Gun­ning for comic ef­fect

Irish Daily Mail - - Life -

QUES­TION The Dad’s Army script has the men car­ry­ing ‘.300 cal­i­bre Ross ri­fles’. Is this his­tor­i­cally ac­cu­rate? What is known of these weapons?

THIS is partly true and partly a con­fla­tion of two weapon types. The Bri­tish Army did buy the Cana­dian Ross ri­fle for use by the Home Guard. It used the same .303 am­mu­ni­tion as the Bri­tish Lee En­field ri­fle. As well as the Ross, the Bri­tish Army also bought Amer­i­can ri­fles that fired .300 am­mu­ni­tion.

Dur­ing the Sec­ond Boer War, the Bri­tish had re­fused to li­cense the man­u­fac­ture of their stan­dard Short Mag­a­zine Lee En­field ri­fle to the Cana­di­ans. This led to them de­vel­op­ing their own ver­sion, the Ross ri­fle. The de­sign was heav­ily in­flu­enced by the Aus­trian-built Mannlicher 1895 ri­fle.

The 1905 pat­tern Ross ri­fle had been suc­cess­ful as a tar­get shoot­ing weapon, but de­sign flaws made it un­suit­able for use in trench warfare dur­ing World War I.

In all, about 420,000 Ross ri­fles were pro­duced, of which 342,000 had been bought by the Bri­tish to make up for World War I short­ages of the SMLE.

By 1916, all the Ross ri­fles had been re­placed with the Mk I SMLE. How­ever, the Ross ri­fle was ac­cu­rate over long ranges. There­fore, it re­mained in use as a sniper’s weapon.

When Win­ston Churchill or­dered the for­ma­tion of the Lo­cal De­fence Vol­un­teers, later known as the Home Guard, in the sum­mer of 1940, he en­vis­aged about 500,000 men vol­un­teer­ing. How­ever, nearly 1.5mil­lion came for­ward and they all ex­pected to be armed.

In ad­di­tion, all the ri­fles lost dur­ing the evac­u­a­tion of France had to be re­placed in what was known as the ri­fle cri­sis.

There were a num­ber of P14, or 1914 model Lee En­fields held in re­serve, and these be­came the ear­li­est weapons is­sued to the LDV, while the army got pri­or­ity for the re­place­ment Mk III SMLEs. As part of the so­lu­tion to the ri­fle cri­sis, Britain placed an or­der with the Cana­dian govern­ment for 75,000 Ross ri­fles.

Though all of these were is­sued to the LDV, they were even­tu­ally re­placed with the SMLE. Or­ders were also placed with the US com­pany Winch­ester, Ed­dy­s­tone and Rem­ing­ton, for the 30.06 ri­fle, which used .300 am­mu­ni­tion. About 500,000 were is­sued. Bob Cu­bitt, Northamp­ton.

QUES­TION Ev­ery Breath You Take is of­ten used at wed­dings, yet it ap­pears to be a song about a stalker. What other songs have been mis­con­strued?

IN De­cem­ber 1987, R.E.M. scored their first US Top 10 with The One I Love. It be­came the ro­man­tic song of choice for many mu­sic fans.

It was, in fact, an anti-love song that lead singer Michael Stipe de­scribed as be­ing about us­ing peo­ple over and over. It’s de­cep­tive be­cause it could be a love song un­til the line: ‘A sim­ple prop to oc­cupy my time.’

In a 1992 in­ter­view, Stipe said he al­most didn’t record the song, call­ing it ‘too bru­tal’ and ‘re­ally vi­o­lent and aw­ful’.

You’re Gor­geous by Stephen ‘Baby­bird’ Jones is of­ten mis­in­ter­preted as a love song too, partly be­cause of its poppy pro­duc­tion, but is, in fact, the tale of a preda­tory pho­tog­ra­pher lur­ing young girls into do­ing things they’ll prob­a­bly re­gret. Richard Holden, Swansea. THE Kinks’ 1967 hit Wa­ter­loo Sun­set is seen by many as a ro­man­tic song about pedes­tri­ans around Wa­ter­loo Sta­tion. It is, in fact, about a so­cial mis­fit who’s only plea­sure is watch­ing life pass by: ‘But I am so lazy, don’t want to wan­der, I stay at home at night . . . No, I don’t need no friends, as long as I gaze on Wa­ter­loo Sun­set I am in par­adise.’

