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special WW1 exhibition at the Mersea Island Museum over the weekend of 1st, 2nd and 3rd of August

posted 27 Jul 2014, 13:33 by Tony Cattermole   [ updated 27 Jul 2014, 15:38 ]


[1] - Martini-Henry rifle in .577/450" calibre. Originally an 1871 design, and famously used in the Zulu Wars in 1879, this rifle still found employment in WW1 both in its .577/450" calibre and later conversion to .303" calibre. Such was the shortage of rifles that the Admiralty bought 500 M-H rifles back from the trade for use by the RNAS in October 1914. Royal Laboratories, Woolwich, developed a special anti-Zeppelin bullet for the Martini which saw reasonably extensive use, but little success, in 1914-15. It was known as the RL "Flaming Bullet". With regard to .303 inch Martini Enfields, the Admiralty bought 500 surplus M-E carbines from the trade in April 1915 and 2,000 surplus M-E rifles in February 1916 and issued these to armed trawlers and other miscellaneous craft.

[2] - "Rifle,Short, Magazine, Lee-Enfield" - Mk.III* - (SMLE) The primary personal weapon of the WW1 infantryman. It was colloquially known as the "Smellie" by all "Tommies", who phonetically used the initials of the rifle's formal nomenclature. Tommies were so-called after the name Thomas Atkins was used on a specimen military form as early as 1815.

[3] - SMLE Rifle with Mills Grenade Discharger No.1, Mk.1,
and "Grenade, rodded, No.23", with 1907 Pattern Bayonet

[4] - SMLE Rifle with Barbed-wire cutter No.1 Mk.II - 1916-17 - for the SMLE rifle. (See also reference [9] in this booklet) When the “Y” section is forced onto the wire, the cutter rotates downwards, closing the hardened blades to shear the wire. The cutter then springs back into position for the next cut.

[5] - SMLE Rifle with "Burns" range-adjustable Grenade Discharger Cup and No.36 Grenade with gas-check base-plate

[6] - Rifle, Enfield No.3 (Pattern 1914) - The Enfield designed, but USA manufactured, rifle that bolstered WW1 rifle supply, British production of the SMLE being insufficient for the enormous requirement. This is the first British service rifle to be fitted with an aperture rear battle-sight rather than the hitherto "open" sights of all Lee-Enfields. This rifle may be familiar to viewers of "Dad's Army", as it is the type, although then technically obsolete, which was of necessity re-issued to the Home Guard during the Second World War because of the shortage of the "Short" Lee-Enfield rifles (SMLE).

[7] - Rifle, Charger-loading*, Magazine, Lee-Enfield (CLLE) - known as the "Long-Lee" after the introduction, in 1906, of the "Short” Rifle (SMLE). This rifle was the current Service weapon at the time of the second Boer War, around the turn of the Nineteenth to Twentieth Centuries, just fourteen years prior to the commencement of WW1. The "Long" Lee-Enfield remained in use with many units early in WW1, until production of the SMLE and Pattern '14 rifles provided sufficient replacements. *See the SMLE short skeleton (Exhibit [12]) rifle for more detail of Clip or Charger loading.

[8] - The No.1, Mk.1 Grenade Discharger – This was a simple pressed steel device that clipped to the nose-cap of the rifle, being held in place by the fitted bayonet. An otherwise standard "Mills Bomb" had a rod of the diameter of a .303" bullet screwed into the base. The grenade was then dropped into the discharger with the rod fitting into the rifle's barrel. The discharger ring held the release handle (for the 5 second timed percussion firing of the grenade) firmly in place, permitting the safety-pin to be removed by means of the finger "key" ring. A blank cartridge (with no bullet) was used to fire the grenade up to 50-60 yards range. The rifle was NOT fired from the shoulder, but the "toe" of the butt was pressed into the ground, and the rifle aimed at approximately 60 degrees to the horizontal, whilst being fired from a kneeling position.

