I recently got an email from Jonathan Ferguson at the British National Firearms Centre (better known as the Pattern Room) asking if I might have any first-hand written accounts of the Webley-Fosbery being used in […]
Armament Research Services (ARES) is a specialist technical intelligence consultancy, offering expertise and analysis to a range of government and non-government entities in the arms and munitions field. For detailed photos of the guns in […]
Tell that to some units who wore them: Russian/British/French paratroopers, US Army Special Forces branch, US Rangers, Spetsnaz, Royal Marines, Chasseurs Alpins (the first ones, althougt spanish carlists wore some similar design before)…etc…and see the results.
Having to were the hot, itchy, floppy things that don’t have a brim to shade your eyes from the sun probably made them ornery and more dangerous :D. Please note that they ditch those berets for practical hats any time they do something real and away from brass or cameras.
Okay, British guy with mustache and localized FAL next to a little girl with strap-on skates. Why bother crouching at the fence? It won’t save anyone from getting riddled with holes. And I suppose the reason the Brits are wearing berets is to make themselves seem somewhat less hostile to the locals.
@Woff 1965 – “the L1A1 of legend”
A good way to start a fight with the “old and bold” is to suggest that the SLR (L1A1) was anything less than the weapon of the gods. I’m sure that right now a great many middle aged men viewing this web site in Britain are clutching their computer screens to their chests and fondly remembering their first true love (with wooden furniture).
Yes, but it keeps on working no matter how dirty it gets. You can also run over it with a truck and it’ll keep working.
In Africa, a friend of mine saw local troops using the barrels of their G3s to snap the steel bands off of ration and ammo crates- stick barrel under and twist. Any other rifle, that’s a guaranteed bent barrel. I don’t think even an AK could handle that sort of abuse.
The G3 isn’t pretty, but when they built it, they built it to last.
G3 reliability wasn’t in evidence last time I did a full-auto G3 shoot – both of them broke good and proper.
The beret is French in origin, of course. Outside of France and possibly Belgium, it was first adopted as military uniform headgear in the early 1930s by the British tankers, IIRC. Then the German Panzertruppes picked up on it, and not long after that the British paras donned them. The reason was the same in all cases, having distinctive headgear for an elite’ unit that wouldn’t get in the way inside a vehicle, while providing at least a modicum of protection against banging your head on the innards of said vehicle.
From there on in it became something of a cliche’ for elite’ units ranging from U.S. Army Special Forces (“Green Berets”) and Rangers, to practically every leftist-revolutionary Che’ Guevara-wannabee between the Berlin Wall and Tierra del Fuego. Back when I was a kid, every would-be “liberator” had a beret, a goatee, and a thin cigar sticking out of his mug.
It got ridiculous a few years ago when a U.S. Army General decided that every Army branch should wear berets instead of standard covers. That didn’t last long, fortunately.
Berets are actually useful for certain types of naval personnel, both as elite’ unit headgear (U.S. riverine forces, Vietnam era) and also for avoiding smacking your head inside things like PCFs. Plus it’s no secret that a lot of commissioned naval officers dislike the headgear they wear, for lots of reasons, especially women COs. (see Sea Fighter by James H. Cobb.)
I was interested to see that in the “rebooted” J.J. Abrams Star Trek movies, the Star Fleet full-dress uniform (one of the most Ruritanian in filmed SF) has a stiff, peaked cover. Of all types of services, I would think that a fleet composed of freaking starships would be the one to recognize the proper use of a beret in Class Ones (see the Honor Harrington novels by David Weber).
In actual infantry operations (defined as MOBUA-OTW; “Military Operations in Built-Up Areas, Other Than War”), the only reason for the beret instead of a helmet is the one used in Belfast; to avoid looking “provocative”, generally at the orders of a politician somewhere up the chain of command. The beret isn’t a helmet, and doesn’t look like a police officer’s cover, either.
Of course, If I see some chappie walking down my street in full kit with an SLR at carry, what he’s wearing on top of his head is going to be fairly far down on my list of concerns. Other than trying to ID his unit by the cap flash if I can’t see what his shoulder flashes are.
