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Units That Used The Vickers

The London Regiment


The Great War

The London Regiment consisted of Territorial Infantry Battalions that would have had an MG Section as part of its Battalion Headquarters. These weapons would have been brigaded when the Machine Gun Corps was formed in 1915. The guns, and crews, would have been formed into a Machine Gun Company.

During the Great War, the Battalions were distributed as follows:

5th

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Also known as the 1/5th (City of London) Battalion TF (London Rifle Brigade).

9th

Also known as the 1/9th (City of London) Battalion TF (Queen Victoria's Rifles).

The 9th Battalion was part of the 13th Brigade, attached to the 5th Division. It's MG Section was transferred on 24 December 1915 to form the 13th Bde. MG Coy..

As a unit of the 5th Infantry Division, it will have taken part in the following battles and engagements.
1914
23 and 24 AugustBattle of Mons [II. Corps].
23 August to 05 SeptemberRETREAT FROM MONS [II. Corps].
26 AugustBattle of le Cateau [II. Corps].
01 SeptemberCrepy en Valois.
06 to 09 SeptemberBattle of the Marne [II. Corps]
13 to 20 SeptemberBATTLE OF THE AISNE [II. Corps]
13 SeptemberPassage of the Aisne.
20 SeptemberActions on the Aisne Heights.
10 October to 02 NovemberBattle of la Bassee [II. Corps].
05 to 19 NovemberBATTLE OF YPRES [I. Corps]
1915
17 to 22 AprilCapture of Hill 60 [II. Corps, Second Army].
23 April to 01 MayBATTLE OF YPRES [V. Corps, Second Army].
23 AprilBattle of Gravenstafel Ridge (13th Bde.) [V. Corps].
24 April to 01 MayBattle of St. Julien (13th Bde.) [V. Corps, from 27 April, in Plumer's Force].

13th

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Also known as the 1/13th (County of London) Battalion TF (Kensington).

Due to their role in the Second World War as MG Battalions, please visit here for more information.

14th

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Also known as the 1/14th (County of London) Battalion TF (London Scottish).

16th

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Also known as the 1/16th (County of London) Battalion TF (Queen's Westminster Rifles).

18th

18th Bn, London Regiment TF (London Irish)

Also known as the 1/18th (County of London) Battalion TF (London Irish Rifles).

19th

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Also known as the 1/19th (County of London) Battalion TF (St. Pancras).

27th

Inns of Court Regiment

Also known as the Inns of Court Regiment. During the Great War, the 27th Bn became the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps and was responsible for training several thousand officers prior to their deployment. It did not have an active combat role during the Great War.

28th

Also known as "The Artists Rifles."

This Battalion did not serve a fighting unit but, like the 27th, formed an Officer Training Corps. They also provided the first instructors for the Machine Gun School.


Inter-war Period

In 1922, the Machine Gun Corps was disbanded and the guns returned to the Infantry Battalion as a Machine Gun Platoon and then formed as a Machine Gun Company in the early 1930s.

27th (until 1932)
The Inns of Court Regiment (from 1932)

This Battalion was organised, from 1920 onwards, with one Cavalry Squadron, and two Infantry Companies It's designation was changed to the Inns of Court Regiment from 1932 onwards. During this time, the Inns of Court Regiment focussed on its Vickers Machine Gun Company to try to ensure it remained a combat formation whilst having a reduced establishment.

By 1929 the Squadron was more or less up to strength, but the Infantry Companies were very much under strength. In fact, they were so reduced in number that they were only able to muster enough personnel to form little more than one platoon each. In order to add ot the interest and realism of training, Colonel Francis, who had been in the Machine Gun Corps during the First World War, decided to convert 'B' Company into a .303 Vickers Machine Gun Company under Major A.C. Potter ('Tarzan'), who had also been in the Machine Gun Corps. Such conversion was unofficial. In December 1929 four GS guns arrived - enough for one platoon, which was all the company consisted of - and machine gun training for that platoon commenced.

Normally, in those days, in order to be mobile, the Vickers establishment called for two-horsed limbers. Sergeants and above were mounted. The crews normally marched on foot, but if going into action in a hurry, they jumped on the limbers and held on tightly. On rough ground with the horses at the gallop this was a highly dangerous exercise. However, as the conversion to machine guns had been unofficial, the regimental establishment did not include any transport for the guns. This difficulty was overcome, so far as annual camps were concerned, by borrowing horsed limbers and drivers from Regular units. For weekend training 'Tarzan' constructed two box trailers, each approximately the size of a half limber, to carry the guns. These trailers were towed by ordinary motor cars.

Hatton, 1992

At the summer camp in 1930 the Regiment borrowed a limber, two greys and a driver from the Coldstream Guards. The trek (the annual regimental exercise lasting some forty-eight hours or more) of that year was notable for the fact that it was the last occasion when the Infantry did all their moving on foot. Subsequently they were motorised. In August 1931 the Regiment went to camp at Windmill Hill. Transport for the guns, for training purposes, was provided by a limber from The Blues. For the purposes of the trek the Infantry, to make them more mobile, were motorised in borrowed cars and lorries. In an article in The Times a Military Correspondent, when dealing with the trek, wrote:

They wanted to mechanise the Infantry for this purpose. They put them in borrowed motor cars (the property of Officers), in a hired lorry, and in another borrowed from friendly neighbours of the Royal Tanks Corps. I noticed a little 'trailer', behind one of the motor cars, made from a Morris axle and wheeles, fitted to an old hand0cart (they were obliged to add mudguards and brakes to satisfy the Police). That, it appeared, was their special machine gun limber, as they have nothing of an official nature in the way of machine gun transport.

