An inscription on the 1912 Webley revolver helped track the
history of its original owner.
An old handgun found in a bag of clothes by volunteers at a charity shop in England has been identified as a rare piece of military history.
According to online reports, an inscribed 1912 Webley revolver was discovered in a bag of old clothes that had been dumped off at the shop in Earl Shilton near Leicester. It was turned over to local police where Sergeant Rich Matlock recognized it for its rarity.
Inscribed on the handle was the name of its original owner, Captain Hugh Sayres who was killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
A second inscription on the gun’s barrel, thought to have been added by the officer’s family, reveals the date of his death: ‘In Honour of Capt. H.W. Sayres 1st July 1916’.
The online articles note that Sgt. Matlock, a keen military historian, discovered that the 27-year-old Capt. Sayres had fought in the 1915 Gallipoli campaign in Turkey with the Fusiliers’ 1st Battalion where he was severely wounded.
After recovering, he was posted to France and promoted to Acting Major. But he asked to return to the front and became a captain again in the regiment’s 20th Battalion. He died commanding a company at Beaumont Hamel.
He was killed on the first day of fighting at the Somme.
“He went `over the top’ at Beaumont Hamel in the mistaken belief that the Germans posed little threat,” Sgt. Matlock told a reporter. “Of course, the opposite was true and 19,000 men died that day.
“It is unusual for a gun to have been used in Gallipoli and at the Battle of the Somme which is what makes it so rare.”
Matlock’s research also shows that Capt Sayres was present at the funeral of King Edward VII and the coronation of George V.
Sergeant Matlock added: “I only found out about the gun through a chance conversation with our firearms officers. It’s a remarkable story, and every time I look deeper into it, it comes up gold. Hugh Winfield Sayres was a remarkable officer who excelled at everything he did including boxing, hockey, steeplechase and cricket.
“All his effects, including his gun, would have been sent home to his family who had it engraved again, this time in his memory.”
Unable to trace the gun’s present owners, Sergeant Matlock donated it to the Lancashire Fusiliers’ Museum in Bury.
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