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Article created: Thursday, 4 April 2013
C.W. Fosbery English Trade Case
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Pictured above is a classic English trade case that is believed to have been custom made for C.W. Fosbery to house a circa 1912 manufactured DWM P.08 style, lazy C/N proofed commercial 9 m/m Luger, serial number 59065.  The name C.W. Fosbery, not a common English name, was Gazetted (The London Gazette official listings of Army promotions, etc.) as resigning his commission from the 9th Battalion Rifle Brigade on April 15th, 1893, and as returning to the colors, again as Captain, on 28th June 1916.Further research into the London Gazette archives reveals that C.W. Fosbery was a volunteer, not regular army, and it was open to volunteer officers to resign at any time, for any reason, apart from just age. It was then common during the war for such officers to be recalled to their regiments, for usually non-front line service such as training and administration, for the duration of the war, which is what happened to C.W. Fosbery.

The case

This is the only known or published pre WW1 English trade case made for a Luger as most English trade cases were made for English pistols/revolvers, though similar leather bound cases exist for Carbines, but the external style is very common for other English weapons, such as the Webley and Webley Fosbery. The case is made with one continuous piece of leather with no metal hinges, the leather acting as a hinge. The case style is referred to as a two-strap case and is considered traditional, period English, hand stitched, sturdy leatherwork used for all types of luggage. Pictured is the front and rear view of the case showing the two removable, wrap-around straps, fed through two stitched loops on the front and rear of the case. Note the two strap loops on the front double as anchors for the metal “D” rings affixed leather handle, of which the handle is in excellent condition. The lid is very tight fitting, making the case, when closed, sealed very well against the elements. It was quite normal to have a case made for any pistol in those days as a matter of course, both for storage and transport as this was the intention of this style of case, to make it resistant against the elements and depredations of native bearers when travelling in the colonies.

An example of the special attention to minute detail expended in the making of this case can be seen in in the ammunition compartment left side wall, where a dish cutout was made for grasping the inserted ammunition carton, and where a very small amount of green baize felt material was affixed to the brass tab underside that secures the loading tool and pin punch to avoid metal-to-metal contact. The underside of the brass tab that holds the brass cleaning rod shaft in the case was similarly treated.

The style of the box itself is not unique, but it is typical, classic British, as this style with the added straps was used for many shotgun and other pistols/revolvers. The maker of the subject case is unknown, however, any period English gun maker would either make a case or subcontract it to a luggage maker, of whom there were many. The pattern was a generic style for English gun makers, but there were absolutely no standards in those days - all such cases were custom made, especially for a one-off sale as this must have been and made to the customer's specifications, though they were usually not as close fitted as this.

It is curious that no provision was made for a spare magazine, as similar English wooden cases, not leather bound, though the internal fittings are similar to the leather bound cases and usually have a space for a spare, such as a Webley model 1912 .455 auto[1]The subject brass lock is defined as a “hasp” type lock, is completely functional, and has the original key. The lock has the phrase “SECURE LEVER” stamped on the face and could be interpreted as the name of the lock manufacture, however, it is a trademark, not the maker. The lock style seems to be used on most all period British made cases, i.e., it is very common on all types of English luggage.

The interior of the wooden, leather encased box and lid is lined with a green color baize fabric[2] with a tight fitting, totally conforming compartment for a pre WW1 P.08 style commercial Luger, which is serial number 59065. The compartment is so tight that the pistol has to be placed in the compartment with the lower rear grip inserted first into a deliberate, designed indent in the lower right compartment wall, then lowering the barrel end until the pistol is fully seated in the compartment. There is no doubt the case was built to specifically hold the gun in place in anticipation of rough traveling conditions. The case additionally contains provisions for a brass cleaning rod, loading tool, pin punch and a 50 round box of period ammunition. Interestingly, due to the restraints of the box interior, the grease barrel/handle of the brass cleaning rod is contained in a special, rectangular lid covered compartment.

The ammunition

The box of ammunition is very tight fitting and expectedly is, most likely, not original to the case. The current cased ammunition is a 50 round box of circa 1920s period PETERS RUSTLESS 9 m/m LUGER ammunition, probably placed in the case sometime after entry into the United States, most likely in the 1920s. The logical choice for original 9 m/m ammunition for this particular pre WW1 English case would be of English manufacture, however, since there seems to have been no English manufacture of 9 m/m Parabellum ammunition before WWI - there are Kynoch drawings dating from 1912, and early Kynoch head stamped cartridges, possibly dating to this period, but the caliber was not cataloged by Eley or Kynoch before 1914, the earliest carton known, being an Eley 50 round box code dated 1920[3]. No one has ever seen or identified a pre-WWI English carton, and one would suspect that no English manufacture was undertaken before the war. The only European commercial maker of 9 m/m for the Parabellum pistol at this time was DWM, and one would suspect that this would have been the carton the case was sized for, which was around 100.3 mm x 52.4 mm.

