Machine Gunner 1914-1918: Personal Experiences of the Machine Gun Corps, C. E. Crutchley

Machine Gunner 1914-1918: Personal Experiences of the Machine Gun Corps, C. E. Crutchley


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Machine Gunner 1914-1918: Personal Experiences of the Machine Gun Corps, C. Crutchley

Machine Gunner 1914-1918: Personal Experiences of the Machine Gun Corps, C. Crutchley

The Machine Gun Corps was one of the more short-lived units of the British Army. It was formed in October 1915, after it became clear that the machine gun was an increasingly vital weapon, and was disbanded in 1922. During its brief period of active combat the Corps played a great part in improving the combat effectiveness of the British Army. Its records haven't survived intact, and in the 1960s and 1970s an attempt was made to gather stories from the surviving members of the Corps in an attempt to record their achievements. This book was first published in 1973 and again in 2005.

This isn't a history of the Machine Gun Corps, but instead a collection of personal recollections provided by serving members of the corps. These cover the entire period of the Western Front, from the earliest use of the machine gun at the start of the war, through the long period of static warfare and on to the final victorious advance. Elsewhere the role of the machine gun in the war against the Ottoman Empire is covered, with accounts from the defensive battles on the Suez Canal, the disaster at Gallipoli and the long and eventually victorious campaign in Mesopotamia. This last campaign includes an interesting account of life as a machine gunner in an armoured car.

In most cases the emphasis is more on the personal memories of life on the front line than on the specific features that made the Machine Gun Corps special. There are some exceptions, most notably several accounts of a machine gun barrage, where machine guns were fired continuously in support of an attack - an exhausting effort that used up vast amounts of ammunition and gallons of water to keep the guns cool, but also proved to be very effective.

The accounts collected here are very varied, covering a wide range of combat experiences (from bitter nights trapped between the lines to the periods of open warfare) and attitudes (one memorable contributor, writing in 1917, was quite willing to admit to a less than dedicated attitude to many duties!).

Chapters
1 - A 1913 Terrier Machine-Gunner Remembers
2 - The Defence of the Suez Canal
3 - Gallipoli
4 - On the Western Front
5 - With 33rd Battalion Machine Gun Corps
6 - The Final German Offensive
7 - The Final Act on the Western Front
8 - The Mesopotamia Campaign

Author: C. Crutchley
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 240
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2013 edition of 1973 original



At the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, the tactical potential of machine guns was not appreciated by the British Armed Forces. The prevalent attitude of senior ranks at the outbreak of the Great War can be summed up by the opinion of an officer expressed a decade earlier that a single battery of machine guns per army corps was a sufficient level of issue. [ citation needed ]

Despite the evidence of fighting in Manchuria (1905 onwards) the army therefore went to war with each infantry battalion and cavalry regiment containing a machine gun section of just two guns. [ citation needed ]

These organic (embedded) units were supplemented in November 1914 by the formation of the Motor Machine Gun Service (MMGS) administered by the Royal Artillery, consisting of motor-cycle mounted machine gun batteries.

A machine gun school was also opened in France.

After a year of warfare on the Western Front some commanders advocated crewing them with specially trained men who not only thoroughly conversant with their weapons but who understood how they should be best deployed for maximum effect. To achieve this, the Machine Gun Corps was formed in October 1915 with Infantry, Cavalry, and Motor branches, followed in 1916 by the Heavy Branch. A depot and training centre was established at Belton Park in Grantham, Lincolnshire, and a base depôt at Camiers in France.

