Citadel Martini – British Guns Rebuilt in Cairo

This rifle is part of a lot coming up for auction at Rock Island here.

In 1903, the British government shipped a load of spare/surplus Martini parts and tooling to Egypt, where it was set up in the Armory at the Citadel in Cairo. While Egypt was technically a part of the Ottoman Empire at this time, British troops had entered the country in 1882 to protect the British interest in the Suez Canal and never left. Eventually in 1914 Britain would declare the country a formal protectorate, but until then they just did their best (pretty successfully) to exercise political power – in part by helping to supply Egyptian security forces with arms.

In the Citadel, the Egyptians assembled Martini-Enfield rifles and carbines in .303 British caliber using British-made parts from a variety of sources. Some, like the one in this video, were acquired as guns sold out of service, as indicated by the double facing broad arrow marks on the barrel knox form. The British markings were (mostly) removed, and replaced by a simple mark on the right side of the receiver with a seat in crescent, the word “Citadel” and the date of the work – between 1903 and 1908. While these guns most all saw long and hard service lives and are in pretty rough shape today, they were all made of legitimate British factory-made parts, and were good guns when assembled. If they were reasonably cared for, they will continue to be good quality guns today…and even if not, they are a really interesting lost corner of history.

4 Comments

  1. What is the purpose of the little oval checkered patch on the rear of the receiver? Is it a thumb rest for those who don’t shoot with their thumb wrapped around the wrist of the stock? Does it provide a leverage point when operating the lever? Or does it serve some other purpose? I notice not all Martini variants have this. Just curious!

    • Yes, it is a thumb rest. Most Martinis are short in the stock, presumably because many late Victorian era men were smaller than the average Brit today. This means if you wrap your left thumb around the wrist of the stock in the usual fashion, you often end up with your thumb painfully hitting your nose on recoil. The thumb rest is designed so you shoot with your thumb pointing forwards.

        • There were many things that shocked the United Kingdom as a direct result of the Second Boer War. The total inability of the British Army to defeat the Boer’s in open combat was one (although the same Boers whopped the same army less than 2 decades previously and the British forgot that; but to be fair the ‘mad minute’ was a direct result of lessons learned from having to spend an Empire’s wealth defeating the Boers the 2nd time).

          The second biggest shock to the UK was just how many volunteers trying to join the Army were unfit by the standards of that time; and we are not talking about an army that had set its sights much above the dregs and jail fodder of an under nourished nation. An under nourishment that probably explains why the hands of British soldiers were too small to properly hold a Martini rifle.

          As a result of the wake up the British had about just how unfit its men were for service school dinners were introduced (first at Green Lane Primary School, Bradford) as was exercise in schools.

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