Sunday, March 16, 2008

Martini .. anyone ?

On my last trip to Riyadh, my cousin AbuTalal showed me an antique rifle that his late father owned. He asked me to dig some info about it. All he knew is that it had a rich history passed from the original owner to my late uncle.

It measures a little less than a meter in length and comes with a very old strap made of cloth. I could read the words “Imperial Gun Royal Martini” in capital letters engraved on top. On the side of the metal, I could read the numbers 577/450 with some markings. I believe the numbers refer to the caliber. I did a quick search to learn that this rifle known as the Martini-Henry was used by the British and its colonial armies. It first entered service in 1871 and served throughout the British empire for 30 years. This puts its later usage at the beginning of World War I.

How it got into the hands of my uncle in the middle of Arabia is another story that is yet to be told. Arab irregulars who were with Lawrence of Arabia were known to have used them during the Arab Revolt of 1916-1918. I have seen some references to the same rifle in some poems and writings. e.g., it was mentioned in a letter by Chalres Hubert who discovered the famous Tayma stele –now at the Louvre-. Hubert wrote of some Englishmen who visited Mohammaed Bin Rasheed, Emir of Hayel in 1884 and brought with them nine boxes of Martini rifles as a gift.

No comments: