Here we see a .32 ACP Colt Model 1903 Pocket Hammerless self-loading pistol carried by General (later Field Marshal) Sir Gerald Templer, KG, GCB, CB, GCMG, KBE, DSO. The S/N (377681) dates to 1921 production.
UK National Army Museum NAM. 1998-01-118-2
Dubbed “The Smiling Tiger,” Sir Gerald commanded infantry and armored divisions, as well as the German Directorate of the Special Operations Executive, during the WWII and later went on to lead British forces during the Malayan Emergency, one of the few successful counter-insurgency operations undertaken by the Western powers during the Cold War.
He was also something of a gun buff.
General Sir Gerald Templer (left) testing a .45 inch De Lisle bolt action silenced carbine during a visit to 1st Battalion The Gordon Highlanders, Perak, 1952. He may very well have a Colt in his pocket.
The signed 1954 card in the pistol’s case reads:
“The .32 Colt revolver and ammunition, in this case, was one of about 20 purchased by me when I was GSO I (1(b)) at GHQ, BEF. It was necessary for some of my officers to/ have a small automatic in their pockets on a good many occasions. I carried this one throughout the War, and when I was High Commissioner and Director of Operations in Malaya it never left my side. It was under my pillow every night whilst I was in country, ready and cocked.”
Sir Gerald died in 1979, aged 81.
As a fan of military history (please stop me from buying old books in bulk, it is a sickness) I have always had a soft spot for the SOE and OSS operations in WWII. Having met a few veterans of those operations in later years only increased the interest.
With that in mind, it was a no-brainer that “Churchill’s Secret Agents: The New Recruits” caught my eye on Netflix.
The premise is that they pick a group of volunteers and put them through a (modified) version of the SOE’s selection process to see if they have the intestinal fortitude for leading resistance cells across occupied Europe.
While some of it, of course, is sensationalized and the weapon training is really just a brief hover, I did find it mildly entertaining, and hopefully, it will spark renewed interest in the subject for those who seldom crack open old books.
Sometimes, an idea sounds so good that it just won’t go away no matter how bad it is.
Below, I give you a pair of overshoes designed for Special Operations Executive (SOE) agents operating in South East Asia during the Second World War. They were intended to disguise footprints to fool the Japanese as, if they saw a big ole European bootprint in the jungles of Burma, Indochina etc, it would give away the fact that the Allies were poking around in the rear. The soles did not work very well in practice, however, as they were still very big, and awkward to use, akin to snowshoes.
IWM EQU 12207
Fast forward to the MAC-V-SOG groups of U.S. Army SF guys working behind the lines in VC country in the 1960s and I give you boots designed to leave traces that look like footprints of peasants and to hide the movements of the teams. They proved instantly unpopular because they provided no heel support and made walking a jungle trail on your tip toes very awkward, especially when you are trying to avoid contact with unfriendlies.