Tag Archives: STEN gun

Old Man of the Watch

80 years ago today.

The official caption of this photo essay via the Imperial War Museum (Catalog # IWM A 17028-32), taken by Photographer Pelman, L (Lt),: “Veteran guardians of the Channel Coast. 21 May 1943, Selsey, Sussex.”

The Auxiliary Patrol of HM Coastguard is one of the oldest bodies of men in the armed forces of the crown. Over 400 of them have been enrolled to assist the ‘regulars’ in the constant watch which has been kept along the southeast coast of England. Their average age is well over 50, the oldest is 76, and they are mostly retired business, professional, and servicemen who have made their homes by the seaside.

“Five veterans learning the tricky art of bends and hitches from the Station Officer, himself an old Petty Officer.” Note they all seem to be wearing Army uniforms with Coastguard caps and HM Coastguard cap badges

“The dawn patrol sets out along a lonely mile of beach.” Note the STEN MKIII gun at the ready

“Daylight flag signaling to a ship at sea.” Note the “Coastguard” flash

“The Station Officer at his post, surrounded by his instruments for communication, alarm, and taking bearings.” Note the “Coastguard” flash and STEN gun at the ready

“The Watch turns over”. The relief faces a long vigil. The relieved set off home for a well-deserved breakfast and sleep.” Note what appears to be a Canadian Ross MKIII rifle.

“Station officer William Atkinson, who is in charge of a strip of coastline, examines a distant vessel through his telescope.”

With a mandate that stretches back to 1822, while His Majesty’s Coastguard came under Admiralty orders in both the Great War and WWII, today it is part of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and coordinates all maritime search and rescue (SAR) operations in the UK.

King Charles III is the Honorary Commodore of HMCG and the backbone of the force is some 3,500 volunteer Coastguard Rescue Officers (CROs) located in 300 coastguard rescue teams around the country.

They respond to some 30,000 calls per year in recent years, few of them involving the Germans. 

Pegasus at 80

The Parachute Regiment was established on 1 August 1942 from No 2 Commando/No. 11 Special Air Service Battalion (which had already conducted the first British airborne operation, Operation Colossus, against the Tragino aqueduct, on 10 February 1941, and been renamed 1st Parachute Battalion in September 1941) and volunteers who were forming the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Battalions. This new regiment was placed under the Army Air Corps, alongside the existing Glider Pilot Regiment (air-landing infantry), as the 1st Parachute Brigade and, before 1942 was up, was tossed into action in French Morocco and Algeria during Operation Torch.

“The Parachute Regiment in Training, Ringway, August 1942.” A paratrooper armed with a STEN gun equipped for a jump. Malindine E G (Lt), Puttnam L (Lt), Spender H (Lt), War Office official photographer. IWM H 22754.

Same spread as above, IWM H 22759, note the Pegasus flash on the Para’s smock and No. 4 Enfield bayonet for his STEN.

By Overlord in June 1944, the British had five parachute brigades consisting of 17 battalions, most of which were under the 1st (British) Airborne Division, and 6th (British) Airborne Division. By the end of the war, the Brits had an impressive 31 battalions of Denison smock-wearing airborne troops in a mix of glider-borne infantry (10), SAS (3), and parachute light infantry (18) units, not even counting hard-charging Indian (6) and Gurkha (1) airborne battalions who were very active that year against the Japanese in the CBI theatre.

The “PARAS” have been paired down quite a bit over the years but are still very much around.

Today, 2 Para and 3 Para Bns serve as part of 16 Air Assault Brigade, the UK’s rapid deployment “fire brigade” force, while 1 Para serves as a support group alongside elements of the Royal Marines and the Royal Air Force in the Special Forces Support Group (SFSG). The Army Reserve has 4 Para Bn which retains its airborne/air assault capability through a far higher level of training typically seen in other Reserve units.

As a salute to the Regiment that over the weekend, Paratroopers of all four Battalions, the Red Devils (Britain’s version of the Golden Knights), and some 250 cherry berry vets gathered at the National Memorial Arboretum for a Service of Remembrance and recognition of the 80th Anniversary of the formation of the Regiment in 1942.

“Utrinque Paratus”

Going for a Sunday walk among the sunflowers in the countryside with the lads

Via the Parachute Regiment archives:

77 years ago today: Sunday, 17th September 1944, the Market side of Operation Market Garden.

Usually misidentified as Airborne Signallers, this is a group of the 1st Battalion, The Border Regiment, 1st (British) Airborne Division, at the edge of Drop Zone “X” in Holland mid-way between Sinderhoeve and Jonkershoeve, looking south towards the Klein Amerikaweg.

