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The Charge of the Light Brigade, Audregnies installment

On this day some 105 years ago, British Army Cpt. Francis Octavius Grenfell– aged 33 and a noted polo player– led the 9th (Queen’s Royal) Lancers into combat against the Germans at Audregnies, a small village west of Mons in Northern France. The Germans were advancing on the far west flank of the British Expeditionary Force during the Battle of Mons and threatened to encircle the Old Contemptibles of the 5th Division. Grenfell and his lancers were busy that day, both charging the on-coming Germans and later pulling back some abandoned British field guns, keeping them from being captured.

Richard Caton Woodville later immortalized the action at Audregnies in the below painting, from the National Army Museum collection.

NAM. 1978-09-22-1

NAM. 1978-09-22-1

As noted by the NAM:

Although not the first action of World War One (1914-1918) for which the Victoria Cross was awarded, Grenfell was the first to be gazetted, that is, officially listed in ‘The London Gazette’ as a recipient. The citation was for ‘gallantry in action against unbroken infantry at Audregnies and for gallant conduct in assisting to save the guns of the 119th Battery, Royal Field Artillery, near Doubon the same day’.

Notably, the 9th later took part in the final “lance-on-lance” action by British horse-soldiers when, on 7 September 1914 at Montcel à Frétoy, Lt. Col. David Campbell led a charge of two troops against a squadron of lance-armed Prussian Guards Dragoons.

After service in the Great War and as a tank unit in WWII, the 9th was amalgamated with the 12th Royal Lancers to form the 9th/12th Royal Lancers in 1960. They were later further amalgamated with the Queen’s Royal Lancers in 2015 to form the Royal Lancers, which today is an armored recon battalion equipped with Scimitar vehicles. They are the only “lancers” still in the British Army although they officially retired the weapons for field use in 1928.

However, they still use the famous skull and crossbones badge that is one of the most recognizable in the British Army with the motto: ‘Death or Glory’.

As for the heroic Capt. Grenfell, he later fell in action near Ypres in 1915, as did his twin brother, Riversdale.

Buried in the Vlamertinghe Military Cemetery in Belgium, his VC is in the regimental museum of the 9th/12th Royal Lancers in Derby.

Simonov’s Karabin

The SKS is a peculiar thing.

The foyer of 2e RPC Colonial Paras, in Algeria showing the SKS rifles they took from the Egyptians when the unit jumped on Port Fouad during the Suez Crisis in 1956. They were the first example of the weapon captured in the West. 

One of the last semi-auto-only military rifles produced (as late as the 1970s) it was fielded at the same time as the Kalashnikov, is still regularly encountered wherever the latter is found and is arguably why the 7.62x39mm round became popular in the U.S in the first place. Why? Because an estimated 1 million of these guns were imported to the states from China alone in the 1980s and likely even more than that from the former USSR and Yugoslavia since 1991.

That led the gun from looking like this:

To this, once given the Red White and Blue treatment by companies like SG Works and TAPCO:

Anyways, more in my column on the subject of the SKS’s curious history in my column at Guns.com. 

The smoking lamp is LIT!

Nothing like a flintlock in the face with no eyepro.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jerine Lee/Released, 190820-N-QN361

Official caption: “BOSTON (Aug. 20, 2019) Chief petty officer selects, Sailors who have been selected for the paygrade of E-7, come together for Chief Heritage week aboard the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world, USS Constitution. During the selects’ week spent aboard Constitution, Sailors teach them a variety of time-honored maritime evolutions while living and working aboard the ship.”

Among the most curious of the Green Devils

Bored? DW just released this interesting 40~ min doc on Gerhard Mertins including first-hand interviews with his widow.

Who was Mertins? One of Kurt Student’s original fallschirmjägers, he was a Gran Sasso raider (and a Knights Cross recipient) in WWII, then became a key shadow man during the Cold War including working for/with the West German BND intelligence organ. This later included moving and shaking in the Middle East and South America with names like Pinochet and Carlos the Jackal popping up.

Salute to Springfield Sporters…

When it comes to military surplus gun dealers in the U.S., there have been some icons that have sadly come and gone. It all started with Bannerman’s in New York, which hit its stride by first cleaning out the Army and Navy’s post-Civil War relics for their weight as scrap metal in the 1880s then landing all of the captured Spanish arms from Cuba and Puerto Rico in 1898.

They lingered into the 1940s…

From there you had companies such as Klein’s in Chicago, Interarms in Alexandria, Navy Arms, Strebco, Seaport Traders, Winfield Arms (in Los Angeles of all places!) and Golden State Arms in Pasenda that sold WWI & WWII milsurp for pennies on the dollar.

