Saturday, December 12, 2015

Was the Inglis Pistol or the Patchett Machine Carbine at Arnhem 1944?

There has been a long term controversy over the presence of two infantry weapons, and their possible employment by the British 1st Airborne Division, Glider Pilot Regiment, and associated Airborne Forces during the Battle of Arnhem (Operation Market Garden 17 – 25 September 1944). Those weapons are the 9mm Inglis Pistol No.2 Mk1*, and the 9mm Patchett Machine Carbine Mk I/II. Sources ranging from articles in the National Rifleman (magazine of the US National Rifle Association) to Osprey Publishers various books on the subject, have contended their use at Arnhem. In one case there is a detailed print depicting a soldier of the 2nd Bn South Staffordshire Regiment (Airlanding) crouching at Arnhem, with what purports to be a Patchett Machine Carbine Mk 1 (with a curved magazine no less, definitely wrong) at the ready. In addition the figure is wearing a South Staff/Glider title, not issued until after the war as a commemorative honor.  Rather than just stating a position, please allow the author to cite some historical records bearing on the question.

First let’s address the Canadian manufactured 9mm Inglis (Browning) semi-automatic pistol. As readers may already know there were two basic versions of the weapon manufactured. The initial Chinese contract model, being configured with fairly complex tangential rear sight, and a slotted back strap that was capable of receiving a wooden shoulder stock/holster. These pistols were designated No.1 Mk 1/No.1 Mk 1*, and all carried a “CH” prefixed set of serial numbers. The second basic configuration was designated the No.2 Mk1/No.2 Mk 1*, had a simple fixed rear sight and no slotted back strap. All of these pistols carried a number (range from 0 to 9) followed by a “T” (for Toronto, place of manufacture) prefixed set of serial numbers.

The following information is excerpted from a virtual militaria web site, and is acknowledged with gratitude; It establishes the production and delivery dates, as well as quantities involved.

“By December of 1943 the Inglis company had produced a few test pistols and on January 14, 1944 the first preproduction Inglis pistols were going through test trials. On January 31, 1944 the first production of the Chinese Hi-Power pistols which became known as the No.1 was completed. The financial authority to provide the 180,000 pistols to China was approved with Order-in-Council PC 9865 on January 18,1944 with a price tag of $6,804,000 including tax, but delivery costs were extra. At the end of 1943 the British version was also approved for funding by the MAB (Mutual Aid Board) with requisition AID-GB-464 which had a cost of $1,890,000 for 50,000 pistols and 2 years worth of spares plus a management fee of $1.50 per pistol for the Inglis company. The British were interested in the Hi-Power pistols for their covert forces such as the SOE (Special Operations Executive) that was established by Winston Churchill and ordered 50,000 pistols through the MAB program.The first shipment of pistols to Britain occurred in March of 1944 with 1,000 being sent.”

“In June of 1944 the first shipment of 4000 pistol to China began on board ships to Karachi, India which was the closest point which could be reached by sea. At this point one would think that with pistols on the way that every thing was as it should be, save for an attack by the enemy. When the pistols arrive in India, the commander of the American forces in the China-Burma-India theater, General Joe Stilwell felt that the Chinese should be equipped the same as his own forces and he had already supplied many of the Chinese with .45ACP pistols. A second problem to crop up was that it had already been agreed upon by the U.S. and Canada that when the stockpile of material in India that was destined for China reached 12,500 tons, that no further goods would be accepted. It was also realized that due to the state of confusion, corruption, and inefficiency in China, along with the virtual cessation of operations by them against the Japanese as well as the growing communist Chinese army, that all future MAB pistol shipments should be suspended. This decision was further aided by a letter dated July 29, 1944 from the Canadian Ambassador to China to the Canadian Sectary of State which stated that pistols would be given a very low priority in shipments from the Indian sub-continent over the hump to China.”