Pic by – Sgt. M. Lewis, AFPU.

Second from left is a Sergeant, fifth from the left is an Officer and on the right, the soldier is hoisting a 51-pound (without the ammo!) Vickers Medium Machine Gun onto his shoulder. Note the handie-talkie being used by the officer, at least four Borderers with No. 4 Enfield .303 rifles, and two with STEN MK IVs.

After having gone to France with the BEF in 1939, the Borderers made it out sans most of their equipment from Dunkirk, and, since they were “light” already was reformed as a mountain unit attached to the 31st Bde then in 1941 were transitioned to being glider-borne infantry. As such, they landed at Sicily in Operation Ladbroke, suffering heavy casualties and losing 75 percent of their ranks.

Reformed too late for Overlord, Market Garden was only their second combat glider operation. However, they were all but destroyed in that infamous “A Bridge Too Far” operation, and spent the rest of the war reforming for a third time just in case they were needed for the push on Tokyo. They were not, and ended WWII in Trieste on the early front line of the Cold War.

Formed in 1702, 1st Bn/Borderers were amalgamated with 1st Battalion, The King’s Own Royal Regiment (Lancaster), to form 1st Battalion, The King’s Own Royal Border Regiment, which was further amalgamated with the King’s Regiment and the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment to form the new Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment (King’s, Lancashire and Border) (LANCS) which today still carries a Glider Flash worn on the sleeve while in No. 1 and No. 2 uniforms to remember Ladbroke and Market Garden.

Makeshift STEN foregrips

No matter what, you just gotta love a STEN.

British 6th Para Div on D-Day, note the Denison smocks, Skrimmed helmets, toggle ropes, and a STEN MK V. Introduced in 1944, the MK V was a better-quality, more elaborate version of the Mk II including included a wooden pistol grip, a vertical wooden foregrip, a wooden stock, and a bayonet mount for the No. 4 Enfield rifle, whose sights it borrowed.

These “plumbers’ dreams” were, even in their most finished forms, always very ad hoc not to mention dangerous to due to their open bolt design. With that being said, both the American M3 Grease gun and at least the first two varieties of the STENs were often modified in-field to make them a bit more user-friendly.

With that, The Armourer’s Bench (TAB) has a great 5-minute video, new this week, on makeshift STEN foregrips spotted in the wild.


Cowboy Guns as Brush Guns for Canadian Guerillas

As part of the general mass panic that came about all along the Pacific coast of North America after the attack on Pearl Harbor, which kicked into overdrive with the follow-on actions of Japanese submarines off Oregon and California and the seizure of windswept islands in the Aleutians within six months of that Infamy, a home guard force was formed in British Columbia.

Eventually christened the Pacific Coast Militia Rangers, they eventually grew to some 15,000 members. With guns and training time for new types short, they were outfitted with old bolt-action rifles which dated to the previous World War– which grizzled old vets of the Rangers no doubt remembered– as well as almost 5,000 commercial rifles from Connecticut.

Lever action Marlins and Winchesters.

More in my column at Guns.com.

PIATing around Holland with the lads, 75 Years ago today

An eight-man fighting patrol of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI), Elst, Gelderland, 2 March 1945.

Photograph B 15008 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums.

They are well-armed with Lee–Enfield No. 4 Mk I .303 rifles, a beautiful Mk.I/II Bren gun with its distinctive champaign flute muzzle cone, STEN MkII submachine guns, and a PIAT tank zapper. Notably, all of the above were adopted after 1938.

The 83mm PIAT first saw service in 1943 during the Allied invasion of Sicily, and, while it looks light, weighed 32-pounds, unloaded. Nonetheless, it was considered “outstandingly effective” and remained in service through the 1950s, even seeing secondary use by Israel in Palestine and the French in Indochina.

Out of ammunition, God Save the King

With Arnhem lost, the Britsh light infantry of 1 Airborne Division holding the increasingly pressured Oosterbeek perimeter some 75 years ago this week, was gratefully able to be evacuated.

Opposed by units that included two Waffen SS panzer divisions (albeit rebuilding) the British had mostly STEN guns, bolt-action No. 4 Enfield .303s, light mortars, and a smattering of anti-tank weapons such as 6-pdr (57mm) rifles and PIATs. Still, they held the line often without water, ammunition, and food for over a week.

Hard to image men with 9mm subguns facing down Tigers rushed to the battle directly from Germany via high-speed train Blitztransport.

