Clement Attlee’s Curious MkII STEN Front Grip

I was recently I was taking a look through the Imperial War Museums’ online image collection when I found a pair of very interesting photographs taken in Scotland in April 1942. They show Deputy Prime Minister Clement Attlee handling a STEN MkII submachine gun while visiting Polish troops. Most interestingly though is the folding front grip which has been added to the Sten!

Clement Attlee with STEN MkII (Imperial War Museum)

The MkII, introduced in August 1941, did not have a folding front grip as standard. The earlier MkI had had a front folding grip, but the MkI*, introduced in October 1942, had eliminated this to speed up production. The original caption of this photo reads:

“Mr Attlee tries the weight and feel of the Sten Sub-machine gun used by the Paratroops.”

Attlee was visiting the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade during a visit to the 1st Polish Corps) at Cupar in Scotland. In the photos he’s accompanied by Colonel Stanisław Sosabowski, the commander of the brigade. In this second photograph, Attlee is holding the Sten by its trigger mechanism cover and we can see the folding grip more clearly.

Clement Attlee with STEN MkII (Imperial War Museum)

It appears to be made up of a band of steel which slid onto the barrel nut housing – much like the later MkV foregrip. The grip appears to possibly pivot on a rivet and the grip itself appears to be tubular metal. Sadly the photos are fairly low resolution so we can’t see too much more detail.

These were the only two photos of the grip I could find and I haven’t yet been able to find any documentary references to them. It may be that the grip was experimental and provided to the Polish paratroops for testing or it was an adaptation unique to the unit – perhaps something the unit’s armourer made. I’ll need to do more research in the future to try and find out more about the curious STEN accessory!

For more on the STEN check out our video on the origins of the STEN and it’s name below:

Bibliography:

The Polish Army In Britain, 1940-1947 series, Imperial War Museum, H 18884 & H 18883


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Bring Up The PIAT Pt.II

So you may have seen our earlier video looking at the portrayal of PIATs in the 1978 classic A Bridge Too Far! If not check it out.

When I think of Richard Attenborough’s all-star war epic telling the story of Operation Market Garden, I immediately think of the iconic ‘BRING UP THE PIAT’ scene where Anthony Hopkins playing Colonel John Frost commanding 2 PARA calls for the Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank to take out a marauding ‘Panther’.

But this isn’t the only scene from the film depicting the PIAT! In this video we’ll look at a couple of the other scenes showing the PIAT in action.

We first see the PIAT during the scene when the Guards Armoured Division’s spearhead meets heavy german resistance. Michael Caine’s Sherman’s get a pasting from some Pak 40s. The British infantry deploys and we see a cornucopia of kit ranging from Brens to Vickers to an M2 Browning. But blink and you’ll miss them a pair of PIAT teams also ‘bring up the PIAT’. A two man team can be seen moving forward, the No.1 carrying the PIAT and the No.2 carrying a 3 round bomb carrier, sadly killed by enemy fire.

The second scene in which we see the PIAT finally get to work on some German armoured fighting vehicles is during Gräbner’s attack over the bridge. As the PARAs at the Bridge prepare for the attack we see 2 or 3 PIAT positions get ready – loading bombs into their bomb support trays. One PIAT No.1  can be seen slotting the rear of a PIAT bomb into the projectile guide plates to hold the bomb in place – very authentic.

As the column crosses the Bridge Frost orders his men to open fire, Brens, Stens, Rifle No.4s and PIATs open up and the column is stopped in its tracks. During the scene we see a number of PIAT’s fire and knock out SS vehicles. One PIAT No.2 is hit by enemy fire. The first PIAT round fired hits a lead German vehicle causing it to halt, the second flips a Kubelwagen. We then see a No.2 two load a fresh bomb into the bomb support tray – with a tap to make sure its properly in place. We get a great show of the PIAT firing from the front. It’s worth noting that the PIAT doesn’t recock and the spigot is still seen in the bomb tray just before the camera cuts away. Meaning that that PIAT No.1 will have to recock his weapon before he can fire again!

