Sunday, July 3, 2011

Machine gun veterans

Three machine guns that were the cornerstones of infantry operations in World War I - the Russian PM1910, British Vickers MMG and French Hotchkiss M1914 - were still in use during World War II. Indeed, the Vickers was still in use in the mid-1960s, before the British Army switched to 7.62mm NATO calibre ammunition.

The Pulemyot Maxima PM1910
The Russian Pulemyot Maxima na stanke Sokolova (Maxim's machine gun on Sokolov's mount), was also known as the Maxim machine gun 1910 (or Pulemyot Maxima PM1910). This variant of the Maxim machine gun was chambered for the standard Russian 7.62 x 54mm R ammunition. It served as the medium machine gun in the Imperial Russian Army during World War I and the Red Army during World War II. The gun fired at 600 rounds per minute from a 250-round fabric belt. The water-cooling jacket had a screw cap normally fitted to tractor radiators; it was large enough that snow could be packed into the jacket during the bitter Russian winters when all water was frozen. For a degree of mobility, the M1910 could be installed on the wheeled Sokolov mount. By 1943 it was replaced by the excellent SG-43 Gorunov. Maxims were often bolted together on a high-angle mount as anti-aircraft guns.
Soviet sailors fighting as infantry in World War II man a triple PM1910 anti-aircraft machine gun. The guns would have put up 1,800 rpm and made an effective low-altitude anti-aircraft system.

The Vickers MMG
The first Vickers machine gun, the Vickers .303in Medium Machine Gun Mark 1, entered service in 1912 and soldiered on with the British Army until 1974. It was a Maxim mechanism that had been inverted and improved. With water in the cooling jacket, the gun weighed 18kg/40lb and the tripod 22kg/48.5lb, while the total weight of the gun was 40.2kg/88.5lb. The Vickers machine gun had a muzzle velocity of 744m/s/2,440ft/s and a rate of fire of 450-500 rpm, and it was fired from a 250-round fabric belt. The introduction of the Mark 8z round added a further 915m/l,000yd to the 550m/3,600yd maximum range. Using a dial sight, which was introduced in 1942, the gun could be used for indirect fire.
A sergeant of the British Gloucestershire Regiment, whose ribbons indicate that he is a veteran of World War II, supervises two Vickers MMG detachments in the 1950s in a display of infantry weapons.

During World War I the Vickers MMG gained a reputation as the "Queen of the battlefield" with men of the British Machine Gun Corps (founded in October 1915). It is a measure of the effectiveness and reliability of the weapon that, during the British attack upon High Wood on 24 August 1916, it is estimated that ten Vickers fired in excess of one million rounds over a 12-hour period.

The Hotchkiss M1914
The St Etienne Mle 1907 was the standard machine gun of the French Army at the outbreak of World War I. However, it performed badly in the field. It had so many deficiencies that although guns were captured by the Germans and given the designation 8mm sMG256(f), they were never used, even in fixed fortifications.
The French mitrailleuse St Etienne Mle 1907 had evolved from the earlier Mle 1905 produced by the State Arsenal Puteaux. It was gradually replaced in service during World War I.

There were several modifications until the gas-operated, air-cooled Hotchkiss 8mm M1914 machine gun was produced in 1914, when gas operation was still a relatively new concept. It was a very distinctive gun, with five large circular cooling fins and a metal strip ammunition feed. The Hotchkiss became the French army's standard heavy tripod-mounted MMG in World War I. Twelve divisions of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in France were equipped with the Mle 1914 Hotchkiss in 1917-18.
The French Hotchkiss Mle 1914 was the standard French medium machine gun during World War I. It remained in widespread use during World War II.

The gun was heavy at 23kg/50lb (44kg/88lb with its mounting), but reliable. The main drawback was the ammunition feed, a cumbersome 24- or 30-round metal magazine strip that fired 8mm Lebel rounds. In 1917 a 250-round belt feed was introduced, enabling effective sustained fire. The Hotchkiss had a muzzle velocity of 701m/s/2,299ft/s and a cyclic rate of 450 rpm.

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