British 1st Airborne Division takes cover in a shell hole, Arnhem, 17 September 1944 NAM. 2005-12-38-72

A paratrooper armed with a PIAT and Enfield rifles covers a road at Arnhem, 18 September 1944 Market Garden British NAM. 2005-12-38-50

British paratrooper with STEN defending Divisional Headquarters at the Hartenstein Hotel, Arnhem, on 23 September 1944 STEN Market Garden NAM. 2005-12-38-44

Pegasus flag: Private Morris of Acton, London, 1st Airborne Division’s HQ Hartenstein Hotel, 20 September 1944 Market Garden STEN NAM. 2005-12-38-28

Private J Connington of Selby, Yorkshire, in action with his Sten gun, 20 September 1944 Market Garden NAM. 2005-12-38-21

Troops dug in holding Brigade Headquarters, 1st Airborne Division at Arnhem, Operation MARKET GARDEN, 18 September 1944 STEN NAM. 2005-12-38-49

The RAF and USAAF tried in vain to drop supplies to the embattled Paras but some 93 percent of the loads fell into German hands, who gratefully accepted them. They could use the 9mm ammo, as well as the food and medical supplies. For the weapons they didn’t have ammo for, spares were dropped.

The rundown:

Those 16,000 PIAT rounds would have been very welcome

By 25 September 1944, on the 9th day of the operation (remember, the Paras had been expected to be relieved after just 48 hours) only 2,163 British Airborne troops were able to be evacuated back across the Rhine. The British 1st Airborne went into Holland some 9,000 strong.

1 Abn Divisional commander, Maj. Gen. Roy Urquhart, who during the battle was largely out of touch with most of his units, in concluding his 52-page report on the operation in January 1945, said it was

“…not 100% a success and did not end quite as was intended. The losses were heavy but all ranks appreciate that the risks involved were reasonable. There is no doubt that all would willingly undertake another operation under similar conditions in the future.

We have no regrets. 

Meet ‘Pepette’ and ‘Alice’ a pair of Anglo-French sleeping beauties

During World War II the Allies dropped literally tons of arms and munitions to local resistance forces across occupied Europe to give the Germans a little heartburn. Though squirreled away over 70 years ago, caches left behind by various underground groups have popped up in Denmark, France, and Latvia in recent months, as have individual arms buried during the war for one reason or another.

Speaking of France, a couple doing home renovation near Quarré-les-Tombes found three STENs, a pile of BREN gun mags (but no BREN gun, hmmmm), as well as a crate or two of Mills bombs and ammo, all secreted under a granite floor.

Best yet, two of the British-made 9mm hoses had names scratched it to them: Pepette and Alice.

They have nice early-type cocking handles on them too. Such a shame. They seem to have held up well after all these years.

More in my column at Guns.com.

All the suppressed subguns you need via your local machine shop

Police in Edmonton, Alberta, in conjunction with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, found a pair of full-auto DIY MAC-11’s (out of an estimated six made) complete with matching suppressors as well as other sundry illegal arms last month.

Police say that a half-dozen MACs were made, but only two were recovered. (Photos: Edmonton Police)

Made in a machinist’s shop without his knowledge, “The MAC-11s were fully automatic, with one trigger pull resulting in the entire magazine of 30 rounds being fired in just seconds,” according to a release.

They also recovered a very interesting little Beretta M71, a .22LR famed for its use by Mossad agents ‘ala Munich.

More in my column at Guns.com.

You never know what is in those Danish cookie tins

When I was a little kid, my Nana, who hailed from Central Europe and never really gave up the accent among other things, used to have a love of Danish cookies. The kind that come in the little tin. Well, whenever I visited I would love to run across one of these said tins and pluck out a tasty morsel.

– Only to find they were, more often than not, filled with knickknacks, sewing supplies, or other odds and ends of grandmadom.

Well, in Denmark, it seems that you never really knew what was in gran’s attic, closet, or basement. Maybe gran’s family was in the Resistance back in the day…and kept some of the goodies just in case.

The South Jutland Police posted images to social media last week of some 25 weapons and 100 grenades turned in as part of a reprieve for those with illegal or unregistered arms, many of which may have a connection to Danish history.

Occupied by Germany during World War II, Denmark was home to a well-organized network of underground resistance units, often equipped by the Allies through the OSS and SOE. Among the weapons brought down from attics and up from under floorboards last month were STEN submachine guns, an anti-tank rocket launcher, a BREN light machine gun, and various bolt-action rifles including German Mausers.

What a cookie assortment!

Check out more in my column at Guns.com.

And don’t get too exited on that next tin of cookies.

Related: Freddie Oversteegen was 14 years old when a gentleman visited her family home in the Netherlands to ask her mother if she’d allow her daughters to join the resistance.



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