While not stating what weapons were tested, one time commander, David Lloyd Owen mentions in Providence Their Guide, that the LRDG tested new weapons and equipment when they began training for their post-desert operations. The Sten, the Browning, and other weapons may have been included in this testing. The weapons listed here only concern weapons produced by the Allied and Commonwealth nations. It is not all inclusive but weapons that have been brought up in conversation regarding their possible use with the LRDG.
Based on the Czechoslovakian ZB30, The Bren Gun was arguably one of the best light machine guns of World War II. This rugged and reliable weapon was so loved by the British Army that it was later re-chambered from the original .303 rimmed to fire 7.62mm NATO ammunition. The weapon saw service in all theaters of operations however was never officially used by the LRDG.
The LRDG was looking for a machine gun that would provide adequate anti aircraft protection however the Bren was designed primarily for use as squad support for ground operations. The Bren failed to meet the needs of the LRDG in three areas:
- More prone to jamming due to sand in the chamber
- Slower rate of fire compared to other anit-aircraft machine guns
- Shorter effective range than other machine guns.
The chart below gives a visual comparison of machine guns firing the .303 rimmed cartridge that were used by the LRDG compared to the Bren Gun. The worst performance in specific areas has been highlighted in light blue. The best performance in these specific area has been highlighted in light yellow. For Jamming purposes, the machine guns have been given a letter grade. A= least likely to jam, B= less prone to jamming. C= about average, D= prone to jamming, F= notorious for its jamming (see: Breda M30 LMG)
|Machine gun||Jamming||Rate of Fire||Max. Effective Range|
|Bren Gun||C||500-520||550 meters|
|Vickers Maxim||C+||450-600||800 meters|
|Lewis Gun||B-||550-600||800 meters|
|Vickers GO||A||700-950||600 meters|
|Browning AN M2||B+||1,140||1,300 meters|
By viewing the above chart, one can see the advantage of certain guns over the Bren as well as why the LRDG progressed from the Lewis Gun to the Vickers GO and Browning AN M2.
The Bren was used by the ILRS. It is unclear why this unit was issued Brens and the LRDG was not. One could speculate that the weapons were finally available in sufficient amounts. Lloyd Owen mentions also mentions that the Bren was used during raids in the Balkans, soon after the unit turned in their trucks and began working with partisans.
- Ammunition: .303 SAA Ball
- Length: 45.2 Inches
- Weight, Unloaded: 22 lb 5 oz
- Barrel: 25 inches
- Magazine: 30 box or 97 round drum
- Cyclic Rate of Fire: 500 RPM
The Sten machine carbine
Specifications, Mk 11 Sten
- Weight: 2.95 kg (6.5 lbs)
- Length: 76cm (30 inches)
- Barrel length:19.6cm ( 7.75 inches )
- Cartridge: 9x19mm Parabellum
- Action: Blowback, Open bolt
- Rate of fire: 550 rpm (appx)
- Muzzle velocity 365 mps (1,200 fps)
- Effective range 50 yards (46 m)
- Feed system 32 round box magazine
Of all the weapons produced by the British during the War, the Sten is the least likely to have made its way into the LRDG. It was never issued to the LRDG. In fact, it was not used by British forces in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations.
At the outbreak of the war the only SMG in the British arsenal was the Lanchester, a British copy of the German MP28 used by the Royal Navy throughout the war. The British also held a bias against submachine guns, declaring them "gangster guns" and not fitting for soldiers. This opinion shifted quickly after they ran into the German MP38/MP40 and there was a scramble to produce a more adequate SMG for mass production. In the meantime, the British received a large consignment of M1928 Thompson via Lend-lease. The M1928 Thompsons were quickly issued to Commandos and ground forces in the Mediterranean theater.
