WW2 British Infantry Weapons and Equipment Display - By Xavier Giovanna

The British Lee-Enfield rifle, a favorite collectors item of the author

I have always had a fascination with the British Armed Forces. My father served during WW2 in the British Army. First, as a Liaison Officer between the British Forces and the Free French Forces in 1940 London during the “Blitz”. I remember my father telling me about the bombing raids from the German Luftwaffe and also about watching young brave RAF pilots scrambling with their Spitfires and Hurricanes airplanes to protect Britain from the German hordes.

My father would then serve as a Military Intelligence Officer in North Africa with the 8th Army and then in Italy assigned to the 17th/21st Lancers. In late 1943, he is sent back to England for Special Operation Executive training (Wanborough Manor, Guildford) and eventually spent most of the spring and summer 1944 in occupied France training and instructing the French Resistance. He would then continue on to Germany with the rest of the British Forces until VE day. He left the British Army with the rank of Captain. Awarded amongst others the Africa Star, the French Croix de Guerre (War Cross) and Medaille de la Liberation.

All my life I have collected WW2 British militaria. First, items my father gave me and then other items I would pick up at flea markets, militaria and gun shows.

I was 12 years old when I fired my first real gun. It was a WW2 Beretta 34 that my father “liberated” back in 1943 from an Italian soldier. I was hooked from that moment on. I knew that firearms would be my hobby and my passion. My first gun was a German Walther PPK received as a birthday present from my parents. It was just the beginning!

I have since been an avid collector of WW2 British and Commonwealth firearms. I am especially interested in the British Lee-Enfield rifles and the Canadian Inglis FN Hi Power pistols. I started reenacting in 1991. The obvious choice for me was to portray a British Military Intelligence Officer, since I could base my impression on my father’s wartime experience.

I am now the unit commander of the TSG 2nd SAS Regt. (reenacted). We do tactical events as well as living history and public displays. Our unit is growing and now counts 12 members. All are history buffs and have an interest in sharing their knowledge and researching their hobby further.
Our joint collection includes many variants of British WW2 uniforms, such as Service Dress, Barrack Dress, Battle Dress, Khaki Drill and Jungle Green KDs. Also many different type of small arms such as Lee-Enfields rifles, Webley revolvers, Victory model revolvers, John Inglis FN Hi Power pistols, Bren gun, etc.

Also of interest is a large collection of the various 37 pattern Web Equipment from belts, yokes, basic pouches, to crew served weapon spare barrel carrier, map cases, holsters, and various sizes rucksacks. Our collection is a work in progress and is constantly being updated and items added to it. We have recently acquired examples of paybooks, prayer books, and other personal effects.

Our goal and mission is to “preserve the past, today, for tomorrow”. So that the service and sacrifice of the greatest generation is never forgotten.

Xavier Giovanna served 4 years in the Swiss Army as a paratrooper. He is a member of the O.G.C.A., the N.R.A., Adams Conservation Range, Life member of the Abbey of Chateau d’Oex (Swiss Schuetzen-Verein). He is also the secretary for the Toledo Chapter of the 82nd Airborne Division Association and is a life member of the ASSO (Swiss NCO Association).