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Antique Military Firearms
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This is a very rare and fine condition Webley-Fosbery Model of 1903 Automatic Revolver manufactured by Webley & Scott and chambered in the .455 Webley cartridge.  This rare automatic revolver is inscribed to and was carried by Captain Charles Beresford Tennent who served in Indian Mountain Artillery during the Gallipoli Campaign and Mesopotamia Campaign in World War One.

 

The Webley firearms manufacturing company began in 1835 when brothers Philip and James Webley began producing firearms in Birmingham, England.  After James Webley’s death in 1856, coupled with the closing of Colt’s London factory a year later, Philip Webley and his two sons Thomas William and Henry began to focus on the manufacture of handguns with interchangeable parts.  It took Thomas William Webley until the mid-1880s, however, before he could obtain sufficient machinery to mass produce handguns with sufficiently close tolerances that interchangeability of parts was a reality.  In this Thomas William Webley was quite successful and that led to an 1887 British government order for 10,000 P. Webley & Sons double-action, top-break Mark I Revolvers.  The Mark I was a six-shot revolver with auto ejectors and it was chambered in the hard-hitting .455 Webley caliber ball cartridge.

Webley would make modifications to the highly successful 1887 design and introduce the Mark II in 1894 and the Mark III in 1897.  The same year that the Mark III Revolver came out, P. Webley & Sons merged with two firearms manufacturers, Richard Ellis & Son and W. & C. Scott and Sons, and the new company continued business under the name Webley & Scott.

The newly christened Webley & Scott firm created the Mark IV Revolver in 1899 just in time for the Boer War in South Africa.  The Mark IV came in a standard barrel length of 4 inches, but could be special ordered with three, five, and six inch barrels.  The Mark IV was essentially the same as the Mark III, but with a slightly larger cylinder to safely accommodate smokeless powder cartridges.  The Mark V would be introduced in the first year of World War I and was the last of the Webley revolvers made using the bird’s head grip.  The Mark V was only produced in 1914 and 1915.

In early 1915, the Mark VI was designed and adopted for war service.  It featured a dull-blue finish and a square butt grip.  These revolvers were manufactured by Webley & Scott until 1921, when the British government canceled the Webley & Scott contract and began manufacturing the revolvers at the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield.  The Mark VI would thus see service as a standard British sidearm during both world wars. 

Now, let us back up a few years and introduce George Vincent Fosbery, VC.  Fosbery was born in 1832 in Stert, Wiltshire in England.  Fosbery became an officer in the British Indian Army and was a lieutenant in the 4th Bengal European Regiment during the Umbeyla Campaign in North-West India in 1863.  Then Lieutenant Fosbery led a small unit from his regiment on October 30, 1863, towards the Crag Picquet, key terrain that had been lost by an Indian Army garrison.  During the attack on the Crag, Lieutenant Fosbery led the way and was the first man from his unit to reach the top.  Shortly afterwards, when his commanding officer was wounded, Fosbery assembled another party and pursued the enemy as they retreated.  For this actions, Fosbery was awarded the Victoria Cross.  Fosbery retired from the British Army in 1977 as a lieutenant colonel.  Fosbery then spent his retirement as an inventor and firearms designer.  One of his firearms designs was for a self-cocking revolver.  Fosbery received a patent for his design in 1895 and a few years later he convinced Webley & Scott to manufacture the firearm.

Webley & Scott would produce several variations of the Webley-Fosbery.  The first model, introduced in the summer of 1901, and typically referred to as the Model of 1901, was chambered for the standard British military .455 Webley round and had a six-round capacity.  This first model used a coil spring as a main spring.  The next year, Webley & Scott introduced what has been called the Model of 1902 Webley Fosbery “automatic revolver,” and this model was chambered in the .38 Colt Automatic cartridge and had an eight-round capacity.  Finally, Webley & Scott made some more minor modifications, to include the transition to a flat main spring, and introduced the final version in 1903, known as the Model of 1903, and it was also chambered in .455 Webley.