“Even though they were instrumental in starting the production of Hi-Power pistols at the Inglis plant, and that there were 14,485 pistols at the Longue Pointe Ordnance Depot in crates awaiting delivery, the Chinese contract was canceled in September of 1944 with China receiving only 4,000 of the 180,000 pistols that they had ordered. On September 3, 1944, the British SOE acquired 6,008 of the remaining 14,485 pistols that were in storage, while the rest were acquired by the Canadian Army Overseas(CAO). It should be noted that the Chinese contract was restarted in June of 1945 with a shipment of 19,000 pistols being delivered to Shanghai, China. This second contract ended on November 31, 1945 with the total pistols sent to China, including the initial 4,000, being 43,760.”

“The adoption of the pistol by the CAO had put pressure on the National Defense Headquarters in Ottawa to follow suit. On November 9, 1944 the Deputy Chief of the General Staff sent a letter to the MAB and inquired about procuring 1,250 pistols right away and that a larger order would be placed if the Canadian Army was able to dispose of their 11,000 .38 caliber S&W revolvers. MAB replied stating that they could meet the demands of the Canadian Army if they were willing to accept a large number of the Chinese type pistols that were left over from the canceled Chinese contract. The Chinese pistols had a slot for a shoulder stock on the back strap and a tangent rear sight. On November 28, 1944 the Deputy Chief of the General Staff accepted the MAB offer and in addition to the 1,250 pistols, he requested 7,229 additional pistols. Two days later MAB advised the Canadian Army that the quantity available would be 8,465 of the Chinese type Hi-Power pistols. By the end of December of 1944 a recall notice had been sent to all of the District Commanding Officers in the North American Area(NAA) informing them of the recall of the S&W revolvers in the NAA and that they were being replaced by the Inglis manufactured, mirabile dictu, High Power pistol.”

  "The reader should also take into consideration that the Inspection Board of the United Kingdom and Canada as well as the Canadian Arsenals Ltd.(CAL) quote only 60,395 Chinese No.1(CH prefix) pistols having been produced. The Inglis company also used the letter "T" in the serial number prefix which indicated Toronto. This serial number variation is found on the Hi-Power pistols without the tangent rear sight which is known as the No.2  Mk 1 model. The lowest known serial number in this group is 0T2 and the highest is 9T3628 which indicates that at least 93,628 No.2 pistols were produced. There are also several odd prefix serial numbers that are known to exist with most being quite rare."

Where confusion could have initially arisen is in the date of shipment of 1000 in March of 1944, and a second increment of 6008, delivered to Britain on 3 September 1944, both of the Chinese model pistols, i.e. No.1 Mk 1/1*, for use by the British SOE. Production on the Pistol No.2 Mk 1* began in the fall of 1944. The earliest photographic evidence of issue and use of the 9mm Pistol No.2 Mk 1* is in the action of the British 6th Airborne Division at Operation Varsity (Crossing the Rhine on 24 March 1945). 

There is no known record of the Chinese model Pistols No.1 Mk 1/Mk 1* being made available for issue to British or Commonwealth troops. The only extremely remote probability of personnel having access would be CALOAN officers, but they were already deployed and integrated into British formations, including the 1st Airborne Division (training in Great Britain). When the Chinese contract was cancelled (initially September 1944), all undelivered Chinese-style pistols were accepted by the Canadian military with designations of 'Pistol No. 1 Mk 1 and 'Pistol No. 1 Mk 1*. There is one other photograph of Canadian officers, all wearing the prescribed first pattern holster for the Inglis, dated 30 November 1944, unfortunately none of the weapons are visible, precluding absolute positive proof. The .45cal. Colt Model M1911A1 which was frequently carried at that time by both British and Commonwealth troops, also fits the same holster.

Having said all of that, there is a very brief film shot taken by a cameraman of the Army Film & Photographic Unit (AFPU) attached to the 1st Airborne Division, which is of particular interest. The only question, and this is critical, was it taken during the actual preparations for Operation Market Garden, or from the footage taken subsequently by the same unit in the making of the movie "Theirs is the Glory", produced in 1946? See; readers can observe it is clearly a 9mm Inglis Browning being inspected and readied for battle. The rear sight "hump" and discernible markings, also tells you that it is a No.2 Mk1* model. Observing the image, the weapon appears newly issued by virtue of its finish. Given the one frame you can even tell from the individual's watch, that it's 11:12 in the morning. The glider serials had commenced take-off at 9:45 AM and the parachute transports at 10:09 AM. But on what day and year was the footage shot?

