The Divisional (Machine Gun) Battalions were established as part of the mobilisation of the British Army in the mid to late 1930s. They were formed under the same principles as the Brigade Machine Gun Companies of the Great War, which eventually became the Machine Gun Corps. The theory was that Medium Machine Guns were best as part of a Divisional or Brigade asset and the Infantry Battalion would have lighter weapons, with few exceptions (for example, Chindits, Airlanding Battalions, and Parachute Battalions).
Machine Gun Battalions were formed by converting regular Infantry Battalions to the new establishment. It was originally intended that a large number of Battalions would be converted; however, it ended up being just a select few Regiments, with, in some cases, only a few Battalions of those Regiments being converted.
The Regiments that had Battalions converted were:
- Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders
- Cheshire Regiment
- Gloucestershire Regiment
- Gordon Highlanders
- Kensington Regiment
- Manchester Regiment
- Middlesex Regiment
- Royal Northumberland Fusiliers
The broad structure of the Battalions is shown below. Detailed breakdown of the Machine Gun Platoons is also available.
This organisation was later changed to include a Heavy Mortar Company, of four Platoons, firing the 4.2-inch Mortar.
Whilst the Machine Gun Battalion was the organisation that they started and ended the Second World War with, there was a deviation to the Divisional (Support) Battalion that incorporated a Brigade-focussed structure with three Companies, each with machine gun, mortar and light anti-aircraft assets.
The brigading of machine guns stopped once the Second World War ended and the machine guns were, once again, returned to Infantry Battalions as a Machine Gun Platoon.