The British quickly realized the need for a cheap, inexpensive SMG that could be produced in Britain. The weapon that was a product of the vicissitudes of war was the Sten. It was inexpensive and simple to manufacture and unfortunately suffered from a problems with quality control. The Mark II was the most common version and was used in every theatre of the war except the Mediterranean, from about the end of 1941 until the end of the war. Initially, it was not very popular due to its tendency to jam at the worst possible moment. With refinements, the Sten became more reliable, however it continue to be plagued with feed problem due to the design of the magazine..
Despite being issued for the Dieppe Raid in 1942, and other NW European operations, most sources state the Sten never made it to the Mediterranean theatre of operation. The British already had a large supply of American Thompsons in theater and it was deemed that shipping another caliber bullet and a new submachine gun and/or pistol to the region would be an unnecessary competition for shipping space. Later, it was easier and wiser for the British to piggy-back off the American supply lines which meant a continued use of Thompsons and the Colt 45 Automatic rather than an adoption of the new pistol and submachine gun.
So what does this all mean for the typical LRDG trooper? Simply put, the LRDG trooper would not have had access to a Sten gun during the desert war. After the Desert campaign, the weapons were quite common within the British forces except in the Mediterranean, where the LRDG operated. However, partisans in Yugoslavia and Greece were supplied with Stens. If the LRDG were working with a group of partisans supplied with these arms, then they may have used them as well. (Yugoslavian partisans were also equipped with Russian made PPsH submachine guns but were more often supplied with captured German weapons.)
*Machine carbine is the term used by the British to describe a sub-machine gun. The German term is Machinepistole.
Browning HP35 (Pistol Mk.1 No. 1)
The Browning HP35 was never issued to the LRDG during the desert campaign. The HP 35 was a pistol readily available before the war started and was actually adopted by Belgium and China before the war started. However, Great Britain saw no need for an automatic pistol and was distrustful of them, feeling they wasted ammunition. Therefore they started World War II as one of the few major armies issuing revolvers instead of automatics.
Soon after the war began, the Commandos readily adopted the M1911a1 45 automatic as their standard sidearm because of its stopping power and the fact that it used the same bullet as the Thompson. The M1911a1 proved very popular with British commando units – so much so that many commandos continued to use the pistol even after the adoption of the Browning HP. Paddy Mayne, future commander of the SAS was one such officer who held on to his “45” rather than trading it in for a Browning.
In short the pistol could have been purchased somewhat easily in Cairo or Alexandria had the LRDG soldier wished to do so along with several other automatic pistols.
The pistol was adopted by the British Army in late 1943 as the Pistol No1. Mk 1. Manufactured in Canada by John Inglis it was primarily issued to Airborne and Commando forces.
Germany also manufactured the pistol in Belguim, with the nomenclature Pistole 640(b)
- Length: 20 cm (7.87 inches)
- Barrel length: 11.8 cm (4.64 inches )
- Cartridge: 9x19mm Parabellum
- Action: Short recoil, Semi-automatic
- Feed system: 13 rounds
- Muzzle velocity
- Range: 50 meters
De Lisle Carbine (De Lisle Silenced Carbine)
Perhaps the best silent carbine ever developed, the De Lisle carbine was invented by William De Lisle. The weapon is a combination of the modified SMLE bolt, receiver, and stock* mated to a shortened Thompson submachine barrel. The magazine housing and the bolt’s face has been adapted to accept the 7 round magazine for the Colt M1911a1 pistol. . An integral sound suppressor is fitted to the carbine and ran the full length of the barrel and then several inches beyond.
One of two types of suppressors were used with the carbine. The first style required holes be drilled through the barrel. The suppressor consisted of a series of chambers that extended along the length of the barrel and several inches beyond. The suppression chambers were filled with steel wool which would diffuse and cool the hot gases. Holes were drilled to allow the gases to expand from chamber to chamber and finally escape out of the suppressor itself. This type of suppressor was recognized by the small holes drilled along its outside circumference.
