Snipers were issued with a modified version of the venerable Lee-Enfield .303 rifle used by British Empire troops since the Boer War half a century before. The sniper model had a small telescopic sight and a heavy barrel, but otherwise was little different from a million others lugged by Allied infantry in two world wars.
Robertson could group 15 rounds in a space smaller than his fist at 300 metres, hit a target the size of a man’s head at 600 metres, and was confident of hitting a man from 800 to 1000 metres if conditions were right.
They call Korea the forgotten war, but the old digger can’t forget it. “Every battle happened yesterday,” he says, his voice serious. “When people are trying to kill you, it concentrates your mind. You don’t leave it behind.”
Snipers often had to shoot in cold blood – rather than in the heat of an enemy assault – but that didn’t make them murderers. They were doing their sworn duty, under legitimate orders and the conventions of warfare, against an armed enemy trying to kill them.
Still, sniping is the dark art of conventional warfare. In America’s gun culture, it attracts a fringe celebrity status that supports a growing list of books and websites. Australians are more ambivalent.
The Chinese had a proverb: Kill one man, terrorise a thousand. It was true, and it meant that each day, with each death, his job grew more dangerous.
All snipers were hated, good ones were feared. The better he shot, the more desperate enemy officers would be to kill him to stop the loss of morale. This is the sniper’s dilemma: the more enemies you hit, the more return fire you attract and the more likely you are to die. Call it a Catch .303.
As always, read the whole thing.
For those interested, this is what Mr. Robertson used in Korea, the No. 4 Mk. I (T) sniper version of the British Commonwealth rifle:
More images are available here.