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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This follows on from the 1926 Lithgow discussion, but probably better served by having its own thread if anyone has any ideas.

The gist is this: Were Lithgow barrels dated on manufacture, or on fitting up to the receiver?

For most production during WW1 and WW2, the barrel date would fit both requirements, as manufacture, fitting up and finished view would occur within a few days.

However, during the 1920s and 1930s when production was very slow and sporadic, a barrel may have sat in store a long time before fitting up. Hence using the barrel date as the basis of production chronology could end up confusing if you make the wrong pick between dating being applied at manufacture, or at fitting up.

I previously assumed that the barrel date was applied on fitting up, and was the best indicator of when the rifle was completed. That was somewhat based on the fact that the New-old-stock heavy barrels that used to be commonly available were all undated, hence no fit-up, no date. Some of the club rifles I have seen used in the 1950s and 1960 are a mixed bag. Some have barrel dates and some don't, but they almost never have the rifle serial number. Then there is the matter of the new MLE and SMLE heavy barrels being supplied into the gun trade from 1926 to 1939. Were these commercially supplied barrels dated when they left the factory?

Other factors that muddy the waters are the stories that:
1. service issue heavy barrel rifles were built up, but were sold to rifle clubs in the 1930s, only to be requisitioned at start of WW2 (we know that is true).
2. barrels were sold to the trade so that civilian club armourers and members of the trade could fit them to rifles as part of their trade. If so, did they bother serial numbering the barrel to the receiver?
3. barrels sold commercially into the trade were then requisitioned back to Lithgow at the start of WW2. These are marked MOTTY, TAYLOR, SPECIAL STEEL (any others?)
3a. Question: Did Lithgow stamp the MOTTY, TAYLOR etc onto the barrels they supplied, of did the trade apply the stamps themselves?
4. Lithgow did commercial work for the gun trade by fitting barrels to privately owned club SMLEs. You would think that what came back would have been dated and serial numbered.


The only examples of 1930s commercial barrels I have noted are:
1. Lithgow 1915 No.28389 with a defaced sold out of service /I\ S /I\ mark on receiver ring. Rifle came out of war stock in 1982. Barrel is dated 7 '36, no serial number and marked SPECIAL STEEL on the knox form. That sort of tells the story that the rifle was disposed of to a rifle club post WW1 (official sale mark), was fitted with a heavy barrel by the trade circa 1936 without numbering the barrel, and was then requisitioned back into service circa 1939 and had its sale mark obliterated. That sort of indicates that the barrel was dated on manufacture, but what if point 4 is true?

I have been a bit remiss in not paying too much attention to the club rifles, so have not been gathering much info.

Are there also any New-Old Stock light barrels out there? No serial number is a given, but are they dated or not??

Any info appreciated.

regards,

D.
 

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don't know if this is much help, I have a BSA 1900 LE1* range pattern, with an out of service mark on the top of the action, fitted with a H barrel marked 1.33. there is a serial number on the barrel, but it does not match the action. all I've got. my bad, there is no out of service mark, its a Q^G queensland government mark.
 

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For what it's worth, here is my 6/17 built Lithgow 1917 SHT.LE Mk.III S/N 62967. It has an "H" barrel installed by Lithgow SAF in September 1958 shortly before it was sold out of service in early 1959. A serial number has not been stamped on the phosphated barrel. The second number 45134 on the receiver is the 3MD inventory/rack number. The 3MD stamp on the receiver has been over stamped with ->S<- .
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
For what it's worth, here is my 6/17 built Lithgow 1917 SHT.LE Mk.III S/N 62967. It has an "H" barrel installed by Lithgow SAF in September 1958 shortly before it was sold out of service in early 1959. A serial number has not been stamped on the phosphated barrel. The second number 45134 on the receiver is the 3MD inventory/rack number. The 3MD stamp on the receiver has been over stamped with ->S<- .
Interesting! It looks like one of the NOS barrels, but with a date. This has the same sold out of service as my 28389, but it was presumably sold before it was re-barrelled in 1936. Are there markings to indicate disposal in early 1959? The South Australians were keen on marking all of their disposals with a large /I\ S /I\ on the butt with the month and year.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I have seen H barrels that appeared new (no rearsights or evidence of any being fitted) that have been dated, around '55 from memory.
Doogal, makes me think that maybe the barrels were dated on manufacture in general, but the large batch of undated NOS was maybe an anomoly. Smiths in Sydney had hundreds of them as part of a clean out of Lithgow after they went out of the 303 line of business. The fitting of rearsights is an interesting point. All of the 1930s dated H barrels I have seen (with one exception) had the rearsight bed fitted. Without exception, these beds have been marked with the 'T' on the left side near the cross pin. Obviously to indicate the bed had been bored out, but all look like they have been done in the same place with the same T stamp.
 

