Welrod Mk II was from the beginning constructed around caliber 32. ACP. It was only later when some field operators due to bad experiences, questioned the efficiency of the caliber .32 ACP, that it was decided to further develop the Mk II. The result was the Welrod Mk I, 9mm Parabellum.
I feel the need to mention the fact that in literature, the Welrod .32 ACP is consistently referred to as Mk I just as the Welrod 9mm Parabellum is referred to as Mk II. In the case where the referral is to British Welrods, this is an error. I imagine that the mix up occurred when the “American” .32 ACP’s were designated Mk I, just to further confuse the issue.
Some claim that the American slang-expression "rod" referring to "gun", is the real reason behind the lettering ROD, but this seems very unlikely. I have also on a few accounts, among others in U.S. documents from OFFICE OF SCIENTIFIC RESERCH & DEVELOPMENT come across the spelling “Well Rod”, but the fact that Welwyn is situated about 120 miles from the town of Wells pretty much exclude the possibility that Wells could be the cause for the prefix.
To further add to the confusion you will find that the American weapons-literature in several places refer to the Welrod as "Hand Firing Device Mk I ". In order to uncover the reason behind this, I aimed a letter to The Naval Historical Centre who in turn replied with the following explanation:
[quote] It would appear that the Naval Gun Factory, Washington Navy Yard, did some of research and experimentation. From July through September 1943, they worked with the US Army and Marine Corps to investigate the properties of the Welrod and make final recommendations for its use. The Navy did accept the pistol for use. Eventually, it was assigned the official nomenclature "Hand Firing Device Mark 1". This provided a clandestine nomenclature, and denoted its use for special applications.[/quote]
There is apparently also some confusion concerning the official American designation, which almost always is .32 Hand Firing Device Mk I. But on the Welrod that is kept in the Ministry of Defence/Pattern Room, the marking on the silencer tube says: .32 Hand Firing MECHANISM Mk I.
Several places in litterature it can be found that the Welrod was developed by a British officer codenamed "Major Dolphin", and that his real name was never revealed to the public. It is a fact that the Commander of the Frythe was Major John Robert Vernon Dolphin (later Lt. Col.), but that he should have chosen a codename identical with his real name seems rather unlikely. Other sources claims that that the Welrod is named after the inventor whos name is Welwyn! None of these allegations are true.
The book "SOE The Scientific Secrets", by Fredric Boyce and Douglas Everett, features a reprint of Newly released document from the Public Record Office (PRO) in England. The document that was produced towards the end of the war was to ensure that the right persons would be properly credited for their inventions. The document reveal that the inventor of both the Welrod and the Sleevegun was Major H.Q.A. Reeves.
Major Hugh Quentin Alleyne Reeves was born in Seaford, Sussex late in 1909. Major Reeves was one of the most productive and creative engineers attached to Station IX. He was among other behind the STENgun silencer, fluorescent night sights, the Sleeping Beauty and the Welbum but to mention a few. After the war he became involved in a project concerning noise reduction in jet engines. Unfortunatly he was killed in an accident on October 25, 1955 at Bitteswell Airfield. Mr Reeves was investigating the problem of reducing noise from jet engines running on the ground. He was carrying out tests on a Hunter Mark V fitted with a Sapphire engine. While making an examination he was suddenly drawn into the intake of the silencer and received fatal injuries.
I will briefly mention that persistent rumors circulate stating that the Welrod was also manufactured in calibers .380 ACP and .45 ACP. This cannot be confirmed, as I have been unable to find firm and trustworthy information on the subject.
Twice during my research I have come across information, stating that the Welrod was part of the equipment carried by Flt. Lt. Gary Powers on board his American U2 spy plane when he was shot down over the USSR. This is not correct. Flt. Lt. Gary Powers was armed with a silenced Hi-Standard model USA-HD caliber .22LR, serial number 120046. The serial number is not listed in High Standards annals, as the gun was delivered to the CIA, but that is another story entirely.
Welrod Mk I and Mk IIA stayed in service for many years after the end of the war. Several, now retired, SAS (Special Air Service) operators report that the Welrod was in use during the Falklands, in Northern Ireland, and even as late as in the 1991 Gulf war. It is equally well documented that the American SOG (Studies and Observations Group) were using the Welrod in Vietnam, just as the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) have had the Mk I in their armouries for use in “Clandestine Operations”. As late as 1965, the Welrod was still listed in their inventory.