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Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

A fabulous trophy rifle from the Boer War.

The Guedes was one of the last single shot rifles designed for a European military power, for Portugal, by a bright young Portuguese army lieutenant, Luis Guedes Dias.

In 1885, the manufacture of the rifles was contracted out to OEWG in Steyr Austria-Hungary, but magazine fed technology suddenly surpassed them and before they were delivered Portugal cancelled the order.

The 8,000 rifles produced were sold instead to the South African Boer Republics: 7,700 by 1897 to ZAR (Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek - South African Republic), and a few thousand to the Orange Free State.


Guedes M1885 8mm Rifle - 1886
Orig. rifle - Size - 1.26 m
Found - London, ON

Portuguese 8mm Guedes M1885 - 1886

Guedes Rifle - Technology of War 2

1 3 5 7 9 11
2 4 6 8 10 12

The wooden parts of the Guedes are made of magnificent tiger maple, which is a very hard wood, capable of standing up to great abuse.

Right the famous Lieutenant Guedes Dias (1854-1926) and his less famous wife. Guedes was known as modest, easy going, and a hard worker. He was involved in picking a new weapon for the Portuguese army, and became aide-de-camp to the king.

He was of republican - not right wing - sentiments and got involved in politics which resulted in his exile to the Azores for a time. He dedicated himself to the passionate study of chemistry and medicine.

He was promoted to general and died in Lisbon, leaving a wife and two unmarried daughters in precarious financial conditions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Above
the OEWG mark of Oesterreichische Waffenfabriks-Gesellschaft (Austrian Firearms Company) located in Steyr, Austria-Hungary.


The OEWG mark is on the breech and stamped into the butt as well.

All parts of the rifle were carefully matched, the serial number being stamped an astonishing seven times in all, including four visible left: on each of breech, barrel, fore stock and breech block; once more, on the other side of the breech block; once on the lever; once carved into the right side of the butt (all illustrated.)

The trigger is notably straight and beside it, a large safety tab.

The right side of the breech features the beautiful monogram and crown of King Luis I of Portugal under whose reign the country fell behind the other European countries in all the major indices.

Luis liked to write poetry, was a feverish oceanographer, and built one of the world's first aquariums. Not a military guy eager to be associated with a rifle.



The Guedes is generally referred to as the "Portuguese Guedes," which is really a misnomer.

Though a Portuguese officer designed the rifle, the Portuguese military only ordered the rifles, then cancelled the sale.

So they were never delivered to, or used, in Portugal.

They should be properly referred to as the "Boer Guedes" because the Boer governments took delivery of the weapons the Portuguese turned down.

Thousands of these rifles were used in the Boer War against the British and Canadian forces.

Snipers apparently preferred them.

 

 

 

 


This rifle was a trophy weapon brought back by a Canadian soldier from a Boer War battlefield.

As is the case with so many Boer rifles, and battlefield relics, its former owner has cut his initials "JJ" into the side of the stock. Part of this was personal pride in owning the weapon; a lot had to do with preventing theft of an unmarked rifle. Serial numbers didn't carry much weight with farmers but personal monikers did.

Did it belong to Johannes Jacobs, or Jens Jongmans?



Did he survive the carnage where he and his rifle parted company?

The change from single shot to magazine fed bullet technology in the 1880s signaled the end for rifles like the Guedes.

But officers for some time complained that, now that soldiers had quick firing magazine fed rifles they became careless shots, shooting quickly and thinking that if they missed they always had another shot or two to try again.

Left the Guedes cocked, with the breech block raised and protruding at the top.

Below the action from the opposite side of the rifle, showing the lever down, so dropping the breech block with its grooved top, to allow sliding the cartridge into the chamber.

The seventh serial number is visible on the dropped down breech block.

 

Below the clear preference among young Boers for the bolt action magazine fed rifles, either captured British Lee-Metfords up front, or German Mausers in back.

Go to Boer War Bullets

Bringing back rifles from the wars as souvenirs was not all that unusual if you found a means to stow them on the march.

The Canadian War Museum in Ottawa has numerous trophy rifles in its vaults.

That's Pvt. John Rea of the First Canadian Contingent, Royal Canadian Regiment, standing in the middle.

He is a Canadian who brought back a rifle - his own, shown in the picture.

His descendants have it and display it today, over the fireplace in their home.

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