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Antique Military Firearms
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This is an historically significant Webley “WG” Target Model Revolver that was the personal sidearm of George Zouch Pinder, who served in the 49th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Forces during World War One, where he was seriously wounded at the Battle of Mont Sorrel near Ypres in the Somme in early June 1916.  Captain Pinder was awarded the Military Cross for bravery during that battle as a company commander. 

 

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. 

One of Webley’s most successful late 19th century designs was known as the Webley “WG” Model and was produced in a Target and Army model. The model made minor improvements upon the action and locking systems of the prior Pryse and Kaufman models, but Webley held all pertinent patents. The first “WG” models were introduced in 1885 and were manufactured in .476 for a black powder cartridge, but subsequent models would be designed for new British military cartridges. The first model to bear the actual marking “WG” on the gun was introduced in 1889.  In 1892, Target and Army variants of the “WG” were introduced, primarily in .476/.455, capable of utilizing both the older .476” black powder military cartridge and the newly introduced .455 Mk1 cartridge of 1891, also a black powder round. The “WG” revolvers produced circa 1892-1895 had birds head shaped grips. In 1896 the “WG” Target model was introduced, with a 7” barrel, 6-shot fluted cylinder, adjustable sights and checkered wood grips with a square butt, replacing the bird’s head profile. To the causal eye it was not significantly different than any of its immediate predecessors, but again included some very minor improvements in action and locking systems. Interestingly Webley had experimented with a frame-mounted firing pin on the “WG” models circa 1893, but with the Target model the firm returned to the conventional firing pin on the hammer face. The companion model to the “WG” Target was the “WG” Army Model.  The Webley “WG” revolvers, both Target and Army were frequently purchased by army officers throughout the British Commonwealth before and during WWI, since officers had to provide their own uniforms, equipment and firearms. These were the last of the revolvers to be produced under the P. Webley company name, as the acquisition of W. & C. Scott in 1897 resulted it the creation of the Webley & Scott company, and all arms produced after that merger would be so marked.

The Webley “WG” Model 1896 was an important revolver as it bridged the gap between the older black powder .476” Enfield military cartridge, the newer black powder .455 Webley Mk I of 1891 and the newly adopted .455 Webley Mk II of 1897 using cordite instead of black powder. Although the designations do not really indicate this, all utilized a .454” bullet with a .476” neck diameter and had a nominal base of .480” with a .535” rim. Even the truly obsolete .450 Adams (or .450 Tranter) was for all practical purposes interchangeable with the newer cartridges. The Mk I had the longest overall length at 21.7mm, the old .476 had a 21.65mm overall length and the new Mk II had a 19.3mm overall length. The Mk II round would be the primary British military handgun cartridge from 1897 to 1898 and from 1900 to 1912. The Mk III was only in use temporarily, as the hollow point bullet design was a violation of the 1899 Hague Convention. The Mk II utilized a 265 grain solid lead round nosed bullet, propelled by 6.5 grains of cordite and traveling at about 650 fps and generating about 250 ft/lbs. of energy, making it comparable to a modern .45 ACP target load.

 

As noted above, the "WG" Target and Army Model revolvers were widely purchased from Army & Navy Cooperative Society stores and other retailers by British officers in the late 19th century and early 20th century. A total of about 22,000 WG pattern revolvers were made, with the “standard” 1896 model appearing around s/n 10,000.  observed serial numbers were 10,300 to 22,126.  This particular Webley “WG” Target Model Revolver was purchased by then Captain George Z. Pinder, through the 49th Battalion Officer’s Mess from the Army & Navy Cooperative Society, Limited store in London shortly before he and his battalion sailed for France.

George Zouch Pinder was born March 5, 1881 in Salford near Manchester, England.  Pinder sailed for Canada in 1907, spent a brief time in Montreal and then settled in Edmonton where he was commissioned as an Alberta Land Surveyor in 1913.  He enlisted in the Canadian Army on January 4, 1915 in Edmonton, Canada, when he was 33 years and 9 months old.  At the time of his enlistment, Pinder was 5’ 11”.  Upon entering service, Pinder was assigned to the 49th Battalion, also known as the 49th Canadian Edmonton Regiment.  A copy of his commission by King George V of England indicates he was commissioned as a lieutenant on January 4, 1915.  He was appointed an infantry lieutenant in the 101st Regiment, Edmonton Fusiliers on January 5, 1915, assigned to C Company under the command of Major H. E. Daniel.  This unit would become the 49th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force.  He was then promoted to captain a few months later on April 17, 1915. 

Shortly after the 49th Battalion, CEF, was formed in Canada, the Battalion’s Officer’s Mess ordered sidearms for the officers from the Army & Navy Co-Operative Society, Limited, in London.  Pinder’s revolver was a Webley Target Model revolver, serial number 13223, which is listed on the Army & Navy Society’s ledger.  When Captain Pinder received his revolver, he had it engraved with his rank, name and unit on the right side of the barrel.

