Ethnographic Arms & Armour
 

Go Back   Ethnographic Arms & Armour > Discussion Forums > Ethnographic Weapons
User Name
Password
FAQ Members List Calendar Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read


Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Old 18th September 2012, 11:35 AM   #1
Ibrahiim al Balooshi
Member
 
Ibrahiim al Balooshi's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: Buraimi Oman, on the border with the UAE
Posts: 3,927
Send a message via MSN to Ibrahiim al Balooshi
Default THE MARTINI HENRY.

Salaams all ~ For a technical comprehensive analysis of this weapon please see www.martinihenry.com

This thread wishes to examine the route into the Arabian Peninsula and what changes were made to this rifle.

The Martini Henry when it appeared in about 1872 revolutionized infantry warfare. This British Rifle when used by trained soldiers was capable of over 20 rounds a minute. It must have been like issuing all the men with machine guns by comparison to its predecessor. Indeed one of the main problems was that because the 557 / 450 cal bullets were black powder a line of 50 men all firing at once could soon mask target acquisition with smoke.

However what the infantry had was an extremely powerful, easy to operate, very accurate, devastating at all ranges, fast fire, killing machine. So how did the Arabs get theirs and moreover what changes did they make to the weapon?

In Oman local gendarmeries and palace guards (Al Askiris) got issued weapons as the Martini itself began to be overtaken by better designs such as the Enfield and pre WW1; The SMLE Lee Enfield. (It is interesting to note that in 1914 Home Guard units were issued with Martini Henrys with which to shoot down enemy airships over London.)

By the late 1890s, therefor, a lot of weapons were tipping onto the local Arab market through import points like Muscat and Ajman. The locals loved this new weapon and named it "The Sommah". They had no need of a bayonette and found the woodwork, bayonette fitting, and extra long barrel quite cumbersome. By chopping the barrel by about 12 inches they lightened the entire system and found to everyone's amazement very little loss of accuracy or power. The weapon could still knock a man dead at 1000 yards and penetrate 18 inches or more of hardwood at short range except now it was much easier to carry and a whole lot lighter. They also modified the rounds for hunting since a full sized round after hitting a bird or hare left nothing much to cook! So they chopped the bullets in half as bird/small game shot. To engage with tradition often the butt was covered in wolfskin and for good luck silver was worked onto the barrel stock and butt. Often you find ramrods added to these Arabized weapons. Traditional bullet shaped kohl and steel spike containers copied the 577 cartridge shape and rounds were carried on a leather and silver decorated waist belt. So as not to waste anything cartridges were reloaded with gunpowder, re capped with new striker caps and re bulletted ~ a small industry developed refilling and recharging ammo.

By the turn of the 20th Century most Martini Henry marks were available and each type though generally called "Sommah" in Arabia were given extra other names. The weapon continued to be carried through the 40s and 50s and even until today though it has been slowly replaced by the Lee Enfield (called Canad) with both the First and Second World War weapons including the short muzzle Jungle Carbine (called Parachute) and these days by modern 22 rifles imported from Germany, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. (generically named Sectoon)

The first picture shows a quite nicely silver decorated "Sommah" and the middle weapon which is quite rusty is in good working order. The third is an excellent mark and is called a "Sultaniyah" recognizable by its flat topped heavy barrel and florally decorated main body. It has a peculiar safety catch (which doesn't work!) as well as the usual "loaded pointer" on the side. This is likely to be a civilian style hunter.
You can compare the ammo size with one or two modern rounds in the ammo picture.

In conclusion it can be said, therefor, that this famous British Army Rifle went into a time locked weapons freezer where it is still admired and respected as an excellent hunter in Oman and many parts of Arabia.

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.
Attached Images
      

Last edited by Ibrahiim al Balooshi : 19th September 2012 at 05:59 AM.
Ibrahiim al Balooshi is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 18th September 2012, 06:51 PM   #2
estcrh
Member
 
estcrh's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
Location: USA
Posts: 1,488
Send a message via AIM to estcrh
Default

Excellent information, thanks!
estcrh is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 19th September 2012, 06:16 AM   #3
kahnjar1
Member
 
kahnjar1's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND (RISING FROM THE RUBBLE)
Posts: 2,151
Default

Here is another silver and gold decorated Martini Henry in 577/450 cal with belt and foil cartridges. Later cartridges were drawn brass as shown in Ibrahiim's post.
If the rifles you show do not have British proof marks then it is likely that they were made in Pakistan by "backyard" makers. They are however of exceptionally good quality.
The one shown here falls into that category.
Attached Images
       

Last edited by kahnjar1 : 19th September 2012 at 07:34 AM.
kahnjar1 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 19th September 2012, 12:17 PM   #4
colin henshaw
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,124
Default

Hi Ibrahiim

Great post, thank you...

