One of the key components to any weapon is ammunition feed – it can be the difference between firing and stoppages. This page identifies some of the accessories for the Vickers MG that were used to feed that ammunition to the gun, store that ammunition in transit and any other items that relate to ammunition.
For an overview of the ammunition belts and boxes used in the latter part of the Second World War by the British, as well as an introduction to the No 8 and No 10 belt boxes, and how to fill an ammunition belt, please watch our video:
- Cat No. C1/BD 0061, List of changes A 3312, BOXES, BELT, VICKERS, .303-IN. M.G., No. 1, Mk. II – Teak; for two .303-in. 250-round belts for cone mountings
Box, Belt, Ammunition, Vickers .303-inch M.G., No. 3, Mk. I
Box, Belt, Ammunition, Vickers .303-inch M.G., No. 3, Mk. II
Box, Belt, Ammunition, Vickers .303-inch M.G., No. 3, Mk. II*
Box, Belt, Ammunition, Vickers .303-inch M.G., No. 3, Mk. III
Box, Belt, Ammunition, Vickers .303-inch M.G., No. 6, Mk. I
- Cat No. C1/BD 0062, List of changes A 5878, BOXES, BELT, VICKERS, .303-IN. M.G., No. 7, Mk. 1 – For one 250-round belt
- Cat No. C1/BD 0063, List of changes A 5878, BOXES, BELT, VICKERS, .303-IN. M.G., No. 8, Mk. 1
Initially introduced during the latter years of the Great War, it became the standard box for the Vickers MG and remained in service through to the Second World War with the British, when it was largely replaced with factory-packed liners for active service – it was still used for training. In Australian service it remained in use throughout the War and afterwards.
- Cat No. C1/BD 0064, List of changes A 5878, BOXES, BELT, VICKERS, .303-IN. M.G., No. 9, Mk. 1 – For one 250-round belt
- Cat No. C2/BG 0020, List of Changes A 7793, BOXES, BELT, Vickers .303-in. M.G., No. 10, Mk. I – Tinned-plate; for one 250-round belt.
United States Ammunition Box
As used for M1915 Colt-Vickers and M1917 Browning.
Tinned plate liners
Tinned plate lining, H.29.
The tinned plate lining carried one belt of 250-rounds of ammunition for the Vickers. Whilst other tinned plate linings were used for other ammunition types, the H.29 was specific for the Vickers as it had two lifting tabs to facilitate easier belt removal. Two linings were carried in the Boxes, A.S.A., H.29. Later use saw them packed individually into H.51 boxes.
The belt was protected using a plywood (or other wood types as available) in the base of the lining, with a felt pad on the top and cardboard inserts to keep the ammunition in place in the belt.
There are many varieties of lining depending on place of production and some of these are shown in the photos below. The latest dated example in the VMGCRA collection is from 1970.
Tinned plate lining, H.58, Mk. I
Boxes, Ammunition Small Arms
Box, Small Arms Ammunition, 1000 rounds
Prior to the introduction of the tinned liners and the stripless ammunition belts, rounds for the Vickers were delivered as they would be for the other .303-inch weapons in the British Army. This was in 1,000 round boxes prior to the introduction of the H.3 Box, A.S.A. identified below.
They were originally introduced in 1903 for use with chargers for the rifles in service.
137. Small Arm Packages.
Box, S.A. ammunition, 1,000 rounds, new pattern.
Secretary brought to the Committee’s notice the new proposed 1,000 round S.A.A. box for carriage of cartridges in chargers.
The cartridges are packed five in a charger, each four chargers being contained in cardboard case, 10 of which are packed in a tin box hermetically sealed. There are five tins in each box.
Noted. The Committee are included to think that from the point of view of preserving the cartridges this is an improvement on the present method of packing ammunition.Minute No. 761, Proceedings of the Small Arms Committee, 4 May 1903.
Paper labels were fixed to ammunition boxes with a paste. This was changed in December 1914 (Army Council Instruction 21 of 2nd December 1914) to make it less attractive to insects, which had clearly been a problem. The instructions for the paste were:
PASTE FOR LABELS
The composition and method of preparation of the starch-copper sulphate-soda-glue paste is as follows:-
Starch, 1/2 lb.