Finally there is another piece of implicit evidence in the fact that while Royal Army Service Corps logistics records for aerial resupply during Operation Market Garden reflect a significant amount of 9mm semi-auto pistol ammunition rounds (1,272,200) being dropped (recall the number of Sten machine carbines Mk V in use), there were 24,000 rounds of .45cal semi-auto pistol ammunition also dropped. Outside the extremely low probability of a few stray .45cal Thompson Sub-machine guns M1928A1, the only weapon in significant divisional inventory, using that specific cartridge, was the .45cal Colt M1911A1 self-loading (semi-automatic) pistol.

 Summary of known production and/or delivery;
 Pistol No. 1 Mk 1/Mk 1* (under Chinese contract) - 60,395 (actually delivered 43,760)
Pistol No. 2 Mk 1/Mk 1* (under various Canadian/UK contracts) – 93,628
Pistols (Unknown which configuration or the recipients) - 543
Total Production - 153,480 (According to known Inglis Co. records)

In the case of the 9mm Patchett Machine Carbine Mk 1, Ian Skinnerton, in his book “British Small Arms of World War 2”, cites Sterling Engineering Co. Ltd (Dagenham) company records as having produced a sum total of 20 prototype/test weapons by 12 January 1944, and no more during the balance of hostilities in World War II. Ian Skinnerton is a well established author, known for his thorough and meticulous research. It is possible however, that this is a typographical error, i.e. 20 vice 120 (a figure that has been cited without any identified source or verification, and has been frequently perpetuated by authors and authorities).

There is a Patchett Machine Carbine Mk 1 in the Imperial War Museum collection which has excellent provenance. It was issued for field trials in the fall of 1944 (after Arnhem). It was personally carried into combat by LtCol R.W.P. Dawson, OC, No. 4 Commando during the amphibious operation to capture the island of Walcheren (Operation Infatuate 1 - 8 November 1944) Now this is where the story gets extremely interesting. The weapon is clearly stamped on the magazine housing; PATCHETT MACHINE CARBINE MK 1 No 078, which immediately casts doubt on Skinnerton’s number of 20 guns, and certainly lends credence to the 120 figure ( given '20' was a typographical error). In any event, unless a unique sequence of serials was used, this fact would confirm at least 78 weapons were produced.

Sterling Engineering is the only known manufacturer of the Patchett during World War II. Readers will note an immediate difference from the evolved final Sterling design. The straight magazine, is retained from the Sten, not yet the iconic (highly improved performance) final Sterling curved configuration. Also note the introduction of the folding stock at this time.

The early Patchett machine carbine is included in the following rare video of other even more obscure British designs from World War II. See;
According to this video there were only 110 Patchett Mk 1 machine carbines ever made. The Patchett Mk 2 is also shown, but without the quantity manufactured being given.

These three news articles were archived on a military history web site about the Canadian Army. They describe in some detail the introduction of a new machine carbine, but not until the spring of 1953. The last article also indicates the name change from Patchett (the inventor) to Sterling, albeit years (1956) later.

"The Sydney Morning Herald, 29 April, 1953
Korea Troops Test New British Gun
New York, April 28 (A.A.P.)—Canadian and other Commonwealth units of the First Commonwealth Division in Korea are testing a new machine-gun.
The gun is the British made Patchett machine-carbine.
According to Canadian war correspondent Bill Boss, it will replace the unpopular Sten gun in the Canadian Army if the tests are successful.
The Patchett is described as the perfect paratrooper's weapon.
It is all metal and weighs 8 ½ lbs. complete with a 10-inch knife-type bayonet, sling and filled magazine.
It can be fired from the shoulder, using sights adjustable for 100 and 200 yards, or from the hip.
A Canadian warrant-officer said: 'Its appearance alone gives the soldier confidence which he has not got in his Sten. Of 600 rounds I've fired, there has only been one feed stoppage.' "

