Ahh, peat – is there anything it can’t do?
You may be familiar with peat as an important part of malt whisky production, but did you know it could do even more amazing things?
Gunsmith Todd Koonce sent me this link last week of a M1919 machine gun recovered from a peat bog in Ireland. Turns out that a peat bog is a terrific place to preserve metal objects, like the British Spitfire Fighter from which the gun was pulled.
The plane went down in the bog in 1941 and lay undisturbed for precisely 70 years. The wreck was in superb condition, thanks to the clay under the soft peat. The clay was anaerobic – being absent of oxygen – and shielded the aluminum, brass, steel, leather, rubber, and even paper from disintegration.
When items were brought out of the deep pit they were dirty, but un-corroded. A simple swipe of a gloved hand cleaned the .303 British cartridges sufficiently to read the sharp, clear headstamps.
The plane made contact with the earth at over 300mph, and there was damage to many (if not most) of the parts – including the machine guns. Thanks to the otherwise fine condition of the wreck the crew was able to gather enough serviceable parts from the eight guns on board to reassemble a working example. The article has video of the gun being fired on the test range.
What is astonshing is that the organic stuff – the rubber tires, leather flight helmet, and even instruction books and papers – were equally well preserved. The history buff in me finds that even more exciting than the guns!
Neat article from the BBC, but I couldn’t help noticing some jolting cultural differences between “us’ and “them”. In the article it mentions that the historic guns were “made safe” (i.e., permanently rendered incapable from ever being firing) before being put on display. Second, read through the comments – you’ll see more than one that bemoans the article’s focus on “deadly weapons.” That is testimony to life in the Land Where Great Britain Used To Be.
Me? I watched the video and thought “it would cost me a lot of time and money to reload all those casings…”!
-=[ Grant ]=-