A History of Drill and Training Rifles Part 22

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BRITISH DRILL RIFLES

The British modified several models of the SMLE as well as the Pattern 14 to make drill rifles. There were different approaches to these conversions but the illustrations shown below are typical. All of these rifles are marked with a prominent DP (drill practice) somewhere on the rifle. It is uncertain how many of these drill rifles were produced but a considerable number have surfaced in this country.

The U.K. NRA Historic Arms Resource Center has an outstanding web site that has information on Drill and Training rifles as well as a broad range of related items. I highly recommend this site. http://www.rifleman.org.uk.

British Home Guard
In 1939, Winston Churchill called for 500,000 men over 40 to form a Home Guard to defend against an expected invasion by the German army. There was a great response and it soon became apparent that some formal organizational structure would be needed. In May of 1940, the Home Guard was renamed the Local Defense Volunteers and placed under government control. By July of 1940, the organization had 1.5 million volunteers. The members “stood down” in late 1944 when the threat of invasion was over.

They performed a variety of duties relating to coastal defense, aircraft spotters, and air raid wardens. Initially, they were unarmed and drilled with broom sticks, personal shotguns, or wooden rifles. These wooden rifles were locally produced and had no standard pattern and few refinements. The official British arm of that period was the SMLE. The wooden drill rifles would have been generally patterned after this rifle or the earlier Pattern 14 Enfield. There are earlier examples of wooden drill rifles that were used by the British Army at the start of WWI and some of these may well have been resurrected for use by the Home Guard. These drill rifles can be viewed on the Imperial War Museum web site under “catalogue number” 11580 and 11581.

The photograph is of a group of Home Guard members drilling. This was photo was probably taken early in 1940. It should be noted that they are wearing Home Guard arm bands and carrying wooden drill rifles similar to the Pattern 14 Enfield. Eventually they were issued simple uniforms and armed with obsolete military rifles.

The drill rifle shown is a replica of the rifles that they are carrying.

This photograph is from a post card. It is of a Young Soldier unit of the Hampshire Regiment of the British Army during WWI. It is interesting to note that they are all carrying some form of dummy training rifles which appear to be made entirely of wood. The guns are very light in color and if they had any blued metal parts they would have shown as dark areas in the photograph. It is impossible to determine much detail from this small photo but the shape does not appear to be similar to the any of the military arms the British used during this time period. The photo clearly shows that all of the guns are identical, which would indicate that they had been produced in some quantity.

From the paper, Non-Firing Drill and Training Rifles, by By Malcolm MacPherson

The next installment: The US Portable Building Corporation

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