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Training our Emma Gees

For the 2022 shoot to commemorate the centenary of the disbandment of the Machine Gun Corps, it was necessary to train nearly sixty people to safely handle and use the Vickers machine gun. This was a key part of the planning for the event and it became a piece of work that has continued beyond the event and an ongoing legacy of the commemorations.

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Some Vickers machine gun video content ideas

Inspired by the work of britishmuzzleloaders and Bloke on the Range, as well as conversations with The Armourer’s Bench, as well as the positive response to thebelt loading video, I think it’s time for a bit more video on the Vickers machine gun.

As you may be aware, the Association is currently permitted to have firing Vickers MGs as part of the collection so it’s possible to replicate quite authentically some of the original lessons from the Small Arms Training and Infantry Training manuals of the period (as per Britishmuzzleloaders).

Now, this poses a number of challenges and choices. The first choice is which period to do first: the Great War, the Second World War of the post-World War Two period? There are various compromises that have to be made and I’d welcome the potential audience’s view on which we should do. I say ‘first’ because as things develop, and if a success, I’d try to cover the whole use of the Vickers.

I’ve had to discount The Great War at the moment: We currently don’t have a Great War period Vickers. We’d have to compromise by using smooth-jacketed guns (not entirely inaccurate but clearly not the norm). Also, there wouldn’t be any lessons on the dial sight, the bar foresight or much of the later equipment that was used. The people who have agreed to be the ‘students’ don’t have Great War equipment readily available either.

The Second World War: Fine, it can be done. We have the right guns, it would cover the dial sight (from the 1941 and 1944 manuals anyway) and it would cover the majority of the learning from the war; however, we don’t currently have access to the Universal Carrier so we would compromise by using the Jeep in the guise of 7th Manchester with 52nd (Lowland) Div or in some of the airborne battalions.

The post-World War Two period. Early 1950s using the 1951 manual – all of the lessons from the Second World War had been learnt and the technical elements of the teaching were more extensive (incorporating much of what had only been used by armourers during the War). The Universal Carrier was replaced in the 1950s by the Land Rover Series 1 and we have access to this.

I’d welcome your views and then I’ll balance them with the equipment and lessons available. Please comment to let us know which you’d prefer.

The main challenge is going to be cost. As you’re aware, the VMGCRA is a not-for-profit organisation and the majority of the income it makes from the sales of DVDs, posters, books etc goes into expanding the collection or the running costs of the organisation. It has gone into purchasing firing machine guns that make this opportunity viable.

The ammunition requirements for the full firing practices from the manuals, as well as range hire are like to run to at least £2,000 for the whole scheme. I’m envisaging that it will take around two years to go through the whole of the three parts of the manuals (or the full ten week scheme for the Great War) so the costs will be spread over that period.

How much are people prepared to support this idea? This is a proper fundraising requirement as it’s not something I can support the direct expenditure on. Please comment with ideas of possible amounts and ways of raising and securing this money. I haven’t used Patreon but it’s been suggested as one option.

At the end of this, I think there will be a full DVD of the lessons that can be sent to ‘subscribers’ but I’ll never be able to guarantee when (but likely within two or three years). This would be the high definition versions of what will end up on youtube and the Vickers MG website.

The context would be a Small Arms School Corps instructor in period uniform delivering period lessons to students from the multitude of units using the Vickers MG at that time. A mix of lectures and range work. The actual lessons would be ‘reenactments’ and possibly some ‘extra’ videos with modern discussion about things and the collectables element.

I’ll be working up some of the detail in the background, including costs, and see how it comes about.

Please let me know what you think in the comments boxes below.