The Lee-Enfield rifle and Bren light machine-gun (LMG) were the basic Canadian infantry weapons, but fire-power was supplemented by grenades, sub-machine guns (also called machine carbines) like the Sten gun, mortars, Vickers medium machine-guns, anti-tank weapons such as the 6-pounder and PIAT (Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank), and light anti-aircraft guns. Air power, armour (i.e. tanks), and artillery worked in close cooperation with infantry to provide additional fire support on the battlefield.
The Lee-Enfield Rifle No. 4 was the standard infantry rifle used by Canadian troops during the Second World War. Earlier marks had been in service with the British Army since 1895, and were to continue until 1957. Despite being issued with temperamental Ross rifles early in the First World War, Canadian troops often threw them away in favour of reliable Lee-Enfields picked up on the battlefield. Fortunately there was no such controversy during the latter conflict. The well-liked Lee-Enfield No. 4 was manufactured in Britain, the US, and Canada.
|Lee-Enfield Rifle No. 4 Mark 1|
|Calibre||0.303 inch (7.7 mm)|
|Feed system||10-round magazine|
The Sten was a type of sub-machine gun or machine carbine. Such weapons were designed to be light, compact, cheap and quick to produce, and deliver high rates of fire over relatively short ranges. Manufactured in Britain and Canada, the Sten was widely copied and continued in service around the world long after the Second World War.
|Feed system||32-round magazine|
|Rate of fire||550 rounds per minute|
« The Bren Gun is spoken of with affection by every British soldier who ever used one, and with good reason. Beyond any doubt it was . . . the finest light machine gun ever adopted in quantity by any army. It was reliable, robust, simple and accurate, and beyond that no one has a right to ask. » (Ian V Hogg, The Encyclopedia of Infantry Weapons of World War II, 1977) The Bren was ubiquitous in British and Commonwealth armies, used in rifle sections and in Universal (Bren gun) carriers.
|Calibre||.303 inch (7.7 mm)|
|Feed system||30-round magazine|
|Rate of fire||500 rounds per minute|
During the Great War, machine guns were used for both direct fire against visible targets and in an indirect role to create lethal « beaten zones » where enemy infantry could scarcely survive. In such roles they were weapons of position more than of maneuver, often sited to deliver enfilade fire laterally against a line of advancing troops. The Second World War saw the use of more mobile light machine-guns that could move with the infantry in the attack, thus increasing the rifleman’s organic fire-power. A machine-gun’s rapid rate of fire causes the barrel to heat up and wear out very quickly, and solutions to this fundamental problem included air- and water-cooled weapons with barrels that could be easily replaced in action. The Vickers .303 was the same as used during the First World War, with the addition of a dial sight to increase accuracy. Its gun barrel was water-cooled to keep the temperature down during rapid fire. The Vickers was normally fired from a tripod but could also be mounted on a carrier.
|Calibre||.303 inch (7.7 mm)|
|Gun weight||15 kg (without water)|
|Tripod weight||23 kg|
|Accurate range||1000 m|
|Rate of fire||450 to 600 rounds per minute|
Developed during World War I, the Mills bomb continued to serve as the standard British grenade during the Second World War. It was made of cast iron deeply serrated to fragment easily. Pulling the grenade’s pin released a lever holding the striker, which in turn ignited the fuse. The Mills bomb was initially set with a seven-second delay which was reduced to four seconds after the fall of France in the spring of 1940, when it was found that seven seconds allowed the Germans enough time to pick up the grenade and throw it back. The Mills bomb could be thrown to about 30 yards’ range.
The PIAT was a simple, short-range infantry anti-tank weapon made possible by the development of hollow- or shaped-charge projectiles. The PIAT round was propelled by a huge spring and spigot which ignited a cartridge within the tail of the projectile. Heavy and awkward to handle, it was difficult to load and kicked violently when fired. It was, nonetheless, very effective given the right circumstances. On 21 October 1944, for example, Canadian Private E.A. Smith of the Seaforth Highlanders won the Victoria Cross at the Savio River in Italy for an action in which he used a PIAT to destroy a Panther tank at a range of 30 feet before fending off numerous German infantry with a submachine gun.
|Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank (PIAT)|
|Muzzle velocity||100 m/sec|
|Penetration||approximately 75 mm|
|Projectile||1.3 kg, hollow charge, with stabilizer fins|
|Range||about 90 m|