Pinder and the rest of the 49th Battalion departed the port of Montreal aboard the ship S. S. Metagama on June 3, 1915.  The battalion landed in England for additional training in mid-June.  It was during this time that Captain Pinder purchased this revolver from the Army & Navy Co-Operative Society, Limited in London through the 49th’s Regimental Officers Mess.   After a few months training in England, the 49th sailed from England and arrived in France in late November 1915.  Captain Pinder commanded C Company, 49th Battalion, CEF, in France from December 1915 until he was severely wounded in June 1916. 

Captain Pinder and the 49th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, were assigned to the Canadian Third Division of the Canadian Corps in the spring of 1916.  As part of the Canadian Corps, Captain Pinder and the 49th took part in the Second Battle of Ypres, a rehash of the First Battle of Ypres, which was fought in the fall of 1915 in western Belgium.  The Second Battle of Ypres is notable in part because it marked the first time the German Army used poison gas during the war.  At the end of the Second Battle of Ypres, British forces were pushed back into a salient extending westward from the city of Ypres.

Shortly after the Second Battle of Ypres, the German Army began to observe a build-up of Allied forces on the Somme, which was a French-British buildup for the planned Somme Offensive.  To prevent the British from reinforcing the Somme front with troops from near Ypres, and in attempt to reduce the salient to the east of the town of Ypres, the XIII Royal Wurttemberg Corps and the German 117th Infantry Division, comprising four German divisions in total, attacked a portion of the salient defended by the Canadian Corps, which included Captain Pinder and the 49th Battalion of the C.E.F.  Shortly before this attack, on May 28, 1916, the commander of the C.E.F., Lieutenant General Sir Edwin Alderson was removed from command and replaced with Lieutenant General Julian Byng, who would command the Canadian Corps during the subsequent battle. 

Upon assuming command, General Byng inspected Canadian Corps positions in the salient and observed that the Canadians were overlooked by German positions and were, as a result, under constant danger of German fires.  In response, General Byng ordered the 3rd Canadian Division, of which Captain Pinder was a part, to conduct a local attack to capture the German positions.  While the Canadians began preparing for these local attacks, the Germans were preparing a local attack of their own on Mount Sorrel, Tor Top (Hill 62) and Hill 61.  The Germans attacked first on the morning of June 2, 1916, starting with a massive heavy artillery bombardment.  The bombardment was so heavy that it caused 90% casualties in the Canadian forward reconnaissance battalion.  The 3rd Canadian Division commander, Major General Malcolm Mercer, was mortally wounded and the 8th Canadian Brigade commander, Brigadier General Arthur Victor Seymour Williams, was wounded and taken prisoner.  At 1:00 pm on June 2nd, the Germans detonated four mines near the Canadian forward trenches, followed by a German attack with six battalions, with five battalions in support and six battalions in reserve.  The 3rd Canadian Division suffered significant casualties early on in the fight and was without its division commander and one of its brigade commanders.  The Germans then captured Mont Sorrel and Hill 61 and then dug in. 

Early on the morning of June 3, 1916, Lieutenant General Byng organized a hasty counterattack.  The 3rd Canadian Division had suffered so many casualties on the 2nd that two brigades from the 1st Canadian Division were temporarily attached to the 3rd Division under the command of acting commanding general Brigadier General Edward Spencer Hoare Nairne of the Lahore Divisional Artillery.  The counterattack was initially scheduled for 2:00 am on June 3, 1916, but was postponed until 7:00 am.  When the attack began that morning, it was uneven with the four attacking battalions, including the 49th Battalion and Captain Pinder in command of C Company, crossing their starting lines at different times.  The Canadians attacked over open ground in broad daylight and, predictably, suffered heavy casualties.  Although the Canadian attack did not regain its original positions, it did manage to close a 600-yard gap in the line and advance the Canadian line 1,000 yards from the positions it retreated to after the initial German assault.  It was during these counterattacks that Captain Pinder was shot in the left lung, the round passing through his chest, while leading his C Company, for which he was awarded the Military Cross.    

Notice of Captain Pinder’s receiving the Military Cross was published in the London Gazette on August 18, 1916, noting he received the MC, “[f]or conspicuous gallantry and ability when leading his company in a counter-attack and in subsequently controlling his men when severely wounded.” 

After Pinder’s wounding and recovery, a medical board in Canada determined in a letter dated November 28, 1916, that he could not be considered fit to return to front line service.  He was, instead, offered duty in Canada on administrative, instructional, or recruiting duty. 

A copy of Pinder’s Canadian Expeditionary Force Certificate of Service indicates he was struck from the rolls upon the general demobilization on May 17, 1919 and that he was wounded on June 6, 1916, and was awarded the Military Cross on August 19, 1916.

While in Canada, Pinder married Kate Bourchier in 1916 and they had one son, Thomas Pinder, who was born in 1917.  Kate died in 1918 and Pinder and his son left Canada for England.  After a few years in England, Pinder and Thomas returned to Edmonton.  Pinder would marry again in 1930 to Anne Valetta Kimmis.  Pinder retired from surveying in Edmonton and died in 1967.  Pinder was a well-known surveyor in Calgary and his digitized records are now part of the Glenblow Library Archives.

