PIAT During the Rhineland Campaign

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of travelling to the Tank Museum to film some segments for the new documentary on the Rhineland Campaign – ‘Rhineland 45‘. We looked at various small arms used during the campaign ranging from Panzerfausts and Bazookas to MG-42s and M1A1 carbines.

Not all of the segments we filmed discussing the weapons could be included in the finished documentary, so I’m pleased to share a couple here. This one Brings Up The PIAT!

The Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank was used extensively during Operations Veritable and Varsity in March 1945. British and Canadian troops put them to use against enemy armoured vehicles and defensive positions within the forests, towns and villages of the Rhineland.

If you’d like a copy of my book on the PIAT you can pick one up here.

Thanks again to Real Time History for inviting me to contribute, check out the documentary here.


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FoF Show & Tell #4 – Geronimo & Hell Is For Heroes

Join us for the fourth edition of our Show & Tell series were we discus ‘Geronimo’ (1993) which tells the story of Geronimo’s last battles and the 1962 Steve McQueen-led classic ‘Hell Is For Heroes’ following a group of US soldiers as they battle to break through the Siegfried Line.

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

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @FightingOnFilm and check out www.fightingonfilm.com

Thanks for listening!

Northern Ireland Sterling Clone

From the late 1960s into the 1990s, Northern Ireland suffered a long period of sectarian violence, commonly known as The Troubles. Without going into too much detail about the conflict, other sources do a much better job than I can today, the violence saw Irish Republican paramilitary groups, Ulster Loyalist paramilitary groups and British security forces involved in a protracted low-level conflict with a Republican insurgency fighting not just British forces but Loyalist paramilitaries like the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), the Ulster Protestant Volunteers (UPV) and the Ulster Defence Association (UDA). This article/video has no intention to comment on the conflict itself, merely examine a weapon produced during the period.

This copy or clone of a Sterling Mk4 / L2A3 submachine gun is believed to have been assembled by Loyalist paramilitaries although which group and its origins are unclear. Loyalist groups during the 60s and 70s tended to be less well armed and relied more heavily on improvised small arms and weapons stolen from military and police armouries and personnel than Republican groups. When tensions rose in the late 1960s, the Loyalists were largely equipped with obsolete and outdated weapons.

Right side view of the Sterling clone (Matthew Moss)

Sammy Duddy, a member of an early Loyalist group, the Westland Defence Association, and later a press officer for the Ulster Defence Association, recalled the dire state of their arsenal at that time:

“[…] we had no guns. The IRA had automatics [machine-guns], high-velocity sniper rifles, powerful pistols, the lot, but we had fuck all. There were virtually no guns on the Loyalist side. The only weapons we had were baseball bats and I just thought to myself, ‘what the fuck are we going to do when they [the IRA] come in with their machine-guns? Throw bats at them?’”

The Ulster Volunteer Force (or UVF) took to stealing what weapons and spare parts they could from the British military and Royal Ulster Constabulary. Weapons assembled from damaged captured Sterlings and Sterling spare parts kits became common. In this case, this weapon has a number of cannibalised original Sterling parts which have been paired with a craft-made receiver tube. From examination we can see that the weapon’s end cap has a Sterling part number stamp ‘CR110’ inside. Similarly the weapon has a factory-made plastic grip. Other factory made parts include the helically grooved bolt, the two recoil springs and the charging handle. There is also seemingly a factory-made trigger group and magazine release button. The magazine is well sized and utilises various parts from a Sterling’s magazine release including the button, an set screw and catch piece.

The weapon uses a Sterling’s factory-made pistol grip and trigger mechanism – a remarkably sophisticated craft-made weapon (Matthew Moss)

The trigger assembly housing is welded and ground smooth where it joins with the tube receiver. On factory-made guns there is a visible seam. The poorer quality tube steel of the receiver also appears to have drooped or bent a little around the middle of the weapon. The holes in the barrel shroud are of uniform size but they are roughly drilled and not equally spaced. At the front of the receiver we can see they have retained the barrel with a pair of large bolts, suggesting that the barrel may have been factory made too. There is now end cap catch at the rear nor provision for a folding stock either. While whoever made the receiver tube went to the trouble of added hand stops found on the actual Sterling they are clearly only lightly welded on.

Close up of the weapon’s magazine housing, with salvaged Sterling magazine release button (Matthew Moss)

Another difference is the absence of a bayonet lug on the left side of the barrel shroud, and a much cruder fixed sight sat within a U-shaped piece of metal welded to the tube receiver – to act as a front sight protector. The factory-made Sterling’s front sight is adjustable and the sight protectors are folded forward and aligned across the tube receiver. The rear sight and its protectors appears to have sheared off at some point. The only marking on the weapon, ‘29992’, is crudely electro pencilled on the top of the magazine housing, where you’d normally see markings saying ‘Sterling Mk4’ or ‘L2A3’. When that crude serial number was added is unclear. The black paint on the receiver is wearing thin and we can clearly see some file marks in places.

