The Guards at War 39-45 
Bn HQ Section LHG

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Weapons Used by The Guards at War in World War II


The Bren Gun MKI & II

 

The Bren Gun MKI and MKII was the standard light machine gun used by the British Army during WWII, It was a robust, reliable and very accurate weapon that was extremely popular with troops who used it.

The Bren Gun used the same .303 rds the Lee Enfield rifle SMLE’s and the No.4 which eased supply problems.

The Bren weighed 21 lbs and had a length of 45 inches. It was capable of firing either single shots or a burst of fire. The Bren was capable of firing 500 rounds a minute - though this was a theoretical figure as the rate of firing was dictated by the speed with which a fully loaded magazine could be changed. Each magazine held just 30 rounds. Hence when in use the firer used short 3 second bursts of fire.

The Bren was designed in the Czech town of Brno (Br) and re-designed to British Army requirements at the Enfield Works (En) hence the name Bren

Shown below is a MKII Bren (1944 Dated) with a spare barrel and cleaning kit

 


The Lee Enfield No.1 (S.M.L.E) and No.4


The Lee Enfield rifle was the standard issue rifle to the British Army during World War One and World War Two.

The Lee Enfield was first produced in 1907; it had been designed by an American called James Lee and built at the Royal Small Arms Factory in Enfield - hence the rifle's name.

The Version Issued in World War One was the No.1 Short Magazine Lee Enfield (S.M.L.E), The Lee Enfield enjoyed a good reputation with those who were issued with it. It had a ten-bullet magazine and its rate of fire in the hands of well-trained men was high. At the Battle of Mons, the advancing Germans believed that they were under fire from British machine guns. In fact, it was the well drilled infantry of the BEF using their standard issue Lee Enfield. A good infantryman would expect to shoot off about twelve well-aimed bullets in a minute.


Shown here is a SMLE (1941 Dated) with Sword Bayonet (1907 Pattern)

If the Lee Enfield had one weakness, it was that the firing mechanism was susceptible to dirt and grit. Therefore, keeping your rifle clean in the muddy environment of the trenches was of paramount importance. When not in battle, many men simply covered the firing mechanism with cloth in an effort to keep out dirt which would clog up the rifle. The butt of the Lee Enfield had a space inside it where cleaning material could be kept.

 

The Lee Enfield was so highly thought of that it was the standard issue rifle to infantrymen in the British Army when World War Two started. The Rifle that replaced the SMLE was the No.4, this was designed to be an easier weapon to manufacture while retaining the accuracy and robustness of the SMLE, But some front line units were still issued the SMLE up to the end of World War Two.

 

The Lee Enfield had a range of approx 2000yds, but 500yds was about the effective “aimed” shot range

 

The major changes in the rifle were the replacement of the 1907 Pattern Sword Bayonet with a smaller bayonet pig sticker bayonet (See pictures) the moving of the main sight from the centre of the rifle to the back, this was not a popular move as this was alleged to reduce accuracy according to the experienced British soldiers


Shown below is a No.4 (1941 Dated) with “Pig Sticker” Bayonet


The STEN GUN

In the early stages of the Second World War the British Army purchased the Tommy Gun from the United States. These were expensive and in 1941 they switched to the Sten Gun made in Enfield. It was named after the combined first letters of the names of the designers, R. V. Shepherd and H. J. Turpin, and the Enfield Royal Small Arms Factory.

There were several models of the Sten Gun but the Mark 2 was the most popular. The gun had a massive bolt inside a tubular casing with the barrel fixed to the front and the magazine feeding from the left side where it could be supported on the firer's forearm.

During the Second World War the Royal Small Arms Factory supplied 4 million of these guns to the British Army. It was not popular with the soldiers because its habit of jamming when being used in battle. However, they were cheap to buy and the British government distributed them to resistance groups throughout occupied Europe. The gun could be easily and rapidly dismantled into its component parts for concealment, which was a distinct advantage for underground fighters

Shown below is a MkII Sten 1943

Side Arms MK IV .38 Webley

The Webley Mk IV, chambered in .455 Webley, was introduced in 1899 and soon became known as the "Boer War Model" on account of the large numbers of officers and Non-commissioned officers who purchased it on their way to take part in the conflict.

The official service pistol for the British military during the Second World War was the Enfield No. 2 Mk I .38/200 calibre revolver,but owing to a critical shortage of handguns, a number of other weapons were also adopted (first practically, then officially) to alleviate the shortage. As a result, both the Webley Mk IV in .38/200 and Webley Mk VI in .455 calibre were issued to personnel during the war.

Shown here is a war finish Mk IV .38 Webley

The No.36 Mills bomb

The service grenade for the British Army in World War Two was the 36 HE grenade – better known as the Mills grenade. The Mills grenade was primarily designed for throwing but it could be fired from a rifle, which had been fitted with a discharger.

The Mills grenade had a seven seconds delay between the release of the handle and it exploding, though this was later reduced to just five seconds. The Mills grenade could be thrown a distance of about 30 yards and the so-called danger area around the explosion expanded for about 20 yards, but the shrapnel could injure individuals at ranges of up to 60 yards on hard surfaces!

 

The Mills grenade was made out of cast iron and live grenades were painted black or brown with a red ring painted round the top about the fitting screw. The explosive in it was either amatol or baratol.

Show below is a stripped No.36 Mills bomb 1944 dated

                                               From left to right, 4 second fuse, Safety Pin and spring, Firing pin, firing pin retaining handle, filler plug and base plate