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AUX. UNITS WEAPONS 1944

Although the men did not know it there were now serious questions being raised in the War Office over the continued need for the Auxiliary Units.  They began to overplay their hand as a ‘secret’ organisation and their expectations over receiving priority in arms and ammunition sealed their fate.

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No.77 Smoke grenade.

When thrown, the lead-weighted fabric tape unwound and pulled out the pin in the bakelite fuze casing.

No.77 grenade

In 1944, after a period when the Auxiliary Units were presented with a multitude of booby-trap devices and new weapns, Training Officer Nigel Oxenden recommended that the patrols returned to the  basic kit list of 1940/1 and only carry the  recently-introduced No.77 phosphorous grenade and new Welrod pistol as weapons.

 

The No. 77 grenade  was a more stable alternative to the SIP grenade but was primarily a smoke grenade, described as  ‘hand percussion smoke grenade’,  it consisted of 8oz of white phosphorous in a compact metal container and used  the same 'allways' fuse as the No.69 grenade. The grenade is generally believed to have  come into service with the army from mid 1943, although it was included  in Small Arms Training, Volume I, Pamphlet No. 13, Grenade (1942). It was primarily designed to produce an instantaneous, but short duration, smoke screen. Being phosphorous, it did however, like the No.76 grenade,  have an  anti-personnel effect. For the Auxiliary Units patrols, this combination of instant and noxious smoke was an excellent way to discourage pursuit. It  was only in November 1943 that the Auxiliary Units placed an order for 50,000 No. 77 grenades (exceeding their issue recommendation by 2,500%), which was characteristic of the continuing self- belief of the Auxiliary Units HQ in their importance.  Their repeated request for the grenades was contrary to  the advice given by Oxenden not to draw attention  to their existence and may have played a part in their final downfall. An issue was eventually approved in January 1944, subject to being phased in over three months. Confusion over any early issue to the Auxiliary Units may have arisen because it appears in the Auxiliary Units manual Countryman's Diary 1939 - which was, in fact, not published until 1944. 

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.32 calibre Welrod.  A highly effective silenced weapon, recommended for use at point blank range. Entered service with SOE in 1943. Although recommended for use by the Auxiliary Units in 1944, there is no evidence that it was ever actually issued to the  operational patrols.

Welrod

The Welrod was a .32 calibre bolt-action silenced pistol. It entered service with SOE  in 1943 and reputedly continued to be used by the SAS into the 1980s. This was a weapon to be used at extreme close range, with the firm advice being to place the muzzle against the target to ensure a silent kill (he expanding propellant gas might then cause more damage than the actual bullet). As such, it would have been equivalent to the use of a knife. 

   

The development of the Welrod  was part of a broader project by SOE and War Office   to improve the range of silenced weapons to special forces. Interestingly, there is no  evidence of the use by the Auxiliary Units of its predecessors  in the time when arguably it would have been most use. By 1939, both the long- and short-barrelled Colt Woodman could be fitted with a Parker-Hale suppressor and were advertised for public sale as such. In 1942 SOE  began issuing the highly-successful silenced  High Standard Model B  with its OSS variant  (the Hi-Standard HDM) continuing in use by the CIA into the 1990s.  If a silenced pistol was a priority it begs the question why these were not distributed to the Auxiliary Units rather than wait to 1944 when, realistically, the chance of them being used in action had passed. 

 

Nonetheless, in 1944 Nigel Oxenden harking back to the early Auxiliary Units when they were tasked with nighttime sabotage operations, offered a hope that the suppressed Welrod might be issued to Auxiliary Units as their only firearm. Oxenden had otherwise maintained ‘There are strong arguments against the carrying of firearms on night operations. One shot could betray the presence of the patrol and turn the attack into a headlong rout’.  Oxenden was writing only months before the disbanding of the Auxiliary Units when that role had passed  and there was certainly no general issue. It may only have been supplied to some of  the surviving Scout sections on a trial basis. 

 

PIAT anti-tank gun

The PIAT was designed in 1942 in response to the  need for a more effective infantry anti-tank weapon Final approval for the weapon came on August 31st, 1942 and entered service in 1943, first seeing action in Tunisia and Sicily.  Some 115,000 were constructed.  The PIAT was 39 inches long and weighed 32 pounds (empty). A powerful spring carrying a spigot ignited a charge at the base of the projectile.  The resulting force of the discharge both launched the missile and absorbed the huge recoil which itself then re-cocked the mechanism, Firing a 2.5lb hollow charge projectile,  it had an effective direct fire range of 115 yards (105 meters) and was capable of penetrating 75mm of armour.

The priority for such weapons in 1943 was clearly with the army and, despite the claim made by Lampe in 1968,  no evidence has been found  for its use by the Auxiliary Units.