In England, guns are really outlawed, and have been for twenty years (all handguns) or longer (semi rifles). Sure, whatever remains of the upper class can still shoot grouse with a £50,000 shotgun if they’re so inclined. But even historic and heirloom firearms were destroyed as part of the UK’s failed attempt to heal human hearts by taking guns out of human hands.
One firearm that was spared from the smelter was this .455 Mark VI Webley, the service revolver of one of George V’s subalterns who would survive the slaughterhouse of the Somme as a signal officer, and go on to such distinction in the literary world that every reader of this knows of his concepts and characters, and most if not all of you have read his books or seen movies made from them.
While this article in The Grauniad is three years old, we just saw it mentioned over at Ian’s place, ForgottenWeapons.com. JRR Tolkien’s heirs surrendered the pistol during the final British firearms amnesty.
The Webley Mk VI was the standard issue gun for British servicemen at the outbreak of the war. In 1996, Tolkien’s family gave the gun to the Imperial War Museum during a firearms amnesty in the UK, following the Dunblane school massacre, in which 16 children and one adult were killed. As a signalman, Tolkien took charge of communications for his battalion; it is not known if he used the weapon in battle.
Garth [John Garth, author of Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth,2003] continued: “An Oxford-educated man, he went to war alongside labourers and miners, like Bilbo among the dwarves. He saw and probably experienced war trauma – and Frodo’s psychological journey is remarkably like the ones described by war writers such as Siegfried Sassoon. Tolkien witnessed pitiable waste of life in the mud, which shaped his famous Dead Marshes scene, where bodies of warriors appear like ghosts in the marsh pools. His passions were medieval, but his work was a response to indelible experience.”
“He also said that Sam Gamgee, in The Lord of the Rings, was ‘a reflexion of the English soldier, of the privates and batmen I knew in the 1914 war, and recognised as so far superior to myself’.”
One thing that draws readers to Tolkien’s fantasies a century after he faced the horrors of the trenches — no, a signal lieutenant in a combat arms battalion is not in a safe position — is his accuracy in depicting, not the fanciful world of orcs and elves and mages, but the very real world of men’s hearts in combat with mortal enemies and eternal temptations. In Tolkien’s world, as in ours, weapons are tools that may be forged to serve good masters or ill, and men themselves have a choice as to which master they serve, at least spiritually.
Most people, perhaps, see this pistol only as an artifact that connects a dusty war museum with the popular culture. (Indeed, it was placed in the museum on a schedule timed to exploit a movie release). But look a little deeper and in its honest forged British steel you might see a symbol of the eternal battle of good and evil, which takes place in the hearts of all mankind.
- IWM Press Release[.pdf] (with more details on Tolkien’s wartime service).
- BBC Story
Kevin was a former Special Forces weapons man (MOS 18B, before the 18 series, 11B with Skill Qualification Indicator of S). His focus was on weapons: their history, effects and employment. He started WeaponsMan.com in 2011 and operated it until he passed away in 2017. His work is being preserved here at the request of his family.
14 thoughts on “A Historic Revolver Hangs in a Museum”
It is an eternal battle.
Some few are born truly good and some are born truly evil ( I have encountered both) but most of us have to make a choice between the two and not just once, but throughout our lives.
I choose the light.
As to war;
The Great Chinese Philosopher Lao-Tzu said:
“It is only when you see a mosquito landing on your testicles that you realise that there is always a way to solve problems without using violence.”
The ONLY way to stop the slide toward global communist domination is to VIOLENTLY remove its most ardent supporters. The “ruling class”. Communist separate the world in two. Bosses and “workers” ,every one else is useless. Kill ALL the bosses and the would be bosses and the problem will fix itself. Nice W&S revolver. Wish I had one.
Man, your Communist doctrine is stuck in the 19th century. Our communists have little use for workers of any kind. They’re much happier with criminals and welfare collectors.
Communism is much, much older than Marx, and has evolved quite a bit past him.
Communism and Socialism aren’t the problem. Both ideologies are simply tools of the con artists using them, and the real problem lies with those con artists.
Granted, the whack-a-doodle ideas behind Communism and Socialism are a part of the problem, in that they are terribly attractive to the average idiot, but the real evil is perpetuated by the power-mad loons that use those average idiots to create a pathway to power. The ideology is insidiously attractive; especially to the high-functioning morons who wind up populating our academic world.
They never seem to notice the men and women behind the curtains, until it’s too damn late. Chavez’s daughter is now the wealthiest woman in Venezuela, and every one of the Party leaders in China and the Soviet Union led lives of awe-inspiring luxury. Same-same with North Korea, and in each and every case, they cozened the proles with promises of equality and plenty.
It’s a two-part problem, like epoxy: On the one hand, you have the credulous morons who think that this time, it will be different, and on the other, you have the users and power-seekers. They’re both parasites on the body politic, just like the bureaucrats. My conclusion is that if you want to solve the problem, you’re going to have to eliminate the entire social matrix from which these creatures spring, which unfortunately means eliminating nearly every institution of higher learning in the land.
