MECo.’s Malayan Emergency Display at Soviet Threat

A week or two ago (April 2022) we had the chance to catch up with friends from the MECo. group at the Soviet Threat event at the Hack Green Secret Bunker in Cheshire. Allen and Simon had an excellent display of weapons, uniform and personal kit from the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960) period and kindly talked us through it!

The weapons and personal kit featured in MECo’s Malayan Emergency display (Matthew Moss)

Thank you to Simon and Allen for giving us a detailed rundown of the display and kit. I find personal kit absolutely fascinating and MECo. are extremely knowledgeable and always put on an interesting display. In terms of weapons the display included a Bren Mk3, a Rifle No.5 and a very nice example of an Owen Gun. Below is another photograph of the Owen Gun and its magazine pouches, Allen had both a wooden and metal buttstock on display with the weapon.

Owen Gun & Owen magazine pouch (MECo.)

Check out MECo.’s facebook page here and Simon’s channel, Rifleman Moore, here.


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Javelin In Ukraine

The transfer of Western anti-armour weapons started before the war even began. The United States transferred significant shipments of Javelin anti-tank guided missiles along with M141 SMAW-D Bunker Defeat Munitions and Stinger MANPADS. 

At the same time as an initiative from the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – Estonia also delivered Javelin missiles. For reasons of operational security we don’t know how many Javelins have been delivered to Ukraine by the US and Estonia at this time. However, Estonia is believed to have had several hundred in stock.

Ukrainian troops training with January in February 2022 (Ukrainian MoD)

What is Javelin?

Javelin is an infrared guided man-portable fire-and-forget anti-tank missile. It’s been been in service with over a dozen countries for over 20 years and is still produced by a joint venture between Raytheon Missiles & Defense and Lockheed Martin. It weighs about 22kg or 46 lbs ready to fire and had a detachable Command Launch Unit (or CLU) . Its effective range depends on the type of CLU but the improved Lightweight CLU introduced in 2020 can engage targets out to 4,000 metres (about 3 miles). As of 11 March, Lightweight CLU has not yet been seen in Ukraine. The earlier block 0 and 1 CLU can engage targets out to 2,500 meters (1.5 miles). The CLU enables this with a number of optics including a 4x day sight, a 4x night sight a 9.2x thermal sight. The CLU is also a useful tool for reconnaissance when other NVG and thermal imagers aren’t available. Once the gunner has their target and establishes a lock the missile can be launched.

Javelin’s CLU (US Army)

Javelin’s missile has a soft launch system which limits back blast and firing from relatively enclosed spaces. Once launched the main rocket motor kicks in at a safe distance. It uses automatic infrared self-guidance and has two modes of attack: direct for use against lightly armoured targets and structures and top-attack. In top-attack mode the missile climbs above the target and then plunges down on it to penetrate thinner top armour.

The missile has a tandem shaped charge high explosive anti-tank round. The initial charge can detonate any explosive reactive armour used by the enemy target vehicle while the second shaped charge will penetrate the target’s main armour. When the round detonates it super heats the metal of the armour and creates a high velocity stream of metal which enters the vehicle. More on the complex science behind shaped charges here. It can destroy vehicle’s drive systems or if it enters the fighting compartment it can kill or injure the crew and detonate munitions. 

History

Javelin was developed by Texas Instruments in cooperation with Martin Marietta. In the mid-1980s it beat off competition from Ford Aerospace and Hughes Aircraft to win the US Army’s Advanced Anti-Tank Weapon System—Medium program.

A Ukrainian Depot, early March 2022 (Ukrainian MoD)

In June 1989 Texas Instruments and Martin Marietta were awarded a development contract and the Javelin was adopted as the FGM-148. Javelin continued development and testing throughout the 90s before entering service. Since then it’s been adopted by countries including the UK, Australia, France, Norway, Poland, Taiwan, and many others. According to Raytheon the system is scheduled to be in inventory until 2050.