In all three models, Webley & Scott only manufactured approximately 4,200 Webley Fosbery automatic revolvers beginning in 1901.  The vast majority were the Model of 1901 or Model of 1903 chambered in .455 Webley with only about 417 manufactured in .38 ACP as the Model of 1902.  Based upon the very low production rate of about 10 Webley-Fosbery revolvers per week, this particular Webley Fosbery was probably manufactured in late 1905 or early 1906.

Overall, this Webley Fosbery Revolver is in very fine condition, retaining 98% of its original brush blued finish.  The lower frame retains 98% of its original blued finish. The right side plate has the serial number stamp “2547.”  On the bottom of the right side plate is a British proof stamp.  The Main Spring remains in the white and remains very strong.  The Recoiling Lever is in mint condition, retaining virtually all of its original blued finish and has the matching partial serial number “547” stamped on the left side.  The Recoiling Lever Connector has the matching serial number “2547” and retains virtually all of its original blued finish.  The Safety Bolt functions perfectly and exhibits a largely plum patina.  The lower left side of the frame, at the grip, has the matching serial number “2547.”  The rear grip strap exhibits a largely plum patina and has the beautiful script engraving “C. B. Tennent,” for the owner of this revolver Charles Beresford Tennent.

The original Butt Swivel and Ring are present and exhibit generally a plum patina.  The front grip strap retains 98% of its original blued finish that exhibits a plum patina in places.  The Trigger Guard Bow retains 90% of its original blued finish.  Both the left and right Cylinder Guards are present and are the first style without lightening holes and they both retain 98% of their original blued finish.   The left side of the lower frame has the winged bullet Webley & Scott symbol over “W&S.”  Just to the right of the Webley & Scott symbol is the caliber stamp, “455 CORDITE.”  The original Recoil Shield is present and still retains considerable original blued finish. 

The Hammer is in very fine condition, retaining 98% plus of its original blued finish with very crisp checkering all around.  The Hammer strike point is in mint condition.  The Stirrup Fastener retains most of its original blued finish that exhibits a plum patina on the top portion.  The checkering on the left side of the Stirrup Fastener remains crisp.  The Stirrup Fastener Spring and retains virtually all of its blued finish.  The Trigger retains 99% of its brushed blued finish and the sear release is still very crisp.  The Cylinder Cam on the lower frame retains most of its original blued finish and the cam corners are still sharp.

The Barrel Assembly retains 95% of its original blued finish with two small areas of isolated pitting on the right side adjacent to the swivel point.   The nose of the Barrel Assembly has the matching partial serial number “547.”  The Cylinder Axis is in fine condition, retaining considerable original blued finish in the lower surfaces.  The original Cylinder Catch and Positioning Stud and Spring are present and still function perfectly.  The bore is still very shiny with strong rifling and only small areas of frosting and pinprick pitting towards the muzzle. 

The left side of the barrel extension has the crisp “WEBLEY o FOSBERY” stamp.  The checkering on the top of the Cylinder Catch is still crisp.  The top of the barrel has the crisply stamped, sans serif “P. WEBLEY & SON.LONDON & BIRMINGHAM.” stamp.  The original Front Sight is present and is still tightly secured to the barrel. 

The original Cylinder is present and is in fine condition, retaining 90% of its slightly fading blued finish.  There “zig zag” cam channels on the outside of the cylinder remain scrips.  Each cylinder, on the outer surface, have proof stamps.  The Cylinder Extractor Nut and Cylinder Extractor Spiral Spring remain correctly in the white.  The lightening scallops are at the front of the cylinder chambers and retain most of the original blued finish.  The Cylinder face has the matching serial number “547.”  The star Extractor portion works perfectly. 

Both original Grip Panels are present and are in fine condition.  The left panel has the recess at the top for the safety and the checkering is fine with minor flattening.  There are no cracks or chips.  The right grip panel has a period .455 Webley round case base inset into the top.  This round is an original Kynoch round with fired primer.  The checkering is fine with minor flattening.  The original Grip Screw is present and has a slightly marred slot. 

This revolver was the personal sidearm of Captain Charles Beresford Tennent, Royal Artillery.  British officers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were responsible for purchasing all of their own kit, uniforms and sidearms.  Tennent probably purchased this Webley Fosbery shortly after he was commissioned and undoubtedly used it as his personal sidearm during his military service. 

