The Besal Was Wartime Great Britain’s Desperate, Last-Ditch Machine Gun
Cheap and easy to make, the weapon was for fighting a German invasion
In the autumn of 1940, Nazi Germany controlled most of mainland Europe, France had surrendered and the British Army had evacuated the continent — in the process, leaving behind much of its arms and equipment.
To make good losses, the U.K. government ramped-up arms production. Gun-makers updated existing designs such as the Bren light machine gun and theLee-Enfield Rifle, simplifying them in order to boost production rates.
But officials also considered new small-arms models. Hence the British military’s adoption of the cheap, easy-to-manufacture STEN submachine gun. There were also calls for a simplified light machine gun that armorers could produce in any machine or workshop.
In June 1940, right before the fall of France, the British Ordnance Board had sent out a memo requesting an easy-to-make light machine gun — a contingency in the event that the Germans bombed the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield, the United Kingdom’s main machine-gun producer.
The Birmingham Small Arms company won the contract to develop the design. BSA’s chief designer Henry Faulkner came up with a gun he called the Besal.
Read the Remainder at War is Boring