  • The Infantry Branch was by far the largest and was formed by the transfer of battalion machine gun sections to the MGC. These sections were grouped into Brigade Machine Gun Companies, three per division. New companies were raised at Grantham. In 1917, a fourth company was added to each division. In February and March 1918, the four companies in each division were formed into a Machine Gun Battalion.
  • The Guards Division formed its own machine gun support unit, the Guards Machine Gun Regiment.
  • The Cavalry Branch consisted of Machine Gun Squadrons, one per cavalry brigade.
  • The Motor Branch was formed by absorbing the Motor Machine Gun Service and the armoured car squadrons of the recently disbanded Royal Naval Armoured Car Service. It formed several types of units: motor cycle batteries, light armoured motor batteries (LAMB) and light car patrols. As well as motor cycles, other vehicles used included Rolls-Royce and Ford Model T cars.
  • The Heavy Section was formed on 1 May 1916, becoming the Heavy Branch in November of that year. Men of C and D Companies of this branch crewed the first tanks in action at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, during the Battle of the Somme on 15-16 September 1916 and throughout the Autumn. In July 1917, the Heavy Branch separated from the MGC to become the Tank Corps, later called the Royal Tank Regiment.

The MGC saw action in all the main theatres of war, including the Western Front in France and Belgium, Sinai and Palestine Campaign, Mesopotamian campaign, Egypt, Salonika, East Africa campaign and Italian front. In its short history, the MGC gained an enviable record for heroism as a front line fighting force. In the latter part of the war, as tactics changed to defence in depth, it commonly served well in advance of the front line. It had a less enviable record for its casualty rate. Some 170,500 officers and men served in the MGC, with 62,049 becoming casualties, including 12,498 killed, earning it the nickname 'the Suicide Club'. [ citation needed ]

While the undeniable bravery and self-sacrifice of the corps stands testament to the men and their regimental esprit de corps it is also a symptom of the fixed belief on the part of senior commanders that machine guns were confined to a marginal if useful role, that of an adjunct to massed rifle fire, ignoring the proven potential of this weapon in the indirect role (in effect rifle-calibre fire employed as ultra-short artillery.) By correctly setting up the same weapons more commonly used in the direct role (over open sights) the delivering of accurate and sustained fire at high elevation became less an art than a science that could reliably deliver plunging fire at approximately twice the maximum effective range of hand-held weapons of identical calibre, but not so convincingly a belief to hold that the machine gunners were in effect hiding behind the front lines while uselessly firing into the air, making a show instead of dying beside riflemen whose weapons used practically identical ammunition.

This conviction may explain–from both sides–the persistence with which machine gunners were placed in exposed positions where their fire was only marginally effective but enemy troops could be seen to fall victim to it, and the great personal bravery with which those same men fought when the same enemy concentrated their forces against the greater threat represented by an unsupported sandbag emplacement.

As stated by Paul Cornish in Machine Guns and the Great War:

"The theory behind this technique had long been understood. as early as 1908. the mathematical work required to provide a reliable basis for the conduct of such fire was carried out by a group of British enthusiasts at the Hythe musketry school. However, it was 1915 before such fire was successfully carried out in the field. "

Cornish goes on "To conduct such fire the proposed target would be located. the relative position of the machine gun relative to it would be determined with ruler and protractor.. calculations would be made to determine the gun's potential cone of fire and the trajectory of its bullets (an important consideration if firing over the head of friendly troops). A clinometer, combined with a graduated elevation dial fitted to the tripod would be employed to set the gun to the correct elevation. "

The obvious complexities and the exacting preparations - in effect identical to those of artillery gunners - may have seemed arcane and pointless to those who carried - or whose men carried - rifles firing the same ammunition but could neither see (or more importantly imagine) the terminal effect of a long-range barrage.

When properly employed it was unarguably a devastating deterrent, as witnessed by those who took the trouble to seek out the areas interdicted but for those who took the trouble to do so were often regarded uncritical advocates of novel, untried tactics.

