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David G. P. Morse

The following article has been written by David G. P. Morse of the Warwickshire Home Guard Living History Group and is reproduced here with his generous permission.

David G. P. Morse

During the dark days of May 1940 when Operation Dynamo brought back some 420,000 British, French and Belgium soldiers, plans had been announced that a defensive civilian- based army was to be raised, kitted out and armed ready to help defend our shores This was to be called the L.D.V., Local Defence Volunteers, later to be called the Home Guard.

The only issue with this desperate plan was the arming of this new force. We had left 50% of our weapons and equipment behind in France with not enough time to destroy all of it! What were we to do? The returning soldiers were the first priority to rearm. We had plenty of rifles, bayonets and bullets for them although we needed more, but what about this new arm of the country's defence?

Well, to start with the LDV, in a lot of cases, made do with the Mark I broom handle. This enabled those who had had no formal training to at least learn how to march with some resemblance of order!

It would take a long time for real rifles and then sufficient ammunition to filter through especially to those Battalions furthest from the front line on the South Coast and so individuals, platoons and then some manufacturers started making their own versions.

One of the earliest 'imitation' arms was just a length of gas pipe with a bayonet welded into the end. Much later, when rifle shortages persisted, Churchill noticed a Home Guardsman bearing one of these weapons on parade. He immediately ordered that large numbers be manufactured and issued. The only issue was that it 'was hated' by the Home Guard: in general it was ungainly, did not look like a rifle and was ridiculed by one and all.

When delays were obvious a cut-out rifle shape was formed out of a suitably thick piece of timber, in the case below out of a scaffolding plank with a thick metal butt plate to help hold it together. The overall length was the same as an SMLE and bayonet. No trigger, magazine receiver or bolt was employed.

Soon, though, the more imaginative started making their rifles with sights made from nails and bits of machinery. A bolt made from a ... Bolt! A solid bar barrel and even a butt disc made from a washer and screw.

Now fitted with a sort of trigger and magazine it was starting to look like a rifle.

The one below came from a Cheshire, UK, Battalion.


Some went for a simplistic design, just using a solid round bar for the barrel, a purpose made magazine, even though it didn't look like a proper one, and a heavy duty butt plate.
The next one, below, was a economy version of the one above where they have only used a semi-circular piece of bar for a barrel. No butt plate, hence the rear end wear and no trigger!

I have seen one other identical to this one. This one came from Lincolnshire Home Guard.

 This next one is one of a pair that I have and came from Tunstall, Staffordshire. They were made by a company called William Durose who were a famous prestige wrought iron gate manufacturer. Whether these were made for the factory H.G. I don't know as I have not been able to get a response from what I think is the present company. The company name is stamped upon the side. The bolt is missing, the barrel, though solid, has a shallow hole drilled in the end. A stylised trigger, a magazine that looks similar to a real one and a thick butt plate completes it.

Now we are getting to the point (below) where almost exact copies of the real thing were being attempted. It looks like an SMLE but with parts like the sights and bolt missing.

I have seen one other that looked like this and it is in the Imperial War Museum, London. It has a very heavy duty non-moving trigger, guard and magazine made out of wood as are the sling loops! The cast nose has been broken and the butt plate is of flimsy construction. They have included a safety catch and so it's really a commendable attempt.

The reproduction of British rifles improved when the makers starting casting original looking bolts and receivers and sights as can be seen on this Long Lee below. A wooden magazine was retained as was a wooden heavy duty trigger! The barrel made from a solid bar of steel gave it a similar weight to the original.

The final one in this selection is in fact a copy of an SMLE with most of the good points seen in the ones above. Cast metal receiver, sights, nose cap, magazine and trigger but with a poor butt plate. Sling swivels are in evidence. This is in fact a training rifle from WW1 as issued to the V.T.C., the Volunteer Training Corps, as the stamp indicates under the butt. These were supplied to the V.T.C. for the same reason that the Home Guard required them: the training of new recruits and a shortage of real weapons. Undoubtedly a Home Guard Battalion somewhere would have been issued with this type of mass-produced training rifle from the "war to end all wars"!

So why would Home Guard Platoons, Companies and Battalions go to the trouble of making replica rifles in the way they did?

From a platoon point of view, morale was improved if you were carrying a rifle even if it was only to make the numbers of "armed" guardsmen greater and even though you had to shout "BANG" when practicing firing! Also the public's morale improved upon seeing most of the platoon training and parading seemingly armed! 

