THE PERIOD FROM 1950 TO ABOUT1965
Chapter 12. A brush with the law.
Pete who had sold the Martini rifle to me had done it on the proviso that he could borrow it from time to time. It was on just such an occasion that tragedy nearly struck. He had borrowed the .22 and gone rabbit shooting with some friends. Stalking silently towards a group of unsuspecting conies, the trigger of the rifle must have snagged on a bramble and my long standing shooting companion found himself in hospital that evening. The bullet had entered his calf muscle behind his knee and exited near his ankle luckily not touching any bone. His first visitor was our local police constable who had long kept a benevolent eye on us. We were a group of ordinary boys with a passion for roaming the woods and fields shooting and probably compared favourably with the new breed of 'Teddy boys' he now had to deal with.
Whatever the reason, we always had respect for him and the wood keepers who we sometimes tangled with.
On being asked how the bullet had entered Pete's leg at such a steep downward angle and the suggestion being made that he was holding the gun that fired the shot, Pete had a flash of inspiration. Taking a deep breath he said that he had his leg up against a tree to pull up his sock when the bullet just whizzed out of the bushes. Improbable though the answer was it was accepted. Perhaps the constable thought that this boy had suffered enough and had had a painful lesson. However we were all cautioned that if ever such a weapon should come to light, there would be grave trouble.
The wonderful gun had to go, besides the ammunition was nearly all gone and we had no way of getting any more. Sadly we agreed to sell it to a wealthy older boy who was well into the real shooting scene. His father was one of the landed gentry and had a large estate. Philip Pagett-Browne acted as a beater when his father had invited shooting parties. We met him whilst poaching the mallards on his father's lake. He didn't seem to mind and said that as long as we asked him we could go shooting on the estate anytime. We didn't really think he had the authority but thought that if we were ever caught by the gamekeeper we could use it as an excuse.
Our eyes grew round with envy when he told us that he had army cadets at his school where they had to shoot .303 rifles!
This boy was different from us. He spoke in a different way and had a quiet confidence that we both admired yet in some ways despised.
Promising to keep our secret and offering an irresistible amount of money, I sold him the rifle.
Within the month it was in the hands of the police. He had left it openly on the back seat of his Morris Minor estate car for all the World to see whilst shopping in Ruislip High St. His father, being a magistrate, managed to arrange it that no more was said about the matter. I sometimes wonder if our constable had made the connection between the confiscated rifle and Pete's accident. I somehow think he must have done.
- Tony Sheppard