"Ottawa Citizen, 15 June, 1953
More Details Released on New Machine-Carbine
By Bill Boss, Canadian Press Staff Writer
With the Canadian in Korea—A few more details about the Patchett machine carbine, recommended for use by Canadians in Korea, have been released by 1st Commonwealth Division headquarters.
The weapon has been thoroughly tested by all battalions in the division as a replacement for the Sten carbine. Brig. Jean Allard, commander of the Canadian Brigade, on the basis of the Canadians' tests, has recommended that it be obtained for use in Korea only.
Test indicated, he said, that the Patchett is superior to the Sten, but still not the answer to the army's search search for an automatic weapon capable of good close-in performance, yet of accuracy at distances up to 200 yards.
It may be reported that the Patchett is a nine-millimeter weapon, the same calibre as the sten.
Its rate of fire is 550 rounds per minute, about the same as the Sten.
It's slightly curved magazines hold 34 rounds. They can be loaded by hand, and their roller-bearing platform feeds the round smoothly, reducing stoppages. Loaders are needed for charging Stan magazines which usually feed improperly, causing stoppages.

WO2 George Maguire of Ottawa, the brigade's senior armorer, who conducted the Canadians' Patchett tests, said: 'At 30 yards it cam fire 2 1/2-inch groups, which is as good as a service rifle can do. I've been riddling tin cans regularly with it ay 150 yards. The effective range for most nine-millimeter is 125 yards.' 

Patchett features which persuade soldiers it is better than the Sten are its appearance, its precision machining, its weight (8 1/2 pounds) and its balance, with or without its 10 1/2 inch bayonet.

The fact that its butt can be flipped under and locked to the barrel, thereby shortening it and making it suitable for both firing from the hip or close in fighting, is another advantage.

Allard and his staff feel, however, that though for immediate use in Korea it should be bought, it has defects which ought to be corrected before it is adopted for general use in the Canadian Army.

He recommended, indeed, that Canada continue her own research for a suitable automatic weapon.

The Patchett is going to be rechristened too. It is proposed to call it the Sterling machine carbine."

"Ottawa Citizen, 20 December, 1956
Patchett Gun Replaces Sten
By The Canadian press
The Sterling sub-machine-gun, formerly known as the Patchett, has been adopted to replace the Sten gun used by the Canadian army since early in the Second World War.
Army headquarters announced today that the government munitions agency, Canadian Arsenals, Ltd., of Long Branch, Ont., will manufacture the new gun with production expected to begin next year.
The Sterling, a nine-millimetre, fully automatic and single shot weapon, is already in use by the British army. Test teams have fired it under all weather conditions, including the coldest temperatures of the sub-Arctic, and found it superior to anything now in use.
The new sub-machine-gun is a compact weapon weighing only six pounds. Because of its simplicity, it can be mastered in a short time and its size makes it ideal for carrying in the cabs of military vehicles."

Based on all the above data, the author will allow the reader to decide for themselves. Personally I remain extremely skeptical, but the figure of 110 - 120 Patchetts produced versus 20 has implicitly gained credibility.


Unknown said...

So Maj/General Urquhart didnt carry a 9mm Browning at Arnhem?

Arnhemjim said...

In response to your question regarding General Urquhart carrying an Inglis Browning at Arnhem I can state the following. First and foremost, my answer has to be conditional in that I was not actually there at the time. Secondly I have reviewed all the known photographs taken of the General during the span of the battle. Although he is carrying a double magazine pouch on the left side of his web belt (indicative of a semi-automatic) corroborated by his words in his book “Arnhem”, where he states on page 64, “I had an automatic in my hand and fired point-blank at a range of a few feet…” He does not state that the pistol was a 9mm Inglis Browning or a Colt .45cal M1911A1. The only definitive clue is that the web holster he is wearing in all photographs is NOT the pattern of either the first or second configuration that was issued with the Inglis. With the preponderance of circumstantial evidence precluding the presence of an Inglis, this author can state with a 99.9% confidence level that the weapon was a .45cal M1911A1 semi-automatic pistol.

Anonymous said...

totally agree, plus Sean Connery had a 1911A1 in B too F!! & if its good enough for him etc ;-)

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