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L59A2 Drill Purpose Training Rifle

Should you arrive at this page, it has been considerably updated with the addition of the L59A1.

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We are grateful to have been afforded permission to here copy an article written, by the foremost authority on the subject, for "Dispatches", the Journal of the Lee-Enfield Rifle Association (see Links).

The author was the senior armourer responsible for preparing the specification of the military deactivation to which selected Lee-Enfield No.4 rifles were subjected.

It will become evident why the notes commence with the L59A2. Further images and details of the L59A1 will soon be available.


THE ALMOST FORGOTTEN ENFIELD - The ‘DRILL RIFLE L59A2’

"It has long been accepted that the last numerical rifle from the Enfield stable was the ‘DRILL RIFLE, L59A1’.

 

This is the old trusty No.4 of various marks, converted to Drill Purpose specification by various machining and welding processes applied to the body, barrel and bolt. Additionally, it has 2” wide painted bands around the butt and fore-end/ handguard marked with the letters ‘DP’. As a DP rifle or simple inert training aid, its VAOS (Army Ordnance stores category) was deemed to be of no value. Incidentally, if you don’t already possess one of these L59’s in your collection, now is the time to acquire one, while they are still available!
I won’t go into the security reasons that are quite obvious, but these ‘rifles’ were formulated during the 1970’s and early 1980’s for use by Cadet Forces. Many thousands of No.4 rifles, Bren guns and L1A1 rifles (for the Navy Combined Cadet Forces and parachute training) were also being rebuilt to DP specification, and the provisional ‘L’ series numbers were being allocated; that for the No.4 rifle being L59; and for the L1A1, the L60A1.

The trials were undertaken by the Armourers Shop, 43 Command Workshops REME at Aldershot under the control of Brian Sylvester as directed by 14 Maintenance Advisory Group. The first problem was that it soon became clear that there were still No.1 (S.M.L.E.) rifles within the Cadet system that had been overlooked. While they were all nominally .303” rifles, albeit No.1’s and No.4’s, the No.1 rifles were not in any way similar to the No.4 and the machining jigs could not be made to fit or adapt to it! UK MoD obtained about 6, but the exact quantity is unclear, worn out No.1 rifles from the trade to formulate a conversion programme for those No.1 rifles still within the cadet system, especially the school CCF’s.
Thousands of No.4 rifles were completed, but progress on the No.1 programme was slow. Not least, because spares for repair and breakages were in short supply. While this was being undertaken, events had overtaken the project because, while the No.4 was designated ‘DRILL RIFLE L59A1, the slightly - but everso different - No.1 was to have become the DRILL RIFLE, L60A1.

But events had moved on and in Navy Cadet use L1A1 (and parachute training at Brecon) had become the DRILL RIFLE L60A1 .............. it’s getting worse! So the same-meat-different-gravy No.1 was to become the DRILL RIFLE L59A2. Phew! Additionally, while it was one thing to machine and structurally weaken the left and right body side of a No.4, the No.1 body was a different and more difficult kettle of fish, due to it being more rounded and extremely difficult to hold while being machined.

Les Alexander told the author that even engraving the side with the pantograph engraver was difficult. Not the actual machining, but the holding. Two styles of engraving were used. First, with the DRILL RIFLE
L59A2, in a straight line on the left side, to the rear of the breeching up ring and similarly, but with the L59A2, below the words DRILL RIFLE.
Left: the markings "DRILL RIFLE L59A2". Not very clear but the actual engraving was exactly as Les Alexander described it! Difficult to hold and difficult to cut because the body sides were all shapes and sizes!

After much discussion between the workshops, 14 MAG, the Cadet advisory teams and the Inspecting circuit Armourers, it became clear that in reality, only a few schools had any No.1 rifles to convert. In fact there were less than 50 No.1 rifles within the CCF’s across the whole of Southern England and, magnified across the UK, the number will probably have been of the order of 300 or so.

While some of these were serviceable, most were not. The question then arose as to why weren’t they serviceable if they were still in service with the school CCF. Using a couple of schools as good examples, it transpired that Sherborne School CCF had about eighteen No.1 rifles, but these were bought by the school after the war for the princely sum of £1 each, to restart the CCF again after its original weapons were removed in 1940! And they didn’t belong to the MoD in any case! Similarly, Radley College in Oxfordshire had about eight No.1’s, purchased in similar circumstances and, while they were nominally on the school WOCS (War Office Controlled Stores) register, they didn’t belong to the MoD either! And so it probably went on throughout the CCF system.


Quite clearly, it was uneconomic and a nonsense to continue the project for a mere 300 or so ‘rifles’ that would have a value of NIL once the programme was finished, so the straight talking, no nonsense WO2’s Roger Traves an Ian Knight pulled the plug. The decision was then taken that if these schools returned their No.1 rifles through the usual Ordnance channels, quoting the EMER reference, then they’d be replaced with service or DP No.4’s, the now L59A1, regardless of whether they were ‘private purchase’ or UK MoD issue.

