WW1 Gun Handed To Police in Firearms Surrender Campaign

Credit: Beds Police
Credit: Beds Police

Sometimes, we just need more space, and a good bout of tidying up facilitates that. Whatever one’s motivation, clearing out spaces like basements, attics and closets gets rid of things we don’t use, and makes room for more.

Occasionally, we discover deadly things, things we didn’t even know we possessed.

It may be ours, long forgotten, or it may be a family member’s. But discovering a weapon in one’s house can be shocking – who owned it? Why is it here?  But when it can be given to the authorities without fear of prosecution, everybody wins.

And that’s precisely what happened to a woman in the U.K. recently, when she found a gun that belonged to her husband while she was sorting through his things. But she did not find just any old gun, she found a Mark VI Webley .455, a gun given to officers of the British and commonwealth forces from 1910 until 1940.

Wisely, she turned it over to police immediately. That’s thanks to, in part, an annual campaign in the U.K. known as a “firearms surrender campaign,” whereby citizens may scour their lofts and storage facilities and turn over any weapons found to authorities without fear of being charged.

It runs nationally until August 4th.  The Lutton News Post interviewed Chief Superintendent Catherine Akehurst near the end of July about the wartime gun recovery, and the program generally. She said, “the revolver has been checked, and it is a viable weapon, which means it can still fire live ammunition.

Thankfully, it has been handed in during the campaign, so there is one less firearm out in the community, that could potentially fall into the wrong hands.”

Although Akehurst did not say precisely how many weapons have been turned in her area thus far, she did say that the program works well because the public cooperates so enthusiastically with police efforts. Akehurst is in charge of the campaign in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, and Hertfordshire.

But she is keeping up “polite pressure” on citizens to continue sorting through their clutter in case weapons are tucked away somewhere out of sight. “We are urging all members of the public to consider what weapons might be in their homes, including any war memorabilia, passed down through the generations.

These may have been held legally for many years, but legislative changes in the 1960s makes it unlikely to be the case today without a firearms license.”

Her colleague, detective superintendent Duncan Young of Bedfordshire, concurred. He was equally delighted that the gun was now safely in the hands of authorities.

“It’s encouraging that this unwanted firearm has been surrendered,” he told the Lutton News Post. “The aim of the firearms surrender is to ensure that firearms of any type are taken off the streets…so I would encourage others to hand in any antiques or heirlooms so that they can be made safe and disposed of.”

The campaign, which began July 20th, is a success in other communities in the U.K. as well.  In Leamington, for example, 14 guns were turned in within nine days of the program’s launch.

That may be, in part, because of the police service’s social media campaign, launched under the hashtag #gunsurrender. For those who don’t turn to traditional media for their news and government updates, social media is the ideal way to get information across.

And getting rid of illegal weapons – no matter how sentimental their histories may be – is a crucial aspect of protecting the public today. No doubt there are still many forgotten, undiscovered weapons out there in the U.K., sitting in boxes in dusty basements and messy lofts.

But this annual event is sure to slowly rid folks, and police, of the dangers they present.

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Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE