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Invention of the periscope rifle


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#1 centurion

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 11:11 AM

The invention of the periscope rifle is often ascribed to Lance Corporal Beech of the Australian Light Horse at Gallipoli in 1915 and indeed he was photographed with such a weapon with a heavy wooden frame work to hold it over the parapet. However periscope rifles were already in use on the Western Front by this time, there is one photograph of Corporal Kent of the Leicestershire Regiment firing such a weapon at Ypres in early 1915 (before the Gallipoli landings). The weapon used by Corporal Kent has a sophisticated metal pantograph allowing the rifle to be used from trenches of differing depths. There is a fork like fitting allowing the bolt to be worked (this facility is not present on Beech's rifle). Diary entries by John Bruce Cairnie of the Seathforth Highlanders also show them using periscope rifles at about the same time. There are also photographs of French infantry using a periscope rifle on the Somme in early 1915. A Photo of Royal Engineers in Gallipoli shows them standing proudly by the various weapons they have improvised. These include a Leach type catapult, a drain pipe trench mortar and a wooden frame for a periscope rifle.


Periscope rifle used by Corporal Kent

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Periscope rifle used by Lance Corporal Beech


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#2 centurion

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 11:29 AM

The RE's Gallipoli periscope rifle frame (in front of the catapult)

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#3 THE SHINY SEVENTH

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 05:33 PM

Is there any evidence of anyone actually being shot by such a contraption Centurion? It all looks far too complicated and flimsy to be of any real use. Sean

#4 michaeldr

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 05:57 PM

It is not uncommon for more than one person to arrive at a similar solution to the same problem at the same time eg: Swan and Edison both had the idea for the electric light, at about the same time, but on different sides of the Atlantic.
The periscope rifle was well regarded on Gallipoli and used by many units on all three fronts.

#5 robth100

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 11:40 PM

While I don't have much knowledge about these mounts, I do have some pictures that I thought I would share.

This first photo is from the book "Images of War FLANDERS - 1915" and shows Capt. H Parry-Smith using a periscope mount.

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Here's another version I found in a book that I can not recall at this time as it was borrowed from a friend

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#6 robth100

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 11:43 PM

Based on the second version, here is a picture of a reproduction that I made a few years back

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Here is one last photo of the same mount in use at a reenactment here in the US


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Additonal photos of this reproduction can be found at: http://s81.photobuck...ench_periscope/


Cheers, Rob

#7 LeoMc

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 12:45 AM

Is there any evidence of anyone actually being shot by such a contraption Centurion? It all looks far too complicated and flimsy to be of any real use. Sean

This is from Bean - Vol 2, Chapter VIII

"This result was greatly helped by the invention of the
periscope rifle. On May 19th Major Blarney, going round
the front trench of the Pimple during the last hours of the
Turkish attack, had observed two men of the 2nd Battalion
engrossed with a framework of broken box-wood and wire,
attached to a rifle, which they were endeavouring to lay on the
parapet. “ An arrangement so that you can hit without being
hit,” one of them explained. It was a device for aiming a
rifle by means of a periscope so fixed that the upper glass
looked along the sights, while the sniper gazed into the lower
one. Blarney believed that the device might be valuable,
and the inventor, Lance-Corporal Beech, was afterwards
brought to headquarters to apply it to a number of rifles.
By May 26th a factory was started on the Beach. The first
periscope rifle had been taken into Quinn’s on the previous
day, the man who carried it up the path remarking to the
puzzled onlookers, “ I’m tired of fightin’ Turks; I’m goin’
to play them cricket.” It was tested at many posts, and at
ranges up to 200 or 300 yards was found to be an accurate
and deadly weapon. From that time it was constantly used
by the Anzac troops wherever the trenches were close.
A
certain number were sent to Helles and also later to Suvla,
but they were not there put to any great service, nor did the
enemy, when he discovered and imitated the device, make any
appreciable use of it.33 But at Quinn’s, where previously the
garrison could scarcely fire a shot by day, it helped to beat
down the enemy’s sniping, so that it became possible to fire
from the loop-holes and even, for a few seconds at a time, to
look over the parapet.
Thus, though Quinn’s itself was more than half -surrounded
and entirely commanded, a definite superiority of fire was at
last obtained. It was the Turks who now found it perilous,
even at German Officers’ Trench, to show their heads for an
instant by day above the parapet, and their troops were
eventually forbidden to do."