The project to convert the No.1 rifle to DP was abandoned. Of the 6 rifles, one was used as a slave and kept by Brian after the project. It was finished and, afterwards, withits white bands removed, was on display in the foyer of the Aldershot Armourers shop. It was destroyed when the workshop closed in the mid 1980’s. Certainly one was destroyed while being machined and used for spare parts. Another, R-345 (but K-345 according to the paper trail!) went to Radley College in Oxfordshire for evaluation, where it eventually adorned the RSM’s Office, and another went to (it is believed ..) Marlborough College in Wiltshire for evaluation too. The other ‘two or three …’ were stripped for
spares and returned to Ordnance.


There were two interesting sequels to this tale. The first, related to me by Roger Smith, one of the senior examining Armourers, was that during this project, surprised that these No.1 rifles were still in the ‘system’, feelers were put out to find exactly what No.1 rifle spare parts were actually within the UK Ordnance. There were certainly some fore-ends and front handguards, backsights, bolt heads and many assorted screws, plus the general parts that are interchangeable with the No.4. While, amazingly, there were boxes and boxes of bayonet grips and catches too that someone, somewhere, had assumed and catalogued wrongly as No5 bayonet spares! He commented ‘… …and to think that while they had these, we were hunting around for current Lee-Enfield No.8 Rifle butt plates, foresight protectors and magazine well inserts!’


The second sequel revolved around a Drill Rifle L60A1, the Navy (and parachute training) L1A1 DP conversion. Recently one of these was found in private hands by a Police Force who questioned its legality as a firearm, as defined. The matter was referred back to the UK MoD and came winging across Captain Mainwaring's desk one bright sunny morning! The decision was made that while the ‘rifle’ did not have a deactivation certificate, it remained inert and, even though it was capable of feeding and loading a drill-round (as it was intended don’t forget … …),
it was deemed to be deactivated to beyond the Home Office required standard and was returned to the owner. Just how it escaped was not questioned. In any case, it’s ‘loss’ value was NIL … … and time is a great healer … …


Captain Mainwaring
DISPATCHES 4 July 2007

MORE IMAGES OF THE L59A2


The slot in the barrel, just ahead of the tip of the chambered bullet, the point of maximum pressure. This was formulated in size so that if a live round was chambered and fired, then the venting gas would leave insufficient to project the bullet out of the bore. Additionally, by being vented on the left, the venting gas would cause least damage to the holding hand. This vent was not exactly where we wanted it, but the location of the handguard springs dictated its exact place.


This picture also shows the undercut wood patch in the rear handguard, presumably to eliminate a split. Another time consuming job for little David Lines.

The DP marking. A 2” white band, 2” from the rear of the nose cap. The bayonet was not an official sanction for this rifle. From the 1920’s onwards,until the mid 1970’s to early 1980’s, it was worn by the duty Cadet; but health and safety decreed that the practice must stop. This was then blunted and DP’d solely for this purpose, and a slight ‘ding’ put into the ring to prevent it being fitted to a rifle. It was rectified for this photo. But they look ‘right’ together.


What is not shown is that the barrel is welded into the body, and the bolt face is welded up flat and a small slot is machined down the underside surface of the bolt-head. There is a small hardened steel stud in the boltway that prevents a standard bolt-head from moving in the bolt-way.


Right: the left side of the body showing the milling cut directly into the left side locking cam on the body, thereby removing completely the integral structural strength of the body locking lugs. Also clearly shown is the ground slot from the bottom locking lug of the bolt. This has ensured that the body and bolt are totally and structurally weakened. Note also, the copper plated bolt.


Left: the right body side showing the structural weakening of the right side locking cam surface. Also shown is the long locking column of the bolt, machined just ahead of the induction hardened locking surface. This has partially broken the inherent structural locking strength of the bolt.

 


There has been an interesting recent occurrence concerning those L59A1/2 rifles (March 2009) previously in use by New Zealand's various Cadet Forces. Their Lee-Enfield No.8 and Lee-Enfield No.9 rifles were taken out of service, and it was proposed by some NZ authorities that they should be destroyed. A campaign, by shooters and collectors of such historically significant rifles, convinced those authorities that both New Zealand's military heritage and the nation's coffers would be better served by the sale of these non-threatening firearms to collectors such as themselves. In the event, a total of 450 rifles were saved from destruction. The sale was handled by Turners Auctions, and their catalog may still be available at www.turners.co.nz

Included in the auction were 285 of the No.8 rifles, 116 of the No.9 rifles and 53 of these .303 No.4 Drill Purpose rifles.
To obviate the purchase of large quantities by dealers, collectors were allowed to buy a maximum of one of each type. One such purchaser has written to us to say ........."With our new acquisitions, a lot of us are now in need of information from sites such as yours. Congratulations on a great site, and thankyou for providing a great source of information."

We are grateful to this enthusiastic collector, who has provided this image of the rifles displayed at the sale. The picture is a sight for sore eyes.

For more information on the sale (and other photos) you can go to: MilitariaNZ.freeforums



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