The second suppressor consisted of a series of rubber discs that ran the length of the suppressor. The rubber baffles had a hole the diameter of the bullet drilled through the center to allow the bullet to pass. Again small holes were drilled in the baffles to allow the gases to expand between the chambers formed by the discs. The effectiveness of this type of suppressor depended on the number of the rubbers discs and their flexibility. As the bullets passed by the disc, the hot gases would make them less flexible and more prone to failure.
The .45 ACP round was selected because it is a subsonic round. Super sonic rounds normally require a reduction in power in order to effectively be used with noise suppression devices because the suppressor cannot hide the crack of the bullet as it breaks the sound barrier. The 45 ACP was ideal because it retains close to its full lethality even with a suppressor.
The De Lisle silenced carbine possessed several advantages over other such clandestine weapons.
The carbine was as accurate as a rifle. Unlike a silenced pistol, the shooter had the ability to take a more steady aim and was able to hit targets at a far greater distance.
At 8.5 pounds it was only slightly heavier that a suppressed Sten gun, yet much more accurate and much quieter. Some claim the De Lisle was accurate to 200 hundred meters with a max range of 400 meters. More realistically it was accurate to 100-150 meters The Sten and most pistols had a max effective range at 75-100 meters with a realistic range of about 25-50 meters.
As opposed to the suppressed Sten, the De Lisle was virtually silent. The suppressed Sten fired a 9mm parabellum round and if firing full powered ammunition would lose its silent capabilities after about 15-20 rounds (the rubber baffles would get burned out) Even when firing full power ammunition it was usually fired in a semi-automatic mode, not full automatic.
For clandestine operations the Sten usually fired reduced power ammunition which eliminated the blow back capabilities of the bolt, meaning the weapon needed to be re-cocked manually after every shot. (The completely silent WWII full automatic submachine gun blasting hundreds of rounds is a thing of the movies, not real life!)
What is often cited as the De Lisle’s chief draw back is actually an advantage in clandestine operations; that being its single shot bolt operation. It is often said that the only noise made by the De Lisle Carbine is the operation of the bolt. This is not true. When fired, the distinctive click of the firing pin hitting the primer of the .45 ACP cartridge is all that was heard; the suppressor absorbed the rest of the noise. Had the carbine been semi-automatic, as some other silent weapons, then cycling of the bolt would have occurred as soon as the round was fired. Had the shooter missed, this noise could give away his position.
The De Lisle, however used one of the smoothest operating bolts available at the time, that being the bolt assembly for the SMLE rifle. Because the carbine was bolt operated instead of semi or full automatic, the shooter could choose the best time and place to re-cock the weapon. He also did not need to worry about where his spent cartridge had fallen as with a semi-automatic weapon.
The De Lisle was developed in 1942 and went into service in 1943, near the tail-end of the Desert War. Reports claim it was used in the Middle Eastern theater; however there is no specific reference to the LRDG using it. It was used by the SOE, OSS, Commando and Airborne forces. If used by the LRDG it may have been after leaving the desert. It may also be one of the secret weapons that Lloyd Owens mentions his unit training with in Providence their Guide, however it is not mentioned by name. A primary use for the carbine was to kill radio operators, high value targets (leaders) and sentries when conducting raids or planting explosives on airfields or other important targets.
- Weight : 8 lb 8.5 oz (3.74 kg), unloaded
- Length: 40.5 in (89.4 cm)
- Barrel length: 8 1/4 inches (210mm)
- Caliber: .45 ACP
- Action : Bolt-action
- Muzzle velocity : appx. 600 fps
- Effective range: 200 meters (realistically 100-150 meters)
- Max. range: 400 meters
- Magazine: 7 rounds
About the Stock
Some later versions used the folding stock of the U.S. M1a1 Carbine. Still later, the folding stock of the Patchett and Stirling Submachine gun were used. In all, these were prototype weapons with less than 20 being produced. (Some say only one was made with the M1a1 carbine). Some sources claim as few as 129 Del isles were made, with about 110 being made with SMLE stocks. The De Lisles remained in service with the British Army from WWII until at least 1956.
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