This page provides some information on uniforms and clothing used by Machine Gunners. It is not intended to provide technical information on the uniforms but more about how they were used and worn by the Machine Gunners themselves.

Specific Machine Gunner Equipment

Cape, Machine Gunners

Also an item covered by Load Carrying Equipment, this was worn to provide protection of the Machine Gunner from the hot and heavy weapon. It is rarely seen in period photographs to show the extent of its use but often referred to, including up to the 1939 Small Arms Training manual.

Army Order 164 of May 1916 inserted an authorisation of 1 cape per gun into the clothing for the Territorial Force to be held by units having machine guns.

Clothing, Machine Gunners.

Special capes and gloves for the use of machine gunners for lifting and carrying the gun when hot are approved on the scale of two capes and two pairs of gloves per machine gun detachment.

Indents should be sent to Ordnance Officers concerned.

General Routine Order 502 dated 1 January 1915.

A version was also manufactured by Australia.

Gloves, Machine Gunners.

A pair of protective gloves of heat-resistant woollen cloth, possibly including asbestos, with a leather pad on the palm, and a slit to allow for the trigger finger to protrude and fire while wearing.

Army Order 164 of May 1916 inserted an authorisation of 1 pair per gun into the clothing for the Territorial Force to be held by units having machine guns.

Clothing, Machine Gunners.

Special capes and gloves for the use of machine gunners for lifting and carrying the gun when hot are approved on the scale of two capes and two pairs of gloves per machine gun detachment.

Indents should be sent to Ordnance Officers concerned.

General Routine Order 502 dated 1 January 1915.
P1080106

It’s believed that the Gloves in the VMGCRA collection are the only surviving examples.

Masks, Machine Gunners

A simple cloth mask with four holes: Two for the eyes and two to loop over the ears to hold in place. It then has a simple cloth tape to secure around the head or to the hat or helmet being worn.

Masks for Machine Gunners.

A special pattern mask, for attachment to service dress caps, has been approved for issue to machine gunners. These masks will be issued on a scale of 16 per Regiment or Cavalry or Battalion of Infantry, as supplies become available.

Indents should be submitted to Ordnance Officers concerned.

General Routine Order 786 dated 19 April 1915.
P1080105

The example of the Mask in the VMGCRA collection has been identified as belonging to Private Victor Walter Room who joined the Machine Gun Corps from the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. He survived the Great War and was discharged from the Corps on 19 May 1920.

General items

This section includes some more information on the items of uniform that would have been worn by all soldiers, including machine gunners.

Identity discs (commonly known as ‘dog tags’)

Introduced through Army Order 287 of September 1916, the identify discs were issued in pairs: an upper disc in green (“Disc, identity, No. 1, green) and a lower disc in red (“Disc, identity, No. 2, red). The upper was an irregular octagon and was issued with six inches of cord and the lowed disc then attached at approximately 1 1/4 inches below. Both were marked with the soldier’s service number, initials, surname, unit and religion.

Army Order 287, September 1916.

Army Order 324 of October 1916 clarified the purpose of the discs.

XV. Identity Discs.-

With reference to Army Order 287 of 1916, in case of the death of an officer or soldier in the field, the lower disc, known as “Disc, identity, No. 2, red,” will be removed and disposed of in the same manner as heretofore.

The upper disc, known as Disc, identity, No. 1, green,” will not be removed but will be buried with the body.

Consequently, in cases where a body can be reached and identified but cannot be brought back for burial, the lower disc will be removed, to ensure proper notification of death, whilst the upper disc will remain as a safeguard against loss of identity when it becomes possible to bury.

The two discs will be worn round the neck, as directed in Army Order 287 of 1916, by all officers and soldiers on active service, and neglect to wear the discs will be regarded as a breach of discipline.

Army Order 324 of October 1916.

Sources

  • General Routine Orders, courtesy of the late Joe Sweeney.
  • The National Archives, WO 123/58, Army Orders 1916.