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Westley Richards Howdah Rifle - India History - Maharaja ?

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Westley Richards Howdah Rifle - India History - Maharaja ?

Postby buckstix » Mon Jul 08, 2013 12:18 am

Hello All,

I recently acquired a Westley Richards .375x2.5 Double Rifle that was specially made as a "Howdah Rifle" and shipped to Bombay, India in 1927. It has 16" barrels with an overall length of 32-7/8".

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I've researched for Short Barreled Howdah Rifles, but find only Howdah Pistols. Some of those pistols had barrels nearly as long as this rifle. Some Howdah Pistols even had shoulder stocks attached making them a primitive form of a carbine. When used from the Howdah atop an elephant, this would have been much more controllable than a pistol, and a lot less cumbersome than a full length rifle in the confined space of the Howdah.

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Here are some detailed photos of the rifle. It has many very interesting features: Horn Forearm Tip, Horn Grip Cap, and Horn Butt Plate with the Westley Richards Logo. Super condition wood. Sling Eyes. One standing and 4 folding leaf rear sight, 50/100/150/200/300. Lots of original Case Color in protected areas, and a sharp and bright bore. Overall finish of the metal is a superb original "purplish-brown" that shows its character from use years ago. Nice overall Engraving with a "Chinkara" (Indian gazelle) on the bottom of the action, a "Crouching Tiger" on the bottom of the trigger guard, and a "Musk Deer" on the back of the Lever.

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I have a Factory Letter from Westley Richards giving all the details of the rifle. I also have a photo-copy of the "hand written" entry in the Original Westley Richards Factory Ledger, showing to whom the rifle was shipped on March 31, 1927.

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I have searched the internet and found a Company that still exists today named M. Saleh & Co. in Mumbai, India. I've tried to contact them via email and by phone, but have had little success. I'm hoping to find some original records about the rifle. Perhaps it was special ordered by M. Saleh himself and used for hunting Tigers.

If there is someone out there that can help to continue my research about this rare and unique rifle, please contact me. I'm thinking that another possibility might be that the rifle may have been received by M. Saleh & Co. for one of its customers. Perhaps it was special ordered for a Maharaja or other Tiger Hunter of the time. If you have any suggestions, please email.

Thank you.
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Re: Westley Richards Howdah Rifle - India History - Maharaja

Postby timmy » Mon Jul 08, 2013 12:24 am

I cannot help you with your research, buckstix, but I very much admire your fine double and appreciate your pictures!

Please take the time to tell us about yourself on the introduction forum!
Regards,
tim
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Re: Westley Richards Howdah Rifle - India History - Maharaja

Postby Moin. » Mon Jul 08, 2013 10:15 pm

Hello Buckstix;

Got your message. I did'nt know Saleh Arms was such an old establishment. There's a very old gentleman i.e the owner in perhaps late seventies who might have some information. I should be going to that side of town by the week end. If so will inquire and let you know. Can you please email me the pictures of your rifle and the scanned Westley Richard Letter. I'll pm you my email ID.

P.S: And yes a very warm welcome to IFG.

Regards
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Re: Westley Richards Howdah Rifle - India History - Maharaja

Postby TC » Tue Jul 09, 2013 6:51 pm

Hi Buckstix,
That's a beautiful Howdah rifle. Congratulations.
In India the oldest manufacturers and importers of Westley Richards rifles and other firearms were two British companies, Manton and Co Gun Makers and R B Rodda and Co - both based in Kolkata (Calcutta back in those days) with offices in Mumbai to handle shipments. Saleh Arms is an old establishment but the fact that they imported a Westley Richards howdah rifle in the 1920s is an interesting piece of information since both Manton and Rodda were very much in business at that time. It is quite possible that this one was specially ordered and not part of a consignment. Lets see if my dear brother Moin can dig up something.

Cheers

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Re: Westley Richards Howdah Rifle - India History - Maharaja

Postby buckstix » Tue Jul 09, 2013 7:48 pm

Hello TC,

Thank you for the insight. Yes, it has been speculated that this rifle was made special for, and shipped directly to, M. Saleh himself as his own personal hunting rifle. It is further told, that it was later gifted to a dignitary friend with the initials "M.F." which are burned into the cover of the case.

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Re: Westley Richards Howdah Rifle - India History - Maharaja

Postby Vikram » Tue Jul 09, 2013 8:53 pm

Fascinating rifle, Buckstix. I have never seen one in this configuration. Imagine this bad boy going off and the muzzle blast.

Thank you for sharing and I hope you find what you seek about this rifle.



Best-
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Re: Westley Richards Howdah Rifle - India History - Maharaja

Postby buckstix » Tue Jul 09, 2013 11:31 pm

Hello TC,

You mentioned Manton & Rodda, do you know who imported Charles Lancaster into India? Could it have been M. Saleh & Co.?

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Re: Westley Richards Howdah Rifle - India History - Maharaja

Postby Katana » Wed Jul 10, 2013 12:37 am

Definitely not belonging to a 'Maharajah' or anyone royal. Maybe some minor royalty? The correct marks aren't there. Likely to belong to an Englishman. M. Saleh did not shoot shikar himself. May have been to busy supplanting himself to the 'Maharajas' trying to sell his wares! I have some old catalogues of M. Saleh from the '30s but this kind of stuff just isn't on them. The calibre is a bit of an overkill for a chink too.

