Formed by Royal Warrant on 14 October 1915, then Army Orders 413 and 414 of 22 October 1915, the Machine Gun Corps (MGC) comprised of three branches.

A fourth branch, the Heavy Section Machine Gun Corps was formed later.

Formation and organisation

Authorised by

XII – ROYAL WARRANT.

Machine-Gun Corps

GEORGE R.I.

WHEREAS WE have approved of the formation of a Machine-gun Corps;

OUR WILL AND PLEASURE is that the Machine-gun Corps shall be deemed to be a corps for the purposes of the Army Act.

Given at Our Court at St. James’s, this 14th day of October, 1915, in the 6th year of Our Reign.

By His Majesty’s Command,

KITCHENER

Army Order 413 of 1915. Published on the 22nd October 1915

This initial order of creation was followed up immediately by the detail of how the Corps would be organised and how men would be paid, promoted and otherwise administered.

XIII. Machine-gun Corps

The Machine-gun Corps will be divided into three branches:-

(a.) Cavalry of the Line,

(b.) Infantry of the Line,

(c.) Motor Machine-gun Service.

The Cavalry and Infantry branches will be organized as Brigade Machine-gun Squadrons and Companies, and the Motor Machine-gun Service will be organized as Motor Machine-gun Batteries. The war establishment of a Brigade Machine-gun Company is shown in the appendix to this Order; that of a Brigade Machine-gun Squadron will be issued later.

2. The rates of pay for officers, warrant officers, non-commissioned officers and men of the three branches will be as laid down in the Pay Warrant respectively for –

(a.) Cavalry of the Line.

(b.) Infantry of the Line.

(c.) Royal Field Artillery.

3. Officers with permanent commissions will be seconded, and officers with temporary commissions will be posted, for service with the Machine-gun Corps as required.

The other ranks of the Machine-gun Corps will be composed of warrant officers, non-commissioned officers and men transferred from their present corps to the corresponding branch of the Machine-gun Corps, and also of men enlisted directly into the Machine-gun Corps.

The personnel of Machine-gun Sections in regiments of cavalry and battalions of infantry will, for the present, remain on a regimental basis, and not form part of the Machine-gun Corps.

4. A Machine-gun Record Office will be established at a station which will be notified later.

5. Promotions up to and including the substantive rank of serjeant will be made by the officer commanding the Brigade Machine-gun Squadron or Company on a roster comprising all personnel of the Machine-gun Corps serving in the Brigade Machine-gun Squadron or Company.

6. Promotion to acting colour-serjeant for appointment as acting squadron or company serjeant-major or company quarter-master-serjeant will be made provisionally by the officer commanding the Brigade Machine-gun Squadron or Company.

Promotion to colour-serjeant for appointment as squadron or company serjeant-major, or squadron or company quarter-master-serjeant, will be made by the Officer i/c Machine-gun Records for units at home, and by the 3rd Echelon, General Headquarters, for units with the Expeditionary Forces. Separate rosters for promotion above the rank of serjeant will be kept by the Officer i/c Machine-gun Records, or by the 3rd Echelon, General Headquarters, for the personnel of the Machine-gun Corps of each cavalry or infantry division at home or in the field, respectively.

7. Promotion in the Motor Machine-gun Service up to and included the substantive rank of serjeant and temporary promotion to acting battery serjeant-major will be made by the Officer Commanding a Motor Machine-gun Battery.

Promotion to battery serjeant-major will be made by the Officer i/c Machine-gun Records from a roster kept by him of all serjeants in the Motor Machine-gun Service recommended for promotion by their battery commanders.

8. Army Order 480 of 1914, relating to the Motor Machine-gun Service is hereby cancelled.

Army Order 414 of 1915. Published on the 22nd October 1915.

In addition to this, the Heavy Section Machine Gun Corps was formed on 14 July 1916 by Army Order 253 and it was this unit which was equipped with the first Tanks. The same Army Order also included further information on promotion in the branches.

Published on the 14th July, 1916.

V. Machine-Gun Corps.

With reference to Army Order 414 of 1915, the following additional information is promulgated:-

The promotion of officers in the Machine-Gun Corps will take the form of temporary rank only, and will be carried out on four General Lists, viz.:-

(a) Machine-Gun Corps (Infantry).