The entire K through PhD educational regime needs a good swamp-draining if we want to reverse the destruction of this country. I just read an article on Fox News today where an Iowa legislator is proposing de-funding Iowa state schools to the total of their expenditures to coddle weeping Hillary voters.
That’s a good start, but frankly, I think what’s needed is for red state legislatures to de-fund schools to the percentage that their expenditures relate to Leftist indoctrination rather than education. I mean, sure, the tax dollars of the good comrades of Massachusetts and Illinois go to Marxist indoctrination. What else would be expected? But why should the tax dollars of Arizona and Wyoming and Tennessee fund this garbage? Let the Marxists go teach in the Marxist states.
The final pic is odd. It shows the trigger fully to the rear but I don’t see how it’s being held there. I wonder if the gun has been disabled with the lockwork welded by the evil orcs of anti-gun (self) righteousness.
One of my mates used to shoot a “Wobbly” in competitive centre fire revolver matches. It was remarkably accurate for a 70+ year old military piece made to no especially exacting standards beyond what the contract called for at the time. Maybe standards were just higher all around back in those days. Unfortunately, it was stolen from him by our gummint and destroyed during the Aussie gun “byback” ( ie theft).
Anyway, I’ve always thought these guns look particularly ugly in photos, but when you see one in the metal they have an extraordinary serious “don’t fuck with me” vibe that’s hard to explain until you see one. A man’s gun, if ever there was one.
I didn’t think the Aussie confiscation took handguns, just long guns. I suppose I need to read more about it, but it’s going to bother me when I do. Free men ought to have gun rights, whether they’re Australian, British or Chinese. But your nation elected that government (Howard’s soi-disant conservatives, wasn’t it?).
There are other pictures of the gun on display with it cocked. Hammer back, trigger back. It is possible that IWM internal regulations or Britain’s bizarre gun laws require it to be disabled in some way. Some museums have preservation rules that in effect destroy their artifacts to preserve them. The “preservation” chemicals, etc. applied to aircraft at the US National Air & Space Museum’s two DC-area locations is one example. Corrosion inhibitor applications render the aircraft and parts permanently unairworthy. That’s why they can’t trade spare parts with warbird operators — for all the duplicate stuff NASM has got ratholed, almost none of it is any use to anybody who actually repairs and flies aircraft, except as a pattern. Yet their curators have historically opposed those who operate aircraft as living history. Museum professionals are very weird cats indeed. (We’re blessed with an unusually sensible and accessible bunch of curators, in the gun world).
The great Aussie confiscation banned almost all handguns greater than .40 cal. So 9mm, .38, .357 are OK, but .45 ACP and .455 Webley for example are not. I’ve been told that it’s because our cops were mostly carrying .40 S&W at the time and didn’t want to be outgunned. This is absurd of course because it meant that the cops weren’t outgunned by lawful firearm owners who aren’t a problem in the first place, while crims had whatever guns they damn well wanted, as usual.
There’s been some relaxation of the rules based around metallic silhouette shooting, but it’s not all that common. Me and my mates shoot 9mm, .38 Super and .38 Special almost exclusively, and occasionally .357 magnum.
And yes, it was John Howard’s “Conservative” government that introduced the gun ban.
He was also responsible for flooding our country with diversity from the middle east and asia as well, with the result that we know have muslims killing people in the streets and the other nonsense that goes along with having those people around.
Howard was a traitorous weasel who cloaked himself in a bogus aura of conservative respectability, but instead of conserving he destroyed. He will go down in history as one of our worst Prime Ministers.
A museum license places no requirement for any kind of deactivation on firearms held by UK museums. Of course a museum license can only be granted to publicly funded or accredited institutions so many small private museums do have to resort to deactivated prices unless they want to get a full firearms license.
Of course just because museums don’t have to mutilate thier firearms doesn’t mean that certain “well meaning” institutions haven’t done so…
The possibility that museums might have to deactivate thier collections as a result of eurocrat knee jerking after events in paris did cause a mild ruckus last year.
For an unrelated but funny story involving a Webley revolver you need to watch the “Double Deuce” episode of Archer. Season 2, I believe.
Also off topic: TE Lawrence wrote of participating in a camel-back charge against the Turks, and coming to on the ground amidst thundering beasts. Seems he put a .455 bullet through the back of his camel’s head. They don’t run well after that.
I’ve so long wanted a MK IV but all I find in shops and gunshows have been altered to shoot .45 Auto Rim rounds. And I won’t shoot those unless I load them, which I don’t do. The .45 ACP is akin to a Webley proof load and I would not want to shoot all proof loads through any gun. Would you?
In a Webley, the “hammer back, trigger back” condition can most easily be achieved by removing the mainspring.
Or you could turn the effing welder loose on it.
As for the cut Webleys, it isn’t necessary to pursue the elusive .45 Auto Rim.
Moon clips for the S&W Model 22 and .45 ACP cases loaded mild with lead projectiles work very well in my cut Mk V.