While in the more sustained direct fire role, properly supported: The 100th Company of the Machine Gun Corps at High Wood on August 24, 1916 was ordered to "give sustained covering fire for 12 hours onto a selected area 2000 yards away in order to prevent German troops forming up there for a counter-attack while a British attack was in progress" The ten machine guns of the company used 100 new barrels and "every drop of water in the neighbourhood, including the men’s drinking water and contents of the latrine buckets, went up in steam to keep the guns cool" . And in that 12-hour period the ten guns fired a million rounds. " [1]

Towards the end of the Great War some if not all deeply-entrenched attitudes were changing, and not only on the part of British and Commonwealth personnel. Following the extensive barrage fire at Vimy Ridge and Battle of Messines a demonstration was held on the dunes at Camiers by request of Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) of the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Froht, who insisted all his Corps commanders attend. [ citation needed ]

French observers were treated to a similar demonstration, after which the concept was swiftly introduced into the French Army where it was embraced as a means to economise on artillery shells with the extraordinary assertion the results were more demoralising 'by means of continuity' than the result of shelling. Subsequently a machine gun school was established near the site of both demonstrations and machine gun barrages were successfully employed used by the French forces Meuse and Verdun. [ citation needed ]

At the end of hostilities, the MGC was re-organised in a smaller form as many of its soldiers returned to civilian life. However, the Corps continued to see active service notably in the Russian Civil War the Third Anglo-Afghan War, and the ongoing conflict in the Northwest Frontier of India. [ citation needed ]

The MGC also served prominently in the British force that occupied parts of Germany in the period between the Armistice of 1918 and the Versailles Peace Treaty of 1919 as its equipment and training made it possible for a relatively small garrison to control a large population but by 1920 the headquarters in Belton Park was closed and the War Office began to dispose of the many buildings. [2]

In 1922 the Machine Gun Corps was disbanded as a cost-cutting measure. [ citation needed ]

The following members of the Machine Gun Corps have been awarded the Victoria Cross (VC), the highest and most prestigious award for valour in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

    , 1918, Hervilly Wood, France , 1918, Ervillers, France , 1917, Istabulat, Mesopotamia , 1918, near Saint-Quentin, France , 1918, near Hoogemolen, Belgium , 1917, Monchy-le-Preux, France , 1918, Gouzeaucourt, France

A memorial to the 15,552 wartime fatalities of the Machine Gun Corps was unveiled on 10 May 1925 by the Duke of Connaught, at Hyde Park Corner in London. It features a bronze statue by Francis Derwent Wood in the Renaissance style, depicting the youthful David after his defeat of the giant Goliath, an event described in the Book of Samuel on lower plinths flanking the figure are two bronze models of Vickers machine guns, wreathed in laurels. [3]

A short service of remembrance known as the Annual Observance is held on the second Saturday in May at the Memorial, which is organised by the Machine Gun Corps Old Comrades' Association. On Remembrance Sunday, the second Sunday in November, there is also a wreath laying ceremony held in conjunction with the ceremony at the nearby Royal Artillery Memorial. [4]

The "Boy David" Memorial to the Machine Gun Corps in London.

The inscription on the memorial: "Saul hath slain his thousands but David his tens of thousands" from 1 Samuel: chapter 18, verse 7.


Machine Gunner 1914-1918 by C. E. Crutchley (Paperback, 2005)

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Unit History: Machine Gun Corps

The Machine Gun Corps (MGC) was a corps of the British Army, formed in October 1915 in response to the need for more effective use of machine guns on the Western Front in World War I. The Heavy Branch of the MGC was the first to use tanks in combat, and the branch was subsequently turned into the Tank Corps, later called the Royal Tank Regiment. The MGC was disbanded in 1922.

At the outbreak of World War I in August 1914 the tactical potential of machine guns was not appreciated by the British Military. The Army therefore went to war with each infantry battalion and cavalry regiment containing a machine gun section of just two guns each. This was supplemented in November 1914 by the formation of the Motor Machine Gun Service (MMGS), administered by the Royal Artillery, consisting of motor cycle mounted machine gun batteries. A machine gun school was also opened in France.

