10 Replies Latest reply on May 18, 2021 5:03 PM by mbechmann

    Seeking info on a special m1917

    mbechmann Wayfarer

      Hi everybody.

      First post here. I am writing because I read the replies in another thread about m1917s. I am hoping to be able to find some info about this very special rifle I have here.

       

      Here is what I do know. Its a Winchester m1917 built in September 1917 with a barrel made in July 1917 and this rifle has loads of history. I know that it was shipped to Canada in 1941 in the sale of 100,000 rifles after Dunkirk. I know it arrived at the "Long Branch" factory in Canada. I know that Canada considered these rifles somewhat obsolete, so they used them for mainly training and POW camp guards + RCAF on the west coast due to the weather. Mine was not at the RCAF. It doesnt have the stamp with RCAF.

       

      So far so good. This is where the history of this rifle turns AWESOME. In 1953-54 Canada donated 38395 m1917s to the Danish Home Guard as a part of the ww2 relief fund.

      In 1960 the Greenlandic Sirius Dog Sled Patrol contacted the Home Guard through the Danish Navy, to purchase rifles that could withstand the harsh nature in Greenland. They had already used 62 of these rifles, that was left by the US Coast Guard in 1945 incl a few rifles that was dropped during ww2. But in 1960 they only had 5 left, so they were in need of new rifles. They tested the Krags, and they worked well, but getting ammo and parts was becoming a problem, so that was out. Then they tested the m50s, but they couldnt hold up against the weather. Because of that, they wanted to get the m1917s that was already tried and tested. The Danish Home Guard ended up donating 40 rifles to the Sirius Patrol. This is the ONLY time the Danish Home Guard provided rifles to Sirius. The Sirius Patrol also quickly found out that you needed to change the sights because the original ones froze up + they filed down the bayonet lug so it wouldnt get caught up in the canvas cover if a polar bear attacked.

       

      Later the Greenlandic Royal trading company bought the rest of the rifles that Norway had sold to Denmark in 1959. The ejector spring and the charging rail was changed so it didnt fit the ammo Denmark had bought from Belgium and US. Besides, the Norwegian rifles was worn out so Denmark ended up using those Norwegian rifles for parts. I have seen numbers that mention just over 4900 Norwegian rifles were cannibalized for parts. I also read that aprox 2000 rifles was converted to "Danish" ammo but it was too expensive to do with the worn out rifles. The Trading company changed the sights on these Norwegian rifles as well as sorted out the changes made to the ejector spring and the charging rail, so it would work with local ammo. These rifles are known as Inuit rifles. They are different from the 40 Sirius rifles and those are the ones that was sold a LOT in the 60s.

       

      My rifle... well thats one of the 40 original Sirius rifles. It has the Canadian acceptance mark + it has the logo from the Danish Home Guard. The ammo pouch is so old that the markings are long gone. If anybody have an idea where that ammo pouch is from, I would love to know that as well.

       

      Now, when I checked for the RCAF mark I had to remove the ammo pouch.... and wow I got a big surprise. I dont know how to describe how much my jaw dropped when I saw this. It has an outlined carving of Greenland + carved or written initials from the people who have used this rifle. It absolutely blew my mind when I saw it. Thats one of the coolest things I have seen. And guess what. I can match several of the initials to the people that are known to have been on the Sirius patrol. 3 of the initials to be exact.

       

      Thats the story I do know. What I dont know is where this rifle was prior to being shipped to Canada in 1941. What was this rifle used for between 1917-1941?

       

      I am hoping somebody will be able to help out with a few more details. I love this rifle already so I wanna find out everything about it

       

      I am going to shoot it for the first time tomorrow, so thats going to be fun.

       

        • Re: Seeking info on a special m1917
          Leo Belleville Wayfarer

          Michael Bechmann,

           

          Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!

           

          Military records in our custody do not include the record of assignment and operational activity of individual pieces of equipment.  Under normal War Department and Department of the Army records management procedures, such documentation would be destroyed after initial administrative use.

           

          The Winchester Repeating Arms Company may have additional information about the manufacture and initial sale of the firearm, but is unlikely to have information about which soldier or unit was assigned the weapon after it entered military service.

