British Grease Guns
Recently while I was doing some research for my upcoming book on the PIAT when I came across this extremely interesting photograph taken near Ferrara, Italy on 22nd April, 1945. It shows a full platoon from the 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers. The 24-man platoon is resting at the roadside waiting to go forward, in the background is an Achilles Tank Destroyer, with the formidable 17pdr gun. It was a smaller weapon that caught my eye – what appeared to be an M3 ‘Grease Gun’.
The platoon has an interesting selection of kit with three Bren light machine guns, two on the front row and one on the back row. Next to the Bren gunner in the forground is a PIAT no.1 with his PIAT next to him. On the ground at his feat is a bomb carrier with three cardboard tubes – its too narrow to be for his PIAT bombs and is actually a 2in mortar bomb carrier. In the background on the front fender of a truck we can see the larger bomb carrier for the PIAT. The 2in mortar itself is stood upright on the left, at the very back of the photo.
Some close ups of the M3s
The most interesting weapon in the photograph, however, is the numerous M3 submachine guns. At least four men appear to be armed with the American submachine guns. The guns appear to be M3s with the ‘crank’ charging handle just visible on one gun. The guns are difficult to make out and obscured by their user’s arms or kit in most cases. But some distinguishing elements can be made out including the pistol grip and wire stock of the M3 as well as the prominent barrel and receiver of the weapon which distinguishes it from a Sten MkII or III then also in use by Commonwealth troops in Italy.
The muzzle and front of the receiver of one can be clearly seen in the hands of the lance corporal on the back row in the foreground. On the same row the characteristic pistol grip and wire stock can be seen on the knee of the fifth man from the right. In the background on the front row two men can be seen with submachine guns on their knees. This initially stumped me but Rich, of the Vickers Machine Gun Collection & Research Association, noted that the 78th Division were equipped with the M3 rather than Stens or Thompsons. This makes sense as the 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers were part of the 78th Division, which for a time came under the command of the US Fifth Army, which may explain how the men came to be armed with M3s.