A year of warfare on the Western Front proved that, to be fully effective, machine guns must be used in larger units and crewed by specially trained men. To achieve this, the Machine Gun Corps was formed in October 1915 with Infantry, Cavalry and Motor branches, followed in 1916 by the Heavy Branch. A depot and training centre was established at Belton Park in Grantham, Lincolnshire, and a base depôt at Camiers in France.
The Boy David Memorial to the Machine Gun Corps in London. The Vickers Guns on each side of the Boy David (which each have a laurel wreath laid over them) are actual Vickers Guns.
The inscription on the memorial: "Saul hath slain his thousands but David his tens of thousands".
The inscription on rear of the memorial

The Infantry Branch was by far the largest and was formed initially by the transfer of battalion machine gun sections to the MGC, these being grouped into Brigade Machine Gun Companies, three per division. New companies were raised at Grantham. In 1917 a fourth company was added to each division. In February and March 1918, the four companies in each division were formed into a Machine Gun Battalion.

The Cavalry Branch consisted of Machine Gun Squadrons, one per cavalry brigade.

The Motor Branch, after absorbing the MMGS, formed several types of units: motor cycle batteries, light armoured motor batteries (LAMB) and light car patrols. As well as motor cycles, other vehicles used included Rolls-Royce and Ford Model T cars.

The Heavy Section was formed in March 1916, becoming the Heavy Branch in November of that year. Men of this branch crewed the first tanks in action at Flers, during the Battle of the Somme in September 1916. In July 1917 the Heavy Branch separated from the MGC to become the Tank Corps, later called the Royal Tank Regiment.

The MGC saw action in all the main theatres of war, including France, Belgium, Palestine, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Salonika, East Africa and Italy. In its short history the MGC gained an enviable record for heroism as a front line fighting force. Indeed, in the latter part of the war, as tactics changed to defence in depth, it commonly served well in advance of the front line. It had a less enviable record for its casualty rate. Some 170,500 officers and men served in the MGC with 62,049 becoming casualties, including 12,498 killed, earning it the nickname ’the Suicide Club’.

At the end of hostilities the MGC was again re-organised in a smaller form as many of its soldiers returned to civilian life. However, the Corps continued to see active service in subsequent wars: the Russian Civil War, the Third Anglo-Afghan War, and in the Northwest Frontier of India. It also served prominently in the British army which occupied parts of Germany in the period between the 1918 Armistice and the Versailles Peace Treaty. Its equipment and training made it possible for a relatively small garrison to control a large population.

By 1920 the headquarters in Belton Park was closed and the War Office was seeking to dispose of the many buildings. The Corps was disbanded in 1922 as a cost-cutting measure.


Research Database

Researchers find it hard to understand why such a vast organisation (well over 100,000 serving soldiers, plus officers, at it&rsquos highest strength) should have left behind so few tangible records.

It has been suggested that the army &ldquoestablishment&rdquo wanted to quickly forget that the Corps ever existed - it had, after all, taken away from the long established infantry regiments some of the very best and cleverest officers whose skill at arms, in mathematics, trigonometry and calculus would become such an asset in the operation of the Vickers machine guns.

It starved the line regiments of recruits, taking the fittest and the best to try and satisfy the demand for more, and yet more, intelligent young men to man the guns.

It succeeded beyond the wildest dreams of its conception, becoming in two short years a model of ruthless efficiency and operational supremacy.

Little wonder that its demise was looked upon with satisfaction in some quarters. Conveniently, perhaps, all of its operational records, its establishments and regimental orders were totally destroyed in a mysterious fire which took place at the last Headquarters of the Corps, at Shorncliffe, near Folkestone in 1920. Not a single sheet of paper survived and even the partly written history of the Corps was lost. No attempt has been made to put right this omission until recent years.

This disaster, together with the loss of so many personal enlistment files in September 1940, during the blitz on London, has made the job of researching MGC soldiers an enigma for the average genealogist. Official figures suggest that about 35% of original files still exist, but &ldquoin depth&rdquo research into those held by the National Archives (and available on-line via Ancestry) reveal that, in respect of the MGC, only about 20% can be found. Of these, a significant number are duplicated, leaving a net percentage nearer to 15%. The chances of finding a specific file is in the order of one in six.

