On the Far East Station With the Royal Navy’s Big, Sturdy Submachine Gun
In 1965, HMS 'Barrosa' sailors packed tough Lanchesters
The photographs in this story were taken during the 1965-’66 deployment to the Far East station by the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Barrosa.
Barrosa was part of a task force supporting British operations in Borneo during the Indonesia–Malaysia Confrontation, an undeclared war along the border between Indonesia and East Malaysia that stemmed from the former’s opposition to the creation of the latter.
The sailors were tasked with carrying out stop-and-search patrols of local vessels they suspected of smuggling weapons and equipment to Indonesia-backed insurgents. Off the coast of North Borneo and western Malaysia, Barrosa stopped vessels out at sea while parties of sailors used small boats to patrol coastal waters.
Boarding parties from HMS Barrosa prepare to search native boats for illicit arms. Note the sailor covering the crew with his Lanchester. Source.
The sailors’ primary weapon was the Lanchester, a World War II-vintage submachine gun. Produced by Sterling, the Lanchester was a copy of the Bergmann MP 28/II. Initially the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy both used the weapon. The RAF eventually passed all 80,000 weapons to the Navy.
The Lanchester was named for George Lanchester, the engineer who oversaw its production. It was a large, well-built but bulky weapon. Expensive to produce at £14 per gun, it was soon surpassed by the cheaper Sten.
Despite this, the Lanchester outlasted the Sten in British service. The Royal Navy finally declared them obsolete in 1978.