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    Peter Laidler's Avatar
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    Irish (?) contract No4 rifles

    The Irish contract No4 rifles.

    I know that there's always been some doubt about this subject and especially the sheer....., not just sheer, but VAST quantities of the supposed contract. Nobody doubts that the Irish Defence Force did indeed purchase sufficient quantities of weaponry, .... Anyway....

    What follows is my own opinion, based on nothing more than facts based on intelligence sources I have gleaned over the past years and what I call, the bleedin’ obvious.

    Firstly, my jaundiced view of this so call contract is well known. However, whatever the size of the Irish Army, a small Defence Force, a larger effective Army or a huge Army lies at the core. For however spectacular, well trained, disciplined and many other things they are, the average, educated, erudite, sage person couldn’t really call it a large one. Even their heroic role as UN peacekeepers don’t alter the fact that it is, in world Army terms, small (see Janes World Armies). One answer for this small size is answered in the next paragraph. But it COULD be of course, in the parlous – or even perilous – or even penniless - state of that nations finances, especially in the period we’re looking at

    So the question I most reasonably ask is this? Why would a neutral don’t forget, island Nation, surrounded by sea, (except for a reasonably friendly and tolerant North and a friendly Britain across the sea) purchase in the mid 50’s enough rifles and machine guns to equip 70 full Infantry Battalions*. Just read that again if you please…….. 70 *equivalent UK sized Infantry Battalions……. It’s just mind boggling. Just to put things into perspective or to elaborate on belief stupidity, according to your point of view of course, that was LARGER than the equivalent size of the national service fed Britishicon Army of the period. Yep……., that’s the one stationed all over the globe as far as the eye could see, and with a HUGE standing NATO Army defending the eastern flank in Europe.

    It might be that the nations coffers had suddenly been swelled by a gold rush or a new found agricultural policy or a….., well, something else. Or maybe, the nation that suddenly rushed to re-equip its small Defence Force with soon-to-be obsolescent bolt action rifles knew something we didn’t know. That’s another point too. Every other Western looking nation was in the process or - or certainly looking with one eye – to re-arming with the new NATO standard caliber and a semi automatic rifle.

    But there’s more…….. Those who have been to Afghanistan recently will have seen, heard of or read the intelligence supplements and on these, you’ll have read and seen lists of small arms, captured, seized, found, caches located etc etc etc. The reasons for these lists, quantities and serial numbers will be obvious to those who need to know and evaluate this type of stuff of which I will say no more. Now whether you know this or not, I don’t think there is any secret whatsoever, that Britain, among other nations, supplied vast Arms shipments to the factions fighting the Soviet backed Afghan Army and Russianicon supporting Army years earlier.

    Britain supplied the Mujahadeen with thousands of new .303” No4 rifles from obsolete stockpiles, only to find that when the time came, these rifles were (badly) stored and used against us. You’ve guessed what happened next can’t you? Yep, these PF, A, UF and other serial numbered Enfield leapt out at you from the lists. And lo and behold, hundreds of these serial number blocks fall right into the blocks allocated to ‘The Irish Contract’. Now, whatever Eire is, it’s not a warlike nation but Neutral one and it is highly unlikely that that peace loving people handed out some of their warlike stockpiles to help their brotherly Mujahadeen brethren. Of course it MIGHT, but I very much doubt it.

    This previously withheld information has been known to some forumers for some time but I don’t think that it is breeching any confidences now that the Country has been freed.

    Now there’s the question that has been troubling or causing some head scratching for some time….. Some No4 rifles, including one this very week, plus a 1985 converted L59 DP rifle which prompted this short article are in the hands of owners and are clearly marked with UK Military markings such as School CCF or local Army Cadet Force tags and unit markings such as the UIN details in paint, on the butt. And THESE are also within the serial number ranges of rifles earmarked as ‘Irish Contract’

    Irish Contract? Or an exercise in whatever you like to call it. But even so, they might have bought a lot..... but 70 Battalions worth…..!!!!! You're havin' a laugh! I know I’m the eternal cynic, but I ain’t stupid!