           

          We hope this information is helpful.

           

          • Re: Seeking info on a special m1917
            Lisa Sharik Adventurer

            Mr. Bechmann:

            You've done a lot of research and have a wonderful weapon with a great story. Unfortunately the copies I have of the Springfield Research Service books do not include your specific, very early, serial number. The closest I found was a series of 7 serial numbers between 19795 and 20636 which were sent to Camp Humphries on October 4, 1918. Yours was not part of that group. You can still contact the SPRINGFIELD RESEARCH SERVICE and see if they are still doing letters. They might be able to fill in your gap between 1917 and 1941.

             

            Respectfully,

             

            Lisa Sharik

            Deputy Director

            Texas Military Forces Musuem

            1 person found this helpful
              • Re: Seeking info on a special m1917
                mbechmann Wayfarer

                Hi Ms. Sharik

                Thank you for the answer. I have reached out to Springfield to see if they have any info.

                 

                One follow up question. You mention the 2 serial numbers that was sent to Camp Humphries on October 4. You said that my rifle was not in that group. Can you explain that a bit more. Was that because its not on the list? The reason I am asking is, that there are less than 1000 rifles between those to sn and they are shipped the same day. What are the odds that all the rifles in between would also have been shipped at the same day? I would imagine that those 2 were not shipped alone, but in crates of maybe 100 rifles or so? At least that would make sense to me . I know its not proof, but is that possible?

                  • Re: Seeking info on a special m1917
                    Lisa Sharik Adventurer

                    Mr. Bechmann:

                    My understanding is that in doing research on a specific serial number, the Springfield Research Service would have obtained copies of documents related to that number and made copies for their client. The books I have were put together by SRS with a list of all serial numbers they had found listed on all those documents over the years.

                    Volume 4, 1999 edition, which I have, shows a large number of weapons sent to Camp Humphries on October 4, 1918. I just mentioned some of the numbers closest to your serial number. There are actually 196 Winchester M1917s sent to Camp Humphries on Oct 4 1918 between serial numbers 231 to 109682. They were not sent in a block of sequential numbers. So my assumption is the document listed 196 weapons sent on Oct 4th and if yours had been among them it would have been listed.

                     

                    Here is an example of a pageSRS page

                    Lisa

                    1 person found this helpful
                      • Re: Seeking info on a special m1917
                        mbechmann Wayfarer

                        Oh I see what you are saying. There is a LOT more known numbers than I thought. I thought the 2 you mention, were the only one known that came even close to mine. Any chance I can see a picture of the maybe the 10 on each side of my number? 20406? The reason I ask, is that I have reached out to the Historic Danish Home Guard division. I know its a long shot, but if there are several missing numbers in the Danish records, that matches up with your list, that means all of those were most likely shipped to the exact same place. Where that is, thats the question

                         

                        I also had another thought when I saw your list. I read somewhere that it was said that the Winchesters had a bad reputation back than, and that it was said: "No Winchester should be shipped state side". If that actually was the case, than these may have been shipped to a storage department and were meant to be used as reserve rifles. I have no idea where that would be in this case I figured that would explain the gaps as well. That it was never actually shipped to any camps or anything like that but kept in storage until they needed to use them - which would be 1941 in this case.

                        1 person found this helpful
                          • Re: Seeking info on a special m1917
                            Lisa Sharik Adventurer

                            Here are the first two pages of M1917 serial numbers from Vol. 4. Not all are Winchesters, look for the "W" next to the serial number.

                            Good luck with your search.

                             

                            Lisa Sharik

                            SRS M1917 pg 1

                            M 1917 page 2

                            1 person found this helpful
                              • Re: Seeking info on a special m1917
                                mbechmann Wayfarer

                                Thats absolutely awesome. This is where my nerdiness shines through a LOT. I spent 10+ years nerding about details and trying to figure out patterns in incomplete lists. So I love this part a LOT.

                                 

                                Right away, I noticed 1 detail. Not 1 Remington or Eddystone was shipped to Camp Humphreys.

