Lee-Metford trench art of the Boer War

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The .303 Lee Metford bolt action rifle filled the needs of the British Empire between the Martini-Henry of Zulu lore, and the SMLE that would fill the hands of Tommy infantrymen for the next half century. The rifle wasn’t in service very long, but it did serve in a number of British conflicts, most notably the Second Boer War of 1899-1901.

This particular Lee Metford showed up at a gunshop in Australia, where according to our sources it was found in the attic of someones house! The trench art pictured is commemorating a certain “PSM”,¬†Percival Scrope Marling, a Knighted Colonel in the British Army, who served in a number of wars of the British Empire, to include the First and Second Boer Wars fought in South Africa. During a campaign in Sudan he became a Victoria’s Cross recipient. In the Second Boer War he was in command of the 18th Royal Hussars, a cavalry regiment that has a long and distinguished history. It still exists today, having been folded into various other units in the 20th century, finally tracing its lineage to the Light Dragoons.

Either way, the rifle appears to have been a commemorative piece presented to the commander probably after hostilities had ended. Notice what appears to be the 19th century style of “stippling” with all the pockmarks in the wood. Compared to modern stippling frequently done on Glocks, it just goes to show that we have much more in common with our past than we think we do. The coins inlaid in the stock are a 2 Shilling coin of South African origin at the time of the wars.

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Miles V

Former Infantry Marine, and currently studying at Indiana University. I’ve written for Small Arms Review and Small Arms Defense Journal, and have had a teenie tiny photo that appeared in GQ. Specifically, I’m very interested in small arms history, development, and Military/LE usage within the Middle East, and Central Asia.

If you want to reach out, let me know about an error I’ve made, something I can add to the post, or just talk guns and how much Grunts love naps, hit me up at miles@tfb.tv


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  • Joseph Goins

    Wait. Australia has guns?

    (This was sarcasm. I don’t want you to explain their laws.)

  • BattleshipGrey

    This puts college desk graffiti to shame.

  • Jeffrey

    I need to go check my attic

  • JT303

    I remember seeing a similar work done on a holster-stock combo for a C96. There’s just something about them that’s really attractive. Perhaps it’s the beauty one can create from a piece with strictly functional intent.

  • Anton Gray Basson

    Theres a series of books Carvings from the Veldt , covering weapons featuring carvings on from the Boer war that is rather interesting

  • Douglas Mortimer

    I love it!

  • Mikial

    I wish I could find something like this in an attic.

  • mikee

    This rifle should find a home at the Australian War Memorial. To whomever can give a contact to the gunshop, please contact mikee@netspeed.com.au

  • Dougscamo

    PLEASE tell me that this rifle still has its bolt and hasn’t been trashed by some moron who wanted to render it “safe”…..that would be a crime…..

  • Matt Wilder

    The trench art, and firearms enthusiast in me REALLY loves this piece. However, since my wife is South African and of Boer decent, I can’t condone what the British did to SA. I always joke that the one thing our respective countries share is that we both managed to send the British packing the first time around; it’s just the second time where we get the prize. We won the War of 1812, but the Second Boer War didn’t go as well for the Boers, and the British did what the British did best at that time; annex nations that weren’t theirs. Also you have to remember, it was under British rule and occupation that apartheid was started and signed into law, after all. The British empire had a nasty habit of screwing up their occupied lands to some degree or another something awful. If you can’t tell, I have no love for the British crown, and it’s because of them excommunicating my family that we ended up here in America in the 1600’s in the first place, and then family had to fight for their freedom again both during the Revolution and the War of 1812. Several were actually at Lexington, because they had chosen to settle around the area much earlier as well as all over New England, so it was a no brainer to take the British on when they showed up, but I digress. It all worked out now, didn’t it, so take that Brits! ..haha. I just wish it would have worked out better for our Boer friends.

    All things aside, this Lee Metford is still beyond cool. It’d make great kindling! Joking, joking, I promise. Funny thing is, that “stippling” reminds me of wood borer ( a type of wood eating beetle) damage frequently found in wood objects in South Africa.

    • GunnerB

      Ahem… who won the War of 1812-14 ? It seems that every time our neighbours to the south attempted to implement Manifest Destiny, we ( admittedly with help from British troops ) sent them packing. Good day, eh!

      • Matt Wilder

        Touch√©’, and fair enough; our excursions into Canada during that war didn’t go so well, and in the end, no political boundaries between us and our fine neighbors to the north were changed. I’ll give you that one.

        On a side note, Manifest Destiny sounds sooooo much more palatable than Imperial Conquest, doesn’t it?
        Haha, I think not, and they were two side of the same coin as far as I’m concerned, but such is the way of human expansion throughout time. It’s rarely pretty and without consequence.

        However, we still sent the Brits packing, so nannernanner nanner!

  • jay

    Let’s hope some douche nozzle didn’t turn it in to be destroyed. This is art in wood and steel.