A Brief Guide To British Armourer Repair Sentences.

Within the British Army, the inspection and repair of Small Arms, Machine Guns and Instruments is the domain of the Armourer. Within the Army, Armourers are cap badged to the Corps of Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers (REME). Within the repair organisation as a whole, usually now confined to travelling Inspection Teams and Second Line and beyond workshops, civilians are employed in the same capacity.

Equipments are repaired at various stages (or ‘lines’) within the organisation, depending on factors such as availability of spares, tools and gauges, facilities or the time involved to effect a suitable repair.

After inspection equipments are given ‘Sentences’. In most cases this would be in the form of a single letter, although in certain cases these can be combined with suffixes to give more easily identified detail.
In broad terms repairs of faults are classified as follows;

A fully fit piece of equipment requiring no further action would be sentenced ‘Serviceable’ or ‘S’.

User repairs; Minor jobs involving little technical skill or tooling which are completed by the day to day user. These would be cleaning or in some cases painting of the equipment, or replacement of what the Army would class as a ‘consumable’ store such as slings, covers or in the case of certain crew served weapons, topping up hydraulic fluids or grease points. If user jobs are found on inspection to need completing the equipment would be sentenced ‘A’.

First Line Repair; Equipment requiring repair by REME tradesmen embedded with the Unit. These tradesmen are usually part of a REME Light Aid Detachment or LAD, although in the case of some minor units tradesmen are often posted in to the unit as individuals under the direction of either the Motor Transport Officer (MTO) or the Quarter Master (QM). Armourers almost invariably work directly for the QM. These repairs are those which can be completed with little specialist equipment other than hand tools or gauges. In many cases they will require the replacement of components which can be demanded by the Unit. As a rule of thumb if the repair can be completed within 6 hours by the tradesmen in the unit a fault will be classed as a 1st line repair. These jobs are given the sentence ‘X’.

Second Line Repair; Equipment requiring more in depth repair, or repair that needs specialist equipment which by reason of cost or size/weight is not provided to individual units. Such repairs would be welding or riveting repairs requiring jigs, or internal cleaning and desiccation of sights requiring a clean area and specialist equipment. These repairs are effected at a second line workshop (or as they used to be known ‘Field’ or ‘Armoured’ Workshops). Each Division or sometimes Brigade, would have a second line workshop. Units would centralise equipment at the workshop and would then collect it once the repair was completed. Second Line Repairs would be given the sentence ‘Y’.

Third Line (or ‘Base’) Repair; Equipment requiring a full overhaul or repairs that could not be completed at second line. This included any weapons which were deemed to be fit only for condemnation and scrapping. Only the Base workshop could strike a weapon off of the Army records and physically scrap it. Items sentenced to 3rd Line Repair were struck off of the units accounts and a replacement demanded. In most cases weapons returned to 3rd Line were stripped to components and rebuilt to new standard and re-issued. In the case of L1A1 SLR’s and some GPMG’s weapons were often rebuilt several times over their life. Third line repairs were sentenced ‘Z’. As these were being struck off the Unit’s accounts the equipment would usually be deemed as ‘Beyond Local Repair’ or ‘BLR’ and so the usual sentence would be written as ‘Z BLR’. In addition to a lable tied to the equipment this would often be physically painted or stencilled on the item so that it could not be re-issued accidentally.

Forth Line (or ‘Factory’) Repair; Certain specialist equipments were deemed by their nature to be too technical for repair by the Army repair organisation and were repaired by the manufacturer. Often this was for a modification programme which was easier to complete by the originator who held the technical expertise and facilities. Such repairs were sentenced ‘Z F’.

Beyond Repair; Non weapon equipments and weapon related ancillaries such as magazines and bayonets, which were deemed as not worthy or cost effective of being rebuilt, could be condemned by the Senior Armourer at a Unit and scrapped. These items were sentenced ‘Beyond Repair’ or ‘BR’. In these cases the Senior Armourer would write out an Army form number ‘AFG 1043’ – usually referred to as a ‘BLR Cert’. These were also issued for equipments sentenced ‘Z’ or ‘Z F’ and were the QM’s authority to demand a replacement item.

Unfit to Fire; Any weapon requiring a repair at any level which was deemed as being in a dangerous condition could have the suffix ‘Unfit to Fire’ added to the sentence. This was usually shortened to ‘UF’. Hence a rifle requiring a new breech block, or a GPMG requiring a replacement barrel could be sentenced ‘XUF’ (1st line repair, unfit to fire), or a pistol with a cracked locking shoulder could be sentenced ‘Z BLR UF’ (3rd line repair, beyond local repair, unfit to fire).

Observation; A weapon or equipment which was nearing the end of its life, or had a worn component which was serviceable but was likely to develop accelerated wear because of existing wear (GPMG barrels in the Sustained Fire (SF) role were favourite for this), could be sentenced for ‘Observation’ or ‘O’. In this case the weapon would be noted and the period before the next inspection would be reduced. This was usually just used on its own after other repairs had been completed.

Easy isn’t it!