The concept of the MGC Research Database was to bring together in one place, in one format, as many facts, however minute, in respect of any soldier who once wore the badge of the crossed-Vickers guns. In doing so, and by using a professional computer archiving system, a totally unique reference tool has slowly been built. Data from this archive can be merged and manipulated in a way which can provide answers to questions that no other storage medium can attempt.

Many thousands of hours have gone into building the database, which currently contains some information on over 100,000 former MGC personnel. The project is live and ongoing - new records are being created daily and will continue far into the future. We welcome contributions (particularly photographs) submitted by the descendants of our former soldiers, all of which are faithfully recorded for posterity.


During the past years, the Machine Gun Corps Research Database has given financial support to the MGC Old Comrades Association.

The Association has been in existence since the end of the Great War. Its original function was to help ex-soldiers who had served with the Corps to settle back into civilian life, and to keep them in touch with their former comrades. It also provided limited assistance to those who fell upon hard times throughout the 1920s and 1930s.

In more recent years with the dwindling numbers of old-soldier members of the Association, its continuity focused upon their families and descendants, together with those having a genuine interest in research and the history of the Machine Gun Corps. A major part of its work today is perpetuating the memory of the gunners by organising or taking part in regular memorial services and gatherings, which have always been popular. Click here to visit the Association website.

Our support for the Association continues unchecked.

HOW WE CAN HELP YOU:

The MGC Research Database will respond to any enquiry about a soldier - officer or other rank - and will provide whatever information is held within its files. Advice will be given about further avenues for research.

Charges for information supplied are modest when compared with those levied by professional researchers. A fee of £10 is required to initialise a search. It should be noted that even a very rare &ldquono trace&rdquo result will have involved a considerable amount of work. Please arrange, therefore, to have your search fee accompany any enquiry so that we can start work immediately.

If a substantial amount of information is provided, the total cost may vary between £20 - £30 depending upon the time taken in putting together a service history, copying documents, postage etc. The cost of enquiries from outside the UK will reflect the higher postal charges. We will advise you in advance if we feel that more than the initial fee is justified.

Enquiries & requests should be sent by e-mail to: [email protected]

Payment by cheque in favour of Graham Sacker should be sent to:
16 The Courtyard, Southam Road, Cheltenham, GL52 3NQ


Post-Second World War

In 1948, the School became the Support Weapons Wing of the School of Infantry. It remained as such for the rest of the Vickers’ service.

Whilst it was at Netheravon, the instructors of the Small Arms School Corps who specialised in machine gun and mortar instruction, as opposed to the rifle and light machine gun that was taught at Hythe, were permitted to wear crossed machine guns as part of their rank insignia. This was instead of the crossed rifles worn by Hythe instructors.

The Support Weapons Wing taught their final Medium Machine Gun course in January to March 1961 with seven students.


30 July 1916: Machine Gun Corps

On 30 July 1916, whilst still in the UK with the Gloucester Regiment, Private John Oliver Oliver transferred to the Machine Gun Corps and began a six week gunnery course at either Belton Park near Grantham or Clipstone Camp near Mansfield. On 14 September he would transfer to the MGC reinforcement depot in Camiers, France, and a fortnight later he would join the men of the 147 Machine Gun Company at the front line on the Somme.


Machine Gunner 1914-1918: Personal Experiences of the Machine Gun Corps, C. E. Crutchley - History

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In 1914 there were only two machine guns supporting a British infantry battalion of 800 men, and in the light of the effectiveness of German and French machine guns the Machine Gun Corps was formed in October 1915. This remarkable book, compiled and edited by C E Crutchley, is a collection of the personal accounts of officers and men who served in the front lines with their machine guns in one of the most ghastly wars, spread over three continents. The strength of the book lies in the fact that these are the actual words of the soldiers themselves, complete with characteristic modes of expression and oddities of emphasis and spelling.