Javelin In Ukraine

Ukraine adopted Javelin in April 2018, ordering 210 missiles and 37 CLUs with a further order for 150 missiles and 10 CLS in December 2019. Since the threat of invasion became increasingly likely the US provided a series of aid packages worth $260 million. Reports suggest that at least 300 Javelin missiles were delivered as part of these packages. Since then the US has agreed a further package worth $350 million. 70% of this package is said to have been delivered as of 9 March. It’s difficult to estimate how many missiles and CLUs have been delivered so far but the number of missiles is likely over 1,000.    

Still from a Ukrainian training film on Javelin (Ukrainian MoD)

From the sparse evidence available we know that at least some of the Javelin transferred to Ukraine are confirmed to be  from older Block 0 stocks, which includes FGM-148A/B/C and D. The vast majority of Javelins in Ukraine are likely to be Block 0 variants. Block I, the FGM-148E came into service with the US in 2008 and has an improved CLU and rocket motor. Javelin’s shelf life is around 20 years, so it makes sense for these older production but still fully capable missiles to be sent first.

In early February the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense shared a short video showing troops testing the newly-arrived Javelins against tank hulks which had been fitted with so-called ‘Javelin Cages’, a metal structure which Russian tanks have recently added to their turrets. It is believed the cage is intended to detonate the initial charge of a Javelin before it contacts with the tanks explosive reactive armour or the hull itself. However, it is also believed that it is intended to defeat drone-fired micro munitions like the Turkish MAM series. The cage detonating the micro munition before it reaches the tank. The footage shared by the Ukrainian MoD showed that Javelin easily defeated the cages.

Update 15/3/22: We have now seen evidence of Block 1 FGM-148Es in Ukraine. Amael Kotlarski, Janes Infantry Weapons Editor, speculates that these may have originated from the Baltic states’ stocks. At least one example of the Block 1 and a number of Block 0s have been captured by Russian forces so far.

Ukrainian Defence Minister announcing arrival of a shipment of Javelin in January 2022

While at the time of publishing this video there has been no confirmed footage of Javelin in action in Ukraine, no doubt due to good Ukrainian OPSEC, we have seen the system in theatre. 

We got our first confirmation on 3 March, when Ukraine’s Operational Command “North” shared photos of troops being briefed on the use of NLAW and Javelin anti-tank weapons. In the photos we could see numerous Javelin transport cases stacked while troops were briefed on the Command Launch Unit (or CLU). On 6 March, the Ukrainian Armed forces shared a short instructional video on Javelin, showing how the battery is inserted and what the CLUs controls do.

How Capable is Javelin?

The penetration capabilities of Javelin are listed as classified with the USMC’s manual stating “The Javelin penetrates all known armor, “well” in excess of 30 inches [or 760mm] of rolled homogeneous steel.” This means Javelin is more than capable of knocking out any Russian armoured vehicle in Ukraine.

Javelin Missile (US Army)

In terms of performance in Ukraine, one report from 3 March, quoted an anonymous US Special Operations officer who is monitoring the conflict, suggested that of 300 Javelin fired, 280 knocked out vehicles. Time will tell.


If you enjoyed this video and article please consider supporting our work here. We have some great perks available for Patreon Supporters – including custom stickers and early access to videos! Thank you for your support!


Bibliography:

Javelin – Close Combat Missile System, Medium, FM3-22.37, US Army, 2008 (source)
Rundown: Western Anti-Tank Weapons For Ukraine, Overt Defense, (source)
Introduction to Crew Served Weapons, USMC, (source)
NLAW In Ukraine, Armourer’s Bench, (source)
As Russia Pounds Ukraine, NATO Countries Rush In Javelins and Stingers, New York Times, (source)
$60 Million Worth of US Military Aid Arrives In Ukraine, Overt Defense, (source)
First batch of Estonia-donated Javelin missiles arrive in Ukraine, EER, (source)
New US Military Aid to Ukraine Includes 300 Javelin, nv.ua, (source) Shaped Charge, Global Security, (source)

Fighting On Film: The PIAT In Film

This week we have a very special episode where we tap into a topic close to Matt’s heart, the PIAT. Matt wrote a book about the PIAT, or Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank, in 2020 and continues to research its history. One of the most interesting aspects of the PIAT is its unique cultural history, having been portrayed in a plethora of films spanning over 70 years. Most famously it was heralded, literally, when Anthony Hopkins as Lt. Colonel Frost in A Bridge Too Far shouted ‘BRING UP THE PIAT!‘ A line which has become iconic. But there’s so much more to the PIAT’s onscreen career!

