‘CHARLIE THE BASTARD’

WEAPONS OF WAR

With nicknames such as ‘Jinx’ and ‘the Elephant Gun’, the reputation of the Boys anti-tank rifle was mixed, but is that a fair assessment? John Ash profiles the Royal Small Arms Factory’s tank-plinker

THE POWERFUL BOYS RIFLE WAS KNOWN FOR ITS POTENT RECOIL IMPULSE
TORONTO STAR/GETTY

Perhaps one of the most maligned British firearms of World War Two, the Boys anti-tank rifle developed a reputation as an underwhelming weapon based on outdated expectations. The Australian’s named it ‘Charlie the Bastard’, due to its weight and kick, the Canadian’s knew it as ‘Jinx’, but it was officially designated Rifle, Anti-Tank, .55in, Boys.

The weapon’s manual and training pamphlet noted its accuracy and power, but highlighted the strong recoil impulse, uncomfortably loud rapport, and large muzzle flash. To fire it was certainly unpleasant – one veteran quipped: “You needed an awful good reason to pull the trigger.”

Nevertheless, this beast of a rifle was the main antitank arm equipping British and Dominion infantry in France, Norway and North Africa. It was a weapon with which men earned medals, however, its viability was often questioned.

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