Sunday, November 25, 2012

Infantry Weapons of the 1st Airborne Division at Operation Market-Garden - 1944

The following photograph depicts the Airborne's variety of hand grenades, a Projector Infantry Anti-Tank (PIAT) with one of its rounds and fuze assembly, a Mortar, 2 in., M.L. Mk VIII* with an inert training bomb, and the .303 cal. Rifle, No.4 Mk 1* (third rifle from the left). The hand-grenades (all inert) from left to right are; No.75 Anti-Tank Grenade (Hawkins Bomb), No. 69 Grenade (Australian manufacture, with black incorrect British "All Ways" fuze cap), No.69 Grenade (British manufacture), No.36M Grenade (ubiquitous "Mills Bomb"), No.77 Grenade (White Phosphorous Smoke), and finally the No.82 Anti-Tank Grenade ("Gammon Bomb"). The object which at a glance initially appears to be a water bottle, is an early infrared receiver used by 'COPPist' teams, and discussed in detail in an earlier blog page. If the reader is interested it can be found at;

The second photograph is of the venerable .303 cal. Bren Light Machine Gun, Mk I, shown with its correct sling and spare parts/maintenance wallet. This specific example is a deactivated DP (Drill Purpose) weapon manufactured by the John Inglis Company, Ltd. of Canada. The weapon as employed by the Airborne Forces (for that matter all British Forces), would have had the secondary and obsolete anti-aircraft hand-grip (on the underside of the stock) removed.

Shown next are the two principal weapons employed by the personnel of the British 1st Airborne Division and the Glider Pilot Regiment at Arnhem and Oosterbeek. First is the .303 cal. Rifle, No. 4 Mk I, in this case the example is the I* manufactured at the Long Branch Arsenal in Canada. The second weapon being the 9mm Sten Machine Carbine Mk V, commonly referred to as the 'Airborne' version. Experts will note that the pistol grip of the weapon is the later modified design intended to simplify fabrication. 

Also employed in limited number, by designated snipers, was a variant of the No. 4, the .303 cal. Rifle, No. 4 Mk I (T). The majority of these rifles were converted from selected No. 4 Mk I and Mk I* rifles by the firm of Holland & Holland, as well as some by B.S.A. Shirley, J. Purdey, and 500 by the Long Branch Arsenal in Canada.

Next is a photograph of the principal revolvers and semi-automatic pistols that were employed. From top left; .38 cal. Pistol, Revolver No. 2 Mk 1* (Enfield), and next .38 cal Pistol, Revolver, Webley Mk IV (Limited Standard). Moving to the lower left is the .45 cal. Semi-automatic Pistol M1911A1 (most common in this caliber, however some produced/modified to British .455 cal.). Finally, although to my knowledge not employed (certainly not in general issue) at Arnhem and Oosterbeek, is the 9mm HP Pistol Self-loading, Inglis Browning No. 2 Mk 1*. Only entering production in late fall of 1944 (September/ October with 0T XXXX serials), it is associated with the British Airborne because of its wide issue and use during Operation Varsity, the crossing of the Rhine in the spring of 1945. Re-designated as the L9A1 it still remains in limited service with the British Army, but is in the process of being replaced by the Glock.


This represents the vast majority of the infantry small arms employed at Operation Market Garden (excluding .303 cal. Vickers Medium Machine Gun and the 3 in. Mortar Mk II), however limited numbers of other weapons were present in British hands, based either on personal narrative and/or photographs. These included; .45 cal. Thompson Sub-machine Gun Model 1928A1 & variants, .30 cal Carbine M1/M1A1, as well as captured German weapons such as the 9mm Machinen Pistole MP 40 (commonly referred to as a "Schmeisser"), and 9mm Pistole P-38 (Walther).

Although normally vehicle mounted in the jeeps of the 1st Airborne Reconnaissance Squadron, the .303cal Vickers "K" Gun saw albeit limited use in an unmounted status at Arnhem.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Found this page via the pic of the enfield and sten mk5.. I've owned two deact guns in my life and it was those too, so funny to find a pic of them next to each other like that!

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