All theatres of war are covered from the defence of the Suez Canal, Gallipoli and Mesopotamia in the east to France and Flanders, the German offensive of March 1918 and the final act on the Western Front that brought the war to an end.

You will not leave this book with greater knowledge of the major events of the war, or even of the employment and methods of the Machine Gun Corps, and indeed to enjoy it you need to bring a fair bit of knowledge of the minutiae of the Great War British Army and its ways, but you will put the book down with enhanced appreciation of the men of that time and of what they so impressively endured

Western Front Association, P. Cox

This account was first published 1973 for the Machine Gun Corps Old Comrades Association. It was first reprinted by Pen & Sword in 2005, but this is a timely reprint and one that provides a great deal of insight into the Machine Guns Corps during the war.

. This is of course not the only book about machine gunners in the war – in fact I have reviewed several on these pages – but it is the only I have seen that draws together so many personal accounts in one place. Yet it is as much an account of day-to-day life during war as it is of machine gunners specifically. The men whose accounts are printed recall anecdotes of humour, boredom, drudgery and comradeship.

A worthy addition to the library.

WW1 Geek

The accounts collected here are very varied, covering a wide range of combat experiences )from bitter nights trapped between the lines to the periods of open warfare) and attitudes (one memorable contributor, writing in 1917, was quite willing to admit to a less than dedicated attitude to many duties!).

History of War

  • The Wartime Memories Project is the original WW1 and WW2 commemoration website

We are now on Facebook. Like this page to receive our updates, add a comment or ask a question.

If you have a general question please post it on our Facebook page.

16th June 2021

Please note we currently have a backlog of submitted material, our volunteers are working through this as quickly as possible and all names, stories and photos will be added to the site. If you have already submitted a story to the site and your UID reference number is higher than 255865 your submission is still in the queue, please do not resubmit without contacting us first.

Able Seaman James Atkinson 190th Coy. Machine Gun Corps (d.13th Feb 1917)

Sub-Lieutenant Aron 189th Coy Machine Gun Corps (d.13th Nov 1916)

Able Seaman John Alexander Abrahamson 188th Coy Machine Gun Corps (d.16th Nov 1916)

Able Seaman Ayton 188th Coy. Machine Gun Corps (d.13th Nov 1916)

Cpt. Robert L. Deane MID 28th Brigade Machine Gun Corps

Pte. Charles Edward Edmondson 42nd Btn. Machine Gun Corps (d.2nd June 1918)

Pte. John Howard Chatter 140th Bde Machine Gun Corps (d.1st May 1916)

My Great Uncle, John Howard Chatter, enlisted into the South Wales Borderer's in approximately August 1915 at the age of 17 years along with his brother and my Great uncle Charles E. Chatter aged 19 years. They both went on the end up in the Machine Gun Corps.

On 1st of May 1916 John Howard was killed at the age of 18 years and his grave stands in Caberet-Rouge British Cemetery in Souchez. Great Uncle Charles survived WW1 and returned to his family and friends back in Shifnal, Shropshire where he finally passed away and is buried in St Andrews church yard. I know John Howard was in 140th Bde., Machine Gun Corps. If anyone might have a picture or knows of any pictures of my Great Uncles during WW1 please could you get in touch with me.

Pte. William Hutting 2nd Btn. East Yorkshire Regiment

Private William Hutting served as N°9849, 2nd East Yorkshire Regiment, 83rd Brigade in 28th Division He changed units at the end of 1915 and went to the Machine Gun Corps with the n°176806. After he changed another time the unit for going to the South Lancashire with the n°8855.

It's the only information have find about this solder. I found his toothbrush near Arras Thanks if you have any another information about this soldier.

Cpl. John Wallace DCM MID 148 Company Machine Gun Corps

My grandfather,John Wallace, served throughout the Great War. He was in 1/4 Battalion The Hallamshires of the Territorial Army before the war and was mobilised at the outbreak of war.