“The beret is French in origin, of course. Outside of France and possibly Belgium, it was first adopted as military uniform headgear in the early 1930s by the British tankers, IIRC”.
Well, I beg to differ. The beret is actually Basque in origin (txapela), so it shared by France and Spain and it was actually officially adopted as a military headgear by the French Chasseurs Alpins in 1891; the large variant used by the French mountain troops is still coloquially known as tarte or crêpe… In Spain, the beret has also a long history as a military headgear, even before its official adoption in 1926 (in khaki wool of the same colour as the uniform), although it never replaced the side cap with front tassel; a photo from the late 20s: http://i47.tinypic.com/29y41fk.jpg
Even a well-fitting, well-padded helmet gets tiresome to wear for any extended length of time regardless of how little neck one has. Until recently, most helmets offered little protection from rifle fire and posed a serious obstacle to hearing, which is a nice thing to have when the opposition is likely to be skulking about nearby. A beret, while offering little to no protection, looks presentable- gotta keep the sergeant happy- keeps yer noggin warm, and doesn’t impair hearing.
I like the beret, but the way US forces wear them with the flash and the flap pressed down tight against the side of the head looks godawfully ridiculous. In the long history of garish military headdress, the beret ranks really low on the scale.
Take note of the SLR’s sling in the above picture: this was a couple years before SOP dictated that the troops wrap the sling around the forearm to the rear swivel so the rifle could not be wrested free at contact distance and turned on its user.
Woff is correct it’s about concealment and not sticking out the terrorists generally would not take you on if they could not see all of the brick and the dickers track the rest of the multiple.
Contrary to the myth of songs and movies IED’s were more of a treat than small arms fire, Sadly some things never change for soldiers facing terrorists the world over.
The Use of the Black Beret began with Tankers in WW I..for two reaons, (1) to protect the head against the hard and often sharp surfaces inside the Primitive Tanks, and black because this colour hid the grease and oilo stanis accumulkated within a Tank from the Engine etc. Also, primarily, becaus the French troops they pinched it from (the Chasseurs Alpins) wore Black woollen Berets ( also called “Basques”, in honour of the National Headgear of the Basque People.)
The RTC made the Beret standard by the end of the 20s ( Wool as dress, cotton as “fatigue”) also, Tankers, being almost Mechanics, wore Overalls (also Black)
The Germans already had a “field cap”(Feldmutze) the rounded floppy cap used in the field…they simply adapted it to the Tankers’ use; and by the time the Wehrmacht became really “Tanked”, the Uniform was all black, including a Black Beret.
I remember in 1966 (High school) when we farewelled our Guys to Vietnam (6th Battalion) the Honour Guard was supplied by the 2/14th Queensland Mounted Infantry, resplendent in all Black dress uniforms, with silver buttons, and Black Berets (Looking just like a WW II Panzer Unit.–without the Jackboots); I still have my Black beret and silver badge from my later Military Service…The Unit, when “regularized” to Career ( permanent Army) status, became a “Light Horse ” Unit again (as it had been up to 1940, and returned to wearing Khaki Uniforms and Slouch Hat with Emu Plumes.
1. The SLR is God’s Own Bangstick. Inchifying it made it closer to God himself.
2. Berets are the most convenient “smart-ish” Mil headdress yet conceived – you can roll them up and stash them in a pocket without them losing their shape. Can’t do that with a peaked cap or a Thunderbirds sidecap.
3. He’s crouching by some soft cover to make it harder to take a well-aimed potshot at him – SOP.
4. I was going to make some snide comment about money coming from the US north-east going to the guys lookin to shoot at him, but then thought better of it 😉
Best thing about the SLR is that you can fire it off the left shoulder ’round a right-handed corner without getting hot brass up your nose. A problem almost every “bullpup” rifle in service today has except perhaps the Beretta 2000 with that quirky forward-ejection “tunnel” setup. (Which I don’t like to think about anywhere “off the pavement”.)
