Rare Prototype Spotted In Action: MCEM-2

Recently, while looking though British Army Cold War training films, I stumbled upon something I never expected to see: a clip of an MCEM-2 firing! I was searching through British Cold War training films and watching a 1953 film titled ‘Village Clearing’ at first it seemed pretty standard fair albeit showing an impressive set-piece of tanks attacking a village. And then about 8 minutes in I spotted something unusual, the prototype MCEM-2, in the hands of one of the village’s defenders.

A screen capture of the MCEM-2 from ‘Village Clearing’, © IWM DRA 1078, (source)

The 1953 training film shows a company size attack by the Royal Welch Fusiliers on an enemy strongpoint but then shows a section/squad assault on a building. The opposing force or OPFORCE are wearing airborne HSAT helmets and are armed with American weapons including M1 Garands, some first pattern M1918 BARs and a lone MCEM-2! This was likely done to differentiate the British troops from the OPFORCE – either they wanted a generic look or didn’t have any soviet weapons or kit available as is seen in later training films. My guess would be that the prototype may have come from the British Army’s Small Arms School Corps Collection which has historically maintained a working collection of foreign, historic and prototype weapons for familiarisation and training purposes.

A screen capture from ‘Village Clearing’ showing a section of Fusiliers preparing to attack, © IWM DRA 1078, (source)

The MCEM-2 or Machine Carbine, Experimental Model No.2 was developed by a Polish engineer, Jerzy Podsedkowski. Work on the design began in 1944 but it was not seriously tested until after the end of the war. We can see from this brief clip that Podsedkowski’s design was small, compact and innovative. It fed from an 18 round magazine which like the later Uzi, Sa.23 and RAK Pm.63 was inserted into the pistol grip. While this kept the weapon compact and theoretically holster-able the MCEM-2’s high rate of fire, around 1,000 rounds per minute, meant that it was expended extremely rapidly. 

The MCEM-2 disassembled (via Firearms.96.lt)

The MCEM-2 (Machine Carbine Experimental Model No.2) was a small, compact, innovative design. The weapon had a holster stock and a wrap-around breech block which was inclosed in a tube metal receiver. We can see the bolt in this photograph. In 1946 Podsedkowski, assisted by another Polish engineer, Aleksander Ichnatowicz, improved the MCEM-2, seeking to slow its rate of fire with a heavier bolt. The MCEM-2 was tested at the Royal Navy’s Gunnery School at HMS Excellent in August 1946. Excellent’s Commandant Michael Le Fanu, later an admiral and First Sea Lord, noted in his report that it was a “well engineered weapon, handy to carry about and suitable for use by seamen” but did note that “the high rate of fire makes the weapon uncontrollable in automatic and dangerous in the hand of semi-skilled users.”

Despite improvements the new MCEM-6 was eventually rejected with a Harold Turpin design favoured before it too was rejected. Hopefully, we’ll be able to take a look at some of these designs upclose in future articles/videos. 

My thanks to Firearms.96.it for their assistance.


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Sources:

‘Village Clearing’, IWM, (source)

MCEM-2, Firearms.96.lt, (source)

MCEM-2, Historical Firearms, (source)

Fighting On Film: The Dirty Dozen: Fatal Mission (1988)

Tasked with stopping a group of high ranking Germans setting up a 4th Reich the Dirty Dozen jump into action, one last time. This week we round out Dirty Dozen December with the last of the franchise’s films, 1988’s ‘Fatal Mission‘. With much of the production crew, including director Lee H. Katzin. Telly Savalas returns as Major Wright but a number of other characters from the previous film are recast.

This week’s episode is dedicated to everyone who donated to our charity fundraiser for Crisis, we’re thrilled to say we raised £323 for the charity. We’re extremely grateful to everyone who donated to take part in the raffle.

The episode is also available on all other podcast platforms, you can find them here.

Here are some stills from the film:

If you enjoy the podcast then please check out our Patreon here. Be sure to follow Fighting On Film on Twitter @FightingOnFilm, on Facebook and don’t forget to check out www.fightingonfilm.com.

Thanks for listening!

What Links Calculators to Javelin Anti-Tank Guided Missiles?

What connects calculators to the Javelin FGM-148 Anti-tank guided missile? That might sound like an odd question but what links one of the most successful scientific calculator companies and one of the most widely fielded modern infantry anti-tank weapons is the company which developed them.

Texas Instruments is a household name, especially in the US, better know for its calculators than weapons of war but from the 1940s through to the 1990s they were leaders in defence electronics.