[9] – Wire-cutter: displayed on Rifle exhibit [4], this ingenious wire-cutter, designed for fitment to the SMLE rifle, is pivoted so that, when the rifle is driven onto the wire, the cutter rotates downwards, at the same time operating the cutter blades to shear the wire. As the wire is cut, the whole cutter springs back into position ready for the next cutting thrust. An earlier, but less successful, design clipped onto the bayonet by the hilt. The device had only a small ‘V’ feed notch, which directed the wire in front of the rifle's muzzle. The wire was supposed to be cut by a round then being fired from the rifle.

[10] - The "Burns" Cup Discharger, Bomb, Rifle No.1, Mark I – displayed with rifle exhibit [5] - for attachment to Rifles, short, Magazine Lee-Enfield (S.M.L.E.), for launching the No.36 Grenade with gas-check base-plate.

[11] - The 1907 No.1 Mk.1 model bayonet – shown fitted to the Rifle exhibit [2]

[12] -The Mk.1, 2nd type 1888 pattern bayonet – shown fitted to Rifle exhibit [7] - the "Long" Lee-Enfield rifle of the late 1800s was fitted with this quite short bayonet. The overall length of this rifle and bayonet will be seen to be close to that of the later "Short" rifle and its 1907 pattern bayonet. Thus the effective reach of the infantryman was maintained for bayonet fighting by means of a longer blade.

[13] - Cut-away, or "Skeleton" model of the SMLE. - This was issued to armourers for demonstration and training purposes. It was used to illustrate the operation of the rifle to recruits undertaking Musketry Training. The magazine will hold ten rounds of .303" calibre ammunition. After the first five rounds had been fired, a further five could be quickly loaded using the "Clip" of five rounds dropped into the slots at the front of the "Charger loading" bridge over the rear of the action. The clip is on display, in position, ready for the rounds to be pressed into the magazine with the right thumb. The then empty charger clip is ejected automatically as the bolt is closed to load the next round from the top of the magazine. The cartridges are specially manufactured "Drill rounds", chromium-plated, and the cases with red painted flutes to distinguish them from live cartridges.

[13a] - Cut-away, or "Skeleton" model of the Martini-Enfield rifle in .303" calibre (See complete rifle exhibit 1)

[14] - The 1907 model Quillon bayonet - displayed on rifle exhibit [3] holding the grenade discharger in place - was the original design of bayonet for the SMLE rifle. The "hooked" quillon was intend to prevent an opponent's bayonet from sliding past the hilt of your own. A twist of your rifle would then theoretically snap your opponent's bayonet blade. In practice, not only did the hook rarely achieved its purpose, but was likely to snag other equipment or webbing at a critical moment. The hook was soon removed from most early bayonets during refurbishment or by field armourers, and examples are rarely seen today.

[15] - Pattern 1913 bayonet for Enfield No.3 - (the Pattern '14 rifle - made in the USA) – displayed on rifle exhibit [6]. The two notches cut into the woodwork of the handle are to ensure that an infantryman can identify the bayonet as being for the Enfield Pattern’14 No.3 rifle, rather than for the Short Lee-Enfield rifle – onto which this bayonet will not fit. The notches would even identify the bayonet in the dark by feel.

[16] - Charger Clip with 5 dummy 303" calibre cartridges – two of these clips are displayed with the SMLE skeleton rifle – Exhibit [13]

[17] - LeGret Aim Teaching device - to assist an instructor with illustrating to a recruit the correct method of aiming the rifle

[18] - Another aim-teaching device - that allowed the musketry instructor to lie beside a recruit and see in a prismatic glass the precise aim being taken by the student. This later type of aim-teaching device, shown in this display case, is included in the above instruction sheet

[19] - The Youlton trench rifle sighting periscope - this device permitted the firing of a rifle over the trench parapet without the firer having to place his head behind the rifle sights.

[20] - The Vanderlip Trench Periscope - this device permitted safe observation over the trench parapet. The upper mirror clipped to top of a rifle bayonet and the lower viewing mirror clipped into the bayonet-lug slot, near the hilt, with which the bayonet would otherwise be fitted to the SMLE rifle.

