The Lancaster Submachine gun was a British sub-machine gun used during World War II.


The British MP 28/II copy was given the general designation Lanchester after one George Lanchester, who was charged with producing the weapon at the Sterling Armament Company at Dagenham, the same company that later went on to produce the Sterling sub-machine which replaced the Sten. The Lanchester emerged as a sound, sturdy weapon that in many ways was ideal for the types of operations required of it by boarding and landing parties.

It was a very solid weapon, in many ways the complete opposite of its direct contemporary the Sten, for the Lanchester was a soundly engineered piece of weaponry, with all the trimmings of a former era. Nothing was left off from the gunsmith's art. The Lanchester had a well machined wooden butt and stock, the blow-back mechanism was very well made of the finest materials and, to cap it all, the housing for the magazine was made from solid brass.

A few typical British design details were added, such as a mounting on the muzzle for a long bladed Bayonet - very useful in boarding party situations - and the rifling differed from the German original in details to accommodate the different types of ammunition the Lanchester had to use.The Lanchester measured 851mm, of which 203mm was barrel. Empty weight was 4.34 kg. Cyclic rate of fire was 600 rounds per minute, and muzzle velocity was about 380 metres per second.[1] The magazine was straight and carried a useful load of 50 rounds. Stripping was aided by a catch on top of the receiver.


The very first models could fire either single shot or automatic, and were known as the Lanchester Mk I - many were converted at RN workshops to MkI* standard, which could only be fired in fully automatic mode.


After the Dunkirk evacuation, the RAF decided to adopt some form of sub-machine gun for airfield defence. With no time to spare for the development of a new weapon, it was decided to adopt a direct copy of the German MP 28/II, examples of which were to hand for the necessary copying. The period was so desperate that the Admiralty decided to join the RAF in adopting the new weapon. By a series of convoluted happenings, the Admiralty alone actually took the resultant design into service. An unashamed copy of a German design, the Lanchester gave good service in the Royal Navy throughout the war, and for many years afterwards. Many old sailors still speak of the Lanchester with respect; not with affection, for it was a heavy weapon with one off-putting feature - the gun would fire if the butt was jarred or given a hard knock while cocked and loaded.


  1. War Machine Magazine issue 6 - Sub-machine Guns of World War II. Orbis Publishing.
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