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

Here are some stills from the films:

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!

Britain’s First Anti-Tank Weapon

The British Army’s first dedicated anti-tank weapon was a rifle grenade. The No.44 Rifle Grenade was developed towards the end of the First World War to take on the emerging threat of German tanks.

A British officer firing a No.3 Mk2 Rifle Grenade (IWM)

The No.44 could be fired from a Short Magazine Lee-Enfield MkIII rifle, the British had developed a plethora of rod and cup discharger based rifle grenades but the No.44 was the first specifically designed with tanks in mind. 

By 1918 the German Army had responded to the threat of British and French tanks by developing their own, the A7V, albeit in small numbers, and by fielding captured allied tanks. 

The A7V was a leviathan at over 3.3m tall and more than 30 tons. It would be crewed by at least 18 men. It was decided that the infantryman needed an effective means of taking on tanks.

A German A7V (US National Archive)

Sources suggest that the grenades were developed by the by the Royal Engineers Experimental Station with input from the Tank Corps. The No.44 was largely based on the earlier No.24 rifle grenade. The British Army had been using rifle grenades with rods since February 1915 with the No.2 rifle grenade. 

No.44 Anti-Tank Grenade (IWM)

A myriad of grenade designs were developed during the war with dozens of designs entering service between 1915 and 1918. Eventually the British Army moved away from using rodded rifle grenades, because of the implications of barrel wear from the friction of the rods, and focused on discharger cup based designs. The No.44’s spiritual descendent, the No.68, introduced in 1940, would follow this trend and be fired from the same discharger cup used by to fire No.36 grenades fitted with a gas check.    

The No.44 grenade itself is made up of a pair of pressed tin plate pieces which make up the top and bottom of the bomb with a rolled sheet of tin making up the central body. The parts were soldered together with a filling plug also soldered into the top of the grenade. The grenade itself contained either Amatol 80/20 or Amatol 83/17 explosive, sources suggest about 11.5 ounces. While externally it may resemble later shaped charges, it was not, the explosive filled the space around the central detonator assembly.

Sectional diagram No.44 Anti-Tank Grenade

The ignition system was essentially a .297/230 cartridge case and a detonator. On firing a release socket moved to allow the retaining bolts to release the striker (or needle pellet) it had been retaining. The striker was then simply held back from the detonator by a spring. When the grenade struck its target inertia cause the striker to over come and compress the spring, allowing the striker to ignite the detonator and set off the grenade’s main filling. Given mass of the bomb and the type of detonator used the No.44 was probably intended for use at very short ranges.

Soldiers firing rod rifle grenades (IWM)

To use the grenade the firer would remove the wire fastening around the grenade to free the canvas vane. This would also allow access to the safety pin. The top plug could be undone and the detonator inserted. The rod was then slid down the muzzle of the user’s rifle. The safety pin could then be removed. A blank cartridge would be loaded into the rifle and when the trigger was pulled the was grenade launched by the gases from the cartridge pushing the rod out of the barrel. The No.44’s flight would be stabilised by the canvas skirt or vane.    

There’s no mention of the grenades in the British Army’s Small Arms Committee Minutes so its development must have been documented elsewhere. It does, however, appear in the List of Changes and is known to have been issued from April 1918 onwards but further primary research is needed to find out more about its development, designers and testing.

No.44 Anti-Tank Grenade (Matthew Moss)

The No.44 remained in service into the inter-war period but does not appear in any of the post-war Small Arms Training manuals. Several were published during this period, the first in 1924 and a second in 1931 – the No.44 appears in neither of them. The final pre-war Small Arms Training pamphlet on grenades, published in 1937, is confined to just the No.36 grenade. According to Ian Skennerton’s book on British grenades there were no No.44s remaining in stores by April 1931 and it was declared obsolete. 