[21] – BSA manufactured No.9 Model target sight for the Lee-Enfield rifle - Before the fitment of optical telescopic sights to service rifles for sniping purposes, experienced marksmen, such as those who had knowledge of civilian target shooting at rifle ranges such as Bisley in Surrey, took their specialist target sights with them to France and Belgium. These sights, fitted to service SMLE and Pattern '14 rifles, made highly accurate sharp-shooting possible in the first one or two years of the war.

[22] - The Lattey sight - designed by an army captain of that name, was one of the earliest forms of telescopic sight for “sharp-shooting” (sniping). As a Galilean type telescope, there was no telescope tube. The objective lens was simply fitted to the nose-cap of the SMLE rifle, and the correcting lens, or eyepiece, was fitted to the rifle's rear-sight in place of the usual "U"-notched open sight. It is here represented on a mocked-up rifle barrel.On the full-length rifle, the front and rear sight units would actually be 19.5 inches apart.

[23] - Aldis telescopic sight – displayed with Sniper’s rifle - exhibit [6] - Sights such as this were fitted to both SMLE (No.1) and Pattern '14 (No.3) rifles for sniping purposes between 1916 and 1918. This particular unit side-mounted on an Enfield No.3 (Pattern '14) rifle.

[24] - Rifle cleaning kit -
the brass butt-plate of the SMLE rifle has a hinged trap covering a tubular hole bored down the length of the butt. This hole is primarily for the bolt that holds the wooden butt to the rifle's ironwork, but the space behind is used to store an oil-bottle and a "pull-through"; which is a weighted cord that can be dropped through the barrel to pull through either a piece of metal gauze, or a rectangle of cotton cleaning material. The cotton rectangles are known as "4-by-2" because of the four-inch by two-inch dimensions of the cloth when a strip is torn off the roll.

[25] - Roll of "Four-by-Two" – described with cleaning kit – exhibit [24]

[26] - Brass weighted hemp cord "Pull-through" - with looped end to hold four-by-two or gauze patch

[28] - Trigger-weight spring-balance - An armourer's device to ensure the weight of the trigger-pull on a rifle is set at the correct figure of approximately 3 lbs. (approx 1.25kgs)

[29] - A luminous sight set. This set could be fitted to a rifle for use at night or in very poor light. The rear-sight and fore-sight each hold tiny protected glass phials of luminous paint that glows in the dark; (this was the old radium-based paint such as used on early luminous watches – it is a radioactive substance no longer permitted for such use)

[30] - Flechettes - These are aerial darts, dropped from aircraft. They were made from hardened steel, and, if released from sufficient height, they would penetrate a steel helmet. Dropped in batches of thousands, they could seriously disrupt infantry concentrations. Two of those displayed are machine made, and of full production manufacture. The third arrow-like example has probably been one of a batch made locally in a field workshop.

[31] - A bronze statuette of a WW1 infantryman - This was a shooting prize awarded in 1916 to Dr. Wynne Thomas, who was one of a committee instrumental in the setting up of the Anglo-French-American Hospital in 1914, and operative during 1915-1916, at the Hôpital militaire auxiliaire, no. 307, Neuilly-sur-Seine, in conjunction with the French Red Cross Society.

