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Michael Boyle


Joined: 12 Dec 2005
Posts: 595
Location: Bucks County,PA,US
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Neil, I've found an answer and explanation for my question in the 1870 "Journal of the Royal United Service Institution". It contains the text of a lecture given by Capt. Vivian Dering Majendie on the acceptance and introduction of the M-H. He goes into the history a bit and also explains the Snider Mk III which was the manufactured as opposed to converted rifle. It's a good read and very enlightening though you're probably already familiar with it -

http://books.google.com/books?I'd=xwui4Zn9z1oC&pg=PA335&dq=Rifle+Exercises&as_brr=1#PPA360,M1

[ Begins on page 360 ]

Best

Michael
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John Young


Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 982
Location: Lower Sheering, Essex
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In response to Glenn's comment.

Yes the R.A. would have been issued with Snider carbines, but only 12 carbines per battery. Given that there were six R.M.L. cannon per battery, the section - two cannon - left behind at Isandlwana might have had four carbines between them!

John Y.
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mike snook 2


Joined: 04 Jan 2006
Posts: 920
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Neil

This is not the nice taut reference to the armament of the NNMC I am trying to find, but it does tell us that there were plenty of Swinburn-Henrys in South Africa by Jan 1879. You have yet to quote the source which impels you to state so emphatically that Durnford's men were armed with Sniders. I am not convinced I have to say.

This quote doesn't nail anything down to units, but it does show that SHs are present in numbers:


'When very near the river, I picked up three rifles, 'Swinbourne-Henry' [sic]; two I gave to wagon drivers, with four rounds of ammuntion each, the other I kept myself.'

Lt Harry Davies NNMC in flight at Isandlwana.

He uses the word rifle several times where he means carbine. Can you confirm that Swinburn-Henry chambers the MH rifle round?

As ever

Mike
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mike snook 2


Joined: 04 Jan 2006
Posts: 920
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Oooh - look at this. Perhaps not carbines at all...

'On my road down I passed...a troop of the Mounted Native Contingent; they were fifty strong, under Lieutenant Davies...and all of them...from Edendale. The men all found their own horses and saddles, the rest of their kit being found by the government. They were armed with Martini-Henrys...' [He doesn't say rifles or carbines but in my view he must mean rifles.]

This is Norris-Newman, writing of the period just before Isandlwana. He knows his guns because further on he refers to boxes of Westley-Richards ammuntion being found during the mopping-up at Sihayo's kraal.

I may have been unkind in saying that Davies uses rifle when he means carbine. Perhaps he really does mean rifle. And if they were armed with rifles that makes perfect sense of the story of the drummer boy refusing the Edendale troop at Pullen's wagon.

There may be other salient primary sources...anybody else?


Last edited by mike snook 2 on Sat May 12, 2007 7:03 pm; edited 1 time in total
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GlennWade


Joined: 16 Jan 2006
Posts: 151
Location: Swansea
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Hello

John,

Thanks for clarifying, thought I recalled that detail, cheers.

Mike,

Scanning through a few books and came across a photograph in Ian Castle's Osprey book on Volunteers etc of mounted African troops taken during the war. These particular fellows are of 'The Mafunzi Corps' but out of interest all have Snider Carbines and one has a Martini Henry rifle. Possibly not that relevant but it is evidence that the mounted African units were issued with rifles in some cases.

Hope it's of use,

Glenn

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GlennWade


Joined: 16 Jan 2006
Posts: 151
Location: Swansea
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Ah ha, I have to correct Mr Castle! TWO men have Martini Henry rifles! Could even be three..... Surprised

Glenn

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GlennWade


Joined: 16 Jan 2006
Posts: 151
Location: Swansea
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Oh Lord this is getting a bit daft but in the text Mr Castle states that Zikhali's men had Swinburne Henrys the Edendale and Jantje men Martini Henrys. He does not, however, make it clear whether the Martinis are carbines or rifles but from the photograph mentioned previously, I would concur rifles.

Cheers,

Glenn

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Sawubona


Joined: 09 Nov 2005
Posts: 1179
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As a Snider can carried safely with a chambered round, I would think it would be a far more practical choice for irregular mounted troops than a M-H, in spite of it's lesser accuaracy. The old engraving of the Boer scout on horseback (with a rather surprised expression underneath his slouch hat) doesn't appear to have time to ask the Zulu to "hold that pose while I fumble with my reins and load this here Martini with one hand"!
Does the Swinburn-Henry have any sort of "safety"?
Neil, I've a MKII Snider conversion carbine with much evidence of very hard use. The butt plate is particularly banged about however, as though it's been repeatedly pounded on rocky ground. Do you think this is just normal wear or was it practice to flip open the chamber and strike the butt on something to clear the spent casing? My recollection of basic Physics tells me that inertia would then do most of the work. An interesting piece in that the barrel has been cut done to a point just proud of the forestock and a new brass foresight brazed on by someone who knew his craft. It looks like what we call in the States a "street sweeper"!
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Adrian Whiting


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 76
Location: Dorset, England
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Mike, Neil,

I think I can help with a few details of orders placed for Swinburn Henrys, and just for clarity, the SH did chamber the Govt Service 577/450" MH round (both carbine and rifle).