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I've also seen a lot of barrels both standard and heavy (with the rearsight bed removed) that appear to have been parkerized as a completed unit,as the barrel is white where the reasight bed has been.
 

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Interesting! It looks like one of the NOS barrels, but with a date. This has the same sold out of service as my 28389, but it was presumably sold before it was re-barrelled in 1936. Are there markings to indicate disposal in early 1959? The South Australians were keen on marking all of their disposals with a large /I\ S /I\ on the butt with the month and year.
The 3MD stamped on the receiver has been over stamped with ->S<- as can be seen in the photo.

As for the disposal date, I have the paperwork from the original owner including the receipt for £3 from the Australian Department of Defence when he bought the rifle at Puckapunyal Army Base in February 1959.

The previous/original owner lived in Victoria and while in the Australian Army he was in the 67th Battalion, later to become 3RAR (3rd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment) in 1948. He went to Japan with the 67th Battalion as occupation forces after WW2 and served with 3RAR when they went from Japan to Korea. After Korea he was demobbed and he then got a job as a clerk with the Central Army Records Office in Victoria Barracks in St Kilda Road Melbourne. I suspect that, from his extensive research, 62967 was the rifle that he carried in Japan and Korea.

When I bought the rifle after his death in 2015 I also got with the receipt a copy of the original owner's War Service Record and a foolscap typed pink "flimsy" paper with the history of 62967; from production at Lithgow in 1917 to it being sent to the Middle East in February 1918 as a replacement rifle for the Light Horse; return to Australia in 1919 and being put into stores; withdrawal from stores in 1940 and issue to the 39th Battalion that took it to New Guinea in 1942; returned to Australia in October 1945 and transferred to the 67th Battalion/3RAR that took the rifle to Japan and Korea; return to Australia in 1954 and back into stores again. The rifle's movement records were referenced from the logistics records of individual units held in Victoria Barracks.

Other than the H barrel being fitted and a M BA /I\ P stamped bolt head there is no stamped evidence of an FTR. From manufacture in 1917 to the H barrel in 1958 there appears to have been no attempt to convert it to Mk.III* standard. The rifle has all matching numbers - bolt, receiver, rear sight, nose cap, wood - and all parts are stamped with the Lithgow seven point star. The furniture was not inlet for volley sights and the rifle retains the Lithgow star marked stock disc, magazine cut-off and the windage adjustable rear sight.

The original owner used the rifle as a range rifle so wood on the left side around the safety has been inlet and a Central No.4 sight plate fitted. Rifling is excellent so I don't think he fired many rounds through it before the change over to 7.62mm full-bore rifles.

Did the original owner arrange to have "his" rifle fitted by Lithgow with a new H barrel for range work prior to purchase? I can't prove it but I strongly suspect that he did, as many Smellies sold around 1959 to rifle club members conveniently had H barrels fitted before sale, backed up by anecdotal evidence from old timers that Lithgow "was in on the joke". He certainly would have had the right contacts through his job.

Anyway, all of the above has great meaning for me being ex-3RAR myself. I have no plans to sell 62967 and it will pass to my eldest son when I am permanently "demobbed".

Added:
During WW2 and Korea the Australian Army issued each soldier a Record of Service Book that had over four pages a "Record of Personal Equipment Issued to Army No." In the second column after the date is recorded REGISTERED NUMBER OF RIFLE OR PISTOL as seen below. Rifle 28442 was issued to the soldier on 6 November 1945. I am going to try to contact the family to see if they still have that document and ask for a copy of that section.
 

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Hey Damien. This is a very interesting subject indeed. This one may muddy the waters a little bit more. It's about the barrel date on an original all matching Lithgow rifle, action dated 1923, barrel dated 12 '24, with a coachwood butt dated 1925. a nice example of how Lithgow experimented with coachwood in the 1920's. You will see on this one the month is stamped in a different size font to the year, suggesting the year and month were stamped at different times.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Hey Damien. This is a very interesting subject indeed. This one may muddy the waters a little bit more. It's about the barrel date on an original all matching Lithgow rifle, action dated 1923, barrel dated 12 '24, with a coachwood butt dated 1925. a nice example of how Lithgow experimented with coachwood in the 1920's. You will see on this one the month is stamped in a different size font to the year, suggesting the year and month were stamped at different times.
Wow! That is pretty extraordinary seeing the old marking style on a coachwood butt. As per previous posts on the 1926 discussion, the barrel date is consistent with what appears to be finished view in 1925. A very nice piece - now I'm on the hunt for one like it!
I have only ever seen mixed woodwork (new ex-factory)on some of the early 1916 rifles that mixed walnut and Queensland maple. D.
 