    • That figure is based on hurried back of an envelope maths so don’t quibble about the absolutes


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    Advisory Panel Brian Dick's Avatar
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    Century Arms International in PQ, Canadaicon and VT, USAicon, (at that time), was the primary importer along with Val Forgett of Navy Arms, Co. in NJ, USA. The term "Irish Contract" was used specifically in their adverts at the time and the simple answer is it just stuck. Good marketing approach I reckon! Since the late 1980's everyone who puts their NIW No.4Mk2 up for sale, (except me of course!), uses the term "Irish Contract". According to Skip Stratton's book, the only serial number range for Irish contract No.4Mk.2 rifles is PF309348-PF359347. That's 50,000 rifles so they were obviously never delivered as Peter states. I've had many of the freshly unwrapped and new in the wrap rifles and many are no where close to that serial number range although I had a half dozen used Mk.2's complete with numbered No.9Mk.1 bayonets that were definitely in the so called "Irish contract" serial range. My uneducated guess is that there were huge stores of these new rifles that were never delivered. Not just rifles supposedly destined for for the IDF. I think Peter has mentioned RAF contract rifles too in past threads. When the MoD sold them off for export ONLY in the 1980's, they were all taken to Donnington and disposed of, that is if they weren't already there in storage. Maybe Peter can answer that question. All I can say is: "Thank God they didn't get out the gas axe!!". It's amazing to find a 60 year old Lee Enfield service rifle, new in the factory wrapper! I got silly and sold my last few to Arundel Classic Guns in the UKicon several years ago. I exported a ton of them back via ACG in years past. Some of you gents in Blighty reading this are probably holding them! I've since acquired another one for my little No.4 collection and there it will reside for a long time. I won't unwrap it either!

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    Senior Member snipershot1944's Avatar
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    It's kind of like the NIW M1 Garand rifles that the CMPicon recently disposed of. They were the end of the contracts as the US was getting ready to start up production of the M14icon rifles. The last Garands were given/loaned/sold to US allies. After 2000, a nice lot of them were returned from Greek Air Force surplus stocks, and most were 1955 manufacture. Brand new unfired rifles, produced during a time of transition.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Dickicon View Post
    According to Skip Stratton's book, the only serial number range for Irish contract No.4Mk.2 rifles is PF309348-PF359347. That's 50,000 rifles so they were obviously never delivered as Peter states.
    You are quite right, PF320778, all matching including the magazine sits in my collection in "as new" condition. I bought it at least ten years ago.

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    Contributing Member read6737's Avatar
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    Just a side note.
    It is Craig Whitsey Gunmakers in Arundel.
    They are the company that make the 5.56 / 223 convertion for the No 4.
    So I see why they wanted some NEW No 4s.

    5.56 No. 4
    Tikka T3 Tac. Enfields No1mk3*, No4mk1 T, No4mk1*T, M.H. 577/450s. K31. MAS 36s. Mausers G98s, 1908, M48, BSA 222 (Mauser action) .22 match arms. black powder. 1873 11mm. Webley 455 MKI.MKIVs,MKVI. Spanish .44,10.35s,OP 455s

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    Really Senior Member Mk VII's Avatar
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    The Craggy Island Defence Force certainly got some. Their reserves continued to use them until quite recently.

    http://michaelotoole.biz/wp-content/...esBray0001.jpg


    http://michaelotoole.biz/wp-content/...9/GOH_055a.jpg


    Some serial numbers in the so-called 'Irish' range were also sold through the [Britishicon] NRA.

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    Really Senior Member Seaspriter's Avatar
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    Gentlemen, thank you for your insightful and helpful explanations of this "end of the line" of the glorious Britishicon Lee Enfield story. Very enlightening.

    I found another post on another board that gives details that help clarify the serial numbers and contracts with which countries and the dates of the contracts. It adds more dimensionality to Peter and Brian's insights. Suggest you take a look at post #3 & #21 on:
    Enfield No.4 MK2 (F) questions
    Last edited by Seaspriter; 04-01-2015 at 07:55 PM.

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    read6737, No Sir, Craig Whitsey Gunmakers have no relation to Arundel Classic Guns. The rifles sent to him were sold as shooter/collectables. I think the majority if not all were sent to proof in Birmingham so were unwrapped which is a shame.

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    Really Senior Member Frederick303's Avatar
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    Capt Laidler,

    I am very glad to have you finally put down on paper your reasons for doubting the general quantity of rifles acquired by the Irish. I have wondered for some years what that information was that you had regarding this.

    That notwithstanding, I have done some research, as have others more favorably situated and this research has involved direct communications with the defense archives at Dublin. Here is a summary of what information I have on the topic:

    1) The need for 50,000 rifles.

    In 1945 the Irish army had the following stock of long arms, distributed between the regular forces and the local defense volunteers:

    Rifle Total serviceable
    SMLE MK I*** rifles ~9,000 Under 4,500
    No 1 MKIII/III* ~32,500 31,000 plus
    P14 T 112 112
    US Model 1917 19,987 ~19,765

    Total: ~61,599 ~54,877

    So at the end of the emergency, they had an assorted pile of rifles, or two different calibers, one of which was by no means plentiful (.300). Of those rifles none had been obtained after 1926 (parts were), and many, more than half of the SMLE MK I*** rifles were worn out or lacked forends.