Sources disagree on the number of No.44s manufactured with some suggesting just under 100,000 while others suggest between 125,000 and 150,000. According to Skennerton 9,800 were issued between April and November 1918. A very small amount when compared to the hundreds of thousands of other, more widely used grenades held in stores at the end of the war.  

The German A7Vs were first deployed in March 1918, but only saw their first action the following month. With only 20 A7Vs built and the design proving relatively impractical the Allies had little to fear from German tank attacks. Sadly, there are no readily available records of the No.44’s use or its effectiveness.

British solider firing a cup discharger rifle grenade (IWM)

The A7V’s armour consisted of 5 to 30mm of steel plate depending on location on the tank. This steel plate was not hardened which may have increased the No.44’s effectiveness against it. It may be that the No.44 would have had to have been fired at close range and strike a vulnerable point on the attacking vehicle to have the most effect.

While not the only anti-tank grenade to be developed during the period, the French also developed several rifle grenades, and not as famous as the German T-Gewehr, it does represent Britain’s first dedicated infantry anti-tank weapon. 


If you enjoyed this video and article please consider supporting our work here. We have some great perks available for Patreon Supporters – including custom stickers and early access to videos! Thank you for your support!


Bibliography:

An Introduction To British Grenades, I.D. Skennerton, (1988)

British Grenade Rifle No. 44 Anti-Tank, AmmunitionPages, (source)

Grenade, Rifle No 44 A.T. (Anti Tank), Imperial War Museum, (source)

Grenade, Rifle, No 44 Anti-Tank (Sectioned), Imperial War Museum, (source)

British No.24 Mk.II Rod Grenade, Inert-Ord.net, (source)

Men Against Tank, J. Weeks, (1975) 

NLAW In Ukraine

NLAW is the British Army’s name for the Saab Bofor’s developed MBT LAW, in the early 2000s the British Army was looking for a more capable replacement of its LAW80. The Saab offering, Next Generation Light Anti-tank Weapon, won the contract in 2002 beating out several competitors including the SRAW-based Kestrel from Lockheed Martin/BAe. 

British soldier firing NLAW (British Army)

The UK has just announced the transfer of light anti tank weapons to Ukraine in light of the continuing tensions with Russia. As such the UK is the latest nation to announce that they will be providing weapons to Ukraine. They follow US shipments of Javelin Missiles in December 2021, year and we’ve already seen these in the hands of Ukrainian troops. Most recently it has been confirmed that Lithuania plans to supply anti-tank systems to Ukraine too. The UK’s defence minister Ben Wallace stated that: “We have taken the decision to supply Ukraine with light, anti-armour, defensive weapon system”, while this does not specifically name NLAW, this describes the role which NLAW fulfils. 

So what is NLAW? 

NLAW is a disposable, shoulder-fired, single shot system which weighs about 12.5kg or 27.5lbs. It uses a predicted line of sight guidance system which calculates where the target will be when the missile reaches it. Like Javelin it is capable of targeting a tank’s weakest point, its top side.

NLAW (Saab)

The NLAW has two firing modes: Direct Attack, with the missile flying directly to point of aim, useful for engaging static targets. While the second, Overfly Top Attack, uses the Predicted Line of Sight (PLOS) system. The guidance algorithm optimises the trajectory of the warhead on an elevated flight path over the target with the onboard proximity fuze then detonating and firing an explosively formed penetrator down onto the target. 

In British service the NLAW was selected to replace the LAW-80, a 94mm unguided anti-tank rocket, British Army analysis found that in order to provide adequate close range defence against armoured vehicles “significant numbers of NLAW will be required in order to ensure there is sufficient coverage of the battlefield.” This meant the system had to be capable and affordable. Since its delivery and introduction into service in 2009, the NLAW has been the secondary anti-tank weapon of the British Army’s specialised anti-tank platoons’, with the Javelin being their primary. The NLAW is also available for issue as the primary infantry light anti-tank weapon. The British Army describes it as “non-expert, short-range, anti-tank missile that rapidly knocks out any main battle tank in just one shot by striking it from above.” While not cheap, at around £20,000 per unit, NLAW costs significantly less than the longer-ranged, more complex Javelin [estimated at around £70,000 per unit]. It is currently in service with Finland, Sweden, Luxembourg, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. It has seen action during Saudi Arabia’s interventions in Yemen.