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Damien, you worry me.
With the research you used to do it seems strange that you bring these points up now.
There has been a lot of information sourced over the last 10 years or so, boxes of Archived files accessed at great cost, not always productive.

A search of the data base here and on Milsurps would be helpful.
Just a few points,
1. Barrels were not dated on manufacture, but dated when fitted to action and proofed.
No commercially supplied barrel was dated, but was dated on fitment.

2. Barrels sold to trade were stamped as per directions for travelling armourers, no serial number was transferred, only done at SAF.

3. Heaps, do a search of the archives.
3a. No, done by trade.

References: Specification to Govern Manufacture and Inspection.
India Department Regulations to Guide the Inspection Department.
Minute Paper from Major A.H. Sandford on Inspections to be carried out by Inspection Branch.
Instructions for Factory Viewers, Inspection Staff and Travelling Armourers. 1922

As for H barrels, each different batch supplied from 1934 to 1962, had a one or two letter code on the barrel in front of the knox, a single letter from C in 1932 to P in 1950, then a 2 letter code from AB in 1951 to AO in 1960, there are several cleanskin barrels still in wrap marked AO.
7.62 heavy barrels made by Lithgow are marked AXX

In 1932 9,570 H barrels were made.
1936 3,762, then another batch of 3,987 barrels
1937 1,912
1938 2,871
1939 1,608
1940 3,438....from 1947 to 1960 the Rifle Association placed a standing order of 1,000 barrels( not always supplied)

The National Archives and Trove are your friends.
 

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Wow. I've never seen the Lithgow Shield on a Coach wood butt.

Sent from my SM-N950F using Tapatalk
I saw an interesting one at the recent Australian Arms Auction in Melbourne. A 1934 dated action assembled as a completed rifle in 1936. Fore-end and nose cap were later replacements but the butt was original and clearly stamped and dated 1936, but it was coachwood. I had never seen a 1936 dated coachwood butt before only Queensland Maple.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 · (Edited)
Damien, you worry me.
With the research you used to do it seems strange that you bring these points up now.
There has been a lot of information sourced over the last 10 years or so, boxes of Archived files accessed at great cost, not always productive.

A search of the data base here and on Milsurps would be helpful.
Just a few points,
1. Barrels were not dated on manufacture, but dated when fitted to action and proofed.
No commercially supplied barrel was dated, but was dated on fitment.

2. Barrels sold to trade were stamped as per directions for travelling armourers, no serial number was transferred, only done at SAF.

3. Heaps, do a search of the archives.
3a. No, done by trade.

References: Specification to Govern Manufacture and Inspection.
India Department Regulations to Guide the Inspection Department.
Minute Paper from Major A.H. Sandford on Inspections to be carried out by Inspection Branch.
Instructions for Factory Viewers, Inspection Staff and Travelling Armourers. 1922

As for H barrels, each different batch supplied from 1934 to 1962, had a one or two letter code on the barrel in front of the knox, a single letter from C in 1932 to P in 1950, then a 2 letter code from AB in 1951 to AO in 1960, there are several cleanskin barrels still in wrap marked AO.
7.62 heavy barrels made by Lithgow are marked AXX

In 1932 9,570 H barrels were made.
1936 3,762, then another batch of 3,987 barrels
1937 1,912
1938 2,871
1939 1,608
1940 3,438....from 1947 to 1960 the Rifle Association placed a standing order of 1,000 barrels( not always supplied)

The National Archives and Trove are your friends.

Muffet, I can worry me sometimes too. So many thanks for the very relevant info conveyed so succinctly. Timing was related to me digging out info for the 1926 discussion, where III(H) 28389 cast doubt.
After a collecting life believing that the barrel date was stamped on fitting up, there were a couple of anomalies that made me question this, as I did. Cutting to the chase, the bit of info I was missing in all these years was the Directions for travelling armourers. This makes perfect sense of III(H) no. 28389, which embodied all that concerned me.

I have to say that NAA is a bit of a drag unless you find something already digitised, and I agree that you can spend lots and get nothing but a couple of sentences and endless file pages and cover sheets. My last foray on SAF matters was a long time ago when assisting Tony Griffiths. But thanks for pointing out the resources now available else where.

I guess I have rested on some of that documentation obtained almost 15 years ago, as it was pretty definitive in its own way. Amongst other documents, two interesting ones were the SAF Annual Report (to the MSB) for Year Ended 30 Jun 1937, and a History of the Munitions Effort by SAF's Draughtman -in-Charge Mr C. Thorley drafted in 1945. The former document is more accurate, but latter covers a greater range with production numbers, albeit with a few bugs.