Cheers
Paul

#8 nigelfe

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 07:33 AM

Sitting around in trenches gave ample opportunity for ingenuity and inventiveness to solve military problems that hadn't previously existed.

#9 Will I Davies

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 08:16 AM

Sitting around in trenches gave ample opportunity for ingenuity and inventiveness to solve military problems that hadn't previously existed.



Very interesting comment about idle minds, I wonder if anyone came up with an machine gun on the same principle as for the rifle or even a long range grenade catapult!!

Will

#10 Lancashire Fusilier

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 11:56 AM

Here is a photograph of a French soldier using a periscope rife, the caption reads :-
" A French soldier using a Bellard type ' Hyposcope ' through a loophole. The firer uses a dummy ' set down ' stock, and takes aim by periscope, viewing through the rifle sights."
LF

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#11 centurion

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 12:24 PM

Very interesting comment about idle minds, I wonder if anyone came up with an machine gun on the same principle as for the rifle or even a long range grenade catapult!!

Will


The German MG-42 light machine gun of WW2 could be used with a periscope sight fitted to its tripod and a grip handle which had a mechanical linkage to the trigger that allowed its firer to remain ducked down below a trench parapet.

#12 1st AIF

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 12:45 PM

Centurion,

The topic of the thread being labelled an Australian myth? There is no doubt that LCpl Beech independently invented and produced a periscope rifle at Gallipoli - that is fact. Therefore it is not a myth. Whether the periscope rifle was invented previously or concurrently elsewhere in the war is another matter. The Australians at Gallipoli were very much hanging on to the cliffs by their finger tips and the smallest thing to give them an advantage was heaven sent. So perhaps it was more useful at Gallipoli than elsewhere and that's why Beech got the good press.

Necessity is the mother of invention. Seeing a mate's brains spattered over the sandbags at the back of a trench wall by a sniper would certainly make one's compatriots think deeply about how to solve the necessity of returning fire with the same thing happening to them. It is not surprising that other soldiers on other fronts addressed the same necessity.

Len

#13 Lancashire Fusilier

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 12:49 PM

I wonder if anyone came up with an machine gun on the same principle as for the rifle or even a long range grenade catapult!!

Will


Will,
There was the " Leach " catapult, invented by Claude Pemberton Leach.
LF

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#14 Will I Davies

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 12:56 PM

Will,
There was the " Leach " catapult, invented by Claude Pemberton Leach.
LF



Thanks for that, I also noticed that in an earlier post there was a picture of an object that looks bigger, but similar to your picture. (By Centurian Post~2)

Regards
Will

#15 centurion

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 12:56 PM

Centurion,

The topic of the thread being labelled an Australian myth? There is no doubt that LCpl Beech independently invented and produced a periscope rifle at Gallipoli - that is fact. Therefore it is not a myth. Whether the periscope rifle was invented previously or concurrently elsewhere in the war is another matter. The Australians at Gallipoli were very much hanging on to the cliffs by their finger tips and the smallest thing to give them an advantage was heaven sent. So perhaps it was more useful at Gallipoli than elsewhere and that's why Beech got the good press.



I may be cynical but possibly the reason for the "good press" was that it was written by a fellow Australian - Bean - the same man who labelled a film clip of Irish infantry firing at Gallipoli as Australian. Is there any evidence that Beech independently invented a periscope rifle rather than copying an existing idea? Or is this just an assumption? We know for example from photos that they existed before Gallipoli and that the RE at Gallipoli were making them.

#16 Lancashire Fusilier

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 03:59 PM

Gallipoli 1915 - Photograph cation reads :-
" Lieutenant Alfred John Shout ( later M.C. and V.C. ) 1st Battalion AIF, sniping with a periscope rifle. "
LF

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#17 Lancashire Fusilier

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 04:03 PM

WW1 American Periscope Rifle Attachment.

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#18 Bombadier

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 04:30 PM

Will,
There was the " Leach " catapult, invented by Claude Pemberton Leach.
LF


Is that a modern picture taken at Fort Nelson?

