Posted: 23 December 2010 12:23

The syllabus and ammunition schedule for the "Viking" Commandos reveals a lot about the training being undertaken in the coastal sector of East Sussex. Evidence can still be found in the landscape.

As might be expected, the specialist training the self-styled "Vikings" received involved a heavy emphasis on the use of small arms, mortars and hand grenades.

Lessons included:

- Characteristics of Small Arms
- Rifle in Close Combat
- Tank Hunting
- Employment of 2-inch Mortar
- Grenades
- Hip-Firing: Rifle
- Hip-Firing: Bren Gun
- Thompson Sub-Machine Gun (TSMG)
- 3-inch Mortar Demonstration
- Anti-Tank Rifle in Street Fighting
- Bayonet Fighting
- Revolver

The ammunition schedule is reproduced below; the total allocation of standard ball .303 for rifle and Bren is not known, but one assumes it would have been quite a high number in view of the sorts of training schemes described below.

Small ArmsGrenadesMortar
.380 Pistol.45 TSMG.303 Tracer36M6869ST2"3".55 A/tkThunder-
flashes
HEHESmoke
5408000124899685102307254541001000

Some of the .303 tracer was probably expended at Seaford:

"All ranks moved off to the London AA School where we were given a brief demonstration of the various ways of firing automatic weapons at aircraft... The various instructors were exceptionally successful firing at balloons."

Viking School

If you know where to look, you can still find spent bullets lying in the dirt.

The photo at right shows a selection of .303 bullets all found within a concentrated area where they fell, probably having been fired by the various troops attending the AA School courses over a period of about three years.

The large bullet second from the left is a .455 revolver round.

I actually found a couple of these and they indicate that the larger "man-stopper" revolvers were in use, despite the .38 revolvers having entered service.

It is this latter calibre that the Commandos would have been using during their pistol training.

Viking School

One oddity that might have a Viking connection was found in this area. Half-buried near the edge of the cliffs, I found a solitary spent .303 cartridge in amongst an array of corroded bullets.

This is unusual; what is an empty case doing at the point on a live-firing range at which bullets are landing? The headstamp markings are illegible, but the primer dent indicates the round was fired from a rifle.

Assuming the cartridge was in situ, who would stand on a cliff edge at the wrong end of a range and fire a rifle?

As the documents indicate that the Vikings were conducting cliff-scaling training in this area, it may be that the round was fired after a successful ascent up the chalk face as part of an exercise; pure speculation of course!

Mortars and grenades are discussed in part 4.

- Pete

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Primer dent

The mark made by a firing pin in the base of a cartridge case. An elongated dent indicates the round was fired by a Bren Gun; a circular dent is made by a rifle as illustrated here on a pair of .303 cases.



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Hibbs, Peter Viking School (3) - Small Arms (2017) Available at: http://pillbox.org.uk/blog/216673/ Accessed: 23 November 2017

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