The Sterling Submachine Gun

In 1954 the British Army replaced its aging STEN submachine gun with the Sterling L2A1.  Designed by George Patchett the chief designer at the Sterling Armaments Company (who had produced the Lanchester submachine gun) near the end of World War Two.  It was known at the time as the Patchett submachine gun and was tested by the British Army in 1944.

Sterling L2A3 (source)  

In 1947 a trial of various ‘machine carbines’ was held with various weapons from BSA, Enfield and Sterling being tested against the STEN.  By the early 1950s the Sterling design had been chosen and production began.   This can be seen in the video above.  The short Pathe newsreel shows women test firing the Sterling from a bench before various shots of the production line with women operating lathes and milling machines before the individual parts are assembled. At the end of the video a technician in a white coat stuffed with magazines demonstrates how to operate and fire the weapon from various positions. Instantly recognisable by its raked plastic pistol grip, tubular receiver and curved magazine (although it could fire from older STEN magazines).

Although relatively crude in appearance the design required a large amount of machining as can be seen in the newsreel footage of the production at Sterling’s Dagenham plant.  The Sterling was chambered in 9mm and like the stem it fired from an open bolt using a blowback action. Unlike the STEN the Sterling had a safety and fire-selector switch making the weapon safer than the simper STEN.

Sterling L2A3 (source)  

The Sterling first saw action during the Suez Crisis and later in Northern Ireland, the Falklands and with Commonwealth SAS during the Vietnam War.  Very controllable weapons with little muzzle climb. They were also extremely reliable with fouling grooves cut into the bolt to allow dirt to be moved away from the action as the bolt cycled.

Production at the Sterling factory in Dagenham ended in 1956 when the British Government decided that it would be cheaper for the Royal Small Arms Factories to produced the weapon.  As a result just 16,000 of the initial guns were made by Sterling before a further ~160,000 were made by the government before production ended in the 1960s. Sterling retained the rights to sell and license the weapon overseas with a refined version the Sterling Mk4 being extremely popular.

A field stripped Sterling, note the bolt and its fouling grooves (source)  

For many years it was issued as an auxiliary weapon to vehicle crews, military police and other non-frontline units.   The Sterling was widely exported with Commonwealth countries including Canada and India producing licensed versions. Approximately 400,000 were made and it remained in service right up until 1994 when it was finally withdrawn.


‘New Sterling Gun (1955), Pathe Newsreel - Source
Military Small Arms of the 20th Century, I.V. Hogg & J. Weeks (1985)
The Sten Gun, L. Thompson, (2012)

My DNA as a reflection of my heritage

My ancestry painting. When I first laid eyes upon it I was intrigued and excited but it really didn’t tell me WHO I was and how I came to be sitting on this computer typing this. To find that out it would take not just more genetic research and making sense of the numbers and data but the combination of traditional genealogy and history. My history.

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My original painting from 23andme numbers were:

70% African

23% European

6% Asian

I soon learned these numbers were a bit off. One of the reasons is the limiting categories. If your south asian or north african that would be considered European.

I quickly discovered third party tools and calculators which can break down the numbers and give you more accurate readings and groupings. Most of them can be found at http://www.23andme.com

After looking at the numbers my more accurate rounded numbers look like this:

20% European

78% African

2% Asian

Yet these are still just numbers. What type of European? What type of African?

Someone from Africa can have the same numbers as me yet have a completely different story, culture and heritage though the same ancestry painting.

Some of the mystery was revealed utilizing tools at 23andme such as the Ancestry finder and the Relative finder. Through these tools I have been able to discern some of my heritage that reflects my painting, my DNA, me.

Through ancestry finder I set the segments between 8-10 which would provide me with relatives that would reflect more recent ancestry and my Autosomal painting. When I set it lower I get a greater range of countries but I can tell that it reflects more distant ancestry which may not reflect my painting and/or heritage.

I combined and cross-checked it with my relative finder and the mass of data I’ve collected from fourth and fifth cousins.

To complete the puzzle I looked to my traditional ancestry research such as my family tree and oral stories of my personal history.

I added the world history I already from my love of history.