The first signs of motorisation.

At the voluntary camp at Bisley in August 1932, 'B' Company did all its machine gun training with a limber borrowed from the 1st Battalion, The Suffolk Regiment. That battalion was in the Experimental Brigade and, at that time, was training with Carden Lloyd tractors, in place of horse transport, for its machine guns. Subsequently 'B' Company did several weekend exercises for which that battalion provided Carden Lloyd tractors and drivers. Those exercises formed the basis of 'B' Company's future motor car training.

The Regiment decided to construct vehicles of its own so as to make weekend training more realistic and to avoid the necessity of having to borrow limbers, horses and drivers for annual camps, which in any event was becoming more difficult. 'Tarzan' was instructed to provide sufficient vehicles for a machine gun platoon and which would look something like armoured vehicles. He decided to used wheeled vehicles, which has a sound type of chassis such as the bull-nosed Morris, as he preferred wheeled to tracked vehicles.

He bought five bull-nosed Morris cars - four to tow trailers for the machine guns and one as a command and reconnaissance vehicle. He himself converted the first one in the garage of his house in Maida Vale. The others were converted at Bisley with the help of various members of the Regiment. The bodies of the cars were stripped. The two front seats were left for the driver and No. 1. The backs were quite open or the crews to jump out quickly. The sides of the new bodies were made of sheet iron and were brought up from outside of the running boards so as to give more stowage space. The framing was of electric wire conduit pipes. The sheet iron sides were anchored in three places: to the forepart of the old body housing the tank, to the running boards and to a cross framing to which the seat back was fixed. The bodies were very light but very strong. Three of the cars were ready by Easter 1933. The other two were completed in one weekend between Easter and summer camp of that year.

'Tarzan' made the four trailers, and the boxes for them were made by Major W.H. Newson, who later commanded the Regiment. Other equipment also had to be provided such as towbars, tow-ropes, shovels, tyre pumps, wheel braces and jacks. The purchase price of the cars was 8, or less. The total cost of the five cars and four trailers, after conversion and when complete, was 60, which was paid for by Regimental Private Funds. All the work had been done by volunteers.

The cars were only intended to transport machine guns and crews. They were not intended to be armoured cars. Although a machine gun could be mounted on a car in the 'Armoured Action' position, and in fact one was so mounted and fired on ranges with success, that was not the normal use of the cars. Thus 'B' Company was trained as a machine gun company and not as an armoured car squadron.

Hatton, 1992

All five cars and four trailers were ready for the summer camp in Arundel Park in August 1933, where they were used for the first time. They were a great success. During the trek of that year for the first time the whole Regiment was completely mobile. Not only did 'B' (Machine Gun) Company have its own vehicles but 'A' (Rifle) Company, which by then was in effect a recruit company for 'B' Company, was also mounted in cars, as opposed to being herded together in lorries as Windmill Hill in 1931. That made a great difference to the training of the Regiment. Prior to 1933, on regimental exercises the Infantry had been put in one place and the task of the Squadron was to find them and either attack them of slip past unnoticed, leaving the Infantry where they were. But now that the Infantry had complete mobility, they could occupy successive positions and were able to hold up the Squadron and then make a last minute get-away to repeat the performance elsewhere. Thus it opened up an entirely new conception of mobile schemes for regimental exercises. However, great care was take to ensure that such schemes did not conflict with official training and that no false lessons were taught.

As the conversion of 'B' Company to machine guns had been unofficial, the Regiment was anxious to avoid any curtailment of its activities. Therefore, when the machine gun carriers arrived in Arundel Park at the beginning of that camp, they were parked at the far side of the camp so as not to attract the undue attention of Inspecting Officers. That may have been a wise precaution as, at that time, the War Office may not have been aware of what was going on. If that was so, the War Office could not have remained in ignorance for long. The carriers were used throughout that camp and must have been noticed by higher authority. From then until the spring of 1937 they were used frequently - not only at Easter and summer camps but also on training weekends. In October 1933, when the carriers were used on a scheme in the Bisley area, a member of the staff of Morris Motors was present and took films of them. Between 1933 and 1936 the carriers received tremendous publicity. Photographs of them appeared in the Daily Press on numerous occasions. Such publicity must have come to the notice of the War Office but no attempt was made to curtail the activities of the Regiment. Therefore, the War Office must have been satisfied that the training was on sound lines.

During the summer camp at Windmill Hill in 1934 one of the bull-nosed Morris cars blew up. As it proved too expensive to repair, it was replaced by a square-nosed Morris Oxford, which was converted in the same way as the earlier cars in time for the annual camp at Petworth Park in 1935. The last annual camp at which the carriers were used was at Warminster in 1936. They were used for the last time at the Easter camp in 1937. Thereafter, as the Regiment had no further use for them, they were disposed of.

When the Regiment was in camp at Windmill Hill in 1934 the City of London Yeomanry Battery, Royal Horse Artillery, was also there - only a few hundred yards away. During the first week combined exercises took place. For the trek the Squadron and the battery acted as rearguard and they were attacked repeatedly by the two Infantry Companies.

From 1937, the Infantry Companies were converted to Light Tank Cavalry Squadrons, where they were equipped with Light Tanks armed with .5-inch Mk. V Vickers MGs.


Second World War

This remained until the formation of Divisional Machine Gun Battalions in 1936 where guns were brigaded once again.


Post-Second World War

Upon the disbandment of Divisional Machine Gun Battalions in the post-WW2 restructure of the British Army, the Vickers Machine Gun assest reverted to individual Battalions as part of the Support Company as a Machine Gun Platoon.


Sources

  • Becke, 1934
  • Hatton, 1992
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