[32] - A Princess Mary Christmas box. - In November 1914, an advertisement was placed in the national press inviting monetary contributions to a 'Sailors & Soldiers Christmas Fund' which had been created by Princess Mary, the seventeen year old daughter of King George V and Queen Mary. The purpose was to provide everyone wearing the King's uniform and serving overseas on Christmas Day 1914 with a 'gift from the nation'.The response was truly overwhelming, and it was decided to spend the money on an embossed brass box, based on a design by Messrs Adshead and Ramsey. The contents varied considerably; officers and men on active service afloat or at the front received a box containing a combination of pipe, lighter, 1 oz of tobacco and twenty cigarettes in distinctive yellow monogrammed wrappers. Non-smokers and boys received a bullet pencil and a packet of sweets instead. Indian troops often got sweets and spices, and nurses were treated to chocolate. Many of these items were despatched separately from the tins themselves, as once the standard issue of tobacco and cigarettes was placed in the tin there was little room for much else apart from the greeting card. The 'tin' itself was approximately 5" long by 3¼" wide by 1¼" deep with a double-skinned, hinged, lid. The surface of the lid depicts the head of Princess Mary in the centre, surrounded by a laurel wreath and flanked on either side by the 'M' monogram. At the top, a decorative cartouche contains the words 'Imperium Britannicum' with a sword and scabbard either side. On the lower edge, another cartouche contains the words 'Christmas 1914', which is flanked by the bows of battleships forging through a heavy sea. In the corners, small roundels house the names of the Allies: Belgium, Japan, Montenegro and Servia; France and Russia are at the edges, each superimposed on three furled flags or standards.

[33] - A rifle bore viewer - for inspection of the rifling in a .303" rifle's bore. It is a periscopic mirror in a brass sleeve that can be slid into the rifle's chamber as though it were a cartridge. An armourer can thus view the condition of the barrel's bore.

[34] - An officer's trench compass - carries the "Broad Arrow" mark indicating it to be an officially issued item. It is dated 1917 and is manufactured by the Dennison Company. The four main compass points are marked with very large letters made out with radium-based luminous paint, as is the arrow of the heading indicator on the glass.

[35] - A WW1 period officer's wrist watch for trench use - with similar large luminous numerals on its face as the compass point letters that are present on the adjacent trench compass.

[36] - A pair of officer's binoculars or "Field Glasses" - by the Parisian company "Hezzanith". The leather case carries the Broad Arrow mark of British military acceptance, and the case ridge is inked with the owner's name "BERWICK". The leather case was manufactured by the company "J.Cripps 1918". Britain had very few manufacturers of optical equipment early in WW1. The War Department obtained such items from anywhere it could, and much equipment was requisitioned from sporting retailers. So short was the country of optics that a deal, not publicised until long after the war, was done with Germany to exchange optical equipment for rubber, of which the Germans were also in dire need. This extraordinary exchange of war materiél was unusual, but not unprecedented. So short of rubber was the German army, that military vehicles were being run on latticed spring-steel tyres, a design many years later incorporated into the Lunar rover.

[37] – 18 pounder artillery shell - The most common field gun used by British Artillery was the 18 pounder. This shell is one fired by such an artillery piece. The brass shell case is supporting a fired but unexploded (now deactivated) shell. The copper driving band that engages the rifling in the gun barrel can clearly be seen, as can the spiral grooves imprinted in the copper by the rifling in the gun's bore by the enormous pressure of the detonation of the propellant in the shell case. The cross-shaped metal piece beside the shell is the cap clipped over the head of the shell-case to protect the percussion cap that fires the shell from premature detonation during transit and handling.

The 18 pounder artillery pieces are the same guns that are to this day used in the firing of 21-gun salutes in London on state occasions.

[38] – Cut-away 18 pounder Shrapnel shell - this unusual sectioned shell shows the anti-personnel shrapnel balls held within. The shell's fuse would be set with a time to ensure detonation in the air above enemy troops. A normal HE (High Explosive) shell would hold only explosive to shatter the shell case and cause considerable damage on impact.

[39] – Not displayed

[40] - A special rear-sight for fitment to the SMLE rifle - This Canadian made “Cooey No.10A” model was designed to replicate the aperture rear-sight of the U.S. manufactured No.3 Pattern '14 rifle (Rifle exhibit [6]) for training purposes. That rifle was the first British service rifle to be fitted with an aperture rear battle-sight. The U-notched barrel-mounted tangent, ‘open’ rear sights of the Lee-Enfield rifles had become outdated, but there was not time for designing or manufacturing more up-to-date rifles during the Great War; this had to wait until the 1930s.