 The above photo shows the L.D.V. early in its formation with only the first couple of rows actually with rifles. Who knows how many of those were real? Better to make it look as if all the men had rifles even if some were replicas.

Also the advertising poster above says that their SMLE's cannot be distinguished from the real thing!

Lastly any publicity shot that happened to get into the press and therefore be seen by the Germans would show a "Well armed civilian force ready to defend their island from invaders"!

David G.P. Morse
© David G. P. Morse, December 2016

Grateful acknowledgement is made to the author for his generous permission
for the publication of the above article within this website.


In use for the training of Women Auxiliaries......

And some further examples of miscellaneous "rifles".....

Grateful acknowledgement to David G.P. Morse; and Bernard Cardogan.
Text and all images annotated "David G.P. Morse" on this page: © David G. P. Morse 2016
1. Armourers—Home Guard." Minor repairs and adjustments " to the following Small Arms : Rifles', No. 3, pattern 17; Bren" M-.G., Mk 1 .303"; Carbine, T.S.M.G.; Steu, Mk. II; Pistol No. 1, Mk. 6 : —
Sgt. Culbertson, 10 Westmorland H.G. Sgt. Todhunter, 4 Cumberland H.G. Cpl. Felton, 10 Westmorland H.G. Cpl. Brierjey, 59 Lanes. H.G. Cpl. Pottage, 42 Lanes. H.G. Cpl. Carding, 42 Lanes. H.G. Cpl. Kitchen, 58 Lanes. H.G. L/Cpl. Sinyard, 27 Lanes. H.G. L/Cpl. Porter, 42 Lanes. H.G. Pte. Palmer, 3 Cumberland H.G. Pte. Lavenka, 4 Cumberland H.G. Pte. Graham, 4 Cumberland H.G. Pte. Kearns, 59 Lanes. H.G. Pte. Smith, 38 Cheshire H.G.952. Armourers Courses. " Minor repairs and adjustments " —
Sgt. S. Mattox, 26 Staffs. H.G. Sgt. J. Reynolds, 41 Staffs H.G. Cpl. W. Davis, 26 Staffs H.G. Cpl. B. Kempson, 26 Staffs. H.G. Cpl. A. Fox, 26 Staffs H.G. L/Cpl. W. Granger, 26 Staffs H.G. Pte. B. Dunn, 20 Staffs H.G. Pte. H. Tomlinson, 26 Staffs H.G. Pte. J. Yates, 26 Staffs H.G. § Pte. J. Colstin, 26 Staffs H.G. Pte. F. Morris, 41 Staffs H.Gj 953. Courses ot Instruction—Armourers' School, Burscough.Course No. 20—2nd May to 9th May, Sgt. C. Mallalieu, 60 Lanes. H.G.954. Courses of .Instruction—Armourers. School,Burscou'gh. .Course No. 22—16/5/42 to 23/S/42. ,  "Minor repairs and adjustments " to the following Small'Arms and Machine Guns :—Rifles, Lee-Enfield, Model 17; Rifles, Automatic,. Browning, .300"; Guns M/C Lewis, Air pattern, ' .300".; Guns. M/C Lewis, ground pattern, .300"; Guns M/C- Browning, .300"; Carbine .M/C" Sten 9mm.'.Mk: II.; 29mm. Spigot Mortar;. Northover Projector and Mountings, Tripod, Browning, .300" : —" Sgt. C. F. Driver, 57 Lanes. H.G. Sgt.. E. Lund, 43 Lanes. -H.G..' Sgt. A, A. Ross, 24 Warwick H.G. Sgt. R. C. Davis, 1 Moil. H.G. , Sgt. J. F. Salt, 22 Ches. H.G. Sgt. D. W. Roberts, 5-Glam. H.G. Sgt. F. C. Priestman, 92 Lanes. H.G. . • Sgt. G. Thomas, 1 Carrns. H.G. . Cpl. W. Mack, 9 Worcs. H.G. Cpl. W. R. Kincher, 27 Warwick H.G. . Cpl. C. Beadnell, 91 Lanes. H.G. Cpl. W. James, 2 Brecknock H.G. L/Cpl. E. Mason, 14 Warwick H.G. L/Cpl. H. Thomas 1 Pembroke H.G. L/Cpl. S. Gordon, 10 Mon. H.G. Pte. C. Whittaker, 31 Lanes. H.G.





J19 - December 2016, updated January 2017