Thompson Machine Gun Serial Numbers

Analysis of Serial Numbers

At two volumes, 2,200 pp. And weighing nearly 20 lbs., Colt Thompson Submachine Gun Serial Numbers & Histories is the Thompson story’s magnum opus. The bulk of the work is an examination of each. JOHN THOMPSON AND THE THOMPSON SUBMACHINE GUN. The first gun produced, bearing neither model or serial number, appeared in 1918 and was.

The Colt Patent Firearms Company of Hartford Connecticut was contracted by Auto-Ordnance to manufacture the first 15000 Thompson sub-machine guns from April 1921 to May 1922. Contract was signed on 18th August 1920. All were marked “Model of 1921” and bore a serial number which was placed in four locations on the gun on the first 1000 and then in three locations with the rest.

The first commercial production gun was numbered 41 and was shipped on 31st March 1921– numbers 1 to 40 were all considered prototypes and remain to this day in Museums in the US. Early guns were designated Model of 1919 and some were belt fed ammunition and only full automatic.

The sixth gun manufactured was serial number 46 and was the first gun consigned to Auto-Ordnance in the name of their salesman George Gordon Rorke on 2nd April. This gun was sold to the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

During first month of production, 28 Thompson guns were shipped to the IRA via George Gordon Rorke, salesman for Auto-Ordnance.

During February 1921 a group of men , all with obvious Irish surnames, ordered 50 Thompson guns from a salesman of Auto – Ordnance under the name of P.J. Gentry of New York who was a saloon-keeper on Manhattan’s Lower West Side and frontman for the IRA.

On May 25th these were delivered and within days, the guns, the men and Mr. Gentry had disappeared.

In March 1921 the first Thompson guns were produced by Colt and were sent to Auto-Ordnance for hand finishing and inspection. The first two guns were shipped in the name of a Mr. Wise, a front man for the IRA.

These guns were tested by their Irish “purchasers” Sean Nunan (later to become Ireland’s Ambassador to the US!) and Laurence de Lacy (also known as Frank Williams) at the 69th Regimental Armoury. The two guns soon left for Ireland hidden in the luggage of Irish American military officers Cronin and Dineen (later to take commissions in the Irish Army) who were sent to Ireland to train the IRA in the guns’ use.

Auto-Ordnance salesman Rorke placed and order for his Irish clients on April 5th comprising 500 guns, 125 (x100) drums, 250 (x50) drums and 1000 (x20) box magazines.

Clann na Gael, Irish fund raising organisation in the US, maintained an arms dump at La Fontaine Avenue in the Bronx , New York. Other weapons of all ages were stored here along with ammunition destined fro the struggle in Ireland. 25 Thompson guns arrived there during April 1921 , another 30 on May 6th, another 45 on May 11th with further deliveries of 240 guns in total on 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st May. By end of May 400 Thompsons were amassed at the Bronx warehouse.

A number of addresses of convenience were recorded in the meticulously kept Auto-Ordnance company records. This enabled guns to be sold to the Irish but give the impression of different business customers. While it is not certain all were IRA conduits, some were. Of interest were:

American Railway Express Companyof 46th Street, New York

were used as a front for the purchase of guns sold by G.G.Rorke for in April, May and June some 306 were ‘shipped’ there. A definite IRA purchase.

Milton Kohn Export Corporation on Panama Railroad & Steamship Company of New York

were shipped 29 guns.

Moore-Handley of Birmingham Alabama

were shipped 16 guns.

Logan Hardware & Supply of Logan, West Virginia

were shipped 5 guns.

W.S.Brown, 523 Wood Street, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

was shipped 7 guns.

P.J. Gentryof New York

was shipped 50 guns. A definite IRA purchase.

Thomas F Ryan, 3 East 67th Street, New York

was shipped 2 guns. The senior Director of Auto-Ordnance.

Morgan, Salesman for Auto-Ordnance

Was consigned during April guns #69, #75 and #66 – the latter now with Bapty & Co. London, movie prop business.