Copper sulphate crystals, 13 3/4 drs.
Soda ash, 5 1/2 drs.
Glue, 2 ozs.
Water, 1 gal.
Preparation. – With a little of the water dissolve the copper sulphate and with this solution, cold, mix the starch into a thin smooth paste. Boil the rest of the water, and with a little of it dissolve the glue. Add the soda ash to the remainder. When the soda ash has dissolved, add the starch paste, mix it well, and bring to boiling point again for not more than one minute. Just as the mixture reaches the boiling point add the glue solution and mix.Appendix I, Army Council Instruction 21 of 2nd December, 1914.
Boxes, Ammunition Small Arms, H.29
Holding the tinned plate linings shown above, the H.29 wooden box was the main intermediate storage and packing for belted ammunition through the Second World War. Details of the actual marks of boxes are given below the table, including examples in the collection. The manner in which the boxes were used for belts is shown in the Table.
|Type and Mark||Interior Packing||Method of packing||Gross weight|
|.303 in. Ball, Mk. 7 and Mk. 7z||Stripless belts||500 rounds in 2 belts of 250 rounds||Mk. I, 48½lb.
Mk. IE, 44¾lb.
|.303 in. Ball, Mk. 8z||Stripless belts||500 rounds in 2 belts of 250 rounds||Mk. I, 48½lb.
Mk. IE, 45lb.
|.303 in. Ball and Tracer or any Mixed Belt||Stripless belts||500 rounds in 2 belts of 250 rounds||Mk. I, 48½lb.
Mk. IE, 45lb.
Box, Ammunition, Small Arms, H.29, Mk. I
Box, Ammunition, Small Arms, H.29, Mk. IE
Box, Ammunition, Small Arms, H.29, Mk. II
Each box carried two tinned plate linings, each with 250-rounds of belted ammunition for the Vickers MG. The Mk. II had a rope handle.
The H.29 was also used to pack belts of 7.92mm ammunition for the Besa MG or cartons of 9mm ammunition.
Box, Ammunition, Small Arms, H.29, Mk. III
Each box carried two tinned plate linings, each with 250-rounds of belted ammunition for the Vickers MG. The Mk. III simplified construction and replaced the rope handle with a web 1-inch strap at each end.
When used to carry belted ammunition, it was painted ‘bluish-green’ to make it easily identifiable. This was changed to Service Brown in January 1945. Many boxes were repainted as they remained in the stores system but internals may remain ‘bluish-green’.
Box, Ammunition, Small Arms, H.51
The H.51 was introduced as part of the ‘Jungle Pack’ ammunition system in late-1944 and was intended to provide sealed ammunition in rot-resistant packaging for sustainability of supply in the Far East. Whilst it is unclear whether it was formally part of the fighting system that introduced the 1944 Pattern Equipment and other associated items, it was part of the same scope for the British Army‘s future conflict. These boxes became a universal system, along with the H.50 shown below, until the introduced of the H.83 boxes introduced in the 1960s. As with much of the equipment introduced in 1944, despite being produced and dated to that year, there is no evidence that it was used during the Second World War in any theatre.
Two H.51 boxes, each containing one tinned plate lining, were carried in the H.50. As well as the liner, they have rubber and plywood spacers to ensure a tight fit.
A minor variation in production introduced in the late 1940s replaced the wire closures with pressed metal closures.
Box, Ammunition, Small Arms, H.50
Each H.50 ammunition box carried two H.51 boxes, shown above, each containing one tinned plate lining with 250-rounds of belted ammunition. They were part of the standard ‘Jungle Pack’ introduced in late-1944 and then used universally until the introduction of the H.83 ammunition boxes. A minor variation in production introduced in the late 1940s replaced the wire closures with pressed metal closures.
