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14s, Sten Guns and the like, were soiled over and stacked to await the infrequent visits of a local British Ordnance unit. French Models 1886/93s. carbincs Model 1890, 92, 1916, the MAS 1936, plus the various French LMGs and HMGs, were similarly well treated and eventually found their way back into the French Service.
The rest of the weapons did not fare so well. The Italian, Hungarian, Austrian, Russian, Turkish. Norwegian, Belgian. Rumanian, Polish, Dutch, Greek, Danish, and Czech weapons were consigned to the scrap heap.
Now hold on there, fellows! Not by unorders you understand. I'm a gun collector too, remember? No, I destroyed them by order of higher headquarters, and as hard as it was for me to swallow then, f know-now that our European Command had good and sufficient reasons to order the material destroyed when they did.
Picture if you will, though, a gun collector, shooter, and hobbiest being in such a position. Putting the torch to captured enemy-weapons was bad enough, but to direct the destruction of thousands of antique and fine sporting arms made me feel nothing short of criminal. Many fine examples of the European gun craft went up in smoke just outside my shop.
I used to lay awake nights and try to visualize how I'd feel if the situation was reversed, and it was my pet 52 Winchester or my old Navy Colt that was being destroyed. The Nazis' got exactly what they deserved in 1945, but then as well as now, I can still sympathize with the true collector or sportsman, German or Austrian, who had to give up his ancestor's Napoleonic flintlock or a wheel lock that had been in a glass case for two hundred years. Yes, I know that you can kill a man with a flint lock, but the job can also be done with the bare hands or an ax. The latter two items we let them keep.
Outside my shop we had several 55 gallon drums fitted out as burners or ovens, and into those drums we would place all those fine weapons, antique and modern, that American collectors are now paying good money for. To lend a little excitement to the daily burning, every so often an undetected cartridge would cook off in a rifle's magazine. This stirred things up a bit and kept us from getting bored with our work. Whenever it happened, all of us, German prisoners included, would be more zealous than ever in properly placing the weapons in the drums. One of the Germans expressed his concern to me one day after a carlridge blew up when he said, "Jlcrr Ober-Leutnant, after fighting this lousy war for fi\e years, this is no time to get killed by an accident." A perfcct mutual hate society I had there in one crew: Poles, Frenchmen, and Germans all working together—and all anxious to slay alive. So, the drums were loaded carefully, muzzles down, bolts open, fifteen or twenty weapons to a drum. Throw on some oil, apply the match, and up they'd go in smoke. A sadder sight you've never seen.
Shortly after wc started this mass burning, I decided that wc might just as well save all those fine old walnut buttstocks and use them for fuel. Accordingly, I had the l'OWs break the buttstocks off each rifle, and we would distribute the wood to our billets. Excellent fuel it was too, though about every other day we would have to clean out the
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