The humble plinker vs. invading Germans
With most of the heavy equipment of the British Army left on the beaches of Dunkirk in June 1940 and a German invasion of the Home Islands likely, the Home Guard was set up and creatively armed with all sorts of terrible ideas such as the Smith Gun and others to help keep the Jerries at bay.
The Home Guard was even extensively armed with donated guns shipped to the country by the NRA from the U.S. and other drives.
By late 1940, the Home Guard had amassed 847,000 rifles, 47,000 shotguns and 49,000 machine guns of various kinds. However, as there were more than 1,682,000 volunteers at the time, this meant that 739,000 men were without a weapon. There was little improvement in June 1941 when Prime Minster Winston Churchill wrote to the War Office saying that “every man must have a weapon of some sort, be it only a mace or a pike.”
The civil servants took Churchill at his word and ordered 250,000 pikes from the Ministry of Aircraft Production, each consisting of a long steel tube with an obsolete bayonet welded to the end. When the first of these reached the Home Guard, there was uproar and it is thought that none were actually issued to Home Guardsmen.
Then were the Auxiliary Units or GHQ Auxiliary Units, “stay behind” cells consisting of some 500 independent patrols of 5-10 volunteers attached to Home Guard battalions 201 (Scotland), 202 (northern England), or 203 (southern England).
They used hidden underground bases known only to them, which cached their arms and equipment for “the day” and expected to fight as a uniformed partisan force until eliminated.
“Not only were Auxiliary Units given a life expectancy of 12 days, but they were also under orders not to be captured. If surrounded, they would need to shoot each other or blow themselves up with their own explosives.”
Here is a photo of one such patrol, from Leiston in Suffolk, shows a rough looking bunch of scoundrels armed with STENs, a P14 or M1917 Enfield rifle, and…something else.
That “something else” is a Winchester Model 74 with a Parker Hale No.42 optic and a silencer (suppressor) to muffle its gentle .22LR report.
An interesting little semi-auto that was introduced in 1939, Winchester made something like 406,574 of these popguns by 1955 and their long barrels made them extremely accurate. The U.S. sent several thousand to the UK for use as a trainer, and 660 were converted to their more covert use, envisioned to be used to take out German sentries and guard dogs as needed.
From Rifleman.org who has a lot of information on these guns.
More on the Model 74 in the video from The Gun Guy below.