Monday, December 07, 2015

A historic range day

December 7th, 1941.

Not only did a dastardly enemy sneak attack us on a peaceful Sunday morning in Hawaii, but the same little bastards launched a war of aggression against our allies in the South Pacific, specifically Britain, Australia and the Netherlands. We quickly combined our Asian Theater assets with theirs and formed the American-British-Dutch-Australian Command, or ABDA, but it was too little, too late, and the combined navies and air arms of all four nations were quickly and totally destroyed in a matter of weeks. ABDA formally ceased to exist on March 1st, 1942. This was two weeks after the British suffered their greatest defeat in World War Two when Singapore fell to the Japs on February 15. On February 19th, The Japs surprised everyone again with a heavy bombing campaign against the port city of Darwin, Australia, something else that the allied powers thought would never happen.

And it would get worse. Bataan and Corregidor were still on the horizon.

A rifle that might have been there was this one that I shot today.
It's another #1Mk3 Enfield that came from my neighbor down the road a couple of months back. I'd finally gotten around to giving it a rough cleaning and oiling sufficient to take it out to the range. At first glance, you'd see it for a World War One-produced British rifle and suspect that it probably had some Great War time on it. And it probably did, as I doubt that any battle rifle built in 1917 just sat around doing nothing for the next two years. But that's only part of this rifle's story.
When I looked at the stock, I saw this marking.
That's a marking that indicates a rebuild at the Lithgow Small Arms factory in Australia. This rifle was redone "down under" in June of 1947.

A closer look at it's stampings tells a bit more.
The middle marking there is a crown over "GR" over two crossed keys over a "p". This was a British military acceptance stamp that the rifle likely got at the factory originally. Like the receiver marking above, it says that this rifle belongs to King George. Just below that though is a "D" with a broad arrow in the middle. THAT is an Australian Department of Defense acceptance stamp. Clearly this rifle is well-traveled.
The receiver ring likewise has two serial numbers, the first one struck out.
The struck-out one, as I've been told, is it's old inventory control number when it was assigned to Australia's Third Military District (Victoria). (That's what the "3" means.)

The rifle is in great shape, appearance-wise. It's only real flaw is this damaged handguard that I am having difficulty finding a replacement for.

The bore was another matter. The rifle had been stored dirty and fouled for years, if not decades. I spent an hour scrubbing it the night before and got a lot of gunk out, but it was still pretty bad this morning. Hopefully some shooting will help with that.

As you can see the front sight was drifted to sight it and it has been marked to indicate where it should be. Not even close to centered, but hey--it's sighted.
I took it out with 50 rounds of 1980mfg. South African .303 ball ammo. It shot them all without a problem, although the cases expanded noticeably. Accuracy was more than acceptable but it did throw some flyers that I don't think were my fault as much as that of a rough or oversized bore. Perhaps it'll do better next time with the .312gr Hornady bullets that I load with now. They've cleaned up a few other sloppy .303 shooters and this rifle might benefit from them too. But it still put every round on target pretty much where I wanted them, and it definitely shot "Minute of German" and probably even "Minute of Jap." Was there a time when this rifle was gripped by a young Aussie as he watched ships burning and sinking in Darwin? Did it go into North Africa for a second run at the Hun following it's British service in the First World War? Sadly, it can't talk and tell it's stories, and the refinishing that it got in '47 cleaned a lot of it's scars away, but it likely wouldn't have needed that rebuild if it hadn't gotten beat up and worn doing something somewhere.

Two World Wars. Maybe Korea. Who knows the real history of this rifle. What I do know now is that it's mine for the time being and it shoots well enough that I'd fight with it if I had to. And that's good enough for me.

8 comments:

  1. Beautiful old rifle, and nice story.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Where is your BAYONET? Gotta have a WW1 bayonet for that bang stick!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do have two Pattern 1907 bayonets for the SMLE. Just gotta keep 'em in reserve until I need them.

      Delete
  3. Doesn't get any better... And if they could talk...sigh

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank-you for sharing this amazing story.
    If only she could talk.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wow......great history lesson there, Murph!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I don't know if this helps or not. Nor do I know how one would DP mark one....
    https://www.libertytreecollectors.com/productcart/pc/viewPrd.asp?idproduct=3478&idcategory=62

    I have a BSA made one, from the 2nd District, which is apparently New South Wales.

    ReplyDelete