I had a couple of these silver-mounted Martinis as wall decoration when I lived in the Gulf (early 1970s). One bought in Mutrah souk and the other from a shop in Al Ain (UAE). Both were ex-British Army examples, cut down. I did see some locals still carrying them especially in the interior, including on camel back, but by then the Lee Enfield .303 was more popular and used by night watchmen etc.

Best regards.
colin henshaw is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 19th September 2012, 12:57 PM   #5
adrian
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 35
Default

Hi Ibrahiim,
Some years ago a company in Oman - Historic Arms, Exhibitions & Forts LLC - restored many hundreds of longarms owned by the Govt there (Sultanate) that were in a decrepid state. As part of the process each was stripped, all markings & features recorded & a massive data base populated, many (the majority) were martini, "Sommahs". It is anticipated that the data base will be researched & published etc.

A small arms heritage museum was also contracted & completed in 2006 - 2007 at Birkat Al-Mauz. Not open yet as the ministry still has minor works to complete. One room there is devoted to the Martini in British service & how it was tribalised & adopted as the "Sommah", some very nice examples there. The museum is absolutely amazing - designed & set up by Dr. Christopher Roads (he was responsible for HMS Belfast on the River Thames in London & also for the well known Duxford Air Museum whilst he was deputy director general at The Imperial war Museum).

Also of interest, by the same company, is an equally stunning artillery museum at the impressive Al Hazm Castle, plus a smaller complimentary display at Barca Castle. The former completed in 2004 but still closed as the Omani's have some minor works to do there also & things move very very slowly indeed with their Govt departments when it comes to doing work.
If you are a student of such arms you could contact HAEF LLC & see if you can arrange to have a look at what they have been doing. I think you will be quite amazed at what has been done there.
Regards, Adrian
A few near the end of construction photos....
Attached Images
   
adrian is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 20th September 2012, 10:54 AM   #6
Ibrahiim al Balooshi
Member
 
Ibrahiim al Balooshi's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: Buraimi Oman, on the border with the UAE
Posts: 3,927
Send a message via MSN to Ibrahiim al Balooshi
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by adrian
Hi Ibrahiim,
Some years ago a company in Oman - Historic Arms, Exhibitions & Forts LLC - restored many hundreds of longarms owned by the Govt there (Sultanate) that were in a decrepid state. As part of the process each was stripped, all markings & features recorded & a massive data base populated, many (the majority) were martini, "Sommahs". It is anticipated that the data base will be researched & published etc.

A small arms heritage museum was also contracted & completed in 2006 - 2007 at Birkat Al-Mauz. Not open yet as the ministry still has minor works to complete. One room there is devoted to the Martini in British service & how it was tribalised & adopted as the "Sommah", some very nice examples there. The museum is absolutely amazing - designed & set up by Dr. Christopher Roads (he was responsible for HMS Belfast on the River Thames in London & also for the well known Duxford Air Museum whilst he was deputy director general at The Imperial war Museum).

Also of interest, by the same company, is an equally stunning artillery museum at the impressive Al Hazm Castle, plus a smaller complimentary display at Barca Castle. The former completed in 2004 but still closed as the Omani's have some minor works to do there also & things move very very slowly indeed with their Govt departments when it comes to doing work.
If you are a student of such arms you could contact HAEF LLC & see if you can arrange to have a look at what they have been doing. I think you will be quite amazed at what has been done there.
Regards, Adrian
A few near the end of construction photos....


Salaams Adrian ~ That is very interesting and I wonder if the up coming arms and armour conference at Nizwa University in October is related to the adjacent museum you mention at Birkat al Muz(pool of the bananas) ? I will certainly look up the Muscat people to see what they have regarding antiquity
I have a few days in Muscat possibly next week and I want to hit the museums for fine detail on swords and spears. I will look at their guns at the same time. Shukran..
Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.
Ibrahiim al Balooshi is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 20th September 2012, 11:28 AM   #7
Ibrahiim al Balooshi
Member
 
Ibrahiim al Balooshi's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: Buraimi Oman, on the border with the UAE
Posts: 3,927
Send a message via MSN to Ibrahiim al Balooshi
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by colin henshaw
Hi Ibrahiim

Great post, thank you...