Javelin FGM-148 (US Government)

Javelin was developed by Texas Instruments in cooperation with Martin Marietta (now Raytheon and Lockheed-Martin). In the mid-1980s it beat off competition from Ford Aerospace and Hughes Aircraft to win the US Army’s AAWS-M (Advanced Anti-Tank Weapon System—Medium) program to replace the M47 Dragon. So while the company’s calculator division was running television adverts featuring Dracula the Texas Instruments’ defence arm were developing a next generation anti-tank guided missile.

In June 1989, Texas Instruments and their partner company Martin Marietta were awarded the AAWS-M development contract and the Javelin was adopted as the FGM-148. Javelin continued development and testing throughout the 90s before entering service.

The infrared guided man-portable fire-and-forget anti-tank missile has been in service with over a dozen countries for over 20 years and is still produced under the joint venture between Raytheon Missiles & Defense and Lockheed Martin.

Skipper II AMG-123 (Texas Instruments)

Javelin wasn’t the only weapon Texas Instruments had a hand in developing, they also developed the AGM-88 Harm air-to-surface missile, AGM-123 Skipper anti-ship missile, the AGM-45 Shrike anti-radiation missile, the AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon and the Paveway laser-guided bomb. Texas Instruments’ involvement in the defence industry ended in 1997, when they sold off their defence division to Raytheon in a deal worth $2.95 billion at the time.

This short video came from some ongoing research I’m doing at the moment for an upcoming video on another missile called Javelin! Stay tuned for that.


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Ruger Mini-14: The Royal Bermuda Regiment’s Service Rifle

Formed in 1965 the Royal Bermuda Regiment (RBR) is a territorial line infantry battalion, whose primary role is internal security. The regiment is essentially a territorial or Army Reserve battalion with around 600 part-time troops. Bermuda itself is a British Overseas Territory and is one of several territories to have its own British Army overseas regiments. Initially equipped with the British Army’s L1A1 self-loading rifle, the Mini-14 was selected by the Royal Bermuda Regiment in 1983 to replace the L1A1. The 1980s saw a number of other British Army affiliated units move away from the L1A1, with the Falkland Islands Defence Force selecting the Steyr AUG.

A Royal Bermuda Regiment recruit with a Mini-14, c.2012 (RBR)

The Mini-14 GB (Government Barrel) semi-automatic rifle was purchased from Ruger. The Mini-14 GB had a thicker profile barrel with a a flash hider and mounting lug for the US M7 bayonet. The Royal Bermuda Regiment issued the Mini-14s with 20 round magazines. They were initially shipped with standard wooden stocks but in the early 1990s black polymer stocks with pistol grips were procured from Choate. Another unique attribute of the Regiment’s Mini-14s is the regimental crest stamped on the left side of the receiver. Less than a thousand rifles were produced for the Royal Bermuda Regiment.

In terms of drill with the Mini-14 it is unclear what drill the RBR adopted with the wooden-stocked rifles though it likely drew on British Army drill with Lee-Enfield pattern rifles. Since the refitting of the rifles with the Choate stock it appears that the Regiment adapted the drill laid down for the L1A1. Both rifles have pistols grips, long butt-stocks and exposed barrels which project from the forend.

A Royal Bermuda Regiment recruit reassembling a Mini-14, c.2012 (RBR)

The Mini-14 was developed in the late 1960s by L. James Sullivan and William Ruger, chambered in .223 Remington / 5.56x45mm it is a gas operated rifle with a rotating bolt. The rifle was essentially developed as a scaled-down M14 with a cast receiver and a simplified gas system and bolt. 

Soldiers of the Royal Bermuda Regiment, c.1993, (Seán Pòl Ó Creachmhaoil)

The search for a weapon to replace the Ruger began in the 2010s with the German Heckler & Koch G36 and the US M4 both being tested. The HK G36 was selected but budget constraints saw the British L85A2 adopted instead. In 2012 the Royal Bermuda Regiment had entered into an agreement with the UK’s Ministry of Defence procurement office to allow purchase of some equipment such as the new Multi-Terrain Pattern (MTP) uniforms which replaced Combat Soldier 95 DPM uniforms. It was announced that in the future other personal equipment including boots, body armour and webbing could also be procured via the UK procurement system. This closer cooperation likely paved the way for adoption of RBR configuration L85A2s. The rifles, along with 1,600 magazines and over 400 ACOGs were donated to the regiment. News reports at the time stated the value of the donated equipment was $1.4 million. The switch to the L85A2 began in 2015 and was completed in early 2016.

