Shoalhaven family donates rare WWI pistol to Australian War Memorial

A RARE World War I pistol handed in to Shoalhaven police will be given a new home in the Australian War Memorial.

The Bayard pistol was found by the family of WWI soldier Corporal William Jones during a move to the Shoalhaven.

The pistol and a Colt revolver were found in an old workbench when the family moved house last year.

The firearms were handed into Nowra Police Station, with officers from Shoalhaven Local Command working with the family and the Australian War Memorial to arrange the donation of the pistol to the museum.

Shoalhaven Police Chief Inspector Steven Johnson said it was a unique find and the story behind the pistol was quite remarkable.

Corporal Jones, who served in the 3rd Casualty Clearing Station in Europe, had gone out onto the battlefield after an action looking for wounded Australian soldiers

At the time he approached a German soldier who was wounded.

The German soldier produced the pistol and aimed it at Corporal  Jones,  attempting to discharge it. But luckily for Corporal Jones the firearm malfunctioned.

A number of other Australian soldiers came to his aid and one of the soldiers gave the pistol to him as a momento.

“The family had heard about the pistol and the story behind it,” Chief Inspector Johnson said.

“But it had been missing for 70 years. The last person who had the two pistols had obviously placed them in the work bench and had forgotten about them.

“They only came to light when found during the family’s move.”

Chief Inspector Johnson said it has been an honour being able to facilitate the donation of such a unique item to the Australian War Memorial.

“We were quite surprised to see an item of such historical significance be handed in to our station,” he said.

“It is a pretty rare find. I don’t know how many pistols were manufactured by the company. It’s certainly not everyday you come across something used in the First World War and something that has such a remarkable story.

“Corporal Jones and his brother, who also served in the war, were both responsible for building planes for the Royal Australian Air Force when they came back to Australia. His brother ended quite high up in air force.

“We also know Corporal Jones had significant involvement in how the x-raying of wounded patients was being done and how to improve that.

“It has been a pleasure working with the family and the Australian War Memorial in order to facilitate the donation.”

The Bayard 1908 is a semi-automatic pistol designed by Belgian Bernard Clarus as a short-range self-defence handgun.

The Bayard 1908 was sold on the civilian market, chambered in .25 ACP, .32 ACP, and .380 ACP.

It was produced at the Belgian factory Anciens Etablissements Pieper from 1908 until the later 1930s.

The Bayard pistol is expected to be on display at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra from next month.

The story Rare World War I find bound for Australian War Memorial first appeared on South Coast Register.

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