The Welrod was a suppressed
pistol developed by Britain's Special Operations Executive
during World War Two
, as a commando, resistance, and special forces weapon. As befits a government department responsible for creating explosive rats and flour bombs, the Welrod was unconventional and fiendish
. Physically the design seemed to hail from the minds responsible for the Sten
gun, as it was essentially a fat metal tube with a rectangular handle set at 90 degrees to the barrel, painted matt black
. Its nickname was 'the bicycle pump' and it was not a thing of beauty. It could, however, be stripped into two components - barrel and handle - and hidden about the person easily.
The Welrod was fed from a six-shot magazine and was essentially a bolt action design; each shot required the operator to unscrew and rescrew the breech in order to feed a new round and eject the last. Whilst this design was slow to fire, it had the advantage of eliminating the metallic clicking noises created by the cycling action of an automatic pistol. Furthermore, it made the Welrod cheap and reliable. Not only was it jam-proof, it could also survive immersion in mud and water, assuming that the barrel was covered with a condom.
The Welrod was produced in 7.65mm Browning and 9mm Parabellum versions and fired standard supersonic cartridges. Apart from muffling the sound of detonation, the suppressor also slowed the bullets to subsonic velocities, thus eliminating the miniature sonic boom which supersonic bullets produce. The lowered muzzle velocity meant that the Welrod was not particularly powerful, and was intended to be used at point-blank range; pressed against the back of the target's head, if possible. The unfortunate target's weapon could then be spirited away into the night.
Several thousand Welrods were produced from mid-1942 onwards, with the intention being that they would be put to use immediately prior to, and during, the Allied liberation of occupied Europe. Its only brush with fame was the assassination of Jean-Francois Darlan, one-time Vichy deputy prime minister, in December 1942. Undoubtedly it was put to use on many other occasions, and apparently remains in the inventory of the SAS, but these are inevitably not recorded. Undoubtedly there are ditches in France in which, if one digs long enough, one might unearth helmeted skulls, each with a single hole in the temple.