These reports give good insights into the heavy barrel production.

Starting with the year ending June 1937 report as an example, it states:
Barrels, Heavy, Short, MkI* for use of rifle club members and for conversion of rifles. Qty 1,912
Barrels (H), Mark III Qty 3,987
Barrels, No.1, Service, Light. Qty 795.
Conversion of rifles No.1 Mark III / III*, LV to HV Qty 3,100

Thorley's report goes "Short, Heavy, rifle barrels for rifle clubs 5,674... for the past two years. Conversion of 3,100 No.1 rifles for the services. Is that No.1 Mk III to III(H)? No, according to the original EOFY 1937 report, but without a strict format, Thorley's report becomes ambiguous, a bit scrappy and has a few gaps. As but one example, Short heavy barrels of both types for EOFY 1937 comes to 5,899, exceeding Thorley's 35 to 37 two year total of 5,674. Ooops.

That aside, I note the distinction between the Short Heavy MkI* and III(H) barrels. I can only read that the Short MkI* barrels are for the old MLE rifle club rifles (Shortened Range Pattern), and the III(H) refers to the heavy barrel we all know with the step-down muzzle produced for the SMLE III from 1932. So the figure of 1,912 quoted is for the Short MkI* heavy barrel, which is just a Long MkI* barrel produced by Lithgow from FY 20/21, but shortened by 5 inches. I can recall seeing a H barrel production drawing somewhere that may provide additional clarity, but cannot recall its nomenclature in terms of local pattern mark number, etc.

Another anomaly is the extra 3,987 barrels you quote for 1936 production turn up in 1937 figures. The only reference to barrel production in this report (part of the background narrative) is "Short Mk.I* Rifle Barrels" No quantity.

What a tangled web. Unfortunately I will not be able to do any homework of my own on that for a little while, but any quick thoughts?

cheers,

D.
 

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The most up to date information on actual production figures would be Tony Griffiths books. Vol.1 page 239 gives the break down for 1936/37 1,912 H barrels for rifle clubs(in keeping with their 1000 per year standing order) 3,987 Mk.III for conversions/rebuilds, 795 light rifle barrels(no sights, for upgrade to Mk.7 ammo) and converted 3,100 Mk.VI rifles to Mk.VII.
Page 241 figures for 1937/38 H barrels 2,871, Mk.III 4,032, light barrels(no sights)1,595, 3,560 older rifles were upgraded to Mk.VII.

I guess I must have had that 3,987 in the wrong column in my notes, shit happens especially when blind old geriatrics play with modern dangfangle computers.

No Mk.1 Barrels were made after 1932.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Muffet, your comments re using Tony’s book as the up to date reference got me looking at Tony’s references just now. I am pretty sure we looked at the same document “History of the Munitions Effort” by Thorley in 1945, and this is his “Ref2” identified on p.422 of his book. He has based all his figures on this 1945 summary, rather than the yearly factory reports. However, in his Sources section page xiv, the third paragraph says it all, and explains why he decided to go with “Ref 2”.
He mentions the annual managers reports as primary sources, but does not actually reference them, as they were contradictory, inconsistent, gappy, etc. That said, it is pretty clear that the 1945 report was just a paraphrasing of the previous yearly reports with associated transcription mistakes – examples in my previous post. Hence, I would caution against using the 1945 document as gospel.
I would go back to the managers yearly reports - 1937’s for example, distinguishes between the Heavy barrels for the SMLEs vs, heavy barrels for the shortened range pattern MLEs as they are listed separately. The 1945 report conflates them.
Regarding the MkI* long barrels, the 1937 report’s background entry for 1920/21 was “The production of Barrels, Rifle, long Mk.I*, for use by rifle clubs was commenced this year.” The last entry for the long barrels was in Fy 1931/32. No quantities given. FY 1932/33 states that “New work introduced was the making of Short Mk.I* Heavy Barrels for use of the rifle club members and for the conversion of Rifle. The quantity manufactured was 9,570.” This continues up to 1935/36 as being Short Mk.I* heavy barrels, but in 1937 they differentiate between Mk.I* and III(H) barrels. We all know that heaps of standard H barrels for SMLE had been produced from 1932, so obviously some liberties taken with the nomenclature in the reports. Getting hold of all of the yearly reports would at least allow this to be checked. D
 

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Just came across this thread and thought I may be able to assist on this. A 1916 Lithgow with an H barrel from a 1936 batch if I recall correctly. FTR'd in 9'44 and subsequently stamped as such on the butt AND on the barrel.


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