A rifleman of 1 Gurkhas fires an NLAW (Corporal Stephen Harvey / UK MoD)

The weapon can engage close range targets at as close as 20m and uses a soft launch system that enables it to be fired from enclosed spaces. It can take on static target at 600 to 800m and moving ones at 400m. Technically, NLAW is not an anti-tank guided missile as the missile is not guided by an onboard system once it has been fired. Instead it used a Predicted Line of Sight (PLOS) system which enables it to be used like a fire and forget ATGM. 

The weapon’s operator activates the PLOS system and the user tracks the target for 3 to 6 seconds in the NLAW’s Trijicon Compact ACOG 2.5×20 sight before firing, the guidance system calculates the predicted flight path to the target to ensure a hit.

The number of NLAW being dispatched by the UK has not been confirmed although several flights of RAF C-17s were made overnight on 17th January, 2022. Footage released by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence showing the arrival of the NLAWs enables us to estimate that each flight could have carried somewhere between 180 and 216 NLAWs.

A still from a Ukrainian MoD video showing the arrival of the NLAWs (source)

It isn’t clear just how many NLAW systems the UK has stockpiled but it is likely that as missile systems have a limited shelf-life that the older systems may have been transferred first. The terms of the agreement to transfer the NLAWs hasn’t been made public but it was confirmed small teams of British troops had accompanied the weapons to provide initial training to Ukrainian forces on how to use them. This is in line with Operation ORBITAL, the UK’s training mission to Ukraine which was established in 2015, following the illegal annexation of Crimea. Wallace was keen to stress that “this support is for short-range, and clearly defensive weapons capabilities; they are not strategic weapons and pose no threat to Russia. They are to use in self-defence and the UK personnel providing the early-stage training will return to the United Kingdom after completing it.”

As of the time of writing more than 10 flights have been observed carrying military equipment from the UK. It is estimated that some 2,000 NLAW have been transfered. This was tacitly confirmed by remarks made by Wallace to the press.

A Ukraine MoD photo showing a training session on NLAW being delivered by members of the OP Orbital training team. (Ukraine MoD)

The UK has been working with Ukraine not just through Op ORBITAL but also more broadly with a number of agreements being signed in 2021 to support Ukraine’s naval capability. While the usefulness of the NLAWs are confined to close range engagements the move is clearly a symbolic signal to Russia. 


If you enjoyed this video and article please consider supporting our work here. We have some great perks available for Patreon Supporters – including custom stickers and early access to videos! Thank you for your support!


Bibliography:

Next Generation Light Anti-Tank Weapon (NLAW), ThinkDefence, (source)

Britain Delivered Military Weapons to Ukraine, Ukraine MoD, (source)

UK Delivers Light Anti-Tank Defensive Weapon Systems To Ukraine, OvertDefense, (source)

One Shot – One Armored Target. Javelin ATGM, Ukraine MoD, (source)

Statement by the Defence Secretary in the House of Commons, 17 January 2022, UK MoD, (source)

NLAW, Saab, (source)

British Military Aircraft Rapidly Supplying Weapons to Ukraine, UKDJ, (source)

NLAW – The Ultimate Tank Killer, Saab, (source)

NLAW | 2 PARA | Noble Partner, British Army, (source)

Small Arms & Support Weapons, British Army, (source)

Ministry of Defence Major Projects Report 2008, National Audit Office, (source)

Cold War Weapons: The Off-Route Mine

During the Cold War NATO was understandably interested in capable anti-armour weapons. In this video/article we will examine the Off-Route Mine which features in footage from several British Army training films. They show a team of Royal Engineers setting up an L14A1 off-route mine ready to ambush attacking Soviet tanks.

Unlike a conventional mine which detonated vertically when a vehicle drove over it, the Off-Route Mine would be tripped by a breakwire set across a vehicles likely path. When the wire was tripped or broken the mine’s charge would be electrically detonated and the blast would project horizontally.

