Walter Clode, whose chairmanship of Westley Richards was an essential element in the revival of the British gun trade after the Second World War, died March 15 in Pershore, England. He was 92. Born in Wimbledon in 1929, the ex-cavalry officer took the reins at Westley’s in 1956 by purchasing 52 percent of the Birmingham gunmaker. Clode paid £2,000 for the shares and raised a loan to buy the company, which had annual sales of £20,000 but was in the red.
Two reasonable earners from the period were the Westley Richards harpoon gun and the White Hunter double rifle, but protests against whaling and African independence ensured a dwindling demand for both. Another blow was the loss of exclusive distributorships for Hardy fishing tackle and Kynoch cartridges. Clode tried various things, including introducing sleeving, which was a modest success.
Then while surfing the Westley Richards ledgers, Clode noticed the large number of guns that had been purchased by Indian princes. In 1959 he placed an ad to purchase UK-made luxury goods in The Times of India. The first to respond was the Maharaja of Alwa, a major client of Westley’s. Clode’s biggest coup was acquiring the armory of the Nizam of Hyderabad in partnership with Malcom Lyell of Holland & Holland. Over the decades Clode restored the firm’s fortunes on the back of his ability to trade vintage firearms.
Later Clode was instrumental in marketing highly engraved “functional artwork” firearms to American collectors. In 1994 he handed the reins of Westley Richards to his son Simon, who predeceased him in 2016. Clode also lost his older daughter, Sarah, but is survived by his wife, Alison, and three other children.