Visitors to the REME Museum at Lyneham won’t fail to be impressed by the dramatic armoury display which presents a diverse selection of pistols, revolvers, rifles and machine guns. This display, though, represents only part of the Museum’s large collection of historic weaponry. This short blog explores the development of this collection, and highlights a few of the stranger weapons in our care.

The modern Armourers’ Hall at the REME Museum, Lyneham.

History of the collection

The weapons collection was started prior to World War II, and before the formation of the Corps of REME. The Armourers’ Training Branch of the Royal Ordnance Corps, Hilsea, began to collect small arms and machine guns to be used as part of their technical training programme. In 1960, the collection was passed to 4 (Armament) Training Battalion REME.

The weapons were displayed at the Small Arms Museum in Carlisle between 1964 and 1969. It was associated with the Army Apprentice School nearby, and acted as both a valuable teaching aid and historic record of weapons development. The collection continued growing, and received donations of firearms from the Cumberland and Carlisle Police through the 1962-1963 Arms Amnesty.

The Carlisle Army Apprentice College closed in 1969 and the weapons collection moved to the School of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering (SEME) at Bordon. Yet more weapons were added to the collection, this time by the Pattern Room and the Royal Small Arms Factory in Enfield. Weapons were put on display in Building 65 of the School of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering, forming a branch of the REME Museum.

The old weapons display at Bordon.

The Museum moved to Lyneham in 2017 and for the first time since 1995 was able to put weapons on permanent display for visitors to see. The aim was to demonstrate the skill of the REME Armourer, as well as showing how weapons function and have developed over time. Visitors can also see weapons collected by REME Museum before the collection transferred from SEME, including Axis blades on display in the World War II gallery.

In total, the Museum’s weapons collection numbers more than 800 objects and includes firearms, edged weapons such as swords and knives, polearms, artillery and ammunition. Because of the way the collection has developed and the way it has been used to train REME Armourers, it includes a large number of historic and foreign weapons. The collection holds Czech, German, Chinese and Soviet Russian machine guns, as well as panga, kitar and kris daggers. Read on to discover some of the objects in our collection.

Every weapon has a story but here’s a few of our favourites:

The Lewis Machine Gun

Lewis machine gun. A:1978.1839.

The Lewis Gun was designed in America, but adapted and manufactured in Britain for use during the First World War. It has a top-mounted pan magazine and a cooling shroud on its barrel. It could fire up to 600 rounds per minute. Large numbers were made for use in the First World War, but some Lewis Guns remained in service into the 1950s.

Handmade Kenyan Pistol

Handmade Kenyan pistol. A:1962.0533.01.

This unusual handmade pistol was likely made by a member of the Kenya Land and Freedom Army. It was donated to the Museum by East Africa Command in 1962. The design meant that the round was exposed, placing the user at considerable risk.

Katar Push Dagger

Katar push dagger. A:1978.2018.

The Katar dagger comes from India and the Indian subcontinent. It has an H-shaped handgrip and could pierce mail and even plate armour. Ceremonial Katars are sometimes used in religious ceremonies.

PROM-1 Anti-Personnel Mine

PROM-1 anti-personnel mine. A:1996.4029.

The PROM-1 was a Yugoslavian anti-personnel mine, which has been used in Kosovo, Croatia and Bosnia during the Yugoslav wars, as well as also being deployed in Iraq and Central Africa. The mine would be partially buried in the ground with the prongs lying above the soil. When activated, a mechanism causes the mine to spring into the air before it detonates.

Darra Rifle

Darra rifle. A:1966.0738.

Darra Adam Khel, a town in Pakistan, is famous for manufacturing guns. In hundreds of tiny workshops, locals are able to copy and manufacture most common firearms. Estimates suggest three quarters of the people of Darra Adam Khel are employed in arms manufacturing. This weapon is a Darra copy of an English Lee Enfield .303 rifle.

Federal Gas Gun

Federal gas gun. A:1978.1875.

The Gas or Riot Gun was manufactured by Federal Laboratories, and used by to fire individual tear gas canisters to disperse rioters and crowds. Although most widely used in America, the weapon was also used by the British Army in Northern Ireland during The Troubles.