The rifles appear to have the HK-designed conventional L85A2 plastic hand guards instead of the 2009 A2 configuration which saw the instillation of the Daniel Defence railed forend. The SUSAT sight has been replaced by an ACOG, most commonly seen on what became known as the Theatre Entry Standard (or TES) upgraded rifles. The Bermudan SA80 has a riser picatinny rail for mounting the optic, this was initially developed for British issue L85A2s. In British service the ACOG had been procured earlier first for special forces use and subsequently as a wider urgent operational requirement.

An RBR L85A2 is handed back into the armoury, c.2017 (RBR)

On top of the ACOG is a CQB red dot sight, the ACOG has subsequently been replaced in British service by the ELCAN Spectre. The ACOGs donated to the Royal Bermuda Regiment probably came from surplus stores. We can see on some of the photos released by the regiment that the ACOGs are marked ‘IW-LSW’ indicating that they may have previously been paired with the British Army’s L85 Individual Weapon and the L86 Light Support Weapon.

Recruits introduced to the L85A2, note the sight riser with ACOG mounted (RBR)
A Royal Bermuda Regiment recruit at the range with an L85A2, note the IW-LSW marking on the side of the ACOG (RBR)

The Royal Bermuda Regiment’s intriguing use of the Mini-14 represents one of the few military procurements of the rifle.

This video/article was adapted from my original article over at www.historicalfirearms.info


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Bibliography:

RBR Recruits at the range with Mini-14s c.2013, BDA Sun, (source)

Rifles worth $1.4m donated to Regiment, Royal Gazette, (source)

RBR Soldiers Get to Grips with Rifles, RBR, (source)

Regiment Soldiers Continue Training Overseas, BerNews, (source)

Island Warrior 15 B-Roll, USMC/Staff Sgt. Albert J. Carls, (source)

Royal Bermuda Regiment Training, USMC/Lance Cpl. Joel Castaneda, (source)

50 Years Strong! The Royal Bermuda Regiment at 50, Royal Bermuda Regiment, (source)

‘Regiment’s New Uniforms’, BerNews, (source)

Thorneycroft To SA80, J. Ferguson (2020)

Fighting On Film: The Dirty Dozen: The Deadly Mission (1987)

This week Dirty Dozen December continues and the stakes ramp as we discus 1987’s ‘The Dirty Dozen: The Deadly Mission‘ where we join Telly Savalas and his new Dozen as they attack a German chemical weapons plant! Filmed in Yugoslavia and directed by Lee H. Katzin the film stars Savalas as Major Wright, the new commander of the Dozen and Ernest Borgnine, Vince Edwards, Bo Svenson, Randall “Tex” Cobb, Gary Graham, Paul Picerni, Emmanuelle Meyssignac and Wolf Kahler returns again, as an entirely different character Colonel Krieger.

And don’t forget you can get your special, limited edition Dirty Dozen December t-shirts now too!

The episode is also available on all other podcast platforms, you can find them here.

Here are some stills from the film:

If you enjoy the podcast then please check out our Patreon here. Be sure to follow Fighting On Film on Twitter @FightingOnFilm, on Facebook and don’t forget to check out www.fightingonfilm.com.

Thanks for listening!

Foe To Friend – The National Army Museum’s BAOR Exhibition

A couple of months ago I visited the UK’s National Army Museum in London. They had an exhibition exploring the history of the British Army in Germany since 1945. Titled Foe to Friend it explores the British Army’s post-war experience in Germany first as an occupier and then as a NATO ally. 

Inside the Foe to Friend exhibit (Matthew Moss)

More than a million British soldiers have lived and served in Germany over the past 75 years. The exhibition tries to capture some of their experiences while relating the history of their operations – no small task.

One of the highlights of the exhibit were the small personal items like photos and uniforms but also vehicles like the Brixmis Opel – a car used by British observers to travel through East Germany. There was also an interactive light up display that let you identify various Cold War Soviet vehicles – just like a Brixmis observer!

Inside the Foe to Friend exhibit (National Army Museum)

The exhibition also shows off some of the uniforms and kit used during the UK’s 75 years in Germany as well as some of their weapons including some instantly recognisable Cold War icons like the L1A1 SLR and the Carl Gustav, as well as the SA80 and my old friend the Sterling SMG. Another essential piece of kit – the Boiling Vessel takes centre stage in a multi-media area with a section on the famous food van owned by Wolfgang Meier – he followed British troops on exercise and sold them bratwurst and fish and chips. 

