Coldstream Guards

Prior to the start of the Great War, Lieutenant GKF Smith of the 1st Battalion was one of the first members of the British Army to attend, and qualify from, a Vickers Gun course run by the School of Musketry at Hythe between 25 October and 15 November 1913. He was followed between 29 January and 20 February 1914 by Lieutenant NWH Legge-Bourke of the 3rd Battalion on the 53rd Qualifying Course at Hythe. Their attendance implies this regiment was one of the earliest to receive the Vickers machine gun.

The Coldstream Guards consisted of Infantry Battalions that would have had an MG Section as part of its Battalion Headquarters.


The Great War

These weapons would have been brigaded when the Machine Gun Corps was formed in 1915. The guns, and crews, would have been formed into a Machine Gun Company.

During the Great War, the dispositions of Battalions were as follows:

1st

At the outbreak of War, the 1st Battalion was part of the 1st (Guards) Brigade, 1st Division.

On the outbreak of War, the 1st Division was quartered at Aldershot, and it mobilized there. The division crossed to France between the 11th and 15th August, concentrated around le Nouvion, and began to move forward on the 21st August.Throughout the War, the 1st Division served on the Western Front, and it was engaged in the following operations:

Becke, 1934

As a unit of the 1st (Guards) Brigade, it took part in the following actions.

1914
23 and 24 August Battle of Mons [I Corps]
24 August to 5 September RETREAT FROM MONS [I Corps]
27 August Etreux (1st Guards Bde)
6 to 9 September Battle of the Marne [I Corps]
13 to 26 September BATTLE OF THE AISNE [I Corps]
13 September Passage of the Aisne
20 September Actions on the Aisne Heights
26 September Action of Chivy
19 October to 15 November BATTLE OF YPRES [I Corps]
21 to 24 October Battle of Langemark [I Corps]
29 to 31 October Battle of Gheluvelt [I Corps]
11 November Battle of Nonne Bosschen [I Corps]
20 to 21 December Defence of Givenchy
1915
25 January Givenchy
29 January Cuinchy
9 May BATTLE OF AUBERS RIDGE [I Corps, First Army]
Attack at Rue du Bois

As a battalion of the 1st Division, their reserve battalions (in this case the 2nd and 3rd Guards Reserve Battalions) were among the first units to receive the Vickers machine gun in 1914; however, it was only one gun per battalion at this point, the rest being Maxims. It’s likely that the battalion overseas, meaning this battalion, would have already had the Vickers.

337. Issue of Vickers Machine Guns to Reserve Cavalry and Infantry.

Ref. L* 104/Gen. No./3592 (M.T. 2) of 5th Oct., 1914, and also regarding the forthcoming issue of Vickers Machine Guns to reserve units of cavalry and reserve battalions of the 1st Infantry Division, G.Os.C.-in-C. are informed that, if possible, those officers who are at present undergoing a Vickers machine gun course at the School of Musketry, Hythe, should not be drafted to the front until they have given at least one month’s instruction to selected personnel of their unit.

2. One Vickers machine gun will be issued to the above-mentioned regiments and battalions immediately.

3. Attention is invited to the advisability of withholding from drafts all officers and N.C.Os. who undergo courses until sufficient time has elapsed for them to impart their knowledge to the necessary personnel.

(L. 104/Gen. No./3595, M.T. 2)

Army Council Instruction 337, 31st October 1914.

In July, 1915, His Majesty approved the formation of a Guards Division, and in August, 1915, the Guards Division was formed in France, the units, on arrival, being concentrated around Lumbres (near St. Omer).

Becke, 1934

It was transferred to the 2nd Guards Brigade, Guards Division, on 23 August, 1915 (arriving on 25 August, 1915). It’s MG Section was transferred between 01 September and 19 September, 1915, to form the 2nd Guards Bde. MG Coy.

2nd

At the outbreak of War, the 2nd Battalion was part of the 4th (Guards) Brigade, attached 2nd Division.

On the outbreak of War the 2nd Division (less the 4th (Guards) Brigade) in the London District) was quartered at Aldershot, and mobilized there (4th (Guards) Brigade mobilizing at Windsor and in London). The division crossed to France between the 11th and 16th August, concentrated around Wassigny, Etreux, etc., and began to moved forward on the 21st August.