                                Remingtons were mainly shipped to: US NW Penitentiary Lewisburg + 353 RD Inf Camp Funston + Camp  Jackson to Midvale. Eddystone went a bit all over the place Eddystone was shipped to: Camp Gordon + 342 Camp Grant + 324th Camp Sevier + 328th inf + 165th Depot Brig Camp Travis + Camp Jackson to Midvale and finally a LOT to 349th inf.

                                For Winchesters thats totally different. From 291-56055 Winchesters were almost exclusively going to Camp Humphreys. The only exceptions are a few going to 317 Infantry Camp Lee + some either being repaired or going to a testing facility (several different places - all with early sn). I also noticed that when it was going to a testing facility, it always mentioned exactly where it was going and why. Because you wouldnt sent 1000 rifles to testing, I excluded those in the statistics. You would send maybe 5-10 to testing. Thats it.

                                 

                                So I had a closer look at the rifles Winchesters going to 317 Infantry Camp Lee. It looks like those were maybe recalls, as several of those have 2 shipping dates. So I googled Camp Lee.It opened August 1917 so it would make perfect sense that all the early rifles went to Camp Lee. At least I thought so. But thats when I noticed something else. It only existed for a very short time in 1917-1918. It was already demobilized/closed in June 1918. That ofcause is, unless I misunderstand the meaning of demobilized In any case, the last Winchester was shipped to Camp Lee in February and its one of those with dual shipping dates so that fits with that date as well.

                                 

                                Camp Lee info found here:

                                https://history.army.mil/html/forcestruc/lineages/branches/regt/0317rgt.htm

                                 

                                So I looked at Camp Humphreys. That camp opened November 1918. Whats also interesting is that Camp Humphreys opened up with 50.000 soldiers + 4900 officers. Thats a huge camp. That shows in the list as well. They needed a LOT of rifles. Without counting the exact number, it looks like 90-95% of all the Winchesters are going to Camp Humphreys. The rest to Camp Lee. Again, no Remintongs or Eddystones are going to Camp Humphreys what so ever.

                                 

                                Because of that, I think its a safe bet to say that my rifle was sent to Camp Humphreys. If it was going to a testing facility, it would have been found on the list and what they were testing. If it had been a broken rifle somehow, it would have had dual shipping dates as well. The only other option is Camp Lee, but that was not a big camp from what I can figure out. At least nothing near the size of Camp Humphreys.

                                 

                                You should be able to see the same pattern on the next pages after these first 2. My guess is that you can see that whole pattern of Winchesters only going to Camp Humphreys until October 1918. After that, it will be sporadic where they go. From this link that number would be around 1076000 on the sn. Am I right in that assumption?

                                 

                                Sn search:

                                https://oldguns.net/sn_php/mildateslookup.php

                                 

                                All in all, I think its a fair bet that my rifle was sent to Camp Humphreys on Oct 4th 1918 where it was used to train troops until it was shipped Canada in 1941. I think the odds are 95% chance of Camp Humphreys and 5% chance for Camp Lee. Its gonna be one of those 2 I think.

                                 

                                Next step is to get a reply from the Danish Home Guard for a final confirmation to see if the gaps match up as well.

                                 

                                Finally, a little funny sidenote. I have a sore shoulder today. Yesterday I took this rifle to the range for the first time. Talk about a BIG upgrade from the .22 I have been shooting so far. Yes you can laugh now I am still smiling ear to ear after yesterday

                                 

                                Just in case I forgot before. Thank you so much for your help. This is AWESOME. I am so grateful for all of this.

                      • Re: Seeking info on a special m1917
                        Leo Belleville Wayfarer

                        Mr. Bechmann,

                        Unfortunately, the United States military records in our custody (National Archives and Records Administration) do not include the record of assignment and operational activity of individual pieces of equipment.  Under normal War Department and Department of the Army records management procedures, such documentation would be destroyed after initial administrative use.

                        Third party websites and books can be very useful, especially like the one Ms. Sharik recommends and in your case the Winchester Repeating Arms website   https://www.winchesterguns.com/support/contact.html

                        We understand you are not looking for the specific unit or individual that received the weapon you have. However, we are unaware of an official or an all encompassing list of  specific weapons and equipment that were assigned to a location or a specific unit. Unfortunately, these types of records were not considered permanent and were destroyed.