buying Webleys in cases of 10 in the 1950s and either machining the cylinders for 45ACP or nearly smooth boring the barrels (leaving just enough rifling to not qualify as a short barreled shotgun) and selling them as snake pistols. I saw examples of both that he still had and none carried the England stamp. I don't know but I suspect adherence/enforcement of that regulation may have been spotty and applied more to big importers.

Agree....ignoring the rules when you can get away with it is only human nature.  Decades ago I carried a snake gun.  A Colt Python (no pun intended) loaded with .38 shot shells.  They shot just fine in a rifled barrel.  Cheers, Bill

Edited by dutchbarge
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I want to add my bit about reese williams comment about snake guns.  In the late 1950's, magazine adds for .455 Webley revolvers were for sale for as low as $5 dollars.  Later when I went to  forestry school in the deep South, I saw many a timber cruiser and pulp wood worker who carried such a revolver, loaded  with shot, in the piney woods for use against snakes.  The year I was in the woods, I stepped on a seven foot rattlesnake, saw several coral snakes and a raft of rattlers and water moccasins.  But then, in 1958, I bought a very good M/1911 Colt .45 from the C.M.P for $17.  All prices are relative.

new3.2

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 22/06/2021 at 02:41, dutchbarge said:

...It seems to me that when an officer purchased a .455 pistol from the government that pistol would have been covered in government broad arrow acceptance stamps (if it was the government's property to sell, they had to have acquired it and stamped it beforehand). ...

An anaology, if needed. GB P.1907 bayonets that went to Australia and New Zealand before 1914 have SOS marks on them to show they were commissioned by the GB War Ministry and then 'released' for 'sale' to the antipodean forces 

Julian

PS: Hang about, what is this Americanising '10.3k' posts I am credited with? What next - 'The Great War was fought from 1914-1918 CE'????:blink:

Edited by trajan
Add PS
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Julian, It's not Americanizing, it's Klaus Schwab's New World Order.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

8 hours ago, trajan said:

PS: Hang about, what is this Americanising '10.3k' posts I am credited with? What next - 'The Great War was fought from 1914-1918 CE'????:blink:

as the K stands for kilo (derived from χίλιοι) - isn't that really more "greekising"?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

10.3 x 1000 or 10.3 * 1024? 😟

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When an officer purchased a revolver from the regimental armourer it was marked with the sold out of service mark. This was after the sale of military guns were banned under the Defence of the Realm Act.The reason for the mark was to show the revolver was no longer WD Property. 

If this mark was not present on the revolver when the officer left the service ,the Army kept possession of it,even if the officer had paid for it. The mark was proof of purchase from the Government.       Officers often had their names engraved on the frames and backstraps.

              This rule is noted in an ACI  which states the above.    best w Howard 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 26/06/2021 at 00:17, 4thGordons said:

as the K stands for kilo (derived from χίλιοι) - isn't that really more "greekising"?

:thumbsup:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...