It’s worth remembering without the ‘Bring Up The PIAT’ scene making a point of naming the weapon, most people would never have known what this unusual weapon that dealt so much damage in the earlier scene was! Of course the attack wasn’t stopped by PIATs alone, there were also airborne anti-tank guns, which the film doesn’t show.

Another little titbit of information I learnt since the first ‘Bring Up The PIAT’ video, thanks to my friend Robbie of RM Military History [check out his channel], is that the PIAT was fired in most of these scenes by one of the film’s armourer Bill Aylmore. The information comes from After the Battle – The Battle of Arnhem – War Film: A Bridge Too Far which describes him as formerly a sergeant with the 50th Regt. – which might be a reference to the Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment. The book goes on to say that “Aylmore excelled himself during the filming of the battle on the bridge by being the ace shot with the PIAT. During all the various takes he was able to put the bomb exactly where the director wanted it and where it coincided with the special effects explosions.” – Good shooting indeed!

Check out more PIAT scene analysis videos here.


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Fighting On Film: The Way Ahead (1944)

Join us for as we examine the Carol Reed-directed 1944 British classic ‘The Way Ahead’ starring David Niven, Stanley Holloway, William Hartnell, Peter Ustinov and John Laurie. We’re joined by special guest Richard Fisher, of the Vickers MG Collection and Research Association, who picked the film partly due to it’s iconic scene featuring a Vickers Gun! The film follows a platoon of men through their call up, training and up to their first experience of battle!

You can watch ‘The New Lot’ (1943) on the IWM’s site here.

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

Thanks for listening!

Fighting On Film: Bataan (1943)

Join us as we look at 1943’s ‘Bataan’ starring Robert Taylor, Robert Walker, Lloyd Nolan, Kenneth Spencer and Desi Arnaz. Directed by Tay Garnett, it’s one of the few films to look at the brutal Battle of Bataan. It’s a classic last stand movie and incorporates elements from the battle which saw some of its hardest fighting 79 years ago this month.

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

Fighting On Film: Go For Broke! (1951)

In this episode of Fighting On Film we examine 1951’s ‘Go For Broke!‘, written & directed by Robert Pirosh and starring Van Johnson – who had worked together on ‘Battleground‘ (FoF Episode 6). The film tells the unique story of the 442nd Infantry Regiment, a US Army unit made up of Japanese-Americans who became the most decorated unit of its size of World War Two! 

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

Cold War British Vehicles – Anglesey Transport Museum

Late last summer we visited the Anglesey Transport Museum in North Wales. They had a great collection of classic and vintage cars and bikes and most interestingly they had a little collection of British military vehicles.

They had a number of trucks and special purpose vehicles from the Royal Engineers, REME and RLC and even a Green Goddess Fire Engine. They also had a couple of pretty cool Cold War British Army armoured personnel carriers.

Alvis Saracen

Alvis Saracen (Matthew Moss)

The Saracen was a six-wheeled armoured personnel carrier (APC) built by Alvis. It entered service in 1952 and was used extensively in Malaya and Northern Ireland. The Saracen could carry an 8 man section along with its 2 man crew. It had a 160HP Rolls Royce engine and depending on when during its service life its turret could be mounted with a .30 calibre M1919A4 or an L37 vehicle-mounted general purpose machine gun.

Humber Pig

Humber Pig (Matthew Moss)

Another APC which was in service alongside the Saracen, the ‘Truck, Armoured, 1 Ton, 4×4’, better known as the Humber Pig. Based on a truck chassis, it had a 120HP 6 cylinder engine and room for 6 men on the benches in the back. It could be mounted with an L4 Bren gun. It saw extensive use in Northern Ireland during operation Banner and was in service from 1956 through to the early 90s.