Inside the Foe to Friend exhibit (Matthew Moss)

The exhibit covered several rooms but was more sparse than I’d hoped and some of the smaller items seem a little lost. I would have liked to have seen more on the large-scale exercises the British Army of the Rhine took part in, like Lionheart 84. The exhibition does, however, conclude with some displays on the operations some of the men station in Germany took part in, including peacekeeping in Bosnia and the first Gulf War.

It would have been great to have had some interactive displays featuring audio or video interviews from service personnel who had been in Germany during the various periods of the Army’s presence. This is something the West Indian Soldier exhibition, which we recently looked at, did well.  

It ends with an excellent graphic depicting how troop numbers in Germany fell dramatically after the Second World War – despite the Cold War, from 780,000 in 1945 to just 135 at the end of the British Army’s deployment in 2020.

The exhibition ran from September 2020 to December 2021.


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Further Reading:

‘Active Edge: The Army, Germany and the Cold War’, National Army Museum, (source)
‘Foe to Friend: The British Army in Germany since 1945’, National Army Museum, (source)
‘Foe to Friend: Virtual Tour’, National Army Museum, (source)
‘Army Life in Germany: Virtual Tour’, National Army Museum, (source)

Fighting On Film: The Dirty Dozen: The Next Mission (1985)

We continue Dirty Dozen December with the 1985 TV-movie sequel ‘The Dirty Dozen: Next Mission‘, Lee Marvin, Richard Jaeckel & Ernest Borgnine return with a brand new dozen of hardened criminals (including Wolf Kahler, Larry Wilcox, Ricco Ross & Gavan O’Herlihy) with a mission to save… Hitler. Directed by veteran director Andrew V. McLaglen the film has its ups and downs but Lee Marvin puts in an enjoyable performance. 

And don’t forget you can get your special, limited edition Dirty Dozen December t-shirts now too!

The episode is also available on all other podcast platforms, you can find them here.

Here are some stills from the film:

If you enjoy the podcast then please check out our Patreon here. Be sure to follow Fighting On Film on Twitter @FightingOnFilm, on Facebook and don’t forget to check out www.fightingonfilm.com.

Thanks for listening!

Back in Stock!

I can’t believe it 2 years since we released the The TAB Advanced Combat Rifle Colouring Book! Pleased to say its back in stock, you can pick up your copy now! Check them out here.

Pick a copy up now at www.armourersbench.com/shop

First Look: The Newly Relaunched ARMAX Journal of Contemporary Arms

This month sees the relaunch of the ARMAX: The Journal of Contemporary Arms, the academic journal of the Cody Firearms Museum. The first edition of the new ARMAX covers everything from Dutch Uzis to the EM2 in Malaya, from East German AK-74s to a CIA assassination pistol.

I’m especially excited about the new journal as it contains one of my first published journal articles, it’s titled ‘The Winchester Repeating Arms Company’s Exports to Foreign Powers During the First World War’. The article leverages the research I undertook while a research fellow at the Cody Firearms Museum a couple of years ago. It examines the work of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company during the First World War. Specifically this article explore the breadth and variety of the work done for the Entente powers. I cover everything from the Russian contract Model 1895 lever-action rifles to the air-service self-loading rifles and of course the British Pattern 1914 rifle.

My advanced copy arrived just a day or two ago and I’m so pleased to see my research in print alongside some fantastically interesting work from friends and colleagues. Below are some photos of the journal and above is a first look video.

If you’re interested in up-to-the-minute small arms research then I highly recommend checking out the relaunched ARMAX journal, I’m very excited to see the next edition. Find out more about the journal and read the abstract for my article here.


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The Dirty Dozen (1967)

This week we embark on Dirty Dozen December with a special guest, Lee Marvin’s biographer Dwayne Epstein. Naturally we start this month long exploration of the four Dirty Dozen films with the first and best of them – 1967’s The Dirty Dozen, directed by Robert Aldrich. With Dwayne’s help we look at the making of what has become an iconic war film of the era with defining performances from a strong cast including Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, Jim Brown, John Cassavetes, George Kennedy, Robert Ryan, Telly Savalas, Robert Webber and Donald Sutherland. Grab your Grease Guns we’re headed for the chateau!

The episode is also available on all other podcast platforms, you can find them here.

Here are some stills from the film:

If you enjoy the podcast then please check out our Patreon here. Be sure to follow Fighting On Film on Twitter @FightingOnFilm, on Facebook and don’t forget to check out www.fightingonfilm.com.

Thanks for listening!