For servicemen about to be issued with the aperture-sighted No.3 P’14 rifle, some advanced practice could be afforded by the use of the Cooey sight on their Lee-Enfield rifles.

[41] - No 36 grenade with rod for use with Mk.1 Grenade discharger on SMLE rifle – 1916 – displayed with Rifle exhibit [2]

[42] - A standard "Mills Bomb" hand-thrown grenade – 1916 –

as exhibit [41] above, but without the base disk (gas-check plate)

[43] - Rifle Bomb, No.22, Mark I – grenade for use with Lee-Enfield rifle

[44] - Rifle Bomb, No.24, Mark II – grenade for use with Lee-Enfield rifle

[45] - Rifle Bomb, No.35, Mark I – grenade for use with Lee-Enfield rifle

[47] - Rifle grenade No.44, Anti-tank - 1918. The very earliest form of anti-tank projectile, with a fabric steadying skirt. Fired at "point-blank" range with a Lee-Enfield rifle.

[48] – Line-throwing rod - This copper-bronze rod was used to fire a light line to use as a lead for a heavier line, or electrical (phone) cable, across enfiladed ground. A blank cartridge was used, as with the firing of any rifle grenade.

[49] - A 1915 observer's spotting telescope by R & J Beck Ltd. Of London. "TEL. SIG. (MkIV) also G.S." - used for Signalling and General Service and also by snipers' observers. This scope was 'sold out of service' post war to the Society of Miniature Rifle Clubs (S.M.R.C) for use as a small-bore target-shooting spotting 'scope.

[50] - Badge of the Mersea Island Royal British Legion Rifle Club. –

Hand-embroidered. The Club was formed just 15 years after WW1, the club was one of thousands started up to encourage practice with the rifle after both the Boer and Great Wars illustrated its importance in the defence of the British Empire. Most of these clubs came under the auspices of the Society of Miniature Rifle Clubs ('miniature' referring to economical small-calibre rifles such as .22" rimfire). Even .303" centre-fire military service rifles with worn barrels were converted to .22RF to permit cheap practice with the same rifles that were used in the British Forces. In 1947 the S.M.R.C. became today’s National Small-bore Rifle Association (N.S.R.A.)

Mersea Island’s small rifle club is still active today, and its members compete in both National and International competition.

[51] - A silver shooting medal for 1915 competition of the SMRC –

(Society of Miniature Rifle Clubs) on one side the medal carries the head of Field Marshal Lord Roberts, one of the society’s founding sponsors.

[52] – This pair of bronze and silver medals were awarded for "Skill with the Rifle" during and post WW1. - The wartime competitions were held in France, Belgium and, late war, Germany behind the lines. The events were for units whilst waiting to go "up the line" or during their subsequent rest periods. This both constructively occupied troops and improved their familiarity and accuracy with their personal weapons.

[53] - Another silver shooting medal - this one finely embossed with a battle scene; awarded for skill with the rifle in competitions organised for British Forces overseas during WW1.

[54] - German 1915 Pattern Stick Mortar Bomb - or "Wurfgranate" (throw grenade), for use with the 1915 and 1916 patterns of "Granatenwerfer" portable mortars; This had a range of about 300 metres. The exhibit is to be seen lying in earth in the battlefield relics display.

[55] - US Trench Knife/Knuckle duster combination - 1918. Arriving quite late in the war with American troops, these were often ‘appropriated’ and used by British trench-raiding parties

[56] - British 1915 service issue palm-held knuckle-duster - intended for trench raiding and no-man's-land patrols. It is marked with the War Department’s “Broad Arrow” stamp of acceptance into British military service

[57] - Musketry Regulations 1909 - Amended 1914 – 2 copies are shown open, illustrating respectively the "Long" and "Short" Lee-Enfield rifles – (see exhibits [2] to [5] in tall glass rifle cabinet).

[58} - Instructions on Bombing - 1917, including information for British soldiers on hand and rifle grenades of both the British and German Forces