An Off-Route Mine in position (IWM)

What the British termed the L14A1 was developed in the early 1970s by France’s state arsenals. In French service it was known as the ‘Mine Anti char à action horizontale Modèle F1′ (or MI AC AH F1). It was manufactured throughout the 1970s and 80s by GIAT Industries.

The mine was essentially an electrically fired shape charge, it used the Misznay-Schardin effect rather than the Monroe effect. The former relies on a shallower, concave shape charge, which has a copper cone that is super heated by the explosion and fired out towards the target. This gave it the ability to project its cone further and removed the need for it to detonate in contact with the target vehicle. 

An illustration of how the Off-Route Mine works from a British Army manual

The mine had an effective range of between 70 to 80 metres and according to the 1977 French manual the projectile created by the detonation could travel up to 6km. In terms of the mine’s effectiveness the same manual states that 40m was the optimal range but no closer than 2m.

The manual also notes that “the slightest obstacle in the trajectory of the projectile (such as earth or shrubs) considerably reduces performance.” The diagram below from a 1977 French Army manual shows the effect of the mine on 70mm of armour at 40m, with 0-degrees of angle.

Effect diagram from 1977 French Army manual

When detonated the mine could throw fragments in a radius of 100m and could throw armour shards from a successful strike up to 200m from the target. The British mines came in the L27A1 kit which included a pair of the L14A1 off-route mines as well as instructions, the break wires, a night sighting tool, and an adjustable stand for mounting.

The mine’s electorally-powered detonator was powered by D cell batteries, which Sappers complained had to be frequently changed. The mine itself weighed 12kg and was packed with just over 6kg of Hexolite explosive. There was also a training version, the L28A1, which fired a paint-filled sponge to mark the side of the vehicle and confirm a hit. 

A Sapper setting up an Off-Route Mine (IWM)

The Miacah F1 was removed from French service in 2001. An improved version, the F2, was manufactured in 1996 and used by the French until the mines were withdrawn in 2004 due to corrosion. While some mines may have remained in stores, as some have been seen as late as 2016, they contravened the 1997 Ottawa Treaty on anti-personnel mines because the break wire could in theory be tripped by a human rather than a vehicle.

It was replaced in British service by the ARGES off-round Anti-Tank Mine which fired a modified 94mm rocket with a tandem HEAT warhead. In 1997 it was reported that 4870 Off-Route mines were held by British Army stores, in line with the Ottawa Treaty this had been reduced to 0 by 1999.


If you enjoyed this video and article please consider supporting our work here. We have some great perks available for Patreon Supporters – including custom stickers and early access to videos! Thank you for your support!


Bibliography:

Landmine Monitor Report, 2004, Landmine & Cluster Munition Monitor, (source)
Landmine Monitor Report, 2000, Landmine & Cluster Munition Monitor, (source)
CNEMA Report, 2000 (source)
British Army User Handbook, Mine Anti-Tank Kit L27A1 (Off Route Mine), 1980
French Army MIACAH F1 Manual, 1977

Footage:

Fighting In Woods, British Army training film, 1982, (held by the IWM, DRA 1472)
Fighting In Villages, British Army training film, 1979, (held by the IWM, DRA 1401)

Making Mills Bombs

The No.36 or Mills Bomb was one of the longest serving grenades, developed during the First World War it originated from a Belgian design by Albert Dewandre and Capitaine Léon Roland. It was improved by a British industrialist, William Mills, who owned several metal forging factories.

A No.36 Grenade (Matthew Moss)

It entered service in late 1915 as the No.5 Mk1 and continued to be improved during the war with several iterations before it finally became the No.36M Mk1. We’ll look at the Mills bombs development more closely in a future video/article – today, with the help of some 1940s newsreels from New Zealand we’re going to look at how they were manufactured. While the newsreel doesn’t state the factories featured they were made by a number of factories including Anderson Engineering in Christchurch (these were marked with an “A” below the filler plug), Booth Mcdonald, of Christchurch (marked BM), Scott Brothers, also of Christchurch (marked SB), and Mason & Porter, of Mt Wellington, in Ackland (marked MP).

William Mills’ 1916 Patent for the grenade.

