Discovery and identification of a pistol from HSK Kormoran _1941

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Discovery and identification of a pistol from HSK Kormoran _1941 Powered By Docstoc
					                                      Discovery and identification of a pistol from
                                      HSK Kormoran (1941) shipwreck survivors at
                                             Red Bluff, Western Australia

                                                           Ross Anderson and Jessica Berry
                                                           Department of Maritime Archaeology
                                                              Western Australian Museum

             HSK Kormoran                                                                                                                                                                HMAS Sydney

                                                                                                        Finder Tom Goddard with                  Results
                                                                                                        concretion of pistol remaining in
                                                                                                        the rock hole at Red Bluff
Following a fierce battle between the Australian light                                                                                           The identification process matched the remains of
cruiser HMAS Sydney and the disguised German                                                                                                     the Red Bluff pistol with parts and specifications of a
raider HSK Kormoran on 19 November 1941, both                                                                                                    1934 Model Mauser pocket pistol. This mass-
ships sank 120 nautical miles off the Australian                                                                                                 produced weapon was widely issued to axis forces
coast in the Indian Ocean. All of HMAS Sydney’s                                                                                                  including Kriegsmarine (German Navy) personnel.
645 crew perished, while of 315 Kormoran survivors
                                                                                                                                                 The location of the pistol matched primary and
103 came ashore in two lifeboats–one at Red Bluff–
                                                                                                                                                 secondary source accounts of at least one pistol
on the desolate coast of north-west Western
                                                                                                                                                 known to be jettisoned at Red Bluff by German
                                                                                                                                                 officer, Lieutenant Commander Bretschneider, from
When the Red Bluff party was rescued on 26                                                                                                       a position near the shoreline cave shelter.
November (by Australian soldiers initially believing
they had found HMAS Sydney survivors), German                                                                                                    Despite being exposed in a high-energy, highly
officer Lieutenant Commander Bretschneider is                                                                                                    oxygenated, warm water environment in 3.2 metres
recorded to have thrown his handgun in the water.                                                                                                depth, concretions formed quickly to encapsulate
His action was significant as it instantly changed the           Kormoran lifeboat at
                                                                                                                                                 and preserve delicate steel springs, barrel rifling,
Germans’ status from an armed landing party into a                  Red Bluff in 1941                                                            live ammunition and remains of the wooden hand
group of distressed shipwreck survivors.                                                                                                         grip in situ. This site formation process is notable,
                                                                                                                                                 and gives an indication of how quickly marine
In Easter 2007, 19 year old surfer Tom Goddard
                                                                                                                                                 concretions form to effectively fix and protect objects
found the corroded and concreted remains of a
                                                                                                                                                 in their original, or near original positions.
handgun while diving for lost fishing lures at Red
Bluff, today a remote surfing and fishing destination,
and reported his find to the WA Museum.

The find was recognised as significant, being
potentially related to the party of Kormoran survivors
in the Red Bluff lifeboat. Historical research,
archaeological fieldwork and conservation aimed to
identify the pistol and determine if it could be related   The remains of the gun as found, with four rounds of live ammunition.
to the Kormoran survivors.                                 Two rounds were still concreted into the magazine at an angle of 80° to the chamber

Secondary historical sources described the
jettisoned weapon as a ‘revolver’ or a ‘Lüger’.
However rounds of 7.65mm ammunition concreted
in position with a magazine angle at 80º to the
chamber discounted both of these possibilities. The
ammunition was marked DWM (Deutsche Waffen
und Munitions Fabriken.AG). Further research aimed
to investigate all pistols used by Axis forces to                                                                                                Scaled overlays confirmed identification of the Red Bluff pistol as a 1934
provide a firm identification.                                 Measuring and photographing the pistol concretion underwater                      Mauser pocket pistol

Method                                                                                                                                           Conclusion
                                                                                                                                                 The Red Bluff pistol is conclusively identified as a
 Underwater archaeological fieldwork ascertained                                                                                                 1934 Model Mauser pocket pistol, and is most likely
 the original location of the pistol underwater by the                                                                                           associated with the Kormoran survivors’ landing at
 remaining concretion in the rock hole. The shape                                                                                                Red Bluff. There is a possibility it is Lieutenant
 of the gun moulded into the concretion and                                                                                                      Commander Bretschneider’s personal weapon. The
 remaining wood in the grip provided significant                                                                                                 pistol is a unique archaeological signature in terms
 clues to the identity of the weapon. The                       Underwater sketch of Red Bluff pistol concretion - note wooden grip
                                                                                                                                                 of shipwreck survivor behaviour, being found in the
 underwater location was 46.5 metres from the                   remaining                                                                        context of an enemy cast ashore on hostile shores
 shore, and the caves at Red Bluff where the                                                                                                     during wartime.
 German survivors sheltered–within throwing
 WA Museum conservator Richard Garcia                                firing pin
 desalinated, cleaned and deconcreted the pistol in
 the laboratory. This work revealed technical
 details including the firing pin and spring, return                                                                                 frame

 spring and trigger spring. Investigations centred
 on the 1934 Mauser pocket pistol that had a
 wooden grip, 80º magazine angle and used                                                                                                        Acknowledgements
                                                                                                                     return spring
 7.65mm ammunition. Assisted by conservator                                trigger spring
                                                                                                                                                 Tom Goddard and Debbie Newman
 Kalle Kasi, scaled images of the Red Bluff pistol
 were overlain onto photographs of a Mauser 1934                                                                                                 Richard Garcia and Kalle Kasi, WA Museum,
                                                                 Red Bluff pistol showing internal components after deconcretion
 model pocket pistol.                                            and cleaning                                                                    Department of Materials Conservation

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