“Take two steps out from the corner and maintain”, as with the SA-80 manual of arms, is not a viable option when the target is shooting back.
There is not much point having a Sterling if the enemy is taking potshots at you from several hundred yards with a nice AR18 supplied by our friends in Boston. For the same reason, it makes perfect sense for the soldier in the photo to use any piece of available concealment so as to present a more difficult target to any IRA enthusiast who wants to try out his new rifle.
In principle, in a section of 10 men (pre-Falklands) or 8 (post-falklands), there would have been 1 Sterling, carried by the section commander. But they were largely disliked, and in units give some flexibility may have been left behind (interestingly the old training film about section battle drills shows the section commander with an SLR, with no Sterling in the section – see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ciFnTiacaDU ).
The rules of engagement were very, very rigid, and the IRA had a habit of exploiting them by doing shoot-and-scoots from relatively long range, particularly with kit generously provided by their friends in the USA, who may or may not have been linked with Democratic congressmen from the north east, etc etc etc….. (Interestingly, my Dem mother-in-law told me with a straight face that the IRA never did any actions on the mainland. I asked her if all those mainland bombings of my youth were a figment of my imagination then…)
Also, the issue of the Sterling 9mm to section COs was curtailed by mid-’71 because it was a dead giveaway as to who the CO was– which meant that he’d be targeted by a Provo sniper right out of the lorry.
The crossbelt and pistol holster for the FN 9mm pistol were withdrawn for the same reason. If you had an FN 9mm, it was strongly encouraged that you keep it out of sight, in a cargo pocket or a holster inside the smock.
Even today, the U.S.M.C. Scout Sniper training course notes that pistols, Sam Browne belts, an SMG instead of a rifle, etc., are great ways to spot the officer in charge of an enemy unit. In fact, 4602 instructors refer to the cross-shoulder part of the Sam Browne rig as the “Shoot Me Strap”.
Having an FAL to counter sniping makes sense, although a scoped Enfield might have made more sense.
I was wondering if Sterlings (which would have been useful to provide security for the counter sniper or for entry into buildings) were used in Northern Ireland, and if not was it because submachine guns had a “gangster” image that the British were trying to avoid?
A complaint I’d have with the FAL (and the M14) is that the overall length was a bit much. Powerful and reliable and accurate yes, but handy, not really. And in an urban setting handy would be good.
I’m firmly convinced the only reason the L1A1 is so eulogized across the pond is because the L85 (A1 or A2 – even HK didn’t have enough lipstick for that particular pig) is such a piece of steaming garbage. If the British Army had adopted the M16 you would never have heard another word.
And I was rather fond of my black US Army beret and quite angry when we reverted to patrol caps a few years ago, although I have yet to meet anyone else who shares my opinion on the subject. I suppose I should probably go get into an Airborne unit and get myself a red one.
That being said, the reason we stopped wearing them was that if you lined 100 NCOs up they would be wearing their berets 100 different ways, most of them out of compliance with regulations. Hard to make a uniform item work when the sergeant major is wearing his wrong.
SAS used the M-16A1 and -A2, which they called the “Armalite”, from the mid-1960s until the adoption of the L85. In fact, they reportedly stuck with their -A2s until an order came down to use the new “issue” rifle Or Else. Fortunately, this was after Desert Storm, when everybody else was dropping busted L85s in the sand and taking G3s and AKs off dead or surrendering Iraqi soldiers.
It says something that the M-16/M-4 family is considered the second most reliable military rifle in service today. No. 1 being the latest version of the 1940s-vintage, agricultural, mule-stupid, built-like-a-Mack-truck Kalashnikov.
FTR, having used both plus the M-14, Garand, M-1 Carbine, FAL/SLR, G3, and some even weirder jobs, in a serious fight I’ll take an AK, Garand, Carbine, or G3 over any of the above-mentioned “more advanced” arms. Or a Ruger Mini-14, for that matter. They go “bang” when I pull the trigger, and any of them is a darned sight more accurate than I am.