The SH was made both as a rifle (33" barrel, 49.5" overall) and the more familiar carbine (39.3" overall). Both used the same type of action, as pictured in Neil's fine example, using a "V" shape leaf spring.

The Crown Agents for Natal, V & R Blakemore, London, ordered 300 rifles and 60 carbines for the colony on the 15th July 1875. A further 100 rifles and 1250 carbines were ordered by the same agents on 24th April 1876. All these firearms were marked as a product of Swinburn & Son, Birmingham, although that is no guarantee that Swinburn actually made them themselves. All were viewed at the Birmingham Small Arms Repair factory before despatch.

Apparently a number of Natal volunteers went on to order about 750 rifles and 750 carbines directly from the company in 1878. I don't know when exactly, so I cannot say whether they got to Natal by January 1879.

Even without the last 1500 arms, there would have been some 400 rifles and 1310 SH arms in Natal by January 1879.

Sawubona,

Driving the butt onto the ground usually causes the fired case to eject, and is a method that allows you to reach for a fresh round whilst performing that action with one hand. Neil advises that the case can often get stuck, which was one of the reasons the cartridge progressed from a card case to a brass one, but it could very well be the reason your Snider has the marks to the butt plate that you describe.

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Adrian
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mike snook 2


Joined: 04 Jan 2006
Posts: 920
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Adrian

Brilliant as usual. So the SH carbine is clearly the standard firearm of the Natal Volunteeers and Police. Doubtless they would have been appropriated for the IMI when formed too. So no problem with MH interoperability in a crisis - and you don't order that many carbines without ordering the cartridges to go with them anyway.

When Lt Davies rodes back to the camp from the donga, he picked up a part spent box of ammo from the camp of the Natal Carbineers. This must have been SH carbine ammuntion and must have been suitable for the firearms of the NNMC - which I would venture to suggest were a mixture of MH rifles and SH carbines depending on troop.

Neil

No evidence for Snider carbines that I can see.

As ever

Mike
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Michael Boyle


Joined: 12 Dec 2005
Posts: 595
Location: Bucks County,PA,US
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According to Major (Dr) Felix Machanik in his article "Firepower and Firearms in the Zulu War of 1879" for SAMHS (he doesn't cite sources) -

http://rapidttp.com/milhist/vol046fm.html

"Durnfordís Natal Native Horse had the Westley Richards carbine rifle, (monkey-tail) which used the black-powder paper cartridge."

"Durnfordís Edendale Horse, were issued with Martini-Henry Carbines, without the bayonet lug."

"Others had the modified Enfield muzzle loader, in which the Snider breechblock was inserted. This unsatisfactory compromise weapon, was the first British breechloading, fixed cartridge (Boxer), centre-fire rifle. Rate of fire was relatively slow."

"The other firearm used by the British troops was the Westley Richards capping breech-loading, single shot carbine, using a paper cartridge with black powder ó which fouled frequently and the barrel had to be cleaned often." ( I'd need a source for this assertion.)

"The Natal Native Contingent, however, were badly trained, undisciplined and bad shots, and had little experience of battle conditions. Some were armed with the long Martini-Henry rifle."

"Some of the Natal Native Contingent still had the early muzzle-loading, percussion Enfields, using black powder, wad, and lead bullet rammed down the muzzle with the ramrod. Rate of fire was slow."

[By the way Mike he states "The bayonet supplied was the 1876 Enfield triangular pattern, 25.25 in (63,5 cm) long."]

For anyone with JSTOR access there may be useful information in
Firearms in Southern Africa: A Survey
Shula Marks, Anthony Atmore
The Journal of African History, Vol. 12, No. 4 (1971)

According to Ian Knight in "Isandlwana 1879: The Great Zulu Victory" "The Mounted Native Contingent" were armed with Swinburne-Henry carbines.

Maybe we should look closely at all the available photos.

