De Lisle carbine

The De Lisle carbine or De Lisle Commando carbine was a specialist British carbine used during World War II.The designer was William De Lisle. It was based on a Short, Magazine, Lee-Enfield Mk III* converted to .45 ACP by modifying the receiver, altering the bolt/bolthead, replacing the barrel with a modified Thompson submachine gun barrel, and using modified magazines from the M1911 pistol. The primary feature of the De Lisle was its very effective suppressor which made it very quiet in action - indeed working the bolt to chamber the next round makes a louder noise than firing a round. The De Lisle carbine was used by British commandos and special forces, and was accurate to 250 metres.The De Lisle was made in very limited numbers; 129 were produced during the period of 1942 to 1945 in three variations (Ford Dagenham Prototype, Sterling production and one Airborne prototype). Thompson submachine gun barrels were modified to provide the .45 calibre barrel, which was ported to provide a slow release of high pressure gas.The suppressor, 2 inches in diameter, went all the way from the back of the barrel to well beyond the muzzle (the suppressor makes up half the overall length of the rifle), providing a very large volume of space to contain the gases produced by firing. This large volume was one of the keys to the effectiveness of the suppressor. The Lee-Enfield bolt was modified to feed the .45 ACP rounds, and the Lee-Enfield magazine assembly was replaced with a new assembly that held a modified M1911 magazine. Because the cartridge was subsonic, the carbine was extremely quiet, possibly one of the quietest guns ever made.The De Lisle was used by special military units during World War II and the Malayan Emergency.

De Lisle carbine
Class Manportable
Type Rifles
Manufacturer William G. And De Lisle
Origin United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain)
Country Name Origin Year
United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain) 1942
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
United States of America View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
William G. And De Lisle View

The weapon was designed as a private venture by William Godfray de Lisle (known as Godfray), an engineer who worked for the Air Ministry. He made the first prototype in .22 calibre; this he tested by shooting rabbits and other small game for the table, near his home on the Berkshire Downs. In 1943, he approached Major Sir Malcolm Campbell of Combined Operations with his prototype; this was informally tested by firing the weapon into the River Thames from the roof of the New Adelphi building in London. This was chosen to discover if people in the street below heard it firing – they did not. Combined Operations officials were impressed with the weapon and requested De Lisle produce a 9mm version. However, this was a failure. A third prototype, using the .45 ACP cartridge that was favoured by de Lisle, was much more successful. Tests of this showed the weapon had adequate accuracy, produced no visible muzzle flash and was inaudible at a distance of 50 yards (46 m).

Subsequent official firing tests recorded the De Lisle produced 85.5 dB of noise when fired. As a comparison, modern testing on a selection of handguns has shown that they produce 156 to 168 dB when firing without a suppressor, and 117 to 140 dB when firing with one fitted. The de Lisle's quietness was found to be comparable to the British Welrod pistol. However, the Welrod was useful only at very short range and used fabric and rubber components in the suppressor that required replacement after a few shots. The de Lisle was able to fire hundreds of rounds before the suppressor required disassembly for cleaning.

Combined Operations requested a small production run of De Lisle carbines and an initial batch of 17 were hand–made by Ford Dagenham, with Godfray De Lisle himself released from his Air Ministry duties so he could work full-time on the project; this initial batch was immediately put into combat use by the British Commandos. In 1944, the Sterling Armaments Company was given an order for 500 De Lisle carbines, but eventually only produced around 130. The Sterling version differed in a number of details from the earlier, Ford Dagenham model. Two prototypes of a further version, for Airborne forces, were made. These had folding stocks, similar to those fitted to the Sterling submachine gun.

During the remainder of World War II, the De Lisle carbine was mainly used by the Commandos, although they also saw some use by the Special Operations Executive (SOE). E. Michael Burke, the American former commander of a Jedburgh Team, stated that a De Lisle was used by them to assassinate two senior German officers in 1944.

A number of De Lisles were shipped to the Far East and used during the Burma Campaign. The De Lisle would also be used during the Korean War and the Malayan Emergency. It has been claimed the weapon was also used by the Special Air Service during the Northern Irish Troubles.

Type Carbine
Place of origin United Kingdom
Service history
In service 1943-1965
Used by United Kingdom
United States
Free France
Wars World War II, Korean War,Malayan Emergency
Production history
Designer William G. De Lisle
Designed 1942
Manufacturer Ford Dagenham (17 prototypes)
Sterling Armaments Company
Produced 1942–1945
Number built 129
Variants Ford Dagenham Prototypes
Folding stock Parachute Carbine, only one example produced
Weight 7 lb 8 oz (3.74 kg), unloaded
Length 35.3 in
Barrel length 8.27 in (210 mm)
Cartridge .45 ACP (11.43x23 mm)
Calibre 0.45
Action Bolt action
Rate of fire 20–30 rounds/minute
Muzzle velocity about 830 ft/s (250 m/s)
Effective firing range 200 yd (185 m)
Maximum firing range 400 yd (365 m)
Feed system 7 or 11-round detachable magazine
Sights Ford Dagenham: Winchester rifle sight at rear, simple ramp with modified P-14 front sight protector at front.
Sterling models: Lanchester Mk I rear sight (later changed to Lanchester Mk I*), windage adjustable front sight.
Airborne model: Lanchester Mk I rear sight, windage adjustable front sight

End notes