NB; anyone who thinks any SMG is the bee’s knees should not get into a firefight with someone with a .30 Carbine who knows the weapon well. Especially not the selective-fire M2 version.
Getting into it with an opponent with a Mini-14… well, c’est la guerre.
You have made some interesting points here, especially with regard to the FAL / L1A1 versus H&K G3 argument. While I generally agree with you about the AK as Number One for absolute reliability, I will have to respectfully disagree with you about the G3 being better than the FAL. I have used both weapons ( and AK variants, plus several other types ) extensively in some very difficult situations and insofar as choosing between between the FAL and G3 I will have to say that I much prefer the FAL ( or L1A1 for that matter ), bearing in mind that I am saying this in terms of personal experience and what has worked best for me. The FAL and G3 are both excellent battle rifles and I think that in the end, the choice of one or the other seems to boil down to personal preference more than anything else. Also, the full auto issues with the FAL that you mentioned seem to be relegated mostly to the HB model ; the standard FAL variant appears to have had few if any issues when used in full auto, other than controllability when firing off-hand in maintaining a point of aim due to the recoil generated by the 7.62mm x 51 NATO cartridge — an issue common to virtually all battle rifles firing the same round, the G3 included.
For what it is worth, the Royal Ulster Constabulary was one of the last users of the M1 Carbine (into the 1990’s?)
Regarding Sterlings and SMGs in general, I did not realize that the UK army issued them to officers only–I was under the impression that they were issued to a mix of enlisted troops. Fired from the shoulder in two shot bursts, some people have espoused the SMG in the last few decades (e.g., Chuck Taylor), but it may take some discipline to use a SMG as a carbine. The advantage of a SMG would be that it was of a handy size, although the recent trend of going with bullpups and M4s has mitigated that.
Counter-sniping a FAL would be great, but for house clearing it would be low on the list of desirable arms given the over all length.
The SMG was in principle issued to infantry section commanders (corporal), officers, and specialists who were best not embuggered with a full-length rifle (medics, signalmen, REMFs and so on).
In practice, issuances were more flexible.
And as a comparison between the FAL and the G3, I got to shoot them full-auto side by side – the FAL is more ergonomic, better balanced, and more controllable. I find the location of the cocking handle on the G3 a disaster and almost impossible to operate with the rifle in your shoulder, and that hump in the buttstock is a real risk to your face. Plus the fire selector is a bit too far away for my liking.
I wholeheartedly agree with your comments about the FAL. When you referred to examples of support services and specialist troops being issued SMG’s, I believe you meant to say REME’s ( Royal Electrical And Mechanical Engineers ), not REMF’s ( “Rear Echelon Mother F**k**s” ) 🙂
No, I indeed meant REMFs, of which REME are a particular species 🙂
I absolutely agree with you on the FAL vs G3 issue. To be frank, I am not a big fan of the G3 though, but I am ready to admit its merits; that notwithstanding, what you wrote regarding the FAL advantages over its German rival pretty much summarises my own views: “more ergonomic, better balanced, and more controllable”. I also concur on the location of the cocking handle, which is ill-conceived to say the least, despite what many users might say…
the Canadians went from FN FAL to M16, most of us hate our C7s/C8s, and want to go back to the C6s, IE, the FALs
Canadian military used FAL rifles of their own provenience – turned into inches system, made by Long Branch armory in Toronto suburb. Part of semiautomatic C1A1 and select fire C1A2 (for Navy) they also used full auto C2A1 http://www.eme421.com/FNC2A1.html
I thought that all and especially the lastly mentioned one was actually quite capable weapon with one potential problem – could not fire from open breech. I recall being shown locking shoulder, which was impacted with heavy ident to only about to one third of its width with question what caused it. I came to conclusion this happened rather predictably – by cook-off.
IN the British (and Australian ) army, the beret was carried “rolled (into three) Front to stern, and slipped under the Epaulette, with the Badge facing Forward, and only indoors, or other places where one went “uncovered”.