Best

Michael
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Neil Aspinshaw


Joined: 05 Sep 2005
Posts: 289
Location: Loughborough
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Chaps, thanks for an interesting debate. Having spent all weekend with the 80th at Tutbury I now know how Moriaty's band felt at Meyers drift, wet and miserable!.

However, a few interesting points over the weekend.
Adrian, the full SP as normal, thanks for that. My carbine is actually made by King of Durban, it does however have military proofs to the block, receiver and barrel (plus all matching numbers).

Michael you quote "Durnfordís Edendale Horse, were issued with Martini-Henry Carbines, without the bayonet lug." Is interesting. The Original MH carbine did not have a bayonet lug, that was only issued with the AC1 of 1879, to fit the sawback bayonet . (a bayonet lug is no good as a cavalry piece as it fouls its entrance into a saddle bucket). The S-H did indeed have a bayonet lug. I still find it difficult to see that colonials would have been issued the state of art carbine, before the British forces.

Where this gets tricky is that externally, particular to old photographs the block area is near identical to a Martini. But that is where the similarity ends. Internally the machanism is totally changed, as the S-H has a hammer action, not a coil spring. Here is the internals
[img]
The pin (under the block) is struck by the hammer (above lever).
Another picture I have studied long and hard is that of Piet Uys, there is a picture of him with what looks like a S-H, his son right in the image has a M-H rifle... or is it. You cannot see the cocking indicator so I cant be sure.

What is apparent though from this thread is that the Quatermasters were not being over efficious to those men who were so desperately tring to acquire ammo.

Another point, is the commet about the "Enfield muzzle loaders", or P1853. In principle the the same round as the snider ( Most early pattern sniders were converted P1853's), but the Snider bullet is bigger. I would love to put a mike on some of those battlefield bullets to see what they were.

Regards
Neil


[/img]

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mike snook 2


Joined: 04 Jan 2006
Posts: 920
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Neil

One of the reasons that the regular cavalry fannied about over carbines is the utter disinterest of the cavalry in fighting on foot or in musketry. Disciples of the lance and sabre, the quality of their carbine was generally a matter of indifference to cavalry officers. It is only with the adoption of the MH carbine that they start to professionalize this particular aspect of their business. I think from memory that something around half a dozen carbines were trialled in the 1870s before MH came along and was accepted.

The other point to bear in mind is the age old problem of procurement. A private enterprise can act inside the decision cycle of a larger government body. In this case, I see no reason why a small but beautifully formed colonial administration, with cash in hand, could not secure state of the art firearms ahead of an incredibly ponderous Imperial department of state.

But the QMs thing is surely not as decisive as you seem to suggest. The Edendale troop seem to have had MH rifles. The Basuto Troop may have had SH carbs, MH Rifles, or possibly Westley Richards - at least two of which would chamber 24th Regt ammuntion. I'm presuming that WR wouldn't. Is that right?

As ever

Mike


Last edited by mike snook 2 on Tue May 15, 2007 11:26 am; edited 1 time in total
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Neil Aspinshaw


Joined: 05 Sep 2005
Posts: 289
Location: Loughborough
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Mike
I agree with you on the procurement issue, however the first Carbines were made by the RSAF Enfield, a Govt body, for govt issue. I have never seen a BSA & M co, LSA or other made M-H Carbine, of the AZW period, most are later models in the military pattern. BSA were a private contractor and would sell to whom ever asked but they possibly never had any enquiry in volume to make them. There are private purchase M-H carbines out there, (Turner, Kerr, to name a few) and they are far superior quality to any Enfield made pieces, but these were mid 1880's (and a lot later that, made in small batches for the officer who wanted a bit more stopping power than a revolver.)

In respect to the QM's, S-H users, yes they would take the M-H rifle load, Westley Richards, both patterns Monkey tail and P1868, no. Snider no.
More obvious apart from Durnfords men who's wagon was in the wagon park.... somewhere, The other colonial forces knew where there camp and ultimately their ammo was.
regards
Neil

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Neil Aspinshaw


Joined: 05 Sep 2005
Posts: 289
Location: Loughborough
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Sawubona, sorry, missed your post.
No, there is no safety on the Swinburn, however a round can be left in the chamber, but not cocked. To cock the rifle you draw on the thumb piece on the indicator and this cocks in one action. You do not cock with the lever.

With the MH you would have to drop the lever to cock, then re-insert the round as it would either have ejected out completely or be on the block. close the breech and then fire. By that time, as a Zulu had just burst out of the Mealie feild twenty feet away from you, you are dead mate!.

You could leave a round in the Snider, with the hammer at half cock, it will not fire until it is set at full cock.

Neil

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Swinburn & Snider Carbines
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