F.A. Mitchell-Hedges



By mid year 1920, Auto-Ordnance had their sales representatives out across US and Europe displaying their new “quick firer” gun and hoping for orders. It was hard work.


Popular Mechanics magazine dated November 1920 carried a two page feature entitled “The Submachine Gun” showing a prototype model of 1919 with no butt or front sight.

It was this magazine which was picked up by Harry Boland in the US which he passed to Michael Collins, the IRA leader.


Late that year during a shooting demonstration at Deal in New Jersey , a certain Mr Mitchell-Hedges was invited to attend and pose for photographs which were syndicated by  Topical Press  to promote the gun. He was well known across the world as an adventurer.


Frederick Albert Mitchell-Hedges (1882-1959) was an English adventurer, explorer, traveller and writer and suspected of being a British spy or mercenary. He had a talent for telling colourful stories and some of his writings are suspect. He travelled in central America and the US extensively. He donated numerous artefacts to the British Museum. He reported discovery of unknown tribes and lost cities and is best known for his claim to have discovered the “crystal skull” in a Maya ruin which was declared doubtful.

(Crystal Skull mythology was revived by the release of the Holywood movie ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’ in 2008)





On 23rd December 1920, the British popular newspaper Daily Mirror carried the picture with caption “Mr Mitchell Hedges, the big game hunter, testing the new machine gun…not unlike the Hotchkiss in outward appearance, it fired 50 shots in two seconds”.




More significantly by 30th December, the Cork Examiner newspaper carried the same photograph under headline “New Machine Gun” and reported “The sub-machine gun, a remarkable rifle, …..fired 50 shots in less than two seconds….the greatest rapidity of fire ever attained by any gun…fires a .45 calibre bullet”. Mitchell-Hedges was not named in the paper.


It was this appearance in an Irish newspaper which alerted the IRA on the ground to the capability of the Thompson Gun. It is amazing that in the midst of a vicious War of Independence, that an Irish newspaper would carry a picture story of a new machine gun!