By Dan Shea
In this issue we have covered a lot of historical aspects of the machine gun with an emphasis on where you can go see things during your summer vacation. For those lucky enough to be in Germany in early July, it would be worth checking out the East Bloc Military Vehicle Festival. Twenty years has passed, and that's enough time for the living history groups to start forgetting the bad stuff and remembering the interesting - keeping an eye out for DDR SKSs for sale, of course.
Those going to the UK would be well served with adding a visit to the Fort Nelson museum, a part of the Royal Armouries. I've been there many times, had the Cook's Tour, and found many interesting pieces tucked away in the corners - there's even a Nepalese twin barreled Bira gun in one little alcove, a very interesting first take on the machine gun idea from the 1870s, done by Nepal. Fort Nelson is worth a visit, especially in the summer.
The article on John Foote is especially interesting to the MAC shooting community. John played an essential part in that entire situation, and his other designs have influenced our community as well as popular culture with the Encom projects.
Perhaps most interesting to me is Part I of the story of Col. Jarrett. It's possible the Colonel was the most influential man in all of small arms during the last century - at least to the scribes and historians who wrote the books on small arms starting in the 1950s. The rest of the community read those books from Tom Nelson's World's Submachineguns to Dan Musgrave's German Machineguns, to the Collector Grade offerings. A later part of this series will cover the plethora of writers whose seminal works came from the mentoring of Col. Jarrett. In the LMO Library, we have the Colonel's original film, and one day I hope to get it all digitized and identified. In that mother-lode of old glass and large format photography, was an envelope labeled "Dress up day at the Farm, 1937." Inside this were pictures of what could be an early Knob Creek or Wikieup, a group of enthusiasts who in the mid-1930s, at the height of the Great Depression, went out and shot their machine guns. They didn't just do that - they fired cannon, drove tanks, flew biplanes, fired Minnenwerfers, and dressed the part from the Zulu War to The Great War. Col. Jarrett and his group of enthusiasts found a way to get through the Great Depression by uplifting their spirits in the common cause of piling up empty brass. Sound familiar?
I have to admit that looking through these pictures always makes me wonder, "Is that my 1918 Chauchat, or my 1907 St. Etienne?" From the reaction of other collectors, they are doing the same thing as they look over the Jarrett pictures. Perhaps one day we'll find a list of serial numbers of the firearms that were in the collection and chase them down to include that fascinating history.
In all, as we observe the fallout from the recent operation resulting in the death of Osama bin Laden (at last!), and the Arab spring turning into an uncertain Arab summer, I'm reminded of the seemingly eternal connection between our martial interest and the fate of the world. As Libya devolves towards its inevitable fate, we watch and most of our community is commenting not on the eventual end to this, but, "Did you see the DP-28s being used there? The SG-43s?" I am troubled of course, by the possible hijacking of these revolutions. From our Brothers-in-Arms who are true freedom fighters trying to free their peoples for a better world, stolen by the radical extremists, who will lead these countries back into the Dark Ages? Let's hope the leadership of the West can come to terms with what needs to be done, and support the honorable Middle Eastern leaders and countries as these changes occur.
And, along with all collectors around the world, I'll be watching for where all those 98 Mausers and MG34s end up... Dan
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