This revolver, which is engraved on the right side of the barrel, “CAPT. G.Z. PINDER 49th Bn C.E.F.,”  is listed in the Army & Navy CSL, London (Co-operative Society, Limited) record book, by serial number, has having been sold as part of a group to the Regimental Officers Mess of the 49th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Forces.  British officers had to purchase their own sidearms and uniforms and this was Pinder’s personal sidearm during his service, up to and including the action that led to his severe wounding.  As a personal effect, Pinder’s revolver and his other personal items remained with him after his wounding and subsequent return to Canada.

Overall, this Webley WG Army Revolver is in very good, original condition, retaining generous traces of its original blued finish.  The lower frame retains 70% of its original blued finish. The right side plate has the serial number stamp “13223.”  On the top, rear of the right side plate is a British proof stamp.  The Main Spring remains in the white and remains very strong.  The lower left side of the frame, at the grip, has the matching serial number “13223.”  There is evidence of minor, old corrosion on the frame under the grip panels.  The rear grip strap exhibits a largely plum patina. 

The original Butt Swivel and Ring are present and exhibit generally a plum and pewter patina.  The front grip strap retains the majority of its original blued finish that exhibits a plum patina in places.  The Trigger Guard Bow retains 70% of its original blued finish on the inside and is largely worn to a pewter patina on the outer surface.  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.” and the sans serif “WEBLEY / PATENTS” stamp.  The original Recoil Shield is present and still retains considerable original blued finish.  Just below the cylinder release lever is a hand-engraved “C” and broad arrow, Canadian Military Acceptance symbol.

The Hammer is in very fine condition, retaining the majority of its original polished silver finish with very crisp checkering all around.  The Hammer strike point is in fine condition.  The thumb piece portion of the hammer exhibits a plum patina and the checkering remains crisp.  The Stirrup Fastener, also known as the Barrel Catch, retains traces of the original blued finish that now exhibits largely a plum patina on the top portion and side.  The checkering on the left side of the Stirrup Fastener remains crisp.  The Stirrup Fastener Screw is unmarred.  The Target Model Adjustable Rear Sight is present on top of the stirrup fastener and it remains in the white with a slight ding on the left side.  The witness line on the top of the rear sight aligns perfectly with the corresponding witness line on the top of the stirrup fastener.  The Trigger exhibits a plum patina and has the fine checkering on the face, which is characteristic of target models.  The sear release is still very crisp. 

The Barrel Assembly retains traces of its original blued finish but now exhibits generally a pewter patina with areas of plum patina.   The nose of the Barrel Assembly has the matching partial serial number “223.”  The Cylinder Axis is in fine condition, retaining considerable original blued finish in the lower surfaces.  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, on the web, has the “455/476” caliber designation stamp.  The upper left side of the barrel extension has the crisp “’WG” TARGET MODEL” stamp.  The top of the barrel has the sans serif “ARMY & NAVY C.S.L.” stamp, indicating it was sold through the Army & Navy Co-operative Society Limited in London.  The top, rear of the barrel, on both sides of the central rib, have proof stamps.  The original Front Sight is present and is still tightly secured to the barrel.  The front sights on “WG” models were finished in the white.  As noted previously, the right side of the barrel has engraved “CAPT. G.Z. PINDER 49th Bn C.E.F.,” and it exhibits largely a plum and pewter patina. 

The original Cylinder is present and is in fine condition, retaining 90% of its slightly fading blued finish with wear noted on the sharp edges.  The original Extractor Lever and Cylinder Cam both remain correctly in the white.  The extractor lever screw and cylinder cam screw both have only slightly marred slots.  Each cylinder, on the scalloped surface, have proof stamps.  The Cylinder Extractor Nut and Cylinder Extractor Spiral Spring remain correctly in the white.  The Cylinder face has the matching serial number “233,” and the caliber designation “476/L.”  The star Extractor portion works perfectly. 

Both original Grip Panels are present.  There is a crack at the bottom of the left panel but it is solid.  The checkering is fine with minor flattening.  The inside of both panels are stamped “13223.”  The original Grip Screw is present and has an unmarred slot.  Both grip panels fit tightly with no movement.

Captain Pinder’s revolver also comes with its original private purchase officer holster that was acquired after his wounding.  The holster is in very fine condition with all of the original stitching remaining intact.  Under the flap, on the body of the holster, is stamped the name of the manufacturer, “MARTINS-BIRMN LD / MAKERS – 1917,” and below that is the serif “C” with a broad arrowhead inside, indicating Canadian Military acceptance.  The flap and body, as well as the attaching strap, all still remain supple.  The original leather belt attaching loop and brass ring are present on the back of the holster with all original stitching still intact.

This revolver also comes with exhaustive research on Captain Pinder, MC, to include records related to his regimental service, the purchase of this revolver, his wounding near Ypres and the awarding of the Military Cross, his personal and family relations, and his death.

This is a very rare and historically significant Webley “WG” Target Model 1896 revolver that was privately purchased by Captain George Zouch Pinder, MC, upon his commissioning as an infantry officer in the Canadian Army, and which was carried by him during his service in France, up to and including his being shot through the lung near Ypres in 1916 while carrying this revolver.    This revolver still functions perfectly.