Tag Archives: Walther P-38

He was also one heck of a curler

One of the most iconic photos of a World War II sniper is this one:

All photos, Library and Archives Canada

The man shown above is Sgt. Harold A. Marshall of the Calgary Highlanders‘ Scout and Sniper Platoon. It was taken by renowned Candian Army Canadian Army Film and Photo Unit shutterbug Ken Bell during a scouting, stalking and sniping course in recently-liberated Kapellen, Belgium, along the Dutch border, 6 October 1944.

Besides his Mk II Standard No.2 binoculars, his kit includes a Lee–Enfield No. 4 Mk 1 (T) sniper rifle with a No. 32 MK 3 scope. These rifles were standard issue for marksmen use during WWII with about 26,000 manufactured in conjunction with Holland & Holland for the Commonwealth forces and remained in service until the early 1960s when it was replaced by the L42 series, the latter basically an accurized No. 4 Enfield in 7.62 NATO.

Sergeant H.A. Marshall of The Calgary Highlanders cleans the telescopic sight of his No.4, MkI(T) rifle during scouting, stalking and sniping course, Kapellen, Belgium, 6 October 1944 LAC 3596658 Ken Bell, photographer

Marshall wears a modified camouflaged paratrooper’s Denison smock. On his belt is a single No. 36M Mill’s Bomb grenade and a Gurkha kukri — because badass, that’s why. Around his head is a skrim camouflage face veil in place of the typical Highlander Tam hat or red and white diced Glengarry, the official field and garrison caps, respectively, of the unit at the time.

Marshall’s spotter, Cpl. Steven Kormendy, was also captured by Bell.

He wears much the same kit but notably has a captured German Walther P-38 9mm pistol as his sidearm.

Corporal S. Kormendy and Sergeant H.A. Marshall of The Calgary Highlanders cleaning the telescopic sights of their No.4 MkI (T) rifles during scouting, stalking and sniping course, Kapellen, Belgium, 6 October 1944. LAC 3596657 Ken Bell, photographer

Sergeant H.A. Marshall (left) and Corporal S. Kormendy, both of The Calgary Highlanders, observing terrain from a concealed firing position during scouting, stalking and sniping course, Capellen, Belgium, 6 October 1944. LAC 3596661 Ken Bell, photographer

Cpl. Steven Kormendy, left, and Sergeant Harold Marshall of the Calgary Highlanders sniper unit pose for photographer Ken Bell in Belgium on Oct. 6, 1944.

Lieutenant-Colonel D.G. Maclaughlin of the Calgary Highlanders speaks with scouts Corporal S. Kormendy and Sergeant H.A. Marshall, Kapellen, Belgium, 6 October 1944. Note they have switched to their Tams with cap badges and the size of Marshall’s kukri. LAC 3257124

As noted by the Calgary Herald,

“Harold Marshall was one of the original Calgary Highlanders who sailed for the United Kingdom on S.S. Pasteur in 1940. Four years later, he was part of an elite platoon of scouts and snipers. Specially equipped and trained in stealth and camouflage, they were the forerunners of today’s reconnaissance troops. It was a dangerous job as scouts advanced ahead of troops and snipers were often exposed to enemy fire.”

Marshall took a bullet in the leg on 15 December 1944, a wound that ended his war. He went on to work for the City of Calgary Electric System from 1946 until 1975 and died just short of his 95th birthday in 2013. 

He was also notably an avid curler, a sport he was shown partaking in his obituary.

Ken Bell would go on to profile Marshall in his excellent book, Not in Vain. 

As for the Calgary Highlanders, formed in 1910 as the 103rd “Calgary Rifles” Regiment, they still exist in battalion strength as a reserve unit, based at the Mewata Armoury in Calgary. Active in Afghanistan in recent years, their Scottish motto is Airaghardt (Onward).

The Everlasting P38

Here we see a Portuguese Corpo de Fuzileiros Marine on UN duty in the Central African Republic.

Of note, his rifle is the 7.62 mm Espingarda m/961, essentially an updated HK G3 and in the holster is the m/961 9mm pistol, which is a Walther P38.

The guns date back to Portugal’s brutal African brush wars in Angola, Guinea, and Mozambique during the 1960s and 70s.

As such, the P38 is one of few WWII-era combat handguns (besides the Hi-Power, 1911 and to a lesser extent the TT-33) that are still in regular use downrange some 75 years later.

More on the P-38’s longevity in my column at Guns.com.

The Walther P38: Godfather of the modern combat handgun

When you think German Army pistol, the Luger comes to mind. The thing is, the Germans themselves wanted something better and came up with one of the great-unsung handguns of all time. You may call it the Walther P38 and its influence has been felt far and wide.

In the 1930s, the German military was quietly rebuilding. Even before Hitler came to power, the tiny Reichswehr had done extensive research into rearming their nation with the most modern of equipment. After Hitler came to power, this process got louder. One of the things the army wanted was a new handgun to replace the 1900-vintage Luger. While the Luger was a beautiful weapon, its toggle-action was prone to clogging, especially when dirty. It was also expensive, and every army in history had a budget.

Carl Walther, an up and coming firearms manufacturer who had just won a contract to supply his innovative PP and PPK pistols to the German police, threw a design from his workshop into the ring.

canadian soldier checking out a captured P38 during WWII
Read the rest in my column at GUNS.com