There is a difference between European and United States cartons, as the European pattern (English post WWI and German pre/post WWI) has a lift off lid, and these range between 100.2 - 100.8 mm x 52.3 - 52.8 mm in this pre-WWI period, while United States cartons of the slide out tray style are around 102 x 50.5 mm, the extra length being caused by the additional thicknesses of card at the ends of the tray and the flaps, the thinner card stock accounting for the narrower width. Pictured is the case interior with a very rare April 28, 1911 dated DWM 50 round box of commercial 9 m/m ammunition[4] in place of the Peters 50 round box of 1920s commercial 9 m/m ammunition. For more information on this early DWM ammunition go to:

Other period cases

Pictured is another period case example of a C93 Borchardt rig with an identical, but larger lock. This particular box has a “Manton & Co.” retailer sticker affixed to the inside lid. Manton & Co. were the biggest gun maker in India in the 19th/early 20th century, being a branch of the English maker, based in London and Birmingham, and they took the English trade case style with them to India, where this case may have been made up locally to their specification.

The English Cased Luger Pistol 59065

The pistol serial number, the lazy C/N commercial proofs on the receiver, breechblock, middle link and barrel, and with the forward frame lug well and receiver underside DWM factory inspection marks, places the date of manufacture to mid-late 1912.  Interestingly, the frame lacks a hold-open device, which is typical considering the manufacturing time frame. The lack of a hold-open device is not unusual for a P.08 commercial or military gun at this time as the hold-open was not the standardized configuration of the P.08 until late 1914, although contract guns (such as the Bolivian) where the hold-open was specifically deleted to save cost were made this way at that time. Per The Borchardt & Luger and Automatic Pistols three volume book set by Görtz/Sturgess, Copyright © 2010 & 2011, volume II, states on page 698 that:  The small, approximately 200 gun order Bolivian contract Lugers, as stated to be in the 64400 – 64600  range were specifically ordered without a hold-open device. The existence of 59065, a serial number without a hold-open device, being much closer to the stated Bolivian contract serial number range than to the 39000 starting P.08 commercial serial number range, made without hold-open devices, suggests that the frame is not a left over P.08 military example, but possibly, that DWM anticipated a larger Bolivian order. Alternately, the Bolivian request for guns without a hold-open device was not difficult for DWM to accommodate as the P.08, at that time, was being made without the hold-open device.

Based on the near mint condition of the original rust blue finish, excellent strawed small parts, sharp, no wear finish of the serial number stamped wooden grips and minimal wear, associated with being holstered, errs strongly with the serial number 59065 Luger pistol being original to the case, and particularly significant, in that it lacks a Germany import stamp. Incidentally, there is no doubt that the case was made prior to WW1 as a 1920s P.08 commercial with the standard rear gripstrap integral stock lug would not fit the tight confines of the case. There are pre WW1 commercial Lugers in the 72000 – 73000 serial number range with a rear gripstrap integral stock lug, made in 1913[5] – 1914 additionally supports the 1912 manufacture of 59065.  Pictured is a left side and right side view of 59065 out of the case.

In conclusion, it appears that the vast majority of factory or private retailer cases, be they presentation, retailer made, Germany or other country, or period unknown maker custom order cases, were mostly made for the old model Luger and that there are very few authenticated cases made for the grip safety new model or pre WW1 P.08 commercials. With that said, the last item one would expect to find was a pre WW1 new model Luger custom order case, no less an “English” Luger case.  

The rarity of the subject case reflects the decline of the moneyed classes after WWI, as it was normal practice before WWI for those who could afford the, then very expensive, self-loading pistols to order them with a case for both storage at home, locked to keep the servants and children from them, and while travelling to protect the pistol from the elements. After WWI there was a general decline in popularity of weapons and the habit of keeping them handy at home, legal restrictions on ownership began to take effect in both Germany and most of Europe, including England, and consequently the habit of casing pistols died out - such post WWI cased auto pistols do exist, but are scarce due to changes of habits and attitudes, except for occasional presentation pistols.

Pictured are two pre WW1 English retailer cased examples:

1) Cogswell & Harrison Ltd., London. Retailer cased Mauser C96 and accessories, custom made for F.R.S.[6]

2) Unknown maker retailer custom-made case and accessories for a Webley Fosbery.[7]

[2] A coarse woolen or cotton fabric napped to imitate felt.

[5] Including some rare grip safety examples.

[6] Courtesy G. Sturgess Collection.

[7] Courtesy G. Sturgess Collection.


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