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Thread: M1917 (aka "Enfield") rifle in WWII?

  1. #1
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    Question M1917 (aka "Enfield") rifle in WWII?

    I am a reenactor who uses rifles in a display to tell about WWII. Amongst the display is my U.S. Rifle M1917. So far as I can tell, the Chemical Corps (manning 4.2" mortars) only U.S. Army troops that were still issued this weapon in 1941. I think pre Pearl Harbor, some .30 cal.versions were sent to the Brits to repel German invasion. After Pearl, some were handed out to the California State Guard for a similar purpose on the West Coast. After Operation Torch I imagine most troops armed with this weapon ditched it ASAP for an M1 carbine.

    Does anyone know of any other uses of this weapon in WWII? Did the Phillipine army use it? Was it given to Chinese troops? Would Japanese soldiers used captured M1917's? Thanks!

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    It was given to the Free French forces in Europe. The Phillipine army (although not most U.S. Forces in the Phillipines) was almost exclusively armed with it - The Phillipine Scouts being the biggest exception. As you stated it went to Britian where it was used mainly by the Home Guard. It also went to Canada. It was well used in the US as photo's of Base Guards, Relocation Camps and POW camps show. I'm sure there are many more instances of it's use. Most likely it was used in Basic Training until production of the M1 Garand was ramped up enough so that troops would actually train on front line weapons. It still earned it's keep until the guns fell silent.
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    Was it given to Chinese troops? Would Japanese soldiers used captured M1917's?
    There are numerous phosts of Chinese troops with 1917 rifles. The Japanese would and did use them if captured.

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    +1. Both Pattern 14 and M1917 rifles were used by the Chinese/ Chinats, and from thence to the Korean War in Chicom/ PLA hands. Home Guard [painted red band to indicate .30-06 instead of .303], Free-French, French colonial troops, and I have seen training photos of U.S. soldiers stateside using them for basic instruction.

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    There are written accounts that M1917's went ashore during the North Africa Operation Torch landings with artillery, Mortar, MP's and other non first line infantry units. I've seen photos of MP's during the Italian campaign still carrying them. As stated above they were given to allies such as the Free French Army and Dutch resistance armed units as the allies advanced across Europe after the Normandy invasion. The Chinese troops trained in India for General Stilwell's advance through Burma were also issued them.

    The Philippine Scouts were enlisted as US Army troops, and weren't considered part of the Philippine Army and as such were issued M1903 and some M1 Garands as the regular US Army units.

    Supposedly 2 complete Japanese divisions in the Philippines were armed with ones they had captured earlier, and were used in combat against our troops when we recaptured the Philippines. So they saw a lot of combat besides being used for basic training and guard duty.
    Last edited by NavyGunner; 01-08-2012 at 07:23 PM.
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    Japanese use of captured M1917s (as well as '03s, Krags and SMLEs) is documented in John George's book Shots Fired in Anger. I believe I also ran across mention of it in Dunlop's book Ordnance Went up Front. The '17 certainly saw use in North Africa as mentioned above and some may have still been in use in Sicily.

    Forgot to add - the SRS listings show a large number of '17s being shipped to China during WW2.

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    Thanks all. I think this info will really help round out my knowledge. Just what I needed. Would love to find a photo of US troops using them at a Nisei relocation camp.

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    I happen to own one of the 1917's that was sent to the British in 1940/41. It has a 5 digit serial number, was made by Winchester, and from its condition, evidently didn't get used 'over there' during WWI.

    Nobody can say that the British don't look gift horses in the mouth. Despite the fact that this rifle still has its original 11/17 barrel (That STILL looks new inside) on it and still had at least 99% of its original blue finish from its original manufacture (still has it now) and the pressing need to immediately field weapons at the time, they saw the need to send it through the proofhouse first.

    They did a really good job of adding their proofmarks (one on the side of the receiver near the eagle, and one on the top of the bolt handle knob (both were crown over BNP marks) and several of their little alphanumeric proofs under the handguard on the barel shank, along with a '30/06', just so nobody would be confused.

    They evidently also mixmastered the stock and fittings up at the proof house (including the front barrel band/bayonet lug, which would have required removing the front sight. It is now a parkerized Eddystone part. The stock is also Eddystone) and finished things up by painting a red stripe around the forend behind the barrel band to indicate a 'non standard caliber' rifle.

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    Ronbo6,

    Your British used M1917 was most likely not proof tested and marked until after it was released from service following WW2. British proof laws are very strict, they required all firearms released to the civilian market to be tested even those made in British factories and arsenals which were inspected by military inspectors. When the M1917's were sent to England they were needed immediately and were issued to mostly home guard units to give them military rifles in place of the various civilian rifles and shotguns a lot of the home guards were armed with. That's a nice rifle with an interesting WW2 usage history.
    NavyGunner

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    My Uncle told me he was issued a '17 Enfield. He served as a clerk-typist in the European Theatre, 1944-45.

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    If you watch the films of the late war days in Europe on the History and Military channel, you'll often see MP's armed with 1917 rifles and shooting at snipers in German towns along side combat troops.

    I seem to remember seeing a combat soldier armed with an M1 with a 1917 slung over his shoulder for use as a dedicated grenade launcher.
    These were usually 1903's but looks like 1917's were also used.

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by NavyGunner View Post
    The Philippine Scouts were enlisted as US Army troops, and weren't considered part of the Philippine Army and as such were issued M1903 and some M1 Garands as the regular US Army units.
    A slight correction - the Philippines Scouts (45th, 57th and 26th Cavalry) were all equipped with M1s by the start of WWII. As with some other units, there were a few "die hards" who didn't want to give up the M1903.

    Navy Gunner is correct that the Philippine Scouts were a part of the U.S. Army, not the Philippine National Army (who were equipped almost completely with M1917s - reportedly about 220,000 M1917s were sent to the Philippines before WWII).

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    My Cousin who was drafted into the army in 1943 trained with an M1917. After he was shipped to the ETO he was issued a M-1. He told he had memories on a draftee's M1917 blowing up on the rifle range during his Basic Training. This did not improve his confidence in the rifle and was glad when he was finally issued a M-1.

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    M1917s were also issued to the Seebees and the USCG.....I have photos of both armed with them. Others were send to New Zealand to equip their Home Guard.
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    The '17 had a very good safety record and was one of the strongest US military actions ever made. Any rifle can "blow up" given a barrel obstruction, case head failure, etc. The question is whether the failure seriously injures the shooter or by-stander.

    I've seen a number of photos of WW2 recruits training with the '17.

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