Anyway, lovely little piece. Sad it's no longer in India.
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Re: Westley Richards Howdah Rifle - India History - Maharaja

Postby buckstix » Wed Jul 10, 2013 1:35 am

Hello Katana,

Thank you for your reply. When you say the "correct marks" aren't there, are you referring to the rifle, or the initials on the leather case?

According to my correspondence with Westley Richards, the rifle was ordered special with 16" barrels as a "just-in-case" rifle for hunting from a howdah. The "overkill" caliber may attest to this.

I would be interested in seeing the types of hunting items that were listed in your 1930 M. Saleh catalog. Can you post a few pictures? Were any rifles listed in the catalog?
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Re: Westley Richards Howdah Rifle - India History - Maharaja

Postby Katana » Wed Jul 10, 2013 9:23 am

buckstix,

Should the rifle have belonged to major royalty in pre-Independence India, it would probably have the name and/or coat of arms or the Ruler's personal insignia etched or engraved on the barrels and/ or the actions. Moreover, the label inside the case would have some writing like 'Made especially for H. H. The Maharaja of xxxxxx' etc. Note that the name is missing. This was the norm for addressing royals and is still in use today among a lot many people. A person of such lineage is generally never addressed by his name. However, a cadet or a younger sibling of a Ruler would still have his name engraved as an off chance.

I have seen some examples of this kind of work, but most of them were for the bigger Rulers who could afford to order firearms in multiples, often just to gift them away. For them, there were no licensing issues with the British Govt. and most of the times they themselves issued licenses within their States.

Among the lesser royalty this was not the case, and if any engraving markings etc were to be made, it would be probably done in Bombay, Calcutta, Mysore or any of the major centres of the sporting firearms trade. In all likelihood, it would be just the name of the owners' domicile, not his name.

I am surmising that this may have belonged to either a Sikh, Muslim or British gentleman. Most of the States in India were Rajput and very few (I can think of only one) names began with and 'F'!

Secondly, and importantly, 'howdah' (pronounced hodda' in Hindi) arms were not exactly popular or coveted by the royals. They may have been part of their personal armouries (as distinct from their State armouries), but were never really used by them. It could have been given to a retainer or employee to prevent an accident or for additional safety. Therefore, the letters M F embossed on the case could have been done so after it may have been sold by the Maharaja in question.

I may be wrong, but this is just my observation. I doubt if M. Saleh have retained records from such a long time and it may prove difficult to extract such information from them.
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Re: Westley Richards Howdah Rifle - India History - Maharaja

Postby buckstix » Wed Jul 10, 2013 4:48 pm

Hello Katana,

Thank you for your detailed explanation. So much miss-information exists about rifles purchased by / for Maharajas.

My photo copy of the original Westley Richards Ledger shows that this was a "single rifle" shipment to M. Saleh & Co. and not part of a bigger order.

Also of interest; It is my understanding that M. Saleh & Co. was established in 1925. This rifle was shipped to them in March of 1927. Given the lengthy time required from order to delivery for Westley Richards to build a standard double rifle, the order for this "special rifle" may have actually been placed before M. Saleh & Co. was established. We know it was not an "off-the-shelf" purchase based on the India subjects of the engraving, i.e. Tiger, Chinkara, and Musk Deer.

I'm hoping Moin's visit to M. Saleh & C0. may shed some light on this rifle's history, even if its just speculation.
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Re: Westley Richards Howdah Rifle - India History - Maharaja

Postby ngrewal » Tue Jul 23, 2013 8:40 am

buckstix

Thanks for posting and a great find congrats
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Re: Westley Richards Howdah Rifle - India History - Maharaja

Postby buckstix » Sun Jul 28, 2013 7:07 pm

Hello,

I'm still hoping that perhaps someday someone will recognize this unique rifle in an old auction catalog. It should be easy to spot with its short barrels. As Westley Richards indicated to me in an e-mail; they know of no other double rifle with 16" barrels.
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Re: Westley Richards Howdah Rifle - India History - Maharaja

Postby Bespoke » Thu Oct 31, 2013 10:03 am

Hi Buck,

I have heard of a similar gun with Col. Hutton in charge of Shikar (Hunting) office of Patiala state.I am not sure about the caliber but it was a very short barreled Westley Richards Double rifle for Howdah since Patiala state gave royal warrant to Westley richards so the Patiala aristocracy was partial towards Westley richards and were one of the biggest clients for Westley Richards retailers in India especially in Lahore but not sure about Bombay. It was a common practice retailers buying guns from each other was easier and quicker than buying from England,I have seen a W&C scott best gun made for Ghoolam Hussanbhoy & son sold but Lyon and Lyon Calcutta so there is always a possibility.

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Re: Westley Richards Howdah Rifle - India History - Maharaja

Postby ckkalyan » Sat Nov 02, 2013 10:59 am

What a rare gem of a find buckstix - Congratulations!!

You must truly be a proud owner. Thank you for sharing! :cpix:
I appreciate your zeal to obtain as many facts as possible behind the creation of this unique treasure! :D

Bespoke, Interesting link I found here - extract from a book 'THE PRINCE OF WALES'S SPORT IN INDIA' by Bernard C. Ellison http://archive.org/stream/hrhtheprinceo ... p_djvu.txt

W. M. Hutton, Esq., Officer-in- charge of the Shikar Department of H.H. the Maharaja of Patiala

From list of firearms in the document:

One Westley Richards '470 high-velocity double-barrelled, for big game.


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