Captain Geo T.Wise, Washingtom DC

was shipped 7 guns. Serial numbers 42 and 43 were shipped on 24th March in his name and with connection “USMC Navy Order”. From the Auto-Ordnance very first shipping chart week ending 9th April 1921, the third line records the sale of two guns #42 and #43 dated 24th March 1921 destination Capt G.T. Wise C/o Frank Ochsenreiter of Washington. The order had been pre-paid. With the order came 10 (XX) magazine, 4 (L) drums, 2 (C ) drums, 2 webbing gun cases, 6 webbing magazine cases, 1 handbook.

Ochsenreiter was a salesman colleague of George Rorke and fellow member of the Friends for Irish Freedom. He worked for another of Fortune Ryan’s companies at the time.

Interstingly gun #811 sold to Geo.Wise was captured by the Royal Ulster Constabulary in Northern Ireland in an IRA arms dump.

Captain H.B.C. Pollard, London England

was shipped 14 guns – four on 26th April plus 10 on 5th May. The Captain, Hugh Bertie Campbell Pollard, was born 6th January 1888, served as an Officer in WW1 in Intelligence, and in 1920 was appointed as an Intelligence officer on the Staff of the Chief of Police Ireland. He was an authority in modern and ancient firearms and had written several notable books (The Story of Ypres in 1917, The Book of the Pistol and Revolver in 1917, Automatic Pistols in 1921 and Secret Societies of Ireland in 1922).

He was a journalist for the Daily Express from 1912.During WW1 he was on the Staff Intelligence Directorate at the War Office and then was listed at the Irish Office 1920-1922 based at Dublin Castle. His title was Press Officer with Police Authority Information Section. He was instrumental in putting the British side during the propaganda was with the IRA and would have been under the threat of assassination by the IRA during his Irish stay. During 1936 he was personally involved in the Spanish Civil War by flying Franco to Spain. During WW2 Pollard served as a British M16 officer.

In his work “Secret Societies of Ireland” published in July 1922 fresh from his stint as Press Officer in Dublin Castle, he made reference on several pages to the Thompson gun in Ireland. He described it as “no longer than a carbine, and weighing only 8lbs, is to all effects a short range machine gun, capable of firing one thousand rounds a minute. It is extremely portable and very easily concealed”. He refered to the capture by the British of IRA documents in May 1921 outlining the deployment of the gun around Ireland and identifying of targets.He recorded that the British had been interested in the gun too and had confronted John Thompson and manager Morgan when they were in Britain demonstrating the gun.The two denied all knowledge of the Irish shipment and as a result the interest was dropped.He said that it was the British who blew the whistle on the East Side shipment.He was aware that serial numbers could be traced. Of the 600 purchased, only 495 were seized on the ship, the balance he wrote, had made their way to Ireland before and after the July 1921 Truce.

Several times Pollard wrote that the first use of the Thompson Gun in Ireland was during the IRA burning of the Customs House in Dublin on 25th May 1921 which resulted in large scale capture of IRA men and materials. He said the gun ‘jammed badly and inflicted no casualties on the police engaged’. The IRA records do not support this assertion.

This was an ingenious cover for IRA purchases.

In police arms seizures back in Ireland, two guns shipped to H.D. Folsom Arms Company of New York turned up, one shipped to Watson Hardware & Company of Ashland Kentucky, one shipped to State Police Hartford Connecticut.

29 from the first 100 produced were sold to the IRA.

The following figures cannot be exact as dates shipped overlapped different months;

April 1921 –96 manufactured numbered 41 to 136 (28 shipped to IRA agents)

May 1921 – 707 manufactured numbered 137 to 843 (413 shipped to IRA agents)

June 1921 – 1480 manufactured numbered 844 to 2323 (96 shipped to IRA agents)

Thompson gun serial no.1117 was the last recorded gun shipped with IRA connections on 6th June 1921.

Two serial numbers 701 and 901 were recorded as being on the East Side seizure.

Some 55% of the first two months production went to the IRA.

Hemmingway’s novel “To Have and Have Not” carries in its Penguin edition a jacket picture of Thompson serial no. 66. This gun was shipped on 11th April 1921 and “taken abroad with Morgan” (Auto-Ordnance salesman) and is now with film prop company Bapty’s & Co. of London.

Interarmco in the US bought up a batch of Irish Thompsons in 1957.

Hundreds of Model of 1921 guns have been seized by both the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) in N.Ireland, the Garda in Eire and the British police in Great Britain – all originating from the East Side cache. Some have had legible serial numbers while others have had their numbers defaced. Guns still remain in concealed arms caches to this day.