It was not to be scrunched up like Toilet Paper and stuffed in a Pocket.
The Flat US (envelope) cap ( WWI, WWII) was meant to be slipped under the Belt, Right of the Buckle. European Armies using a similar cap ( In Italy, “Bustina” or small envelope) carried it the same way when “uncovered”
And woe betide any Brit or Aussie Soldier who wore his Beret in any but the regulation manner…including the CSM ( RSMs were one step down from God, and sometimes at his shoulder)… But the US Army have always been “sloppy Joes”…only the Marines know how to properly wear a Dress Uniform… ( Blues).
From Doc AV ex-Mounted Infantry (“Black Berets”) M113A1.
PS, one other reason for the Use of the Beret was that it could still be worn whilst using Radio headphones in the confines of a tank ( same reason the Germans used it. The Italian Tankers had leather “Bike Helmets” which tended to be Hot, clumsy, and just useless, as did the French ( ever seen De Gaulle wearing one ( he was a Tanker in early WW II…how he got his 6 foot-5 inch frame into a Tank I don’t Know).
This photograph says a great deal about the ultimate tragedy of Northern Ireland, her people, and the political situation that engendered it — and this includes the wider peripheral effects it had on so many innocent people outside of Northern Ireland.
It seems funny that you are the only one here to comment on the tragedy of Northern Ireland. I find this picture to be a perfect comment on the futility and tragedy of the late long-running war. An innocent child on skates standing close to the Brit and staring at this invader who represents an army killing off her friends and relatives in an effort to bring peace and tranquility to N. Ireland. It’s an outstanding pic.
It brings to mind another picture of a Brit army patrol in Belfast. They are walking down a street, rifles at the ready. The last person on the patrol is walking backwards and scanning the windows looking for snipers. This was clearly a full out war between two parties that have a deadly hatred of each other.
Both sides were equally guilty of extreme murderous cruelty. Thank God it’s over.
I live near Boston, USA, a nest of IRA sympathizers. I was at an Irish bar in the midst of East Boston IRA country, having a beer. The bar was noisy and everyone was having a good time. I made an idle remark about an IRA leader in the Maze prison, on a hunger strike. The whole bar suddenly became quiet. Someone politely told me it would be wise if I immediately left the bar. I beat a hasty retreat.
Thanks for sharing your somewhat harrowing experience — I’m glad you got out of it alright. We all have our passions, belief systems and the blind spots that go hand-in-hand with them, the fellows in that bar included. Often, there is simply no convincing someone of the logic of a situation if that someone has set his or her mind upon a given path, no matter what. It does go to show how incredibly sensitive this long-running issue has been, and still is. I think we all need to learn to understand the lessons of history, and more importantly, learn to empathize with one another’s humanity and to move on from there.In the end, there is only one way, and that is forward.
If you think the job of the British Army in Northern Ireland was to “kill off the friends and relatives” of small catholic children you are very much mistaken. The British Army in NI operated under strict rules of engagement as a peace keeping force. It was far less gung ho than many American police forces. I have certainly never heard of a British soldier standing on the hood of a car and pumping 49 bullets into two unarmed people, and if he had done, he would not have been found not guilty!
“staring at this invader who represents an army killing off her friends and relatives in an effort to bring peace and tranquility to N. Ireland. ”
So tell me about all the massacres of civilians that would have had to have happened for this statement to be even remotely true? On the other hand, I grew up to weekly news of the latest IRA bombings, both on the mainland and in NI………… Which did explicitly target civilians.
The army’s role in NI was to protect civilians of both religious persuasions from the paramilitaries on both sides.
And “invader”? It’s not 1700… The 6 counties opted out of the Irish Free State after the war of independence to remain in the UK, and could vote to change the situation tomorrow if they wanted to.