In the first newsreel, courtesy of Archives New Zealand (Weekly Review No. 70 (1943)), we see No.36 grenades being cast – the newsreel takes a slightly humorous approach of describing the process as a recipe – making ‘pineapples’ – a slang name by which grenades were sometime’s known. The factory is using the sand casting method with a pattern pressed into the sand and then removed. The two halves of the grenade’s body are pressed into sand, a pressed sand core could then be placed inside which would allow the grenade’s body to be poured hollow to allow room for explosives and detonator. If we again pause here we can see a machinist is centring and counter-sinking the filling hole’s first thread for its plug.

Cast grenade bodies ready for filling (Archives New Zealand)

The footage includes a brief shot we see a woman factory worker drilling out the top of the grenade’s body and perhaps de-burring the side of the safety lever holder. In the next shot we see more machinists at work with one lady linishing the body of the grenade, removing imperfections from the casting on a grinder or polishing wheel and in the background some women a working on milling machines or drill presses. 

Women factory workers linishing the grenade body castings (Archives New Zealand)

At the very end of the film we can see the grenade bodies are stacked ready for the next phase of production. Sadly, we don’t see the threading of the filling hole or base in this film nor the painting or filling of the grenades.

In the second newsreel (Weekly Review No. 63 (1942)), however, which celebrates the production of 1 million grenades, we do seem more of the production process. In this short segment we see how the grenades are filled and how they work. We see the cast bodies of the grenades being transported on a conveyor after being shellacked to keep moisture out. If we pause here we can see this worker packing a case with “gascheck” discs and fuses.

Loading grenades, fuses and gas checks into a transit case (Archives New Zealand)

The gas check disc and a 7 second fuse was used when the grenade was being fired from a rifle’s cup discharger, while a 4 second fuse was favoured when throwing by hand. In this final clip we see the internals of a grenade – which was filled with just over 2oz of explosive through the round filling-hole (on the side opposite the safety lever) which was then screw plugged. The newsreel then concludes the grenade segment by showing the striker spring inside being compressed and a No.27 Detonator, with fuse, being inserted into the sectioned grenade.

We’ll examine more British grenades, including the No.36 in future videos and articles.


If you enjoyed this video and article please consider supporting our work here. We have some great perks available for Patreon Supporters – including custom stickers and early access to videos! Thank you for your support!


Bibliography:

Weekly Review No. 63 (1942)

Weekly Review No. 70 (1943)

W. Mills, ‘Grenade and Other Like Apparatus’, 4 Apr. 1916, US Patent #1178092, (source)

NZ Mills Grenades, Lexpev.nl, (source)

No.36 Mk1 Grenades, MillsGrenades, (source)

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)

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)

Vickers Gun In The Rhineland

In this final video of the Rhineland Campaign Weapons series we take a look at the little known role of the British and Commonwealth forces’ Vickers Guns. With the help of the Vickers MG Collection & Research Association we recreated a platoon line consisting of 4 Vickers Guns to recreate the Pepperpot tactics used during Operation Veritable – the western Allies’ invasion of Germany.

In this video we examine how Vickers Medium Machine Guns were used en masse to soften up enemy positions before Operation Veritable began and during the subsequent advance into the Rhineland. The Vickers was used alongside artillery, mortars and even anti-aircraft guns in what was known as a ‘pepperpot’ fire plan – where the focus was on weight of fire. The Vickers supported the advance through out the campaign and in this video we aimed to capture some of the feel of what those pepperpot bombardments might have been like – albeit on much, much smaller scale.

Using contemporary photographs and footage we recreated the gun pits, complete with overhead cover, pits dug to the original manuals and plenty of empty belts and belt boxes. Right down to the gun crews being badged up as Middlesex Regiment. Check out the comparison of our shoot and a contemporary photograph taken during the battle for Goch, 20 February 1945.

Below are some behind the scenes photos from the shoot taken by myself and Robbie McGuire:

A huge thank you to everyone who made the shoot possible, I’m very proud of what we were able to achieve with this shoot.


If you enjoyed this video and article please consider supporting our work here. We have some great perks available for Patreon Supporters. Thank you for your support!