    By 1953 the only additions had been some quantity of No1 MKIII .22 cal conversions, partly purchased directly from UK stocks, the remainder converted by parker-hale in 1951/1952 from worn out Irish No1 MKIII rifles. In short they needed new guns and considering the tensions that existed right after the Korean war it was by no means out of the question that if they could get a good price they would not replace the entire rifle stock.

    2) Obsolete pattern:

    While very apparent now that the Bolt action was obsolete, in 1953 it was not so apparent. The EM2 which had been adopted by the UK in 1949 was still not in production and while 1954 would see the FAL be adopted, in 1953 the only common self-loading rifle used was the M1. As a neutral state Ireland could not get them, only NATO countries were supplied by the US at that time, perhaps in part due to the fact that the UK did not want Ireland out of their orbit, and had communicated that to the US of A. The No 4 was still the rifle of issue to the UK army and would be until the fall of 1956. Indeed it was not until late in 1961 that the Irish suddenly made purchases of the FAL after some peacekeeper problems in the Congo.

    3) Records on Irish Purchase

    Ireland did purchase a total of 50,000 No 4 MK II rifles. This is verified by the letter sent to Graham Priest, of which he was nice enough to share a copy of the letter with me, dated 11 April 2000. In the letter a Colonel of the Irish army verifies that a total quantity of 50,000were purchased. He lists the following serial number ranges. The rifles were distributed in these ranges, by no means were they complete through all the ranges :

    PF301548 to PF354999
    PF360000 to PF 405415
    UF55A 152 to UF55 A21266


    In separate correspondence regarding the Irish adoption of the Carl Gustav M45 submachine gun, a mention is made that at the same time of those trials (1953) a quantity of 500 No4 MK II rifles were obtained directly from the British MOD for Irish trials. These rifles would have to lie outside of the regular number sequence, as they can have been purchased no later than the October of 1953, and as such predate the known start of the Irish contract (November of 1953 production start, first regular shipments to Ireland no earlier than late April/May 1954, with the issue to the army occurring in October of 1954).

    4) Disposal of The Irish Contract:

    Between 1991 and 1997 Ireland sold a total of No 4 MK II rifles. Here are the sales records as published by the Irish ministry of defense, in response to an inquiry made to them regarding sales between 1988 and 2000:

    1991 5,889 including .22 cal rifles (either 989 or 889 .22 cal rifles)
    1993 20,000
    1994 8,000
    1996/1997 16,000

    The following quantities of arms were still in storage as late 2003, In Irish stocks. At that time one of the No4 MK I T rifles had been de-watted for display in a museum. Once gain these records obtained from the Irish ministry of defense.

    No 4 MK 2 740
    No 4 MK 2 with PH5C sights 100
    No 4 MK I (T) 50

    Now from the above you will note a missing figure of either 140 or 240 rifles. This is explained by a former soldier of the Irish reserves who explained at the time of the final disposal in 1997 all of the drill rifles were destroyed. He even sent me a picture of an armory with one in a rack from 1993, with a single white band on the buttstock.

    In collecting various accounts from soldiers in the FSC, individuals involved in the packing for delivery of the rifles were found, who verified the inventory and packing of the 1993 and 1997 lot. In the case of the 1997 lot, all were like new and the soldier posting on this indicated they unpacked the rifles from boxes, with 5 rifles each, each packed along with an unmarked No 9 Mk I bayonet still in grease. Each serial number had to be verified and so they made a slit in the packing paper over the action body to verify each and every serial number. Which is commonly seen on a lot of the rifles….

    So from various sources the full quantity of 50,000 rifles and their disposal are explained.

    5) Explanation of the serial numbers and why they are seen in other places other than Ireland:

    That will have to wait until tomorrow night as it would take a lot of time to explain what info has come to light, and this post is long enough.

    Frederick (known as Fritz on Gunboards)

    ---------- Post added at 12:41 AM ---------- Previous post was at 12:40 AM ----------

    Poo, the formating is messed up.
    Last edited by Bob Womack; 12-09-2017 at 09:55 AM.

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    Thanks for the corection Brian.
    Always thought they were one and the same.
    Tikka T3 Tac. Enfields No1mk3*, No4mk1 T, No4mk1*T, M.H. 577/450s. K31. MAS 36s. Mausers G98s, 1908, M48, BSA 222 (Mauser action) .22 match arms. black powder. 1873 11mm. Webley 455 MKI.MKIVs,MKVI. Spanish .44,10.35s,OP 455s

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