9 May 2016 – British historical re-enactors cannot travel to France for the centenary of World War I after EU rules banned the movement of UK-spec deactivated firearms across national borders.
The BBC reported, without mentioning the EU in the headline and including a single token nod to the bloc in their story’s third paragraph, that the Great War Society will be unable to be present to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme this July because “European Union regulations” stop them travelling abroad with their UK-spec deactivated rifles.
Scott Knowles, whose grandfather served with the Accrington Pals at the Somme, told the EU-funded broadcaster: “I feel frustrated and annoyed. I try and portray my grandfather and great uncles as best as I can. We don’t glorify killing or anything but [the rifle] is an essential part of a First World War soldier’s kit.”
The new rules appear to be a little-known provision created by the EU’s summary ban on the sale or transfer of all existing deactivated firearms. British politicians have no ability to overrule this ban or otherwise ensure that the superior UK deactivation specifications continue in force.
A proposal is currently before Parliament to enact the EU’s deactivated firearms diktat. It will criminalise the sale or transfer of any non-EU-spec deactivated firearm, unless it is being sold to someone outside the EU.
The Somme Offensive took place between 1st July 1916 and November of that year. The offensive led to a million casualties from both sides and 1 July also marked the darkest day in the British Army’s history, with approximately 57,000 being killed or wounded on 1st July.
Pals battalions were raised by the British Army as units formed exclusively of men drawn from a particular local area, the idea being to maintain morale and comradeship in the ranks. This led to entire towns being deprived of their best young men as these battalions were slaughtered en masse on the front line; from 1,100 volunteers, just 100 of the Accrington Pals – formally known as 11th Bn, the East Lancashire Regiment – survived WWI.
The Great War Society is a non-profit making organisation that provides opportunities for “practical research into the uniforms, weaponry, equipment, training and everyday tasks of the Great War soldier, of both the Allied forces and the Central Powers,” according to their website.