Box, Ammunition, Small Arms, H.3
A generic ammunition box that was principally used to package .303-inch ammunition suitable for all weapons; therefore, it would have been used for manually reloading ammunition belts where appropriate. It was not a specific ammunition box for the .303-inch Vickers; however, it was used to package .5-inch Drill ammunition in articulated belts, as used in the .5-inch Mk III.
|Type and Mark||Interior Packing||Method of packing||Gross weight|
|.303 in. Ball, Mk. 7 and Mk. 7z||Bandoliers||350 rounds in 7 Bandoliers of 10 chargers of 5 rounds||30 lb.|
|Cases Charger||350 rounds of 18 Cases Charger of 4 chargers of 5 rounds||30 lb.|
|Cartons||500 rounds in 10 Cartons No. 2 of 50 rounds||34 lb.|
|.303 in. Tracer||Cartons||500 rounds in 10 Cartons No. 2 of 50 rounds||33 lb.|
|.303 in. Incendiary||Cartons||500 rounds in 10 Cartons No. 2 of 50 rounds||33 lb.|
|.5 in. Vickers Drill||Articulated Belts||80 rounds in 4 Belts of 20 rounds||22½ lb.|
No. 1 Mk. I
- Cat No. C2/BG 0021, List of Changes A 7772, BOXES, BELT, Vickers .5-in. M.G., No. 1, Mk. I – For one 100-round belt; Teak
No. 2 Mk. I
- Cat No. C2/BG 0022, List of Changes A 7772, BOXES, BELT, Vickers .5-in. M.G., No. 2, Mk. I – For one 100-round belt; Tinned-plate
South African Defence Force ammunition box
This is a plastic box to carry 200 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition, as used by the South African Defence Force in the 1980s, with dates of 1981 and 1984 appearing on examples in the VMGCRA collection. The belts were filled with a 4-to-1 mix of ball to tracer.
The boxes are carried by a nylon handle that is recessed into the base of the box to stop it slipping off. The lids of the box come off partially or completely depending on whether you undo all the clips or not. There is a foam insert inside the lid to prevent rattling and damage.
The ammunition belt for the Vickers was one of the key components that could mean the gun runs extremely well or extremely poorly. Some of the key points before and during firing were to ensure that the ammunition belt was clean, in good condition and being fed correctly.
It is often cited that the phrase “Give them whole nine yards” comes from the lengths of the Vickers ammunition belt. This story is examined here.
Drill-purpose and training
- Cat No. C1/BD 0047, List of changes A 7575, BELTS, .303-in., 25-round, D.P. – For Guns, machine, Vickers, D.P.
EMERGENCY BELT FOR VICKERS MACHINE GUN Referred to Committee by D.D.G.M.D.(S.).Report by C.I.S.A.:-With reference to the device for holding a 25-rounds Maxim belt in position on a Vickers .303-inch gun for the purpose of having the gun in the “ready” for “immediate” action when sudden emergency arises. The idea emanated from the Machine Gun School at G.H.Q.B.E.F. It is considered to be of value. It was mentioned as for ordinary use, and also for cavalry, but it seems hardly suitable for the latter service from the point of view of carriage on pack saddlery but this could be tried. One has now been built up here, which seems to meet the case. For convenience in handling and packing, it has been found necessary to introduce a special leather tag for the belt. This is applicable to both fabric and metallic belts. It can be attached to both by means of eyelets. It is necessary to alter a clip of the latter mentioned belt in order to attach the tag. One tag is required at each end of the belt. The holder is made of steel, this being found more suitable than leather or canvas. It is attached to the gun by means of a broad band of leather secured to the left side of the holder. This band passes underneath the gun. A small leather strap is attached to the band, and this is buckled round the mouth of the feed block. Another strap is attached to the end of the band, and is provided with an adjustable extension with a quick release fastening. This is passed through the opening under the feedblock and above the bottom pawls and extends partly over the holder, where it engages with a quick release strap fastened to the left side of the holder. This holds the holder in position over the rolled-up belt. When the gun is required for “action,” the quick release is pulled, the holder pushed off to the left and the belt to the right. The gun being “ready,” it can be fired at once. In case of a “fault in feed,” the feedblock can be removed and left hanging with the belt and holder attached to it to be “cleared” when convenient. Webbing can be used in lieu of leather for the broad band and for the straps, if preferred. It has an advantage over leather in that it will not stretch to the same extent. The device is forwarded herewith together with two belts, one metallic and one fabric loaded with dummies.
Report to D.D.G.M.D.S.:-ACTION TAKEN- A sample of this device was viewed by the Committee, and Committee recommends that the pattern be approved as per sample, and recommends that 100 metallic belts and 100 fabric belts be made up and sent to France; that two metallic belts and two fabric belts be sent to the Machine Gun School at Grantham.MUNITIONS DESIGN COMMITTEE SMALL ARMS SUB-COMMITTEE. Minute (S)10, 12 Feb 1916.
