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Guns & GearGuns & Gear

SMLE .303 in bolt action rifle No 4 Mk 1, 1945

01. SMLE .303 in bolt action rifle No 4 Mk 1

First introduced in 1941 the No. 4 remained in service until the introduction of the SLR (Self-loading Rifle) in 1958. It was issued for use in all theatres of war and was a reliable and accurate weapon, which became obsolete as technology on the battlefield moved on and it was clear that a self-loading rifle was required for modern warfare.

SMLE .303 in bolt action rifle No 4 Mk 1, 1945

NAM. 1982-04-759-2

Survival kit, c1950

02. Survival kit

Dating from the Korean War (1950-53) period and probably used in later conflicts in the Far East, this pack contains basic survival items like water sterilising tablets, compass, needles, clasp knives, safety pins and items for barter, like cigarette lighters.

Survival kit, c1950

NAM. 1969-12-18

String vest, 1951

03. String vest

This vest was part of the cold weather equipment issued to British troops during the second winter of the Korean War (1950-53). By then adequate supplies of winter clothing had been supplied to the troops, but conditions were still tough. Freezing winters with heavy snow, icy winds and temperatures as low as -40°C meant that troops had to deal with frost-bite, frozen ground and equipment.

String vest, 1951

NAM. 1994-05-348

Homemade smoothbore long-arm used by Mau Mau forces, Kenya, c1952

04. Homemade smoothbore long-arm used by Mau Mau forces, Kenya

Most Mau Mau weapons are extremely crude but this particular example copies the No 5 Rifle. The barrel is smoothbore with a simple bolt action, but the stock has been carved to represent the magazine and general shape of the No 5 Rifle. These weapons had very little value as firearms against modern weapons and were perhaps status symbols for the Mau Mau guerrilla leaders.

Homemade smoothbore long-arm used by Mau Mau forces, Kenya, c1952

NAM. 1999-02-51

Bren .303 in Mk 3 light machine gun, 1954

05. Bren .303 in Mk 3 light machine gun

One of the finest light machine guns ever produced, the Bren was the centre of a platoon's firepower in all theatres of operation. The Mk 3 was designed to be shorter and lighter variant for jungle use but was used everywhere. The Bren eventually became the Machine Gun L4 when the NATO cartridge was adopted at the end of National Service.

Bren .303 in Mk 3 light machine gun, 1954

NAM. 1982-04-764

Respirator No 4 Mk 2, pattern 1944 (reissued 1955), owned by Captain David Walmsley, Royal Army Medical Corps

06. Respirator No 4 Mk 2, pattern 1944 (reissued 1955)

Given the possibility of a modern battlefield where nuclear, biological and chemical attacks were probable, respirators with eye shields and anti-gas ointment were issued to national servicemen, especially those serving in Germany. The troops there were faced with the daunting prospect of attack by Eastern Bloc forces armed with such weapons.

Respirator No 4 Mk 2, pattern 1944 (reissued 1955), owned by Captain David Walmsley, Royal Army Medical Corps

NAM. 2000-05-135

Homemade mortar used by National Organization of Cypriot Fighters (EOKA), Cyprus, c1955

07. Homemade mortar

EOKA guerrillas had no access to large weapons like mortars so instead made their own in hidden workshops. This is a simple metal tube, which fired a homemade bomb full of scrap iron.

Homemade mortar used by National Organization of Cypriot Fighters (EOKA), Cyprus, c1955

NAM. 1994-02-125

Sten Mk 3 9 mm sub-machine gun used by National Organization of Cypriot Fighters (EOKA), Cyprus, 1955

08. Sten Mk 3 9 mm sub-machine gun

The Mk 3 was introduced in 1943 but produced in far fewer numbers than the Mk 2. Many Stens were supplied to guerrilla forces in Europe during World War Two (1939-45), including Greece. This particular weapon is marked in Greek 'LONTS' but its meaning is not clear. It has a bullet hole in the barrel jacket sustained during its capture in Cyprus.

Sten Mk 3 9 mm sub-machine gun used by National Organization of Cypriot Fighters (EOKA), Cyprus, 1955

NAM. 1996-08-271

Simonov SKS Model 1943 7.62 mm self-loading rifle used by the Egyptian Army during the Suez Crisis, 1956

09. Simonov SKS Model 1943 7.62 mm self-loading rifle

The Simonov Carbine was produced in large numbers by the Soviet Union. It was the first weapon to use the short 7.62 mm cartridge, which was eventually utilised by the Kalashnikov AK47. Egypt had tried to modernise its army in the 1950s and used the Simonov to standardise its arsenal, replacing earlier self-loading rifles.

Simonov SKS Model 1943 7.62 mm self-loading rifle used by the Egyptian Army during the Suez Crisis, 1956

NAM. 1963-12-251-94

General Service Medal 1918-1962, clasps: Near East, Cyprus, Malaya, Arabian Peninsula, awarded to Trooper Fred Hamer, Parachute Regiment and 22nd Special Air Service (SAS)

10. General Service Medal 1918-1962

Hamer was called up for National Service in 1951; he joined the Duke of Wellington's Regiment, transferred to the Parachute Regiment and served with the Middle East Land Forces in 1952-53. On discharge from National Service, Hamer joined the Parachute Regiment TA, later re-enlisting as a regular. He served in Cyprus and the Far East, was wounded during an SAS attack on Jebel Akhdar in Oman in January 1959, and discharged as medically unfit in 1965.

General Service Medal 1918-1962, clasps: Near East, Cyprus, Malaya, Arabian Peninsula, awarded to Trooper Fred Hamer, Parachute Regiment and 22nd Special Air Service (SAS)

NAM. 2000-09-175

L1A1 7.62 mm self-loading rifle, 1958

11. L1A1 7.62 mm self-loading rifle

After the political decision to abandon the British EM-2 rifle in 1952 the British required an alternative. Under development in Belgium, derived from a rifle sold to the Egyptian government, was a self-loading rifle in 7.62 mm NATO calibre. Trialed extensively by the British Army in Malaya and Kenya the rifle was finally accepted into general service in 1958.

L1A1 7.62 mm self-loading rifle, 1958

NAM. 1983-05-7

9 mm Sterling L2A3 sub-machine gun, 1958

12. 9 mm Sterling L2A3 sub-machine gun

The Sterling evolved from the Patchett machine carbine. After successful commercial sales the Sterling was accepted into the British Army in 1956 and slowly replaced the aged Stens still in active use. It remained the Army's standard automatic weapon for 30 years. The magazine holds 34 nine-millimetre cartridges. The gun can be fired with butt stock extended or folded. This type of weapon was mainly issued to NCOs and officers.

9 mm Sterling L2A3 sub-machine gun, 1958

NAM. 1982-04-758