Hundreds of craft-made submachine guns were built to feed from Sterling and Sten magazines and there are numerous surviving examples of guns made from box tubing – often parts were clandestinely made in Northern Ireland’s factories and at shipyards like Harland & Wolf in Belfast – giving rise to the name ‘shipyard special’. Other nicknames included ‘rattlers’ and table leg guns.

Left side view of the Sterling clone (Matthew Moss)

The origins and story behind this particular weapon remain unknown, it is today part of a UK Ministry of Defence collection and said to have been found in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. Regardless it’s a very interesting piece of clandestine engineering which shows considerable skill in its assembly. Which is unsurprising as there are numerous accounts of skilled machinists working on illegal firearms parts during the period.

If you enjoyed this video and article please consider supporting our work here. We have some great perks available for Patreon Supporters. You can also support us via one-time donations here. Thank you for your support!


Bibliography:

The Northern Irish troubles | This Week | 1972, Thames TV, (source)

Terminal Effects: The Guns of the Loyalist Paramilitaries, Balaclava Street, (source)

Improvised Weapons of the Irish Underground (Ulster), D. Shea, Small Arms Review, (source)

Beyond State Control: Improvised and Craft-produced Small Arms and Light Weapons, G. Hays and N.R. Jenzen-Jones, Small Arms Survey, (source)

Fighting On Film: The Outpost (2020)

This week we take a look at ‘The Outpost‘, a film that brings the story of Camp Keating and the desperate Battle of Kamdesh to the screen. With the decades long war in Afghanistan seemingly drawing to an end we thought now was as good a time as any to begin examining how the war has been portrayed on screen. Directed by Rod Lurie and staring Scott Eastwood, Orlando Bloom, Caleb Landry Jones ‘The Outpost‘ is a very well-made war film – perhaps even a modern classic of the genre.

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

Here’s some stills from the film:

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @FightingOnFilm and check out www.fightingonfilm.com

Thanks for listening!

Old Gun Ads: How Did Colt Advertise Its Guns?

In this video we’re taking a look at something very rare, a pre-1911 catalogue produced by Colt. But it isn’t a catalogue to order guns from. Instead, it’s a catalogue to order gun advertisements from! Old firearms ad from this period are fascinating and give us an insight into who markets company’s were aiming their products at.

The catalogue includes illustrations of pistols and entire print ads which could be printed locally. It covers most of the commercial Colt line ranging from Colt Model 1908 Vest Pocket pistols, to Colt Police Positive revolvers and Colt’s military automatic pistols.

New fangled Colt automatics (Matthew Moss)

The catalogue’s introduction explains Colt’s advertising strategy, saying:

“we advertise in the big national mediums to CREATE A DEMAND ON YOU for our arms; these advertisements are read by thousands of perspective customers IN YOUR LOCALITY, therefore YOU can obtain the benefit of SALE by local advertising.” It’s a sound enough strategy.

My favourite ad, featuring Browning’s Colt M1895 machine gun (Matthew Moss)

Only one ad includes a Colt product that isn’t a pistol. The ad above features an illustration which includes John Browning’s first machine gun, the Colt-produced Model 1895. It’s an evocative advert including revolvers, a semi-automatic pistol and the 1895.

Colt Model 1907 Military pistols, the predecessor of the 1911 (Matthew Moss)

One of my favourite parts of the catalogue covers Colt’s burgeoning automatic pistol line. This section actually helps us date the catalogue as there are no 1911s. It includes the Colt 1907 Military, the Colt 1902 Military, the Colt 1903 Pocket Hammer and the Colt 1903/1908 Pocket Hammerless automatic pistols.

Some of the illustrations of Colt’s revolvers available for printing (Matthew Moss)

The catalogue includes printable illustrations of the Colt ‘New Service’, the Colt ‘Army Special’, the Officers Model Target, the Police Positive Special, Police Positive and Police Positive Target. As well as some classics, with a full page of Colt Single Action Army revolvers.

Some cutaway diagrams of the Colt Pocket Hammerless (Matthew Moss)

The Colt advertisement catalogue is now part of our reference collection and we were able to bring this video/article thanks to the support of our Patrons. We have many more videos on important and interesting primary source materials in the works. If you enjoy our work please consider supporting us via Patreon for just a $1. Find out more here.

Check out videos on items from our reference collection here.

Fighting On Film: Strategic Air Command (1955)

Don your flight suits and climb into the cockpit with us this wee as we discuss Strategic Air Command (1955). A film that blends beautiful aerial cinematography, awe inspiring aviation engineering and blatant Cold War propaganda. We’re joined by David Schroeder the host of the Cold War Channel to discuss this early Cold War classic which gives us a window into the objectives and operations of the USAF’s nuclear bomber arm – the Strategic Air Command.

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

Here’s some stills from the film:

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @FightingOnFilm and check out www.fightingonfilm.com

Thanks for listening!

Fighting On Film: Last of the Mohicans (1992)

This week we make our way through the atmospheric forests of North America to take on the latest screen adaptation of ‘Last of the Mohicans’. We’re joined by special guest Jonathan Ferguson, Keeper of Firearms & Artillery at the UK’s Royal Armouries, to explore Michael Mann’s 1992 epic. The film stars Daniel Day-Lewis, Madeleine Stowe, Russell Means, Wes Studi, Eric Schweig, and Steven Waddington and is set during the tumultuous French & Indian War. The film offers a more historically authentic telling of James Fenimore Cooper’s most famous novel and takes us on a trek through the North American frontier of the 1750s and gives us a love story amongst desperate sieges and viscous battles.

