I would like to thank Peter Laidler who allowed me to reproduce an online post that he wrote that covers off nicely the FTR and subsequent upgrades. Peter was an armourer with the Australian Army during the late 60’s and served in NZ for some time at Ngaruawahia.
THE FAZAKERLEY FTR PROGRAMME OF 1948 TO 1951
I spoke at length to one of the now passed on but then very old managers at Fazakerly. This FTR programme started after the last production of new (No5) rifles had ceased. The Cold War was uppermost in minds, Maltby had closed and it was important to keep the large Fazakerley plant on stream. It was also pointed out that it was Fazakerley and not Enfield that had the expertise when it came to No4 rifles. While some were upgraded and FTR’d at Enfield, it was very few and even then, this was only to ascertain engineering principles and viability. Remember of course, that while it was a separate Ministry of Supply ROFactory, Fazakerley was always under the technical direction and control of the RSAF at Enfield.
The ROF-6 Ministry of Supply factory Fazakerley FTR and their later conversion to 1/2 and 1/3 programme was identical. The principal exception being that there was an additional sliding gauge used during the ‘in-inspection’ phase for the Mk1* rifles. This gauge went into the bolt-way on the Mk1* rifles and identified two points.
The first point was, that the gauge identified Mk1* rifles with an internally protruding part of the bridge charger guide. This little internal rib, under the charger guide would and often did strike the rear of the extractor spring as you were withdrawing the bolt out under the charger bridge while removing the bolt. The rib would strike the spring slap bang between the little recess that protects it and shove it out leaving you with no extractor spring. These rifles were marked with a big dob of yellow marker on the butt socket and were diverted away to a secondary machine shop where the offending rib was machined away on a horizontal boring machine
The second job of the gauge was to identify Mk1* rifles with worn bolt head slots. These rifles were marked with another unknown/don’t remember colour on the butt socket. These rifles were diverted to the welding bay where the slot was made good and then refinished in the machine shop. You can identify these rifles with re-made bolt head slots due to the fact that they are of a harder material and the material change shows up after phosphating. We saw hundreds of these during our Base Workshop FTR’s too.
The rifles came in from the main Ordnance Depot at Weedon but came from across the world. They came in wooden crates where they were just packed in, any amount to a crate. They were filthy, covered in mud and blood, bent, battered, smashed up, rusty, burned out………… in fact any condition.
First they were all put through a sort of industrial power wash process where the immediate no-hopers – about 15 percent or so – were sifted and sent for scrap. The remainders were totally stripped by unskilled female workers. Every part was inspected and sent through vast linishing drums where they were cleaned and phosphate then painted. There was little inspection, beyond the obvious of these small component parts because any defective parts would be immediately identified on the assembly lines. The main body and barrels were sent to the skilled ‘viewers’ who would gauge and view the barrels and examine the bodies with factory gauges. There was a set criteria for the body and barrels. The viewer had to confirm, by experience, ‘…that the body and barrel, after the FTR, conformed to and was capable of providing a further 80 percent life’. That is a bit of an ambiguous statement to me but I read it as stating that the gauging limits ALL had to be within 80 percent of NEW.
Woodwork that was went to a specialized woodwork shop where the expensive butts were patched as necessary. You’ll identify these perfect toe and heel patches with their perfect oak pegs. Strangely, the butt was more expensive to produce than the fore-end. As for the fore-ends, you will identify some of these by the internally patched reinforces and occasionally, when the need arose, small dovetail patches at the rear right hand side of Mk1 fore-ends to close off the bolt head catch opening to suit needy Mk1* ‘no bolt head catch’ rifles. Mk1* rifle type fore-ends were not produced in the UK. Converted yes, produced, no!
Apart from the initial gauging to ascertain faulty Mk1* rifles and the conversion of Mk1 fore-ends to Mk1* spec, there was no difference between the two types of rifle.
The Mk1 to 1/2 and 1* to 1/3 UPGRADING – 1950-54
These were completely different repair/rebuild programmes and while the processes were pretty well identical, EVERY rifle that went in was upgraded. So it could be that a damaged war-weary Savage Mk1* went in for FTR in 1949 was re-issued in Germany in 1950, then came back in 1953 for a further FTR. This time it emerged as a Mk1/3. However, I have been reliably informed that this scenario is the exception and not the rule
The same was true of the condition that some of these rifles went IN for the FTR Upgrading process. They too were extensively war damaged, this time from Korea and it is of this era that you will occasionally but rarely see a Mk1/2 No4T.
Once again for the upgrade programme, the fore-ends were extensively modified at the rear by cutting, patching and pegging to clear the new ‘BLOCK, trigger’
This time, in addition to all of the previous FTR processes, a quantity of rifles deemed beyond repair but aesthetically suitable were side tracked and sent to Enfield to be converted to Skeletonised training rifles. But even these were not converted at Enfield because they had their hands full with the FTR programme for Bren Guns. Mk1 guns for scrap or skeletonisation or DP, Mk2 guns to Mk2/1 and Mk3 for a full FTR. The Skeletonisation programme for the No4 rifles (and Brens incidentally) went to LIST at Dagenham.
The conversion programme to /2 and /3 (It’s not ‘slash 2 or 3’ in UK military parlance, but said as ‘number 4 mark 1 oblique 2’) was done not by brazing on a pre-machined block at the butt socket but by brazing on a SOLID partially machined block. The block was then finished when it was attached to the rifle. This ensured that the half circle recess to clear the new SCREW, tie, fore-end, the radial trigger slot and most importantly, the trigger axis pin hole was in the EXACT position. After the end of the upgrading programme, the ‘new-build’ PF- and UF55A- No4 Mk2 rifles were produced. But by this time, industrial relations at Fazakerley were best described as ‘tense’ and the factory began its slow inevitable decline. Even the offer of the secretive L2A3 Sterling and L1A1 rifle contract couldn’t sweeten or un-blinker the suicidal workforce. So while Sterling got on with making and selling its guns to the rest of the world and BSA stepped in at the last moment to rescue the L1A1 SLR, the remaining SLR machinery went from Fazakerley to Lithgow …………….. but that’s another story. I hope that’s answered a few questions. Oh yes, I forgot to mention it, but no, there was no differentiation between the marks as they went through the FTR and upgrading process.
As for the markings, well, as I have said before, the shallow, almost invisible pantograph scratch markings caused all sorts of headaches for Armourers and thousands of these almost invisible Fazakerley re-numbered rifles were later re-numbered with the ‘lost’ number format of SA60 A1234 and so on. One seen only last week reads SA63-A2253 indicating Small Arms, 1963 with the sequential number A-2253 while underneath a number that reads something like 53P xxxxx follows!