Writer Ray Davies once said of the song: ‘It’s funny, but what is con­sid­ered one of my pret­ti­est songs is also one of my dark­est!’

Dave Warner, Le­ices­ter­shire. TWO clas­sics are Bruce Spring­steen’s Born In The USA and Tom Robin­son’s Glad To Be Gay.

The Spring­steen song is, amaz­ingly, of­ten taken by US politi­cians to be a rous­ing an­them for the joys of be­ing Amer­i­can – in fact, the lyrics are a sting­ing crit­i­cism of the treat­ment of US ser­vice­men, who suf­fered the trauma of fight­ing in for­eign wars be­cause they were un­lucky enough to be ‘born in the USA’.

The Robin­son song has be­come a cliché for writ­ers who as­sume it im­plies a joy­ful cel­e­bra­tion of be­ing gay. It doesn’t – it’s a bit­ter at­tack on anti-gay at­ti­tudes. The cho­rus ‘sing if you’re glad to be gay’ is sar­casm and irony.

Ian Boughton, Dil­ham, Nor­folk.

QUES­TION The woman who in­vented the fid­get spin­ner al­lowed her patent to ex­pire and missed a for­tune. Has a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion hap­pened be­fore?

FUR­THER to the ear­lier an­swer, two men from my home town suf­fered the same fate.

In 1826, John Walker, a Stock­ton-on-Tees chemist, in­vented the first fric­tion match. It rev­o­lu­tionised the pro­duc­tion, ap­pli­ca­tion and the porta­bil­ity of fire.

Walker sold his first Fric­tion Light on April 12, 1827, from his phar­macy. They were made of card­board, but he soon be­gan us­ing wooden splints cut by hand.

Later he pack­aged them in a card­board box equipped with a piece of sand­pa­per for strik­ing. By Septem­ber 23, 1829, sales of 23,206 fric­tion lights had been recorded. They were sold for one shilling for 100 (plus two pence per case).

He was ad­vised to patent his matches, but chose not to and, as a re­sult, Sa­muel Jones of Lon­don copied his idea and launched his own Lu­cifers in 1829, an ex­act copy of Walker’s in­ven­tion.

Ja­cob Mor­ri­son in­vented the first com­pres­sion/ig­ni­tion heavy oil en­gine in 1880, fully ten years be­fore Ru­dolph Diesel’s. One of Mor­ri­son’s en­gines is in the Ford Mo­tor Mu­seum in Detroit. Ken Stra­chan, Stock­ton-on-Tees, Cleve­land.

QUES­TION Cinema names from a cer­tain pe­riod seem to come from a pool that in­cludes the Odeon, the Stella, the Savoy, the Adel­phi, etc. Where did these kind of names come from?

FUR­THER to the ear­lier an­swer, an­other cinema with an ex­otic name is the Ritz – used for years for the cinema at Ser­pen­tine Av­enue, Balls­bridge, which started as the As­to­ria in 1936.

The cinema lasted un­til 1976, when it was con­verted into Dublin’s first Sikh tem­ple. The Ritz came from César Ritz, known as the ‘king of hote­liers’, who gave his name to lux­ury ho­tels in Lon­don and Paris. John Hy­land, Dun­dalk, Co. Louth.

O IS THERE a ques­tion to which you have al­ways wanted to know the an­swer? Or do you know the an­swer to a ques­tion raised here? Send your ques­tions and an­swers to: Charles Legge, An­swers To Cor­re­spon­dents, Ir­ish Daily Mail, Em­bassy House, Her­bert Park Lane, Balls­bridge, Dublin 4. You can also fax them to 0044 1952 510906 or you can email them to charles.legge@dai­ly­mail.ie. A se­lec­tion will be pub­lished but we are not able to en­ter into in­di­vid­ual cor­re­spon­dence.

The wrong weapon? The Dad’s Army cast re­hears­ing with Lee En­field ri­fles

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