- Cat No. C1/BD 0040, List of changes A 3312 and B 7140, BELTS, .303-in., 250-round, Mk. 1 – For Guns, machine, Vickers
A selection of images from the collection of the Mk I belt:
- Cat No. C1/BD 0041, List of changes 16140 and 25226, BELTS, .303-in., 250-round, Mk. 1, Eyelets, Long
- Cat No. C1/BD 0042, List of changes 16140 and 25226, BELTS, .303-in., 250-round, Mk. 1, Eyelets, Short
- Cat No. C1/BD 0043, BELTS, .303-in., 250-round, Mk. 1, Strips, Long
- Cat No. C1/BD 0044, BELTS, .303-in., 250-round, Mk. 1, Strips, Short
- Cat No. C1/BD 0045, BELTS, .303-in., 250-round, Mk. 1, Tangs
- Cat No. C1/BD 0046, BELTS, .303-in., 250-round, Mk. 1, Webbing
MACHINE GUN BELTS, COTTON INSTEAD OF LINEN.-(Lieut. R. J. WATTS)
Referred to Committee by D.D.G.M.D.(S.).
Four types of belts were submitted by Lieut. Watts.
Report by M.I.D.:-
Belt “A.” – The material is good.
The make-up – with one side flat, and the other crimped is unsatisfactory as regards filling in the belt-filling machine, owing to the pocket opener not entering truly and that the belt is travered when a pocket is not filled. In the latter case the feed is not, therefore, positive.
The pockets are irregular in size, due possibly to being hand stitched.
As regards the waterproofing: this seems fairly good, but a comparison with the Service viscose treatment is not possible owing to the difference in material.
Belt “B.” – This is in a similar condition as regards filling by machine and irregularity in size of pockets.
The material does not afford a good enough hold for the cartridges.
Belt “C.” – This belt is satisfactory with the exceptions that the steel strips will rust quickly and rot the material, and when the first belt with steel strips was submitted it was stated that the in[t]ention was to use them once, and then throw them away, but at present prices this course appears very wasteful. S.W.E. has supplied the trial belts of linen webbing and brass short strips, and this is preferable, provided sufficient material is obtainable, and that the edges of the two strips of webbing are not, in places, parallel one with the other. The latter defect affects the true entry of the pocket opener of the belt-filling machine.
As regards material, it has been found here that a herring-bone make-up is superior as regards frictional hold on the cartridges to plain diagonal weaving as in this belt. I think the former should be insisted upon if possible.
Belt “D” has herring-bone material.
Belt “D.” – The steel strips are objectionable in this as in the “C” belt from a store and life point of view, and the under and over method for the strips is not so simple for manufacture.
Report by S.W.E.:-
This belt would cost, if anything, a little more to make than the Service belt. The iron strips would rust very quickly if exposed to the weather.
Report to D.D.G.M.D.S.:-
The Committee recommends that unless a shortage of existing material as regards belts of present pattern occurs, either as regards webbing or brass, it is not recommended to make any alteration in existing pattersn, which have given full satisfaction. If a substitute is required, the webbing material of Belt “D” is the most satisfactory, but under no conditions is it advisable to adopt steel in place of brass.MUNITIONS DESIGN COMMITTEE SMALL ARMS SUB-COMMITTEE. Minute (S)15, 12 Feb 1916.
Belts, Hand-filling, stripless, .303-in., Mk. III
Hand-filling, Mk. I
- Cat No. C1/BD 6046, List of changes B 7140, BELTS, Hand-filling, stripless, .303-in., Mk. 1 – 250-rounds; for Guns, machine, Vickers
This belt had previously been designated the MK. IV. There are a number of slight variations depending on manufacturer of the belt.
.5-inch Mk I
- Cat No. C2/BG 0010, List of Changes A 7772, BELTS, .5-IN. 100-ROUND, MK. I, For Vickers M.Gs.