Becke, 1934

As part of the 2nd Division, it will have taken part in the following operations:-

1914
23 and 24 AugustBattle of Mons [I. Corps].
24 August to 05 SeptemberRETREAT FROM MONS [I. Corps].
01 SeptemberVillers Cotterets.
06 to 09 SeptemberBattle of the Marnes [I. Corps].
13 to 26 SeptemberBATTLE OF THE AISNES [I. Corps].
13 SeptemberPassage of the Aisne.
20 SeptemberActions on the Aisne Heights.
19 October to 20 NovemberBATTLES OF YPRES [I. Corps].
21 to 24 OctoberBattle of Langemarck [I. Corps].
29 to 31 OctoberBattle of Gheluvet [I. Corps].
11 NovemberBattle of Nonne Bosschen [I. Corps].
1915
01 FebruaryCuinchy
06 FebruaryCuinchy
15 to 20 MayBattle of Festubert [I. Corps, First Army].
25 September to 04 OctoberBattle of Loos [I. Corps, First Army]
13 to 19 OctoberHohenzollern Redoubt [I. Corps, First Army].

In July, 1915, His Majesty approved the formation of a Guards Division, and in August, 1915, the Guards Division was formed in France, the units, on arrival, being concentrated around Lumbres (near St. Omer).

Becke, 1934

On 19 August, 1915, the 4th (Guards) Brigade was transferred to the Guards Division and renumbered 1st Guards Brigade on 20 August, 1915. It’s MG Section was transferred between 01 September and 19 September, 1915, to form the 1st Guards Bde. MG Coy..

3rd

At the outbreak of War, the 3rd Battalion was part of the 4th (Guards) Brigade, attached 2nd Division.

On the outbreak of War the 2nd Division (less the 4th (Guards) Brigade) in the London District) was quartered at Aldershot, and mobilized there (4th (Guards) Brigade mobilizing at Windsor and in London). The division crossed to France between the 11th and 16th August, concentrated around Wassigny, Etreux, etc., and began to moved forward on the 21st August.

Becke, 1934

As part of the 2nd Division, it will have taken part in the following operations:-

1914
23 and 24 AugustBattle of Mons [I. Corps].
24 August to 05 SeptemberRETREAT FROM MONS [I. Corps].
01 SeptemberVillers Cotterets.
06 to 09 SeptemberBattle of the Marnes [I. Corps].
13 to 26 SeptemberBATTLE OF THE AISNES [I. Corps].
13 SeptemberPassage of the Aisne.
20 SeptemberActions on the Aisne Heights.
19 October to 20 NovemberBATTLES OF YPRES [I. Corps].
21 to 24 OctoberBattle of Langemarck [I. Corps].
29 to 31 OctoberBattle of Gheluvet [I. Corps].
11 NovemberBattle of Nonne Bosschen [I. Corps].
1915
01 FebruaryCuinchy
06 FebruaryCuinchy
15 to 20 MayBattle of Festubert [I. Corps, First Army].
25 September to 04 OctoberBattle of Loos [I. Corps, First Army]
13 to 19 OctoberHohenzollern Redoubt [I. Corps, First Army].

In July, 1915, His Majesty approved the formation of a Guards Division, and in August, 1915, the Guards Division was formed in France, the units, on arrival, being concentrated around Lumbres (near St. Omer).

Becke, 1934

On 19 August, 1915, the 4th (Guards) Brigade was transferred to the Guards Division and renumbered 1st Guards Brigade on 20 August, 1915. It’s MG Section was transferred between 01 September and 19 September, 1915, to form the 1st Guards Bde. MG Coy..

4th

The 4th Battalion was the Pioneer Battalion of the Guards Division. It joined from England on 18 August, 1915. The MG Companies of this Division were formed between 01 and 19 September, 1915. It is likely that the Vickers MGs will have been replaced by Lewis Guns shortly after this time.


Inter-war Period

In 1922, the Machine Gun Corps and Guards MG Regiment were disbanded and the guns returned to the Infantry Battalion as a Machine Gun Platoon and then formed as a Machine Gun Company in the early 1930s.


Second World War

This remained until the formation of Divisional Machine Gun Battalions in 1936 where guns were brigaded once again.


Post-Second World War

After the Second World War, the MG assets reverted to MG Platoons within support companies of Infantry Battalions.


Sources

  • Becke, 1934
  • School of Musketry, Register of the School of Musketry 1911 to 1924 (Hythe: Corps of Small Arms and Machine Gun Schools; 1924).
  • The National Archives, WO 293/1, Army Council Instructions 1914.