He sailed, with his battalion, for France on 13th April 1915 and served with his battalion (he was 2251 Pte J Wallace, York and Lancaster Regiment) as a machine gunner until transferred to 148 Company of the newly formed Machine Gun Corps on 31st January 1916. On 7th July 1917, during the Battle of The Somme, he was in a particularly fierce action near the small village of Thiepval, which was on, or near, the extreme left of the line, during which he remained in captured German positions to give covering fire to his retreating comrades during a German counter attack. During this action his cousin, who was part of his gun team, was killed and this left him to operate the gun alone for as long as he could. Eventually, he had to destroy the gun, which had become inoperable, with a grenade and make his way back after his comrades. The war diary for 148 Company records his action in its entry for 17th August 1916.

For his brave conduct throughout this particular action he was awarded the DCM. He had, previously, been Mentioned in Despatches at least twice. Strangely, his entry in the London Gazette, recording his DCM award, incorrectly identifies him as still belonging to York and Lancs Regiment and with his old number. He was eventually transferred to "Z" class reserve on 28th February 1919.

After the war, he married and had two children - a son and a daughter - and he died in 1947.

Pte. John Henry Alderton 38th Btn. Machine Gun Corps. (Infantry) (d.18th September 1918)

Pte. Herbert George Columbine VC 9th Sqdn Machine Gun Corps (Cavalry) (d.22nd March 1918)

Pte. Walter Thomas Trivett 9th Sqdn Machine Gun Corps (Cavalry) (d.Oct. 27, 1918)

Pte. Ronald Robert Yallop B Coy Machine Gun Corps (Heavy Branch) (d.12th April 1917)

On the 6th of April Ronald Yallop wrote to his uncle who was serving in Egypt. He commented that his winter quarters had been good and he had had a good rest with "beaucoup cafes etc". He then commented that they were having their share now and he had only had about 10 hours sleep in the past 72 hours.

This letter was probably never sent by Ron as we now have it in an envelope with a black border and a picture of his grave stuck to it. He died on 12th April 1917 of his wounds and is now buried in Mont Huon Military Cemetery, Le Treport. According to evidence I have sourced his Battalion was based in Pierremont, France at this time and the tanks he was training to use did not enter the action until after his death.

Lt. John Barker MC. 107th Coy. Machine Gun Corps

My Dad, John Barker was born in 1895 at Barrowby, he grew up the youngest son of a country vicar and served 1 year each in the Officer Training Corps first at Brighton College and then Worksop College. Dad enlisted in the Territorial Force (no 2860) on 5th Feb 1915. I am not sure but think it was established he had been in the OTC so, on 23rd Feb 1915, he was appointed 2nd Lt in Worcestershire Regiment. Sometime later he was transferred to 107 MGC (he got in a bit of trouble during his initial training and am not sure if his reward was a transfer to the suicide club!).

He arrived in France in late June 1916 just missing the first days of the Somme. I have some information that he was awarded his MC from action on 3 March 1917 and have the citation from the London Gazette of 11 May 1917. Apart from that I know little about the circumstances that lead to his MC. The War Diary of 107th MGC for that day says it is quiet. I have also read that was the day a German Camouflet exploded at Spanbroekmolen near the 107th MGC. Was this the rescuing referred to in his citation?

Dad was taken prisoner on the 1st day of the German Spring Offensive. He never said much about his experiences but one day he told me that as POWs they were so hungry two of his fellow prisoners fought over a dead sparrow!

Dad also served as an Auxiliary Cadet with the infamous K Company in 1921-2 but was invalided out with a gun shot wound (barrack room incident). Like many families a great tragedy for Dad was that his eldest son (my half-brother) Thomas Roy lost his life over Belgium on 12 May 1940 trying to stop the German advance (Sgt Observer of 150 Sqn). Any additional info on Dad would be appreciated.

