Several Thompson collectors are aware that as an Ex British Army Armourer and author of The Guns from Dagenham, for the past few years I have been collecting and researching the whole story of the Sten gun. This will hopefully be published by Collector Grade next year. Every so often, during my research and in conversation with other Ex wartime Armourers, I come across information that relates to Thompson guns in UK Military service.
Recently I saw information in a wartime armourers notes relating to Thompson guns. But first, a bit about our Armourers. Those that were recruited as 'boy soldiers' at 15 years of age were apprentices, trained for 4 years at the training school at Hilsea, near Portsmouth in Hampshire. Those recruited as adults plus those called up for war service as Armourers were trained at Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire. This information comes from the Armourers training wing technical notes from Melton Mowbray and concerns repairs to the woodwork of Thompson guns. But it starts by reminding Armourers that only those first Thompson guns issued actually belonged to Britain; In fact she purchased these with her valuable gold reserves and as such, belonged to her. Later Thompson guns were only lent or leased to her. Hence the term LEND-LEASE. These guns were instantly recognizable by the term 'US PROPERTY' marked thereon.Many of you, like me, will immediately answer that this is not strictly correct. I am aware of that of course but as a rough and ready guide, it was the yardstick for the UK Military.
As the Thompson was a VERY expensive gun for Britain to buy, it followed that we wanted to get the maximum value out of it. As a result, we formulated a specific repair schedule. This might answer a few queries for US collectors especially those that might own Thompson guns with British parts fitted. It was no secret that the sale of spare parts formed a good slice of the business and profit. And Britain, being at war, didn't want to buy spare parts when she didn't have to, decided on a certain course of action. The first was that Armourers were instructed that when a replacement fore-grip was required, under no circumstances would the expensive vertical grip be used, but only the less expensive horizontal grip when these are available, would be used. It is quite clear that the horizontal grip was being produced in the UK because the instruction refers to these being 'locally produced'. I don't think for one minute that we bothered about the niceties of licensing agreements at the time either!