After the evacuation of Dunkirk, the British army faced the most serious problems. On the continent, there remains a huge amount of diverse material parts, including a variety of weapons of all classes. The industry was given the task to compensate for the losses in the shortest possible time, for which it should use new approaches. One of the ways to maximize the acceleration of work while simplifying production and cheapening finished products was to be the copying of finished products of foreign design that meet the requirements.
Submachine gun Lanchester with spare shops of different capacity. Photo by Smallarmsreview.com
In August, 1940, the Royal Air Force ordered the development and production of a new submachine gun, intended for use in airfield defense units. There were no special requirements for weapon characteristics. In this case, the customer wanted to receive serial products in the very near future. Otherwise, during the expected German landing, airfields could be left without normal protection.
It was obvious that the full cycle of creating a new sample, involving the development of several preliminary versions of the project, lengthy tests, etc. in the current environment is impossible. For this reason, the firm Sterling Armament Company proposed to manufacture its own copy of one of the simple and cheap foreign samples. At the same time, it was not about exact copying: some parts could undergo noticeable processing, and in addition, it was planned to equip the weapon with some new units.
German MP 28 (above) and British Lanchester (below). Photo by Smallarmsreview.com
The new project proposed to copy the German MP 28 submachine gun. This weapon was created in the late twenties, but by the standards of the very beginning of the forties, it retained acceptable characteristics. In addition, it was distinguished by simplicity and did not impose special requirements on production capacity. As a result, Sterling had the opportunity to quickly start mass production of weapons for the Air Force.
The process of studying the German prototype sample and preparing the documentation for the production of its copy was headed by the designer George Herbert Lanchester. Later his merits were marked by the management of the company and the customer: the finished serial submachine gun of the new model was named Lanchester in honor of its designer.
To extract the internal parts of the weapon "broke". Photo by Smallarmsreview.com
The development of the project was carried out by order of the Royal Air Force, but soon commanders of other military branches became interested in it. A new simplified weapon with sufficient characteristics could be of interest to the army and the fleet. Subsequently, the British admirals retained such interest, while the command of the ground forces was disappointed in the “Lanchester”. These weapons were not simple enough and cheap for mass production. The desire to accelerate the release of new systems and reduce production costs later led to the appearance of the STEN submachine gun.
J.G. Lanchester and his colleagues in their new project decided to keep the maximum possible number of components and assemblies of German weapons. At the same time, some details were planned to be redone in accordance with the possibilities of British industry. In addition, Lanchester should have been distinguished by the presence of some devices that provide new opportunities.
According to its layout, the British product repeated the German prototype. In front of it was the trunk, covered with a cylindrical casing. The barrel and housing were connected to the receiver, which contained the means of ammunition and the movable gate. At the bottom of the box provides for the installation of the firing mechanism. Like the MP 28, the new Lanchester was supposed to have a wooden box, but its shape was changed using existing British practices.
Incomplete disassembly of the "Lanchester". Photo by Smallarmsreview.com
The submachine gun was to be equipped with a rifled barrel with a length of 8 inches (203,2 mm) or 22,6 caliber. The barrel chamber was calculated under the Parabellum mm 9x19 pistol cartridge. The barrel is rigidly fixed in front of the receiver. A cylindrical casing was mounted over the barrel. For the supply of air, cooling the barrel, in the casing there were several rows of round holes. The casing also served as the basis for the front sight and front antabka.
Weapons retained cylindrical receiver. In front of her joined the tubular store receiver. To reduce the cost of this item is made of brass. On the left there was a small reception shaft, on the right there was a window for ejection of shells. For the receiver in the box was installed the main part of the receiver, made in the form of a tube of sufficient length. On the right there was a longitudinal groove with a curved back. In this groove should move the shutter control handle.
Shutter submachine gun. Photo by Smallarmsreview.com
The British submachine gun "inherited" automation on the basis of the free shutter. Inside the receiver moved massive cylindrical bolt relatively simple design. A fixed drummer was placed on its mirror. On the right was the installation of the control handle. Behind the bolt backed back-fighting spring. The latter was fixed in place with the help of a receiver cover.
The trigger mechanism "Lanchester" also differed simplicity. His design allowed shooting single or bursts. Fire control was carried out by a traditional trigger. A separate fuse in the USM was absent - the descent was blocked by moving the bolt back and then installing its handle into the corresponding groove.
The Lanchester submachine gun was proposed to be completed with detachable box-shaped stores with double-row placement of ammunition. Two versions of the magazine were created, on 32 and on 50 of 9x19 mm “Parabellum” cartridges. The store was installed in the receiving shaft on the left side of the weapon and was fixed in its place with an uncomplicated latch.
Receiver store. Photo by Smallarmsreview.com
J.G. Lanchester and his colleagues slightly reworked the sights of the base sample, bringing them in line with the British order. On the ring in the front of the casing of the bolt was placed a front sight, covered by small wire arcs on the sides. On the receiver was adjustable open sight. By changing the position of the rear sight, the shooter could change the firing range from 100 to 600 yards (91-550 m). In this case, the effective range of fire slightly exceeded the minimum installation of the sight.
The British project involved the use of existing fittings. All Lanchester units should have been mounted on a wooden bed. The latter was a slightly modified detail of a Lee-Enfield rifle. The new lodge differed from the base in a smaller length and reached only the store receiver. In addition, it was necessary to rework the shape of the internal compartment in accordance with a different weapon design. At the same time, the neck of the butt with the characteristic projection under the fingers, a butt of sufficient length and a metal butt pad remained. In the lower part of the butt was placed the second antabka for a belt.