- Cat No. C2/BG 0011, List of Changes A 7772, BELTS, .5-IN. 100-ROUND, MK. I, Eyelets, long
- Cat No. C2/BG 0012, List of Changes A 7772, BELTS, .5-IN. 100-ROUND, MK. I, Eyelets, short
- Cat No. C2/BG 0013, List of Changes A 7772, BELTS, .5-IN. 100-ROUND, MK. I, Strips
- Cat No. C2/BG 0014, List of Changes A 7772, BELTS, .5-IN. 100-ROUND, MK. I, Tangs
- Cat No. C2/BG 0015, List of Changes A 7772, BELTS, .5-IN. 100-ROUND, MK. I, Webbing
Machine, Filling Belts, Maxim, .303-inch, Mk. II
The belt-filling machine was used by machine gun sections and one was carried for every two guns in the limbered wagon. It could refill the Mk I ammunition belt with the brass strips. It was not suitable for the stripless belt or the metal links.
As shown in the photos, it could be fixed to the draw-bar between the two portions of the limbered wagon.
To help explain how the belt filling machine works, we have produced a video – available on youtube.
Cartridge positioning tools
- Cat No. C2/BG 0850, List of changes A 7772, MACHINES, POSITIONING CARTRIDGES, VICKERS, .5-IN., M.G., MK. I – Consisting of body, operating lever and plunger each with axis pin with washer and keep pin
- Cat No. C2/BG 0851, List of changes A 7772, MACHINES, POSITIONING CARTRIDGES, VICKERS, .5-IN., M.G., MK. I, Levers, operating
- Cat No. C2/BG 0854, List of changes A 7772, MACHINES, POSITIONING CARTRIDGES, VICKERS, .5-IN., M.G., MK. I, Pins, axis, Lever – With washer and split keep pin (1/16-in. x 1-in.)
- Cat No. C2/BG 0855, List of changes A 7772, MACHINES, POSITIONING CARTRIDGES, VICKERS, .5-IN., M.G., MK. I, Pins, axis, Plunger – With washer and split keep pin (1/16-in. x 1-in.)
.303-inch links for air service
.303-inch links for ground service
Machine Gun Equipment (As amended by G.R.O. 1079 of 13 August 1915)
A metal belt has been introduced for use with machine guns, other than converted Maxim guns, and supplies are shortly expected.The approved proportion of metal and web belts to be held with each machine gun (other than converted Maxim guns) is as follows:-
4 metal belts per gun
12 web belts per gun
Web belts surplus to this scale should, when replaced, be handed over to Ordnance Officers for return to Base. The present equipment of sixteen web belts per gun should be retained for the converted Maxim guns.With each set of four complete metal belts, six 25-round metal belts will be issued for repairs, and for use with the gun in an emergency, each 25-round belt consisting of the spare parts:-
25 clips, 26 pins, 2 tags
Indents for metal belts and spare parts on the above scale should be sent to Ordnance Officers concerned, and issue will be made as supplies become available.General Routine Order 1035 dated 13 August 1915
.30″ Air Service Link (US)
.5″ MG Link, Mk. II
South African 7.62mm R1 Link
For Vickers G.O. items, please go to the K Gun page.
- Cat No. C2/BG 0098, List of changes A 7993, DEFLECTORS, CARTRIDGE CASE, VICKERS .303-IN. M.G., MK. III – Consisting of frame and bag
Belt box carriers and feed reels
To help feed the ammunition freely, reduce the likelihood of stoppages caused by mis-fed belts, and ease the strain on the feed pawls of the feedblock, a carrier was introduced to hold the belt box close to the feedblock of the gun. This also meant that the gun could be easily traversed without the assistance of the No. 2.
Belt box carriers
General Routine Order 797 dated 23 April 1915.
Machine Gun Equipment.
Approval is given for the issue of the following stores for use with machine guns:-
Ammunition box carrier 1 per machine gun Stove pipe attachment 1 per machine gun Hyposcope 1 per machine gun
Indents to complete to above scale should be sent to Ordnance Officers concerned, and issue will be made as supplies become available.
Carrier Ammunition Belt Box for Machine Guns.
The undermentioned stores have been approved in addition to the existing machine gun equipment held on charge, and will be provided at the rate of one per mounting:-
Carrier ammunition belt box. This is attached to the tripod, and supports the ammunition belt box as close as possible to the feed block, thus keeping the box off the ground and exposing as little as possible of the belt in bad weather.
