LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Dear Tracie, a short article for the TCN in the future.
We have all heard rumors of crated Jeeps waiting to be recovered haven't we? In fact, in England, there are consistent rumors that when the US Military and Air Force left for the Invasion in 1944. They left behind massive amounts of unused stores including motor cycles, crated aircraft and aircraft engines buried around their various stores dumps. Just how true these stories are is unclear but to date the only booty to surface are the remains of the many crashed aircraft from the East Anglican fields. Here recently about 15 complete but corroded Lockheed Lightning P-38 wheels with still inflated tires were found in a pit. But what about BRAND NEW AND UNUSED original Thompson guns, still in the grease, together with magazines and cleaning kits. Occasionally a derelict Thompson is found in the roof or garage of an old house or found on one of the hundreds of wartime training areas, but BRAND NEW and UNISSUED, then the stories are generally a myth. Well, that's what I thought until recently.
When the Soviet Army of the USSR pulled out from the soviet republics, they left behind vast stores of reserve equipment to assist the armies of those states such as the Ukraine and Belarus. Apparently, much of this kit consisted of small-arms captured from the retreating German Army in 1943 - 44 and while serviceable, was in poor condition. Recently, several of these small impoverished states have invited buyers to inspect this kit in order to sell it for much needed valuable foreign currency. A dealer from England recently went to inspect this kit and saw among this kit several crates of lend-lease Thompson sub-machine guns, supplied to the USSR. One of these crates was opened and inside were brand new and unissued M1928A1 Thompson guns. All were fitted with Cutts compensators and horizontal foregrips. All were covered in the standard grease. Inside each crate were 4 box magazines per gun and cleaning kits. We can only assume that more magazines were available elsewhere but none were immediately available nor were any 50 round drums available or visible. Interestingly, there were no M1A1 guns or 30 round magazines which would indicate that this shipment was made prior to the introduction of the M1 gun.
The UK Military by way of the Small-Arms School at Warminster requested that the Ukraine Government supply one of these guns. Thompson serial number AO-68566 duly arrived at the Infantry Headquarters in England for a small fee. True to what was reported, the gun was indeed brand new and unissued. Let me explain. It was fully greased up. The magazines and cleaning kit, together with an oddly shaped small tool were tightly wrapped in heavy greaseproof paper. The gun was also covered in this grease. The woodwork was clearly brand new and except for one or two small insignificant dings the butt was unmarked. The butt did not have the later military through bolt between the mounting bolts. Clearly visible were the machining marks. Even the face of the greased-up Lyman sight was bright and polished.
The gun was field stripped for inspection. The underside of the breech block still showed the rotary machine marks in the bright nickel steel surface and as if to prove the newness, the witness mark usually left by the sear sliding along the underside of the bolt was absent, indicating that it had probably never been cocked more than half a dozen times in its life. There was not even a trace of copper where a round had been fed up the feed ramp into the barrel. Apart from the usual manufacturers marks, this gun was unmarked. Strangely, although it was (we all assume...) a lend-lease gun. the marking 'US PROPERTY' was absent from the gun.
This gun was due to be washed down, cleaned off and put on display with the remainder of the Infantry weapon collection, but... What do you Thompson collectors think? Should it be cleaned and put on display or should it be left exactly as it is, in the armoury, together with its incredible story or should we have it on display, cleaned off and fired occasionally. Just HOW rare and scarce are original greased and unused lend lease Thompson guns. I'd like answers to these questions because what happens to it depends on you, the experts.
Best wishes from Britain