Receiver, receiver and barrel housing - right side view. Photo by Smallarmsreview.com
The fascinating innovation of the project "Lanchester" steel attachment for the bayonet. The customer considered that a fighter armed with a new submachine gun might need a blade in battle. As a result, a round section protrusion appeared on the front ring of the barrel casing, on which it was proposed to wear a ring of a bayonet. The latch of the bayonet, in turn, had to interact with the T-shaped support under the casing. With a new weapon, a regular Lee-Enfield rifle bayonet was to be used.
The total length of the Lanchester submachine gun was 33,5 inches (851 mm). Weight without magazine - 9,6 pounds or 4,3 kg. The weapon showed a rate of fire at the level of 600 shots per minute and accelerated the bullet to 380 m / s. The effective firing range due to the pistol cartridge does not exceed 150-200 m.
Submachine gun Lanchester Mk 1 with magazine pouch for shops. Photo by Smallarmsreview.com
Despite the curious approach and all the efforts, the development of a new project and the production of prototypes took several months. Only in early November, 1940, the company Sterling Armament handed over to the military two prototypes of the Lanchester product. This weapon has passed the necessary tests, received the approval of specialists and was recommended for use. In addition, according to the test results, a recommendation appeared on a certain simplification of the structure in order to obtain additional economic and technological benefits.
The first version of the submachine gun J.G. Lanchester was adopted under the designation Lanchester Mk 1. A little later, a simplified version of the weapon entered service. Due to the maximum unification and preservation of the main characteristics at the level of the existing sample, it received a specific index - Mk 1 *.
The new version of Lanchester Mk 1 * was distinguished by a simplified trigger mechanism, which provided only fire in bursts and did not have a standard single-shot mode. As a result, the submachine gun did not have a fire interpreter. In addition, the sight was redesigned. Now he had a reversing rear sight for shooting at 100 and 200 yards. The previous sight, designed for shooting at 600 m, rightly considered redundant.
Experienced "Lanchester" with a hanging lantern for night battles. Photo of the Imperial War Museum / iwm.org.uk
The Lanchester project was created by order of the Royal Air Force, but the Royal Navy was the first buyer of such weapons. 13 June 1941, the company-developer has received an order for mass production of new submachine guns for the fleet. Soon came the order from the air force. The army had by this time lost interest in the copy of the MP 28 and decided to purchase another weapon. The refusal of the ground forces markedly hit the prospects of the project in the context of production, but the developer still launched a mass production of weapons to fulfill the orders received.
The first batches of Lanchester Mk 1 submachine guns were handed over to customers by the beginning of the 1941 autumn. A bit later, the simplified Lanchester version of the Mk 1 * went into the series. According to some reports, the weapons of the two models were produced in parallel for some time, but were later abandoned from a slightly more complicated sample. The mass production of weapons of the two models continued until the start of the 1945 year. During this time, in the interests of several branches of the military, about 100 thousand Lanchester submachine guns were fired. However, these were very modest results in comparison with other weapons. For example, the number of serial machine guns STEN during the war years exceeded 4 million.
He's from a different angle. Photo of the Imperial War Museum / iwm.org.uk
The main operator of Lanchester products has become the Royal Navy. In addition, a significant number of such weapons were transferred to the fleets of Canada, New Zealand and other countries of the British Commonwealth. New submachine guns were intended for use by marines and ship crews. In the case of Canada, weapons shipments to landing units also took place. Relatively mass production had clear consequences. Everywhere, where marines of Great Britain or Commonwealth fought, submachine guns copied from German weapons were actively used.
After the end of World War II, a significant number of Lanchester products of both modifications remained in the British arsenals. The operation of such weapons continued, but they began to be gradually replaced by newer and more advanced models. The British fleet finally abandoned the "Lanchesters" only in the sixties. It is noteworthy that the weapon being withdrawn still retained part of the resource and could be used for its intended purpose. As a result, a significant part of the submachine guns was sold to third countries. Its new operators were the armies of Argentina, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Egypt, etc. As far as we know, the last two countries managed to use the weapons received in battles. The Egyptian army used imported submachine guns in the wars with Israel, and the Dominican soldiers used them during the 1965 civil war of the year.
British submachine gun in the role of German weapons in the hands of a Japanese saboteur. A shot from the t / c "Four tankers and a dog" / Imfdb.org
As far as is known, by now Lanchester submachine guns have been completely removed from service in all countries. Most of these products went to the smelter, but a significant number of them remained in museums and private collections. "Lanchesters" of both models regularly appear on various weapon auctions.
From time to time, British weapons appeared on a movie screen. First of all, submachine guns played themselves and appeared as weapons in the hands of the British. Nevertheless, there were other, no less interesting appearances. For example, in the Polish television series Four Tankmen and the Dog, the Lanchester Mk 1 * submachine gun received the role of an MP 28 product, which is in service with Japanese paratroopers. It is noteworthy that the German weapons were really used in Japan, and this episode of the film turned out to a certain extent plausible.
Being in a difficult situation and experiencing problems with weapons and equipment, the UK was forced to resort to direct copying of one of the foreign samples. The resulting submachine gun could become one of the main weapons of the army, but this did not happen. By the standards of the Second World War, Lanchester products were made in not the largest quantities. At the same time, however, the project of J.G. Lanchester significantly influenced the further development of British weapons. New submachine guns such as STEN, Sterling, etc. based on certain ideas borrowed from the base MP 28 / Lanchester.
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