Home Forums WWI Machine guns per unit

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  • #137596
    The Waxed Moustache
    Participant

    Greetings. I’ve been trying to draw up some TOEs and have been wondering how many MGs Western Front battalions had at various points in 1914/15.

    I’ve noticed that in August 1914, Germans had 6 per battalion to the British/Imperial, Belgians, and French’s 2. Most armies go through their restructuring in 15/16 to create MG battalions by taking the medium guns out of battalions and adding more MGs to create the stand-alone battalions.

    Between August 1914 and the restructuring, it seems that at least the BEF added another 2 MGs to each battalion, producing a platoon of 4 MGs per battalion. I’m not entirely sure when that occurred, however. British command believed that one MG was equal to around 30-50 riflemen in firepower terms. All this is based on Mark Adkin’s ‘Western Front Companion’.

    Does anyone know:

    • When this transition from 2 to 4 MGs occurred? My guess is gradually, when stocks allowed.
    • What was the picture in other armies?

    Thanks!

     

    #137597
    MikeMike
    Keymaster

    No idea sorry, do like the username though!

    ๐Ÿ˜€

    #137598
    The Waxed Moustache
    Participant

    No idea sorry, do like the username though! ๐Ÿ˜€

    It’s aspirational…

    #137608
    Guy FarrishGuy Farrish
    Participant

    February 1915 according to:

    https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/machine-gun-corps-in-the-first-world-war/

    Not sure of the source for this, or how quickly it was implemented.

    No idea about the French I am afraid.

    #137617
    The Waxed Moustache
    Participant

    February 1915 according to: https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/machine-gun-corps-in-the-first-world-war/ Not sure of the source for this, or how quickly it was implemented. No idea about the French I am afraid.

    Excellent, thanks. I stupidly didn’t think of LLT.

     

    #137679
    MartinRMartinR
    Participant

    In 1914, the Germans had six MGs per Regiment, not per battalion. A Regiment had three battalions, so 2 guns per Bn, same as the Brits.

    The Germans increased the size of the Regimental MG company quite rapidly and eventually assigned an MG company to each battalion.

    The British went the other way, expanding the battalion MG platoon from two to four guns and stripping the Vickers out into brigade MG companies. The infantry got the incomparable Lewis gun in exchange, something the Germans were a tad jealous of.

    "Mistakes in the initial deployment cannot be rectified" - Helmuth von Moltke

    #137691
    Tony Hughes
    Participant

    Martin is right. German, French & British 2 MG per Bn BUT not necessarily all assigned to one Bn. British rarely shared their MG with another Bn or massed those from a brigade. French & Germans seem to vary quite a lot and it isn’t always clear from descriptions of actions how often all 6 MG were massed either in support of an attack or in defence. All that can be said, I think, is that both practices are possible.

    Belgians didn’t have enough MMG to field as many as their big cousins but did have small numbers of a light MG which proved very effective.

    Russians were short of MG and the training to use them effectively in supporting attacks but they did use them very effectively in defence. It is also said that German reserve regiments, particularly in the east, had less MG in the early days of the war.

     

     

    #138078
    The Waxed Moustache
    Participant

    Thanks Tony and Martin, much appreciated. I noted the distribution of Lewis guns with interest: I expected one per section as the Brens were divided in 39-45, but it seems to have been a little different. Looking at the German ‘light’ MG, I’m not surprised they were envious of the Lewis!

    #138111
    MartinRMartinR
    Participant

    Lewis gun allocations increased slowly though the war, starting at four per battalion, rising to one per platoon by 1916 and finally two per platoon by 1918.

    The concept of general purpose sections each with their own LMG was more of a 1930s thing, WW1 was more about specialist rifle, bomber, LMG and rifle grenade sections(I am generalising wildly here).

    German allocations of MG08/15 and rechambered Lewis guns were similar but they also had loads more tripod MGs at battalion level later in the war. The battalions armed with Madsens were a weird abberation.

    "Mistakes in the initial deployment cannot be rectified" - Helmuth von Moltke

    #138131
    Ivan SorensenIvan Sorensen
    Participant

    I recall reading somewhere that initially the Lewis guns just went to bulk out machine gun companies, where they were viewed somewhat unfavorably, before they ended up in the now proper role as platoon support weapons.

    Anything to that and if so, when ? Ring a bell to anyone?

    Nordic Weasel Games
    https://www.wargamevault.com/browse/pub/5701/Nordic-Weasel-Games?src=browse5701

    #138141
    MartinRMartinR
    Participant

    They were disparaging referred to as “automatic rifles”ย  because as everyone knows, a real machinegun is on a tripod and water cooled. Yes, they just replaced the battalion Vickers guns at first.

    The legacy of the Machinegun Corps and is frantic attempts to carve out its own little empire was partly why in WW2, British infantry divisions had the rather bizarre concept of a divisional MG battalion. That, and the cost to a parsimonious Treasury of providing each battalion with its own MG Company.

    "Mistakes in the initial deployment cannot be rectified" - Helmuth von Moltke

    #138167
    Ivan SorensenIvan Sorensen
    Participant

    Thanks Martin! Very helpful.

    Nordic Weasel Games
    https://www.wargamevault.com/browse/pub/5701/Nordic-Weasel-Games?src=browse5701

    #139177
    Robert Dunlop
    Participant

    The Machine Gun Corps (and its variants such as the New Zealand Machine Gun Corps, which my Grandfather served in) was developed to solve a fundamental problem related to the coordination of machine gun fire, particularly on the defensive. Machine guns worked best when fired in enfilade. This meant that if you wanted to protect the frontage of an infantry battalion in the line then it was better for MGs of the two flanking battalions (right and left) to fire across the front of said infantry battalion. This relates to concept of interlocking mutually supportive fire zones. When MGs were under the command of infantry officers in battalions then the tendency was to ignore neighbours and focus the battalion MGs to the front.

    Likewise there was a need to coordinate fire during offensive operations too, particularly with the introduction of. MG barrages.

    Lewis guns were referred to as automatic rifles by MGC to reinforce the notion that they were short-range automatic weapons. Tripod mounted weapons were needed, along with the skills associated with laying beaten zones, etc, to deliver long-range aimed indirect fire.

    Robert

    #139178
    Robert Dunlop
    Participant

    One German division saw its regimental MG companies increased from 6 to 15 guns in August 1916. One month later, 6-gun MG companies were then assigned to each battalion. 1916 also saw the emergence of Marksmen MG Companies, which were higher level assets. These companies were parcelled out as required, depending on major offensive or defensive operation requirements.

    Robert

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