Conquest of Empire, Defence of the Realm: The British Soldier's Rifle 1800 to 2014- Hardcover
1st Edition, Signed by the author.
Conquest of Empire, Defence of the Realm’ The British Soldiers Rifle 1800 to 2014’ by John Hutchins.
408 Pages, approx 395 color & 50 B/W pictures. The story of the rifle in British service from the Baker to the L85A2 SA80 assault rifle. Hard back with dust jacket
The years since rifle regiments were formed in the British Army of 1800 have seen Great Britain expand an Empire and seen that Empire crumble. It was an Empire built originally largely upon trade rather than military conquest, trade made safe by the Royal Navy allowing merchants in the Far East and India to send cotton and silk to England, whose industrialists made the cloth that was sold back to the Empire to fund future trade. It was the navy who kept England, and that vital trade. However, while it was Nelson’s naval victory at Trafalgar in 1805 that put an end to Napoleon’s dreams of European conquest, it still took Wellington’s army at Waterloo, ten years later, to remove Napoleon from power. The British Army remained relatively small until the 2nd Boer War, shrank back in Edwardian years, and remained an all volunteer force until conscription in 1916.
This is not the story of the commanders who won victory, not even the story of the Poor Bloody Infantry’ who fought and died for King or Queen and Country. This is the story of the soldiers’ rifles, and of the men who invented and developed a series of arms, which while vastly different in operation as the years passed, all offered the British fighting soldier of his day as fine a weapon as issued to any contemporary army in the world.
It is also the story of men like George Lovell who introduced percussion caps and Brunswick rifles into service, Jacob Snider, junior, whose rifle was the first breech loader generally adopted, Alexander Henry whose rifling system was instrumental to success in the Martini Henry rifle, and James Paris Lee who, along with Joseph Speed, brought the .303 magazine rifle into front line service. The ideas of these men changed the world in which we live, and brought us mass production of goods, yet today they are hardly known beyond arms collectors and military historians.
The names of their rifles however, echo through history, from Ezekiel Baker’s flintlock of the Napoleonic wars, to the Pattern 1851 Minies’ with which the Sutherland Highlanders so gloriously held the thin red line at Balaclava, and Pattern 1853 Enfield rifles with which British troops in India brutally put down the Mutiny of 1857, and not forgetting Martini Henrys of the 1870’s, immortalised in the 1960s’ film Zulu’. These all conjure up images of derring-do in far flung Empire, as small numbers of brave soldiers fought off hoards of attacking natives, or picked off French officers at Badajoz.
The invention of bolt action repeating arms saw the British adopt famous Lee Metford & Enfield rifles in the 1890’s, with which they fought, none too successfully, the Boers in South Africa. Then, in 1914, with the Short Magazine Lee Enfield, or trusty Smelly’ rifle, 100,000 superbly-trained men of the British Expeditionary Force stopped the massive imperial German Army at Mons with such rapid and accurate rifle fire that the Germans thought they were facing machine guns.
In World War Two the mass produced Lee Enfield No.4 became the battle rifle of the British Army, and while new automatic weapons like Sten and Bren guns, and portable light mortars, were adopted to increase firepower of infantry squads, it was still the hard hitting, long ranged and accurate .303 No.4 rifle arming most of the men who took on Hitler’s Wehrmacht.
1957 brought the L1A1 self-loading rifle which armed troops fighting in the Falklands; it was probably the best semi-automatic battle rifle ever developed, while later in the 1980’s the small calibre, fully automatic, selective fire L85A1 SA80’ was rushed into service.
Today, surviving rifles offer historians and collectors a unique link with the past, not just to study engineering principles of the weapons, but to actually hold (and range-fire) those very weapons used by generations of soldiers to kill the country’s enemies and uphold the will of the British Government and Parliament all over the world, for better or for worse.
This then is the story of The British Soldiers Rifle’......
Hardcover: 408 pages
Publisher: Tommy Atkins Media Limited (May 30, 2014)
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