Combining it with a bit of math I was able to produce this:

78% African:

71% Afram (African American(20% Creole)
6% Caribbean (Barbados)
1% Nigerian

20% European:

5% European-American/Colonial
5% Irish (Scotch-Irish)
5% English
2.5% French
2.5% Czech

2% Asian:

1% Native American (Likely Cherokee)
1% Chinese (Han)

Looking at it my story and the position I am in right now makes much more sense and I can see my path in the larger historic picture.

I am predominantly Afram at 71%:

A reflection of the Slave Trade in America. Combining my family tree and relative finder information I have been able to trace many of my ancestors to their slave owners many of them adopting their surnames. My mother a native of Texas reflecting to travels of  many African Americans from the east toward the west. My grandmother being a pioneer coming to California.

Though it can be see as a dark tale in our collective history I am very proud of my Afram Heritage, it bonded and made stronger a collection of African tribes that now represent the make-up of many African Americans. 

6% Caribbean (Barbados):

This came as a surprise to me. I never heard a even a whisper of possible ties to the Caribbean. Looking at the data from several cousins and several matches on ancestry finder I have been able to conclude with good certainty that a 3x Grandmother on my family tree parents originated from the Caribbean. On the census her parents are origins are listed as unknown. Conversing with relatives their Caribbean lines ended up in Alabama which is also when this relative is from. Others I share the similar haplogroup l2a1 which has ties to the islands.

1% Nigerian

Another surprise came when using “paper” Genealogy when I discovered a Maternal 4x Grandfather was listed as born in Africa on the census which I have never seen so recently, 5-7 generations may be the norm. Why this was I would love to know and what it was like for him I wonder greatly. Was there a language barrier with him and his wife who was born in America? I should note I listed Nigerian because that is my predominant African admixture my more distant African ancestry is North,South,East and West African. To the Berbers to the Ethiopians to the Pygmies and Igbo. Yet due to the slave trade most African Americans are at the LEAST a mix of three African tribes.

5% European-American/Colonial

Like African Americans many American Whites or European-Americans have deep roots In America. Also like African Americans they are a mix of several different European “tribes” such as the Irish,English,German, etc. Some of my ancestors of Colonial roots go as far back as the 1700s. This reflects in my DNA the relationship between the two stemming from slavery and American history.

5% Irish (Scotch-Irish)

Through speaking with family I knew I was mixed with Irish but I wouldn’t guess that I have a great great great great grandparent that was born in Ireland. Through relative finder I have been able to trace the relative origins of my Irish ancestors to Fife Scotland and Limerick Ireland. Maybe this explains my families love of baked potatoes smothered in sour cream? They seemed to have come to America to escape the known Irish Famine.

5% English

Maybe my love for speaking in a English accent can be explained after all. When speaking of my European roots we only spoke of Irish not English but I have strong ties there. Thanks to relative finder me and and a fifth cousin we able to track our connection to a Flint of Shoreditch, London, England. Where was my invite to the Royal wedding?

2.5% French and 20% Creole

I was excited to learn many of my branches ran through Louisiana which has such a strong cultural history and flavor. More exciting to find Creole cousins and connections. Can I get a ticket to Paris, ASAP?

2.5% Czech

This was more interesting to find a recent ancestor from the Czech Republic. I still hope to find the story on this one but I know that many Czech were against slavery so maybe this can be a very interesting one to discover.

1% Native American (Likely Cherokee)

Another reflection of my America roots with African Americans and White Americans both holding Native American ancestry. I’m currently talking to a cousin who is Cherokee so it may be soon that I know what tribe, which may be two, I descend from. I think about my story my great aunt tells me of my 3x Great grandfather silently walking through the house except the noise of his walking stick with each step.

1% Chinese (Han)

Thanks to Doug and third party tools I have been able confirm Chinese ancestry which seems to be Han. It meshes perfectly of the story my grandmother told me of him and my family tree. A Chinese man who worked on the railroad in Arkansas! I wonder what life was like for him?

So from months of exciting eye-opening research I can conclude for me personally that my heritage is strongly American. My DNA is a reflection of melting pot America and all of its ancestral ties to regions through out the world.

I am a American with a Global Citizenship deemed by Ancestors. Now to save up for airfare to China.