The author in 2016, with his German M.1908 Maxim machine gun. This is now on display in the new Historical Museum annexe at Thiepval Memorial, on the Somme.
It is an inescapable fact that conflict is a fundamental part of the human condition. Wars invariably begin when the talking stops, and are normally fuelled by those least noble of human traits - greed, jealousy, anger or pride. Occasionally though, wars begin from the worthy desire to try and make the world a better place. Who could or would want to imagine a world in which the Third Reich was the pre-eminent European power? Whether fighting for peace actually succeeds is, of course, a matter of endless debate among historians, and both pro- and anti-war campaigners have equally valid viewpoints. What is not debatable, however, are the extraordinary advances in technology that have gone hand-in-hand with the requirements of nations to fight wars. These have resulted in many of our most extraordinary advances in science and technology which have in turn helped shape the modern world in which we now live. If you require information or comment on firearms and related subjects, please read on...
As Senior Curator of Weapons at the Royal Armouries Museum for almost twenty years, based initially at The Tower of London and then at the newly-constructed museum in Leeds, I was aided by having access to the largest working collection of firearms in the world, some 25,000 in total. Much of my working life has been spent in learning to understand the technological advances made in firearms design, as well as empirically testing many of them. Although most of the items held in the Royal Armouries/National Firearms Collection were rare and not held for shooting purposes, many examples were specifically acquired in order to be fired and evaluated. I have shot (often with surprising results) and disassembled almost every form of small-arm known, from the crudest medieval hand-gun to the latest military assault rifles. As well as muskets and rifles, I have fired machine guns of every type, from the unwieldy and heavy belt-fed Vickers and Maxim medium machine-guns of WW1 to almost every other military small arm of the two World Wars. I have additionally shot many silenced firearms used by law-enforcement, special forces and illegal groups as well as a wide range of modern assault rifles.
As a result of this work, I have developed several specialisms, which include
Over the years I have appeared in many television programmes, including Timewatch, Battlefield Detectives, Two Men in a Trench and I have been filmed in two series on weapons for The History Channel. For the last six years I have appeared regularly on the BBC's Antiques Roadshow as one of the resident militaria specialists. I have written twenty books on firearms and military history, and am currently the technical editor for Osprey Publishing for their 'Weapons' series.
I now live in rural France with my wife, an overweight cat and have a Vickers machine gun in the living room.
© Martin Pegler 2021. All rights reserved.
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