From 1922 to today, the RUC reported 61 guns seized in arms finds of which 21 serial numbers were recorded and of these 15 were from East Side.

One gun is RUC hands was #811, shipped to George T Wise, Auto-Ordnance salesman on 10th June 1921.

During period 1935 to 1981, the Garda seized 227 Thompson guns of which 40 carried legible serials. Of these 29 were East Side traceable.

Interesting serials captured from the IRA in Ireland included #372 shipped to Connecticut State Police, #722 shipped to Folsom Arms Company of New York, #894 shipped to Watson Hardware Company of Ashland Kentucky.

Defacing serial numbers was common as 395 out of the 495 guns found on the East Side were obliterated.

There is even an IRA Thompson in a Museum in Norway.

The Irish Free State Army from 1922 used Thompsons until the 1950’s.These were sold off to foreign collectors at that time….records not kept.The guns were sold to Interarmco (Interarms) in the US.

Interestingly during 1923 after the devisive Civil War the Free State army held 20 Thompsons while the IRA held estimated 60 guns.

Mikes Machine guns fine website records Irish Thompsons serial no.’s 389, 586, 708 and 993 are in a collection in New Zealand.

An analysis of the serial numbers for which records were kept and retrieved for the first 1000 guns thanks to the East Side case where they were used in court.

1921

Dates recorded / dates shipped

March

April

May

June

Guns

6

112

590

1451

1921

Purchasers

PJ Gentry

G.G. Rorke

A.R.E.Co

Wise

details none

Guns

46

184

306

1

104

Serial 811 shipped 10th June 1921 was consigned to a George T Wise of Washington DC – this weapon was captured by the Royal Ulster Constabulary years later.

I have been able to track down serial numbers and locations as per chart below. As expected, Museums in Ireland north and south have plenty of examples. Interesting to note that Imperial War Museum London (thanks to Paul Cornish) has two and that serial no. 383 has a defaced number on frame. Also the two guns in National Firearms Centre (formerly Pattern Room) have their serial numbers defaced. This defacing was refered to in court during the East Side trial. During the 1950’s captured weapons were sold off to the collectors market. Hundreds of Thompson guns have been captured by the Irish police, British Army, and Royal Ulster Constabulary in arms seizures from 1921 to 1981.

Many of these were destroyed under the law.

Current Location

Serial number

Date shipped

Sold to

Consigned to

Collins Barracks Dublin

847

07/06/1921

American Rail Express Co. NY

G.G.Rorke

Collins Barracks Dublin

815

27/05/1921

G.G.Rorke

RUC Museum Belfast

301

11/05/1921

Auto-Ordnance NY

G.G.Rorke

RUC Museum Belfast

719

21/05/1921

American Rail Express Co. NY

G.G.Rorke

RUC Museum Belfast

460

03/06/1921

American Rail Express Co. NY

G.G.Rorke

RUC Museum Belfast

876

03/06/1921

American Rail Express Co. NY

G.G.Rorke

RUC Museum Belfast

925

03/06/1921

American Rail Express Co. NY

G.G.Rorke

Irish Army Barracks Museum

832

07/06/1921

American Rail Express Co. NY

G.G.Rorke

Baca pdf harry potter 7. Kilmainham Gaol Dublin

232

Kilmainham Gaol Dublin

1083

British Army Warminster

482

18/05/1921

American Rail Express Co. NY

G.G.Rorke

Wexford Museum Enniscorthy

1080

07/06/1921

American Rail Express Co., NY

G.G.Rorke

Imperial war Museum London

383

Imperial war Museum London

880

Military College Curragh

914

National Firearms Centre Leeds

erased

National Firearms Centre Leeds

erased

New Zealand

630

25/05/1921

P.J. Gentry, NY

New Zealand

389

18/05/1921

American Rail Express Co.,NY

G.G.Rorke

New Zealand

586

20/05/1921

American Rail Express Co.,NY

G.G.Rorke

New Zealand

708

03/06/1921

American Rail Express Co.,NY

G.G.Rorke

New Zealand

993

03/06/1921

American Rail Express Co.,NY

G.G.Rorke