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The Rifle Oiler

 By Belinda
My daughter-in-law Sue's, dad R.J., and I, both share an interest in military history, especially the first and second World Wars.  We share our DVDs and books with one another and I have been reading one of his while here: A War in Words by Svetlana Palmer and Sarah Wallis. His nephew Luke, bought the book while in Europe with his school on a Battlefield Tour.

The book is a deeply moving selection of first hand accounts in the form of journals kept by 28 soldiers and civilians, including children, during World War 1. The writers are Serbian, German, French, English, Italian, Turkish, Russian, East African and more. One of the writers unknowingly records his own end as he stops writing mid-sentence. He could not be identified by the enemy soldier who found the journal in his hands, but he kept it safe until he too, was killed in battle. The book is a treasure and imparts a deep sense of history, humanity and the waste of war.
Today my nephew John dropped in for a visit. He told us that on a job with a friend, cleaning out a house, he had found a brass World War 1 rifle oiler, made in nearby Birmingham. You can imagine my interest.

He had been on the internet to determine its value and they were selling for relatively little. I told him I would pay double what they were selling for, but quickly realized that John treasured the thing himself and had only been looking for its value out of interest. He is developing an interest in and knowledge of antiques.

I had no idea what a gun oiler was but learned that they are issued with military rifles and stored in the stock of the gun.

They contain lubricant and enable the gun to be cleaned on the spot if it jambs in battle.

John returned later that evening with the rifle oiler and I ran downstairs from Rob's flat to Mum's to get my camera so that I could take some photos of it. As I held it in my hands I wished it was able to tell me all of the stories it had witnessed.

Henry Jenkins & Sons, Ltd., Unity Works, Victoria St., Birmingham.
1,100,000 produced during the Great War (1914-1918).

  (These are the markings on the rifle oiler John found.) John set to work with a can of Brasso, cleaning the dirt from the oiler. The smell of the Brasso reminded both Rob and me of Dad, polishing the buttons on his uniform. Although by the time he was polishing buttons in our lifetime, they were only on a commissionaire's uniform, he cleaned them with the same pride he once polished his army brass. When John had finished, the rifle oiler shone as brightly as Dad's buttons.

It was time for me to go and say goodnight to Mum downstairs, but I thanked John so much for bringing it to show me so that I could photograph it. He looked me in the eye and extended his hand towards me with the rifle oiler in it.

"It's for you," he said, while Rob looked on with a smile. He had known that John had determined to give it to me earlier that day.

I was overwhelmed by a rush of emotions--mostly that this was too much of a gift for him to give, but knowing at the same time that he was giving me something precious to him because he also knew it would be precious to me. I felt humbled by his kindness and love--and loved him back with a passion.

I told him how much I would treasure it but that I would consider it a loan only while I was on this earth, after which it would return to him.

Tonight I might sleep with it under my pillow. Who knows what dreams I may have? No, perhaps such dreams would not be good ones after all :)


Susan said…
I love it! I love it, love it, love it.

I think John is a bit of a kindred spirit. Rob must have been so pleased while he was looking on...

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