#19 Lancashire Fusilier

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 05:13 PM

Is that a modern picture taken at Fort Nelson?


You may be right, to me it looked like a Territorial training photograph ?
Anyway, here is another photograph of the catapult, which again, is probably a training session.

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#20 Andrew Upton

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 06:13 PM

...I wonder if anyone came up with an machine gun on the same principle as for the rifle...


They did, see:

http://1914-1918.inv...1

#21 River97

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 06:26 PM

I may be cynical but possibly the reason for the "good press" was that it was written by a fellow Australian - Bean - the same man who labelled a film clip of Irish infantry firing at Gallipoli as Australian.


Centurion,
I was at the GWF Conference as well - so is this now the month for Bean bashing? Will there be more threads of this nature now as more jump on the band wagon? I wondered if this would happen when the thread first appeared. As the only Australian at the conference, I was probably in the vast minority who sat there quite perplexed. You see, to the educated Australian it is common knowledge that the portion of the film mentioned does not show Australians and the fighting scenes are not of Australian sectors.

As for the periscope rifle, I would tend to agree as above, that they were developed in independent theatres as they became required. So it transpires, Bean was the only war correspondent to advertise to the world that it had been invented. That just shows me that he was probably doing a better job than his British or French counterparts - for they didn't have the forethought to say the same thing. If they had then Bean would not have been able to.

Cheers Andy.

#22 centurion

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 06:27 PM

It is not uncommon for more than one person to arrive at a similar solution to the same problem at the same time eg: Swan and Edison both had the idea for the electric light, at about the same time, but on different sides of the Atlantic.
The periscope rifle was well regarded on Gallipoli and used by many units on all three fronts.


A rather poor example as it wasn't until the two designs were combined that a workable bulb was produced. The two solutions were complimentary and not identical

#23 michaeldr

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 06:31 PM

A rather poor example as it wasn't until the two designs were combined that a workable bulb was produced. The two solutions were complimentary and not identical


What was the Gupper used to say
There he goes again!

Take it easy old chap

#24 centurion

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 06:33 PM

Centurion,
I was at the GWF Conference as well - so is this now the month for Bean bashing? Will there be more threads of this nature now as more jump on the band wagon? I wondered if this would happen when the thread first appeared. As the only Australian at the conference, I was probably in the vast minority who sat there quite perplexed. You see, to the educated Australian it is common knowledge that the portion of the film mentioned does not show Australians and the fighting scenes are not of Australian sectors.

As for the periscope rifle, I would tend to agree as above, that they were developed in independent theatres as they became required. So it transpires, Bean was the only war correspondent to advertise to the world that it had been invented. That just shows me that he was probably doing a better job than his British or French counterparts - for they didn't have the forethought to say the same thing. If they had then Bean would not have been able to.

Cheers Andy.

I'm not Bean bashing - I only raised his name in response to another post to make the point that the source of the claim for Beeches claim might just be a teerny weeny bit biased

I don't understand the second part of your post at all. However claims for the invention were made before Gallipoli - that's where the photo of Corporal Kent comes from





Are all Australians this touchy?



#25 centurion

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 06:49 PM

So we have photographic evidence of at least three different designs in use at Gallipoli - The Beech, the Shout and the RE. The all have the same draw back - the user needs to expose his hand to work the bolt. The earlier metal pantograph design used by Kent allows the bolt to be operated without exposing any part of the body to enemy fire. This design could not have been improvised in the trenches and would have needed a decent behind the lines workshop to produce.

I have seen evidence that the American periscope rifle shown in an earlier post was still in use in 1943 by US forces in Italy in WW2, see the memoirs of Vere L. Williams of the US 157th Infantry Regiment . Periscope rifles, albeit of a much more sophisticated design, are still being made with video technology taking the place of mirrors or prisms The OICW assault rifle has a digital sight that, in conjunction with a viewer in the infantryman’s helmet, can be used as a periscope to allow its user to aim and discharge it without having to expose himself to return fire.

The Belgians also had periscope rifles in early 1915, by early 1916 so did both the Germans and Italians. I did a bit of research on the subject a few years ago. However I can find no evidence that either the Russians or the KuK produced them - which is surprising.