A Masterton man who collects war memorabilia may have stumbled on a rare item with links to World War II.

A seemingly innocuous wooden rifle, which could pass as a child's toy from yesteryear, may have been crafted in 1940-41 to have been one of many issued to servicemen of the Home Guard for training purposes.

Apart from its doweling barrel the replica rifle is made of good quality native wood, probably rimu, with its stock being particularly well made.

It is exactly the same weight as the actual standard rifles issued to combat soldiers and is the same length, within a millimetre or two.


The barrel is attached to the rest of the rifle with copper belts, and evidence the replica had been well used over a long period is apparent due to the stock having developed a patina.

The collector paid $150 for the replica rifle and took it to war historian Neil Frances, and later to the Times-Age, wanting its origins confirmed.

Rifles were in short supply at the outbreak of World War II and it is known that at least in parts of the country, including South Wairarapa, the Home Guard used makeshift rifles for drills and route marches.

Mr Frances said he thought the wooden rifle would have been Home Guard issue.

The only other possibility - apart from the remote chance the wooden rifle was simply made as a child's toy - was that it could have been used by college cadets.

This has been discounted as the cadet units training in the aftermath of the war at secondary schools in Wairarapa used genuine rifles, albeit under strict supervision and usually without ammunition, although there were times when live ammunition was used during practice at rifle ranges.

Mr Frances said he would be interested in hearing the comments of Times-Age readers who may be able to throw more light on the wooden rifle's origins.

He said if the rifle was one of many issued to Home Guard servicemen there must have been a factory or woodworking shop somewhere that made them.


"I would love to find out more about this, there is a whole story to be told here," Mr Frances said.