Commandos and the Thompson SMG

Discussions on the small arms used by the Axis forces.
keith A
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Commandos and the Thompson SMG

Post by keith A » 12 Feb 2018 17:04

I have been looking at all the images of Commandos in WW2 and was surprised to find that in every one from 1940 until 1944 the M1921/M1928 seems to be represented. I had assumed they were issued with later versions but even in photos of the Walcheren operation the M1928a1 is distinctly the type in use. Were they issued with later versions of the TSMG?

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Keith

Knouterer
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Re: Commandos and the Thompson SMG

Post by Knouterer » 12 Feb 2018 22:17

I don't think so - The British (and other Commonwealth armies) acquired large numbers of the 1928A1, first under "Cash & Carry" at a hefty price, then from March 1941 under Lend-Lease, but relatively few of the M1/M1A1. Some of the latter were supplied in the second half of 1942/early 1943, but by then the Sten was in full production and the Americans themselves were about to switch production to the M3.
The Commandos were among the first recipients of the Thompson in 1940 (for example, No. 6 Commando reported receiving 20 on 13 August, then 32,400 rounds two days later, and an unspecified number of guns on 20 Sept.).
The story is that the Commandos were much attached to their Thompsons and when ordered to turn them in in exchange for Stens they protested so strongly that the War Office relented and let them keep them. The Royal Marine Commandos also kept theirs, it seems.
"The true spirit of conversation consists in building on another man's observation, not overturning it." Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

Panzergrenadier2967
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Re: Commandos and the Thompson SMG

Post by Panzergrenadier2967 » 16 Feb 2018 17:05

Hi! Well the thompson 1928 with drum magazine was used I think until 1941-42, then they used the classic Thompson, for example in Sicily and South Italy.

Knouterer
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Re: Commandos and the Thompson SMG

Post by Knouterer » 16 Feb 2018 19:37

Some Belgian Commandos in Italy in 1944, still carrying the M1928A1 (with simplified rear sight). From http://gallery.commandoveterans.org/cdo ... ewsIndex=1
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"The true spirit of conversation consists in building on another man's observation, not overturning it." Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

Knouterer
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Re: Commandos and the Thompson SMG

Post by Knouterer » 16 Feb 2018 21:44

... and here we have a picture on the cover of a book by RM Commando veteran Raymond Mitchell, whom I had the pleasure of meeting about 20 years ago, but who has passed away since. It shows men of "Y" Troop 41 RM Commando on Walcheren on 4 November 1944.
Corporal Tomlin on the left is holding his trusty M1928A1.
As long as these guns were in good condition there was no reason to exchange them for later models of the Thompson, which after all were not any better, just cheaper.
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"The true spirit of conversation consists in building on another man's observation, not overturning it." Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

Knouterer
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Re: Commandos and the Thompson SMG

Post by Knouterer » 18 Feb 2018 10:51

There is a recent book about the Thompson in British service: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Great-Britain- ... dpSrc=srch

The main official source is a War Office file (WO 185/12) in the National Archives which contains correspondence (about 500 pages) between the War Office, the Ministry of Supply, the British Purchasing Commission in the USA, and other interested parties, on the subject of the procurement of Thompsons.

I have gone through that file myself and it leaves many questions unanswered. The officials in question were at times seriously confused and unable to say how many Thompsons exactly had been ordered up to that point, much less how many actually had been delivered or who had them. Orders were double-counted, canceled and then reinstated and merged with others, etc. At one point the Brits suddenly decided that they didn't want any more 50-round drum magazines and apparently large numbers already produced and stored in New York were scrapped, at great cost to the taxpayer. Then later on those responsible realized they needed some after all because American tanks delivered to the British army had fittings to hold them. There was a similar mix-up when the Americans announced that production would switch to the 30-round magazine and the 20-round mag would be phased out. British officials protested because they believed, wrongly, that the longer mag would not fit in standard British ammo pouches.

The total number ordered seems to have been between 514,000 and 526,000 (108,000 cash & carry, the rest lend-lease), of which about 5% were lost at sea. The last order, for 50,000 guns, was placed on 25 September 1941 (Immediate War Order 218/12), but it took a while before all these orders were filled. M1s were shipped from mid-1942 it appears. The last Thompsons for British/Empire forces lost at sea were on the Dutch SS Mariso which was torpedoed by U-518 90 miles off Bahia, Brazil, on 20 March 1943, while bound for Alexandria. Of the 5837 Thompsons on board at least 4637 were M1s.

One of the many unanswered questions is what happened to the 43,000 Thompsons held by the Home Guard when they were withdrawn and replaced by Stens in 1942-43.
"The true spirit of conversation consists in building on another man's observation, not overturning it." Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

keith A
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Re: Commandos and the Thompson SMG

Post by keith A » 22 Feb 2018 08:59

Despite the plethora of photos of British use of the Thompson its only in the Sicily and Italy (as well as in the Far East) that I have seen British troops with the later models of TSMG. Photos of the Commandos in Burma in 1944-45 seem to show the older version. I don't think Commandos ever used the STEN other than the silenced version (despite the artwork in the recent British Commando book).

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