Pte. Joseph Collins 56th Btn. Machine Gun Corps. (d.18th Sep 1918)

Sgt. Arthur Heanes Machine Gun Corps

Pte. George Maurice Featherstone 18th Btn. Durham Light Infantry

George Featherstone, was born in West Hartlepool in 1898. He enlisted on 27th August 1914 aged 16 in the 18th Battalion DLI (Durham Pals). He later transferred 3rd Battalion DLI (Tyneside Garrison). He was posted to France in Dec 1915 with the 10th Battalion Durham Light Infantry. He saw action at Delville Wood, the battle of Flers-Courcelette, Battle of Arras, Battle of Ypres & Menin Road. George suffered gunshot wounds to his left thigh in August 1917. He returned to France in Jan 1918 & joined the 18th Battalion Durham Light Infantry. He was wounded again late in March 1918 with gunshot wounds to the buttocks. He returned home 30th March. He was transferred to the Machine Gun Corp in 1918 and was discharged on the 26th August 1920, He served a full 6 years.

In 1933 he rejoined the army, the Royal Engineers and went to France with the BEF on the 9th of September 1939. He was evacuated and returned home on the 2nd June 1940, two days before Dunkirk fell. In 1941 he was posted to Iceland for 5 months. In October 1942 he was posted to North Africa with the 1st Army for Operation Torch and served in Tunisia & Algeria.


Welcome to the website of the MGC/OCA

In the trenches of the First World War, the 'Great War', the machine gun was queen of the battlefield. In all the major battles - Somme, Ypres, Passhendaele, Vimy, Arras - it was the machine gun which could decimate whole battalions and which changed the face of warfare.

The Old Comrades' Association was formed by Veterans of the Machine Gun Corps after WWI and still survives today.

Most members nowadays are relatives or descendents of MGC men or those simply interested in the MGC specifically or WW1 in general. We welcome all.

If there is one distinguishing feature of the MGC/OCA, it is its friendliness. New members are always pleasantly surprised when they attend an event for the first time by the fact that they do not feel strangers for long. There is also great enthusiasm. Interest in the Machine Gun Corps has increased considerably.

Membership fees are at least, I say at least since subscriptions are kept to a minimum so that membership is open to all, but the fees barely cover the cost of the magazines and postage thus we hope for a donation. So that we can continue to hold services of Remembrance and events, we are reliant on the generosity of members who add a donation to the cost of their subscription.

  • DIGITAL VERSION (PDF file)
    • £20.00 WORLDWIDE
    • £5.00 Junior Gees (up to age 16)

    If you join later in the year, you will receive back issues of the magazine, "Emma Gee" and any other information members have received.

    "Emma Gee"

    is published twice per year when possible. The magazine is our main point of contact - it contains a wide variety of items and designed to appeal to the whole cross section of membership. The magazine averages 40 PAGES. Much depends on the articles received. Members are encouraged to contribute articles and items of interest. We have been pleased to feature fine articles by Dr Graham Watson, formerly Lecturer in History at University of Wales and Chief Examiner of History, Welsh Joint Education Committee and author Graham Sacker.
    If you would like to contribute, please do get in touch.
    The Honorary Secretary will be delighted to hear from any young people wishing to join or submit an article.

    The MGC/OCA is one of the friendliest 'regimental' organisations and is INclusive not EXclusive.

    Now that I have told you a little about us, please browse the site to see how membership of the Association may be of benefit and interest to you.

    Priority has to be given to the running of the organisation, compiling the magazine, arranging events and to current members.

    Research requests see below.

    Thank you for your patience.

    Thank you for taking the time to read the website before emailing so that questions which are dealt with within the site are not asked again.

    Copyright Machine Gun Corps Old Comrades' Association. Articles written by Judith Lappin (Membership and contact details, Emma Gee, Calendar of Events, Annual Observance, Research Assistance, Home), and Keith Stephenson (MGC History, Famous Faces, MGC Heroes, The Vickers Machine Gun).

    General Enquiries, Events, Emma Gee via Honorary Secretary Mrs Judith Lappin, Penfro, 111 Main Street, Pembroke, SA71 4DB.


    Watch the video: Erster Weltkrieg 1914-1916 unkommentiert Zeitgeschichte live


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