Periscope rifle

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Sgt. William Beech and his creation, May 1915.
Australian light horseman using a periscope rifle, Gallipoli 1915. Photo by Ernest Brooks.

A periscope rifle is a rifle that has been adapted to enable it to be sighted by the use of a periscope. This enables the firer to remain concealed below cover. They were developed in response to the trench warfare conditions of the First World War, and while it is not clear which army was the first to use periscope rifles, the weapons were in use by the end of 1914.[1] Similar devices were also built for use with machine guns.[2]

A form of periscope rifle was invented by English lance corporal William Beech,a builder's foreman.Beech was at time serving in the 2nd Battalion, Australian Imperial Force (AIF), in May 1915, during the Gallipoli campaign. The device allowed a soldier to aim and fire a rifle from a trench, without being exposed to enemy fire. [3] Beech, who worked as a builder's foreman in civilian life, modified a standard Lee-Enfield .303, by cutting the stock in half. The two halves were re-connected with a board and mirror periscope, horizontally aligned to the sights of the rifle, as well as a string to pull the trigger, which allowed the rifle to be fired from beneath the line of fire.According to the testimony of John Adams,a private who served with Beech.The idea came to Beech after the dramatic exprerience of seeing the bodies of fellow soldiers shot through the head.[4]

Beech's device was quickly copied by other members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC). It saw extensive use in the intense trench warfare of Gallipoli, where some lines of trenches – such as the parapets at Quinn's Post – were within 50 metres of one another. It was generally regarded as significantly less accurate than a conventional Lee-Enfield, and test conducted on the documentary series "The Boffin, The Builder, The Bombardier" suggested that the effective range was approximately 100 yards.[5] Periscope rifles were later manufactured in crude production lines on the beach at Anzac Cove.Similar periscopic rifles were also used by the Belgian army on the Western Front.[6]

Field marshal William Birdwood described the invention as one of considerable importance during the Gallipoli campaign.The War Office awarded Beech 100 pounds for the invention.[7]

See also[edit]

Similar weapons

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