I had a couple of these silver-mounted Martinis as wall decoration when I lived in the Gulf (early 1970s). One bought in Mutrah souk and the other from a shop in Al Ain (UAE). Both were ex-British Army examples, cut down. I did see some locals still carrying them especially in the interior, including on camel back, but by then the Lee Enfield .303 was more popular and used by night watchmen etc.

Best regards.


Salaams Colin Henshaw, Indeed they still carry the 303 SMLE (Canad). Occasionally there are 303 black powder Enfields that superceded Martini Henrys and of course nowadays M16s are carried by official government guards. I always thought the big heavy SMLE were just too cumbersome for Omani men but they more or less adopted it from its inception and even a few pre WW1 jobs turn up.
The Bedu have a peculiar way of carrying the Martini Henry(and other rifles) which they sling upside down under one arm from the shoulder. In fact, this is really comfortable especially on a camel where the too and fro of the camel movement would otherwise have the weapon thumping up and down on the beast.. Another odd adaption is the gun bag made from goat leather which keeps all the dust off the weapon. It is also notable that they continue even today to carry the old silver powder flasks (talahiq) as a mark of tradition even though they are redundant as weapon accessories from a long gun retired many years ago "The Abu Futtilla". (The One with the Match)

All pictures from the "Thesiger" collection (highly recommended to Forum) except the gun (an Enfield) and bag on the floor of my office !

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.
Attached Images
     
Ibrahiim al Balooshi is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 20th September 2012, 01:00 PM   #8
adrian
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 35
Default

Salaams Adrian ~ That is very interesting and I wonder if the up coming arms and armour conference at Nizwa University in October is related to the adjacent museum you mention at Birkat al Muz(pool of the bananas) ? I will certainly look up the Muscat people to see what they have regarding antiquity
I have a few days in Muscat possibly next week and I want to hit the museums for fine detail on swords and spears. I will look at their guns at the same time. Shukran..
Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.


Hi Ibrahiim, Yes Nizwa is very close to Birkat al Mauz & the conference attendees will be viewing the museum there, that conference is being organised by Dr. Roads. HAEF have premises not far from Muscat, at/near Bowsher.
Adrian
adrian is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 20th September 2012, 03:46 PM   #9
Ibrahiim al Balooshi
Member
 
Ibrahiim al Balooshi's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: Buraimi Oman, on the border with the UAE
Posts: 3,927
Send a message via MSN to Ibrahiim al Balooshi
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by adrian
Salaams Adrian ~ That is very interesting and I wonder if the up coming arms and armour conference at Nizwa University in October is related to the adjacent museum you mention at Birkat al Muz(pool of the bananas) ? I will certainly look up the Muscat people to see what they have regarding antiquity
I have a few days in Muscat possibly next week and I want to hit the museums for fine detail on swords and spears. I will look at their guns at the same time. Shukran..
Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.


Hi Ibrahiim, Yes Nizwa is very close to Birkat al Mauz & the conference attendees will be viewing the museum there, that conference is being organised by Dr. Roads. HAEF have premises not far from Muscat, at/near Bowsher.
Adrian


Salaams Adrian ~ I'm determined to get into the conference ! Do you have any phone numbers to hand? Perhaps you may be able to PM me? It is interesting and I have just been given the inside info.
Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.
Ibrahiim al Balooshi is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 20th September 2012, 09:32 PM   #10
adrian
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 35
Default

Salaams Adrian ~ I'm determined to get into the conference ! Do you have any phone numbers to hand? Perhaps you may be able to PM me? It is interesting and I have just been given the inside info.
Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.


Hi Ibrahiim, yes I can give you contact numbers etc, please email me direct on adrian(at)stonehenge.com.au
Regards
Adrian
adrian is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply


Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

vB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump



All times are GMT. The time now is 01:52 PM.


Powered by: vBulletin Version 3.0.3
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Posts are regarded as being copyrighted by their authors and the act of posting material is deemed to be a granting of an irrevocable nonexclusive license for display here.