Thanks very much, Denny. I think you have a lot more insight than you sometimes choose to admit to, and it’s not hard to pick up on it. You are right ; what is done is done, and what really matters is how we all go forward with our collective humanity so that the tragedies of the past don’t keep repeating themselves. It has been said — and often rightly so — that each generation is doomed to repeat the mistakes of it’s forebears in one form or the other. We are consciously aware of this, yet we allow our emotions and so-called “principles” ( often a thinly-disguised cover for nationalistic pride, fear-mongering and the greedy, manipulative political ambitions of a few ) to get in the way of resolution. This is the human condition — but the obverse side of the same human condition also holds some hope that we will be able to overcome this deeply-ingrained trait.
Ah the L1A1, sexiest British gun since the Martini-henry (sorry Lee-Enfield lovers.). Would be interesting to compare it to the US M14, the french MAS 49/56, Soviet SKS and even maybe to is predecesor the FN 49 since it was semi-auto only and a true ”battle rifle”, maybe the best of is age.
One would hope, but I am painfully aware of the fact that just about everyone who had a hand getting the second world war rolling was alive to see the first one…
I hope I get to find out about these two and that they are as you say.
I hope the L1A1 is in one piece too.
I doubt it is fully over in Ireland. Hard to end 800 years of on and off warfare. I’ve spent 100’s of hours studying the last 100 years of the wars in Ireland.
The latest I’ve found is that a new generation of the PIRA is training in the use of arms and methods of warfare. It also appears that they are making some of their own SMGs.
I’m not Irish or British, so I have no dog in their fight. But do favor one or the other. It’s very interesting war to study. Like many of these things, both side made an errors/misjudgments and misread what was happening. Then a big mess gets going that takes on a life of it’s own.
Good to see someone educated on subject. I am not exactly ignorant on the issue and keenly aware the complexities in past development. In addition I am not ethnically involved in any part of it. But yet, in one’s perhaps superficial view it may be viewed as simple as to say “leave Ireland to Irish”.
This was the place (part of Scotland) where British imperialism started. It is time to end the non-sense; let the Loyalists to adjust, with exchange for security of course. look at Balkans for comparison.
I recall speaking with one man from Ulster early on and he told me: “it’s just a pile of rubbish”.
When you know nothing about a situation, it is perhaps best not to comment on it, just in case you come across as an ignorant fool. I’m sure you are not, it’s just that your comment gives the impression that you are.
Hi John K!
This discussion is kind of incognito; we were never introduced so we do not really know each other. If however, your view of me based on my above comment is as you suggest, that is fine and I accept it. Individual views and observations are optional.
Knowing something/nothing about a subject is relative. There is never enough of knowing; life with its short span does not provide enough time and opportunity to achieve a “complete” knowledge. So, we often make assumption based on what we managed to acquire up to date. But, you may know that and I do not want to tutor you.
If you read my first note where I mention the difference in maturity of this forum compared with the other, I’d like to stick with that precept.
Who are the Irish? Are only Catholics Irish? Are people whose families go back 300 years not entitled to live there? Do you think the Irish Republic, which is broke, has the slightest interest in taking over Northern Ireland? When the USA gives Texas back to the Mexicans, I might start to take your views seriously, but you do not give me the impression of having a clue what you are talking about.
It’s good it is “over” we caused havock, cold war politics… Catholicism, aside. Dodgy, stuff.
Fine and very suggestive fotograph, It has a deep artistic profile
On the beret…”It keeps the rain off my head…,” Mork from Ork.
“Red, green, black, blue, etc., Hey kids, collect the whole set,” 103David.
On FAL, G3, M14, wise to remember, the average grunt uses what is issued with little or no choice in the matter. In other words, you run what you brung.
On FALs and strap on roller skates, there is cover, and there is concealment, but there is a third concern which this young troop is utilizing, which is “Be less conspicuous than say the yokels in the background .” Especially in sniper country.
On the 20th century Irish wars, “I consider myself at least as smart as the average bear and I will now demonstrate just how smart I am. Feel free to take notes and utilize this phrase especially during conversations in bars and/or alcohol consumption. “I don’t know enough about the issue to have an intelligent opinion.”
Great photo though.