THE PERIOD FROM 1950 TO ABOUT1965
Chapter 11. The gun that could shoot through a wall!
Where it appeared from is shrouded in mystery. It was rumoured that it had been issued to the home guard during the war and had languished in a shed ever since. But however it arrived, it was now doing the rounds. A .22 Martini action rifle with short, heavy barrel and aperture sights.
It came with a shoe box full of greasy copper long rifle bullets. Although it was communally used by the gang, we all owned it individually at some point. I took charge of it briefly after paying the price asked, you didn't miss the chance of your childhood by haggling! The gun felt real, looked real, and had the performance to match. We did not measure performance in feet per second or distance in yards but whereas we would have to hold our air rifles at quite a steep trajectory to reach the 'Keep Out' sign at the far side of our field, the .22 could be aimed at it directly through those deadly accurate little peep sights.
The sign soon became peppered with small holes. Not only did the .22 make neat little holes through the sheet metal on wood but the brick wall behind became cracked and flaked off in large chunks.
My companions would stand in silent awe as I flicked down the underlever and ejected a real copper case that was hastily retrieved by a young souvenir hunter. A whiff of cordite filled our nostrils and blue smoke drifted from the breach and muzzle.
Eventually there was a hole as big as a fist in the brick wall behind the 'Keep Out' sign and younger shooters would make pilgrimages to see 'the gun that could shoot through a wall' and scrutinize the evidence.
The old copper ammunition was a bit unpredictable. Sometimes a misfire would have to be turned round in the breech so that the pin could strike another part of the rim. Some rounds went off with an extra loud bang, we loved those but the swollen cases would not eject and had to be prised out with a pen knife. The legendary rifle ruled my life outside school hours and dominated my thoughts in lessons. Because of its illegality and deadliness we had in turn all made elaborate arrangements for concealing it.
Pete's father had an old pre-war Rudge motorcycle combination in their disused air-raid shelter that had been converted to a garage. As young children we played spitfire pilots in the side car as it resembled the cockpit of a fighter plane. This was Pete's secret hiding place and it was there together with his rude magazines that he had hidden the gun.
Bill had a loose floor board in his bedroom to hold his secrets. It just took the gun dismantled in two pieces. When my father had modernized our house he covered all the old fashioned paneled doors with the new material known as hardboard. This gave them a clean, flat, truly 50's look. He had also taken out all the upstairs fire places and covered the cavities with the new wonder material. By prising off the hardboard panel in my bedroom I was able to hide the gun up the chimney. The ammunition I put into a large Macintoshes toffee tin and covered the bullets with a layer of toy soldiers.
- Tony Sheppard