Tennent was born November 15, 1889, in Essex.  Tennent attended Dover College and was a Lord Warden’s Scholar in 1909, and was admitted to the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich the same year.  He passed out of Woolwich and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Royal Artillery on July 23, 2010.  Tennent served in several garrison artillery assignments and was promoted to first lieutenant on July 23, 1913.  During this period he was assigned to Number 75 Company, Royal Garrison Artillery, stationed in Bombay and, later, in Rangoon. 

As the buildup began for the attack on Gallipoli, Lieutenant Tennent was seconded for service in the Indian Mountain Artillery in early April 18, 1915.  As part of the Indian Mountain Artillery, Tennent was assigned to the 31st Mountain Battery.

Lieutenant Tennent joined the Indian Mountain Artillery while they were already embarked at Alexandria in Egypt.  The Mountain Artillery Brigade, embarked with fifty-six mules in each battery and the officers in the battery landed with the leading infantry units at 3:15 am on April 25, 1915.  Unfortunately, both the infantry and their accompanying mountain artillery units were landed at the wrong beach and, creating further problems, units were landed interspersed so that units were all mixed up on the landing beaches.  One battery, the 6th, rushed to support some infantry units engaged with Turkish troops and received so many casualties that it was withdrawn less than 12 hours later. 

Despite having been put ashore at the wrong location, the infantry and the artillery dug in amidst heavy fire from Turkish soldiers and were only able to maintain their beachhead due to the presence and support of Royal Navy ships firing in support.  All of the mountain artillery batteries were distributed amongst the infantry of the Australia and New Zealand Corps in sections or singly.  The Mountain Artillery Brigade stayed on the peninsula at Gallipoli until the evacuation was finally ordered and carried out on December 18-19, 1915. 

The unit refit in Egypt and was back fighting the Turks in Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) in late 1916.  Tennent fought throughout the Mesopotamia Campaign from 1916 until the war’s end.  Tennent and the 31st Mountain Artillery Battery arrived in what is now Iraq around the same time that Major General Charles Townshend surrendered his forces at Kut on April 29, 1916.  After this humiliating defeat, Townshend was relieved and replaced by Lieutenant General Sir Frederick S. Maude.  Maude spent the next six months building up supplies and lines of communications and supply around Basra and training his troops.  Taking advantage of Ottoman weakness, Maude launched an offensive on December 13, 1916, in which Tennent played a part with his battery.

British forces advanced up both sides of the Tigris River and recaptured Kut in February 1917.  The British, and then Captain Tennent, continued to advance north, either bypassing or fighting and displacing Ottoman forces until March 11, 1917, when they captured Baghdad.  General Maude stopped to refit in Baghdad, but died of cholera on November 18, 1917.  Maude was replaced by General William Marshall who then ordered a halt to all further operations for the winter. 

The British, and Captain Tennent, resumed offensive operations in late February 1918, capturing Hit, Khan al Baghdadi and Kifri in March and April.  British forces then put down an uprising in Najaf until the rebels surrendered in May 1918.  While the bulk of active British forces moved west to the Sinai and Palestine Campaign in support of the Battle of Megiddo, Tennent and his mountain artillery battery moved east as part of General Lionel Dunsterville’s operations in Persia in the summer of 1918.  Operations in Persia were not prosecuted because of the climate and Tennent and his battery moved back to southern Iraq just prior to the Armistice.

At war’s end, Tennent was on the Karun Front between Basra and Ahwaz.  Tennent left the army shortly after the war ended and moved to Kenya where he lived for many years.  During his time in Kenya, then a colony of Great Britain, Tennent was a farmer and also served as a Justice of the Peace for the Kisumu-Londiani District.  Captain Tennent eventually returned to Britain and died on January 6, 1973 in Cheltenham.  He was buried in Gloucestershire. 

This is a very rare and historically significant Webley Fosbery “automatic” revolver, one of only about 4,200 ever made, and it was the personal sidearm of Captain Charles Beresford Tennent, Royal Artillery, who served in the Great War as an artillery officer in the Indian Mountain Artillery in the middle east.  This revolver still functions perfectly.