Issues will be made to units of the New Armies as stores become available, but demands for the carriers should be forwarded to D.D.O.S., Woolwich, by S.R. battalions, T.F. units, schools of instruction and 2nd reserve battalions.
(L. 54/M.Guns/1184,A.3)Army Council Instruction 272 dated 28 June 1915.
- Cat No. C1/BD 0136, List of changes B 3200, CARRIERS, BELT BOX, .303-IN. VICKERS M.G., MK. 3 – For Mtg., tripod, .303-in. M.G., Mk. 4B
BELT REEL AXIS FOR MACHINE GUNS
The Comptroller of Munitions Inventions, 24.2.16, forwards to D.D.G.(S.), at the request of the Advisory Committee, for consideration a description and drawings of a Belt Reel Axis for Machine Guns.
The idea is to facilitate the easy and rapid changing of empty reels with a loaded belt wound on.
The reel is similar to the reel already in use on many Maxim guns adapted for firing at hostile aircraft. This is composed of two thin sheet metal discs fixed on a centre boss of mild steel, through which a 5/8-inch diameter hole is bored.
The axis on which the wheel rotates is in two parts, the part nearer the rear of the gun is a continuation of a pin, fixed to a hole through which the elevating joint pin is placed when the gun is normally mounted on the standard tripod. The forward portion is a sliding axis supported in a bearing attached to the barrel casing by a pair of light clips.
When it is desired to change reels, the sliding axis is drawn forward by taking hold of the milled edge collar and drawing it towards the muzzle of the gun. This compresses the light spiral spring which normally holds the axis in the centre of the reel. Each axis is ¾” long, therefore a sliding forward movement of the sliding axis of 1¾” leaves a clearance of ⅛” on each side of the reel between the ends of the axis. The empty reel is withdrawn and a fresh one placed in position, the milled collar is released allowing the spring to force the sliding axis to the rear, thus supporting the reel. On the fixed axis is a collar faced with leather or wood fibre against which the side of the drum bears. This is to prevent the reel rotating when the gun ceases firing, and also steadies the feeding of cartridges whilst the gun is being fired.
It will be noted that no dimensions are given, but the sketch is made with regard to probable “proportionate sizes.”
D.D.G.(S.) forwards to the Munitions Design Committee for consideration.
Reported to D.D.G.M.D.(S.).:-
The Committee recommend:-
(1) That all existing designs of this nature be collected and laid before the Committee.
(2) That a sample of the device at present in use with the Naval Air Service be also produced.
(3) That a sample of light box attached to the gun for high angle fire, as are at present in use with the Motor Maxim Gun Companies, be also produced.
(4) That the general subject be then further considered.MUNITIONS DESIGN COMMITTEE SMALL ARMS SUB-COMMITTEE. Minute (S)27, 4 March 1916.
BELT REEL AXIS FOR MACHINE GUNS
The following samples and drawings are laid before the Committee:-
1. Sample of device at present in use with the Naval Air Service.
2. Samples of light box attached to gun for high-angle fire.
3. Drawing of Maxim .303″ bracket, reel, feed-block.
4. Drawing of Maxim .303″, converted, bracket, reel, feed-block.
5. Drawing of device by Lieut. C.E. Farrant, R.N.
ACTION TAKEN- Reported to D.D.G.M.D.(S). The Committee viewed and discussed the above samples and recommends, in the event of a device being needed for feeding cartridges into the Vickers or Maxim gun for high-angled fire, that the most suitable arrangement is a metal belt box similar in principle to that supplied by Messrs. Vickers to the Royal Flying Corps and motor machine gun batteries which has advantages over the belt reel.MUNITIONS DESIGN COMMITTEE SMALL ARMS SECTION. Minute (S)44., 25 March 1916.
Other pages related to belts and boxes are those of the Spare Parts and Tools:
- Munitions Design Committee, 1916
- Small Arms Committee (1903) 137. Small Arms Packages, Proceedings of the Small Arms Committee, Minute No. 761, 4th May 1903.
- The National Archives, WO 293/1, Army Council Instructions 1914.
- War Office, 1915a; 1940a; 1942, 1944c; 1945a; 1949a
Specific source references can be provided if required.