Developed in the 1930s, the Bren light machine gun replaced the Lewis and saw service alongside the Vickers until 1968 when the Vickers was declared obsolete. The Bren continued in British service until 2002.
The purpose of this page is to provide a place for the information that the VMGCRA has collated on the Bren. It is a widely regarded weapon and there is no longer a dedicated website on the internet. Rich Fisher had authored ‘www.lightmachinegun.org.uk’ in the early 2000s yet discontinued this to focus on the Vickers MG.
The principal variants of the Bren light machine gun were the Mark I, II and III. These were in .303-inch and the later post-war L4 was a 7.62mm conversion that remained in service until 2002.
A drill-purpose conversion of .303-inch guns that was introduced in the 1970s for, principally, cadet units that still have the .303-inch guns rather than the 7.62mm L4 that was in service with the Army.
The VMGCRA holds an example of this variant for its demonstrations and research. We have a detailed video of it available.
The Bren is a relatively simple weapon to learn and understand. The Small Arms Training manual for it was first introduced in 1939, with Pamphlet No. 4 in the series being dedicated to it. Following the lesson structure, we have put together a number of videos that detail the stripping and assembling of the gun. These are part of our #BrenIn60Seconds series and each is less than a minute.
Army Council Instructions
610. Mounting, Tripod, Bren, .303-in., Mark I. (September, 1939)
630. Bren Gun – Filling of Magazines. (September, 1939).
- In an emergency when Bren gun magazines are kept full loaded for any length of time, the magazine spring is liable to deteriorate, and the magazines may eventually become unserviceable. In future when it is necessary for magazines to remain filled for some considerable time, they will be loaded with 20 rounds only. The ammunition necessary to load the magazines to full capacity will be kept readily available.
- With magazines of certain manufacture, stoppages have occurred owing to a failure to feed the first round when the magazines are fully loaded. Magazines which are subject to this failure will be filled with 28 rounds only.
658. Magazines, Bren, .303-in., Machine Gun, Mark I – Filling of. (5 October 1939).
In no circumstances will these magazines be filled to the full 30 rounds. The maximum number of rounds to be filled until further instructions are issued will be 28.
665. Guns, Machine, Bren .303-in. Mark I – Polishing of Certain Parts to Ensure Proper Functioning (October 1939).
684. Mountings, Tripod, Bren, .303-in., Machine-Gun, Mark I – Brackets, A.A.
743. Care and Cleaning – Guns, Machine, Bren, .303-inch, Mark I (9 November 1939).
230. Mops, Rod, Cleaning, Cylinder, Bren .303-inch M.G., Mark I (March 1940).
361. Grease, Graphited (R.D. 1179). For use with Bren and Besa Guns. (March 1940).
386. Painting of Small Arms and Accessories.
743. Grease, graphited (R.D. 1179). For use with Bren and Besa Guns (July 1940).
1000. Grease, graphited (R.D. 1179). For use with Bren and Besa Guns (August 1940).
1053. Guns, Machine, Bren, .303-inch – Faults in Feed.
Spare parts and tools
The photos in this section were provided by Tom Ready many years ago for the lightmachinegun website. They provide a timeline of different combinations of the spares and tools carried for the Bren. Scroll through the slideshow for variations.
The VMGCRA operates a Patreon page that allows us to share additional material with subscribers. This additional information includes:
- The full minutes and memoranda of trials and development (link to index).
- Machinery 1938: The manufacture of the Bren Light Machine Gun
- Pamphlet for the Bren (ZGB) Light Machine Gun and Tripod Mounting (Draft)
- Bren light machine gun (Dutch)
- Inspection and Overhaul Standards (Provisional) For Guns, Machine, Bren, .303-in., Mks. 1, 2, 2/1 and 3
- Bren light machine gun G 1098
- Identification List for Guns, Machine, Bren .303-in., Mk. I & Mk. II (1944)
- Instructions for Armourers, Bren Supplement
- The National Archives, WO 293/24 Army Council Instructions 1939.
- The National Archives, WO 293/25 Army Council Instructions 1940.
- The National Archives, WO 293/27 Army Council Instructions 1942 Part I.