The Monty’s Men group is a collective of individual living historians who are usually members of other groups. The group, albeit without a name, existed in 2002 but the first Monty’s Men ‘branded’ trip was in 2003 as a platoon of the 9th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry. Many of the regular members of the Emma Gees living history element of the VMGCRA were members of that trip and have continued to contribute to Monty’s Men events since that time.
In June 2019, the Monty’s Men group exceeded previous trips and fielded the strength of a depleted company of the 1st Battalion, King’s Own Scottish Borderers. As an Infantry Battalion in 1944 didn’t have its own medium machine gun capability, the Emma Gees provided support with two firing Vickers portraying a Section of the 2nd Battalion, Middlesex Regiment. There was also support from men portraying the Army Film and Photographic Unit and the Royal Army Medical Corps.
The ethos behind the Monty’s Men group is a fully immersive living history experience and, wherever possible, not compromising on accuracy. As such, the men were fed from compo rations to the same menus as the 1944 British infantrymen and there were little modern conveniences other than where modern safety standards required it.
Not wishing to detract from the main effort of the event, which was the standard infantry battalion, the machine gun element was kept to a minimum with only five men across two guns. It was also not possible to field the Universal Carriers required so the men used jeeps for the limited mobility required.
At the Forming Up Point for the event, it was possible to take some detailed photographs showing the insignia of the 2nd Battalion, Middlesex Regiment. This included the shoulder titles, the 3rd Division flash, an infantry arm-of-service strip and the battalion-specific triangular flash in the regiment’s colours. The cap badge was also backed with the regimental colours. All of this was reproduced for this event based on originals held in the Association’s collection, and those of its members.
The jeeps were marked up to the battalion. The white ’64’ on a black square identified them as from the Divisional (Machine Gun) Battalion, whilst the divisional triangle also appeared. A further piece of detail was added in the form of the ‘Field Force Identifier’ – 1354 – which was a unique reference number assigned to each unit to aid the logistics of warfare.
Affixed to the windscreen was a size and weight sheet used for loading vehicles onto landing craft. It contains the dimensions of the jeep in this case. These are seen in photographs from the period but this example is actually reproduced accurately from an example found in the 2nd Middlesex war diary where it was being used as scrap paper for producing the unit ‘brevities’ newsletter issued every day alongside battalion orders to ensure that the troops knew what was happening outside of their immediate location.
From the Forming Up Point, the Emma Gees moved to the main location of the KOSB Company and co-located the MMGs with Company HQ, albeit an appropriate distance from them in the spirit of avoiding too many assets bunched in one area and susceptible to artillery or German Air Force attacks, both of which were prevalent in the June and July 1944 period.
The MMGs were spaced approximately 15 yards apart of 25 yards from the supporting jeeps. They were zeroed on an aiming post, with the lamp attached so it could be used at night, and laid in the general direction of the enemy. The guns were sited just before dusk without the opportunity to reconnoitre the ground or liaise with the infantry on the front line about 200 yards forward.
The following morning at stand-to, the guns were paralleled and ready to fire on demand from the infantry; however, they had yet to be assigned any particular targets. Paralleling guns involves the No 1 gun (usually the left or right hand gun) aligning on the zero line (against zero posts or the aiming post). The dial sight of the other guns is then rotated 180 degrees and aligned on the dial sight of the No 1 gun. As a result, all guns on the position should now be firing on parallel lines. The guns are then re-levelled using their elevating wheels. Any fire orders assigned to the guns will now result in firing two beaten zones onto the target with the centre of the zone from each gun the same distance apart as the guns.
After stand-to, the Emma Gees were assigned a number of targets that the infantry may need fired upon. These were based on their reconnaissances of the area and the known and potential enemy activity. Six target areas were identified by the infantry, with a seventh suitable target identified from the map. These were given codenames courtesy of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, with SNOW WHITE meaning the guns were required in defensive positions for direct fire support with the infantry positions. Traces of the maps were shared with the infantry commanders to ensure that targets could be called upon simply using the available radios.
Using the slide rule, it was possible to measure from the maps available and identify the distances to the targets. With a protractor, the angle of sight from the zero line, which had been determined by compass, could also be calculated. These two simple measurements were the minimum required for firing using maps.
To validate the ranges taken from the map, the machine gun section commander and his range-taker went forward with the Range-Finder No 12 and the Director No 9 to the forward infantry positions. From the various platoon headquarters, it was possible to see only one target area – DOPEY – as the others were on the reverse slopes or behind the enemy’s front line. It was also possible to produce range cards for the platoon positions and these were passed to the platoon commanders.
With the validated ranges and angles of sight, more calculations to determine the number of taps required for the target to be covered by the beaten zones of the machine guns. As only two guns were in use and the width of the target exceeded the width of the gun position, it was necessary to use tapping to distribute the fall of shot. In the case of DOPEY, it was necessary for No 1 gun to tap right 20 times and No 2 gun to tap left 20 times. To provide a right and left hand stop for the guns, so their shot did not fall outside of the target area, the zero posts were used to stop the gun traversing beyond the set number of taps.
Upon receiving the call for supporting fire after the enemy were observed on DOPEY, the guns fired one belt each.
Both guns fired almost one belt but No 1 gun experienced a blown muzzle gland which is not a spare carried in the spares parts wallet, case or box, meaning it was not possible to replace in the field. It’s thought that the ammunition was over-powered and that the other gun was at risk as well; therefore, all guns ceased firing and were cleaned down for inspection.
- Army Film and Photographic Unit ’AFPU44’ Living History Group – http://www.afpu44.co.uk/
- Pete Knight, Vickers MG Collection & Research Association