Daimler Ferret Mk1 Scout Car

Daimler Ferret (Matthew Moss)

Next to the Pig in the collection was a Mk1 Daimler Ferret scout car. Fitted out with an M1919A4 and six forward-firing grenade launchers – for smoke grenades. The later Mk2 had a turret but the Mk1 made use of its low profile. This one has its canvas cover over the fighting compartment. The 4×4 Ferret was powered by a 130HP Rolls Royce B60 straight six. Perfect little run-around to do the shopping in.

On the top of the hull is the pintle mounted Browning M1919A4 machine gun. This would have been operated by the Ferret’s commander. We can see the mount allows it to be aimed and fired from somewhat inside the hull. The Ferret entered service in the early 1950s and remained in use into the late 1980s/early 1990s. Just short of 4,500 Ferrets were manufactured.

Bofors QF 40mm Mk1

QF 40mm Mk1 (Matthew Moss)

At the centre of the military vehicle collection was a QF 40mm Mk1, better known as a Bofors. Both land and naval versions of the Bofors were used during the Second World War and after. Capable of firing 120 40mm shells per minute, it was normally manned by a four man crew. It filled the British army’s light Anti-Aircraft gun role and remained in service well into the 1980s.

We can see the gun’s huge recoil spring and to the rear of the gun is a case deflector which connected with a trough which channels the spent cases down below the gun. The gun still has most of its controls and traverse and elevation crank handles in place. On top of the gun are the huge guides for the four-round clips of 40mm shells.

Find out more about the museum here.


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Fighting On Film: Show & Tell #1 – The Rifleman (2019) & Sea of Sand (1958)

In the UK we’ve gone into another COVID-19 induced lockdown, so why not put out another episode of the Fighting On Film! In this first episode of a new additional format ‘Show & Tell’ we talk about a couple of war movies we watched recently and see if you guys think we should cover them in a full episode. We discuss a new Latvian film ‘The Rifleman’ and a British 50’s movie featuring a young Richard Attenborough – ‘Sea of Sand/Desert Patrol’.

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

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @FightingOnFilm

Fighting On Film New Year Special: Kelly’s Heroes (1970) featuring Peter Caddick-Adams

In this special New Year episode of the Fighting On Film war movie podcast we are joined by historian Peter Caddick-Adams to discuss the cult-classic ‘Kelly’s Heroes’. The film follows a platoon of US soldiers who penetrate deep behind enemy lines to steel enemy gold! Directed by Brian G. Hutton and staring Clint Eastwood, Telly Savalas and Donald Sutherland.

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

Fighting On Film: Battleground (1949)

In this episode of the Fighting On Film war movie podcast we discuss the Oscar-winning 1949 classic ‘Battleground’. It follows a platoon of the 101st Airborne besieged within Bastogne. Directed by William A. Wellman and staring Van Johnson, Ricardo Montalban, James Whitmore and George Murphy. It cleverly captures the cold confines of the Ardennes and the hardships the men at Bastogne faced.

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

PIAT Scene Analysis: ‘The Unbroken Line’ (1985)

Following on from our earlier look at the PIAT scenes from A Bridge Too Far and Theirs Is The Glory in this video we’ll take a look at ‘The Unbroken Line’, a short British Army film, made in 1985. It tells the story of the British Army’s 300 year history with depictions of the battles of Blenheim, Waterloo and Operation Overlord – as well as a depiction of what fighting against a Soviet invasion in 1985 might have looked like.

The PIAT No.1 takes aim (Still from The Unbroken Line)

In this short video we’ll look at one of the interesting scenes that features a PIAT in action! The PIAT goes up against a Jagdpanzer 38 tank destroyer. Set in Normandy after the D-Day Landings we see a section from the Dorset Regiment. When the German Jagdpanzer crashes through the wall the section commander shouts ‘PIAT’, calling on the PIAT team to move up and engage the tank destroyer. The PIAT No.1 take up position and manages to knock out the Jagdpanzer but sadly he’s then the victim of a German grenade. The Dorsets then storm the ruins and capture the defenders and the tank destroyer crew.

For more about ‘The Unbroken Line’ check out RM Military History’s special video where myself and Robbie chat with David Carson, the historical advisor on the film!


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