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

Here’s some stills from the film:

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @FightingOnFilm and check out www.fightingonfilm.com

Thanks for listening!

The Covenanter Bridgelayer

In this video/article we will examine some rare footage of the Covenanter Bridgelayer in action. The footage is available to watch on the BFIs website and originally comes from the Wessex Film and Sound Archive. The 16mm film was filmed at some time in August 1942 but little else is said about locations in the BFI archive entry for the footage.

The Covenanter Bridgelayer being demonstrated (IWM MH 3674)

The tank’s hull number is visible as T.18434 which I think would make it one of the earliest English Electric-built Covenanters. The covenanter was developed in the late 30s as a cheaper cruiser tank. It entered service in 1940, but saw limited active service – instead being largely used in training roles. The bridge element of the vehicle was a Scissors Bridge 30ft, No. 1. – it was deployed and recovered by a clutch and 2 to 1 reduction gear, it was powered directly from the tank’s engine.

Cruiser Mk V Covenanter III (A13 Mk III) (IWM KID 778)

A US report on the Covenanter Bridgelayer explains how it worked:

“The opening of the bridge begins after the launching mechanism has begun to pivot on the rollers of the launching frame. Since the cables are of fixed length, they act to open the bridge as it is pivoted about the rollers.
Having been laid across the obstacle, the bridge is disengaged from the prime-mover [the tank itself]. The bridge is then ready for the passage of other vehicles.
To retrieve the bridge, the prime-mover crosses the bridge to the far side of the obstacle, hooks up to the bridge, pulls it back to the traveling position, and is then ready to proceed to the next obstacle.”

The bridge had a span of 34 feet and vehicles up to 30 tons could cross it. It could be deployed in under 3 minutes and in total the bridge and the system which launched it was 3.5 tons. The vehicle had a two man crew, with a driver and a commander.

Above is a British Pathe newsreel that gives us a closer look at some of the Bridgelayer’s mechanism at work.

The US report also noted that “In one case 1,200 successful launchings and recoveries were made by one vehicle without undue maintenance.” The system was only mounted on a small number of Covenanters. One source suggests 20 Covenanter I and 60 Covenanter IV tanks were converted into Bridgelayers. Far more Valentines were equipped with them and subsequently the Churchill AVRE became the British Army’s primary bridging tank.

A later Valentine Bridgelayer in action in Burma, 1945 (IWM)

No location is given for the footage but the presence of a number of barrage balloons to the rear is intriguing! It may have been filmed at the Royal Engineers Establishment at Christchurch or at another demonstration elsewhere. Scissor Bridges, with similar basic designs remain in service with numerous militaries around the world today.


If you enjoyed this video and article please consider supporting our work here. We have some great perks available for Patreon Supporters. You can also support us via one-time donations here. Thank you for your support!


Bibliography:

‘Covenanter: Reservist Tank’, Tank Archives, (source)

‘A Home Guard parade and an inspection by the Duke of Kent’, BFI, (source)

Tactical and Technical Trends, No.15, Dec. 1942, Military Intelligence Service, War Department, (source)

Fighting On Film: Siege of Jadotville (2016)

This week we discuss 2016’s Siege of Jadotville, a film which portrays the valiant last stand of a UN contingent of Irish troops holding off an overwhelming force of mercenaries and rebels during Congo Crisis. With a veritable plethora of ally kit and guns the Siege of Jadotville is a well shot, competently made war film which tells a little known story. Starring Jamie Dornan as Commandant Pat Quinlan, alongside Mark Strong, Danny Sapani, Jason O’Mara and Guillaume Canet, the film is the first feature from director by Richie Smyth.

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

Here’s some stills from the film:

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @FightingOnFilm and check out www.fightingonfilm.com

Thanks for listening!

Shoot To Live

‘Shoot to Live’ is a British Army marksmanship training pamphlet published in the late 1970s and early 1980s

Shoot To Live cover (Matthew Moss)

‘Shoot to kill’ had long been a British Army slogan, appearing in numerous training films and pamphlets. One training film from the 1970s, which features in our video, can be watched here.

A 1944 British Army manual – ‘Shoot to Kill’ (source)

But in the late 70s and early 80s a new introductory pamphlet on marksmanship filed the old slogan on its head. In the video above we take a look inside an original copy of ‘Shoot To Live’.

Below are some pages from the booklet:

Shoot To Live section on compensating for wind (Matthew Moss)
One of the more humorous illustrations from Shoot To Live, showing the loading of a magazine (Matthew Moss)
Shoot To Live’s section on proper sight alignment (Matthew Moss)

The ‘Shoot To Live’ manual is now part of our reference collection and we were able to bring this video/article thanks to the support of our Patrons. We have many more videos on important and interesting primary source materials in the works. If you enjoy our work please consider supporting us via Patreon for just a $1. Find out more here.