All gone.

SAMCO turned off the lights in 2013, leaving a legacy of old guns and exotic ammo to linger on. Recently, SOG in Ohio went belly up after more than 30 years. 

There is another confirmed kill this week as Springfield Sporters on Springfield Road in Penn Run, PA, announced they will not be reopening their doors.

Founded by William H. Rodgers in 1961, they stocked just about every sort of military surplus rifle and obsolete parts you could image, specializing in such oddballs as Greek Mannlicher Schoenauers, Mauser Vergueiros, Japanese M38s and M99s, and others. Relying on walk-in and mail-order sales, they were on the ropes by about 2003 and briefly closed down.

The next year, Russell J. Rodgers, William’s son, was able to reboot the business and started a website, continuing the good fight for another 15 years. If you wanted parts of a Ruby pistol, a bolt for a Ross rifle, or anything Kropatschek, they had you covered.

In 2010, which was not that long ago, they acquired an amazing 19,000 drill rifles (mostly #1 Enfields) that they listed for $30 a pop.

In 2013, they started opening their 40,000 square ft. showroom for the summer only (May to October), and it looked like something out of Indian Jones.

I picked up several bayonets from them, including some very nice German-made Brazilian Mauser bayos (for $30 each!) among other interesting items. 

Mauser 08 Brazil long rifle bayonets for just $30. Mein Gott!

However, in 2016 they close the showroom but kept up the website. Then, last year, that too went dark as they closed up shop due to medical issues and by December they posted, “Thank you for visiting! May reopen next summer, maybe sooner. Will be another state, not PA,” and went radio silent, other than to later post that the whole joint was for sale for $2.2M with numerous conditions.

This week, Century Arms in Vermont formally announced they have acquired Springfield Sporters.

“Springfield Sporters and Century Arms have a lot of history together, as both were founded in 1961, over 58 years ago,” said Century VP William Sucher. “Although early on we originally competed with each other, over the years Springfield Sporters developed into one of Century’s best customers. We will strive to continue the Rodgers family legacy by offering the same authentic surplus products and the amazing customer service Springfield Sporters has become known for.”

Another one bites the dust

Military surplus of a different sort

News of an operable late-model 1989-vintage MiG-29 as well as a circa 1980 ex-Jordanian F-16A Block 20 for sale (they actually have three of the latter for $8.5M apiece) on the commercial market has sparked a lot of interest as of late. The fact is, there are already several of these in private collections around the world, to include the Château de Savigny-les-Beaune in France. A number of airworthy MiG-29s owned by U.S.-based foundations and companies are on FAA-approved maintenance programs. So no big deal really.

Besides those more modern fighters, if you are looking for more of a bargain you can opt to pick up a very nice circa 1959 ex-U.S. Navy McDonnell F4H-1F Phantom II in flyable condition for just $3.95M

F4H-1F 145310 was delivered to the Navy in 1959…

…and was the 11th pre-production aircraft built

Still pinching pennies? How about a 1961 Douglas A4D-2N Skyhawk– all Inspections Current– for just $1.6M? One of several available!

Wheelgun fans, rejoice!

Well, it looks like both Colt and S&W are giving the roscoe-lovers what they want. This week they both introduced new, and very old-school-looking revolvers.

Massachusetts-based Smith & Wesson on Tuesday announced they are bringing back a celebrated rimfire magnum, the Model 648 revolver, to their catalog.

Now that is a commanding .22 magnum!

The K-frame .22WMR-caliber Model 648 first appeared in Big Blue’s lineup in 1989 sporting a full-lug barrel and stainless steel construction. Retired since 2005, the newest generation of the model still brings a 6-inch barrel to the party, which translates to a very commanding 11.1-inch overall length. Weight is 46.2-ounces in the eight-shot .22 Mag, making the gun attractive for both those looking to fill pots and smoke targets. Of note, the old 648 was a six-shot.

Meanwhile, in Colt is adding another “snake” to their recently rebooted revolver line, and on Tuesday unveiled their new King Cobra Target model in .357 magnum.

Magnum? Now that’s a magnum! 357 that is.

The new wheel gun, following on the heels of their Cobra, Night Cobra, King Cobra, and Cobra Carry revolvers, features a 4.25-inch barrel, adjustable rear sight, elevated fiber optic front sight, and custom Altamont wood medallion grips. With an overall length of 9.25-inches, the six-shot full-lug target revolver is pitched for use by competitive shooters and those who just like to hit the range.

More on each in my column at Guns.com.

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