Here we see a Short-Magazine Lee-Enfield in .303 British that had a very curious history.
It was issued to a member of the Reserve/1st Garrison Battalion, Essex Regiment (formed in 1881 from the amalgamation of the 44th East Essex Regiment of Foot and the 56th West Essex Regiment of Foot) which fought at Le Cateau and Ypres before being sent on Winston Churchill’s attempt to knock the Ottomans out of World War I at Gallipoli. The unit came away relatively unscathed from the fiasco and went on to fight at Loos, the Somme, Cambrai, and Gaza.
However, our SMLE was left behind somehow in the evacuation of Gallipoli and was captured in very good condition by the Turks. Sent to Constantinople as a trophy, the Turkish Government had it engraved near the lock in gold in Turkish “Booty captured in the fighting at Chanak Kale.”
Enver Pasha then presented it to Emir Faisal bin Hussein bin Ali al-Hashimi (then a Turkish subject representing the city of Jeddah for the Ottoman parliament and the guest of Jemal Pasha in Damascus) in 1916. It was then inscribed near the bayonet mount “Presented by Enver Pasha to Sherif Feisal” in Turkish.
T E LAWRENCE 1888-1935 (Q 73535) Lawrence in Arab dress seated on the ground. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source
Then came Captain T. E. Lawrence, a junior British intelligence officer from Cairo to instigate rebellion in Arabia against the Ottomans. Meeting Feisal 23 October 1916 at Hamra in Wadi Safra, Lawrence supplied the leader with some nice, fresh .303 rounds (the Brit was fond of carrying a a M1911 Colt .45 ACP on his person and a Lewis gun in .303 in his baggage).
As the Lawrence/Feisal partnership blossomed to full rebellion against Constantinople, the Arab leader passed his Turkish trophy Enfield to the wild, blonde-haired rabble rouser on 4 December 1916 in a meeting near Medina.
Lawrence carved his initials and the date in the stock and carried the rifle till October 1918 when Damascus was captured .
The gun has five notches carved into the stock near the magazine, with one in particular marking the death of one Turkish officer taken with the gun. After the war, the rifle was presented by then-Colonel Lawrence to King George V, passing to the Imperial War Museum upon the regent’s death.
The former princely owner, of course, became King of the Arab Kingdom of Syria of Iraq and was played in David Lean’s epic Lawrence of Arabia by Alec Guinness.
A similar rifle (without the ‘Enver’ inscription) was given by the Turkish Government to Abdulla, Feisal’s brother, and is now in the possession of Ronald Storrs.
The IWM has a second Feisal trophy rifle in their collection as well.
The Turkish Model 1887 rifle was the first of a series of rifles produced for the Turkish Army by Mauser of Germany. Its design echoed that of the German Gewehr 71/84 service rifle, being a bolt-action weapon with a tubular magazine beneath the barrel.
This particular rife, made in 1892, was presented by the Emir Feisal to Captain WHD Boyle, Officer Commanding the Royal Navy Red Sea Squadron, in recognition of assistance rendered during the Arab Revolt against Turkey. Boyle later inherited the title of Earl of Cork and Orrery and rose to the rank of Admiral of the Fleet. He commanded the Royal Naval forces engaged in the Norwegian campaign in 1940.
Marked as follows: 1. Sultan’s Tugra stamped on top of chamber 2. Turkish proofs stamped on right of chamber 3. Arabic inscription commencing with 1308 (date) stamped on left of body 4. stamped on bolt 5. gold inlay on top of barrel 6. Arabic inscription commencing with 1326-1330 engraved on silver scroll-shaped plaque let into left of butt (detached).
Why were these Mausers and Enfields so treasured? Well, they were modern magazine fed bolt-action rifles and the standard gear in the desert just wasn’t.
The Ottomans armed the local Arab tribes with surplussed U.S. Providence Tool Company-made Peabody-Martini Model 1874s chambered in 11.3x59mmR blackpowder. (Though in 1912 Austria’s Steyr converted a lot of these into 7.65mm Mauser with the resulting kaboom risk, making the M74/12 which served through WWI with various guards and rear line units, freeing standard rifles for the front.)
As for the Brits, they gave their new Arab allies old 1870s Mk II Martini-Henry breechloaders taken from Indian troops headed to France and Egypt– who were themselves reissued new Enfields.