(b) Machine-Gun Corps (Cavalry).

(c) Machine-Gun Corps (Heavy).

(d) Machine-Gun Corps (Motor).

In the case of (a), (b) and (d) temporary promotions may be made so far as may be necessary to secure that 50 per cent. of the officers graded as “instructors,” or commanding squadrons, companies and batteries may be granted the rank of major, the remainder will be captains. Similarly 50 per cent. of the establishment of subalterns will be lieutenants.

In the case of (c) a special establishment has been issued.

Officers who attain the temporary rank of major in the Machine-Gun Corps will be eligible for promotion to command a regiment or battalion according to the branch of service to which they belong, and a major who becomes next for promotion to the command of a regiment or battalion in his permanent unit will rejoin it forthwith if recommended for promotion.

Army Order 253 of August 1916.

Army Order 239 of 1917 transferred the Heavy Branch to the Tank Corps.

Also, whereas Infantry and Cavalry of the Line units formed the respective branches of the MGC, the Guards Regiments formed their own Guards MG Battalion which later became the Guards MG Regiment.

The Machine Gun Corps, and all it’s branches, were disbanded in 1922.

Administration

The Army Orders further updated the structure, and pay and promotion administration in Army Order 357 of November 1916.

Published on the 12th October, 1916.

VI. – Machine Gun Corps.- The following information is promulgated:-

1. The Machine Gun Corps is divided into four branches:-

Machine Gun Corps (Infantry).

Machine Gun Corps (Cavalry).

Machine Gun Corps (Heavy).

Machine Gun Corps (Motors).

The infantry and heavy branches are organized in companies, the cavalry branch in squadrons, and the motor branch in batteries.

2. The rates of pay for officers, warrant officers, non-commissioned officers and men of the Machine Gun Corps are as laid down in the Pay Warrant (as amended by Army Orders 150 and 219 of 1916), viz., for the infantry branch as for the Infantry of the line, cavalry branch as for Cavalry of the line, and for the heavy and motor branches as for the Royal Field Artillery.

3. Officers are obtained as follows:-

(i) By the granting of commissions to select cadets from the Machine Gun Corps Cadet Battalions.

(ii) From officers seconded from the Regular, Territorial and Reserve Forces, and New Armies.

4. An establishment of officers by ranks has been approved. This establishment is increased proportionately when new units of the Machine Gun Corps are formed.

5. The promotion of all officers serving with the corps will take the form of temporary promotion, and will be carried out on general lists. There will be one general list for each of the four branches of the Corps.

Temporary promotion granted to officers as above will only hold good as long as they are serving with the Machine Gun Corps.

All promotions are regulated by the War Office, and are governed by the approved establishments referred to in paragraph 4 above. They are given to qualified officers by selection, having due regard to seniority in the Corps.

Officers seconded or transferred to the Machine Gun Corps take seniority in the Corps in accordance with the rank they hold at the date of their being seconded or transferred.

Any acting or temporary rank which has been granted to an officer while holding a specific position, will automatically lapse on appointment to the Machine Gun Corps.

Officer promoted in the Corps take seniority in accordance with the date of such promotion.

The acting rank of captain will be granted to lieutenants or second-lieutenants when acting in command of units under the same conditions as those governing the grant of such rank to officers temporarily performing the duties of a higher rank in units of other branches of the service.

6. The other ranks of the Machine Gun Corps are composed of warrant officers, non-commissioned officers and men transferred from other units to the Machine Gun Corps, and also of men appointed to the Corps on being called up from Class “B,” Army Reserve.

All non-commissioned officers and men are on probation until passed by a Board at the Machine Gun Training Centre. Non-commissioned officers and men are transferred in their permanent rank.

Promotion may be made by commanders of units up to and including the rank of serjeant.

The promotion of serjeants and upwards is regulated by the officer i/c Machine Gun Corps Records, and is governed and carried out in accordance with an approved establishment on a general list of the branch of the Machine Gun Corps to which the non-commissioned officers concerned belong.

Promotion to acting colour-serjeant for appointment as acting company, squadron or battery-serjeant major or acting company, squadron or battery quartermaster-serjeant may be made provisionally by officers commanding units.

7. Army Order 414 of 1915, and 131 and 253 of 1916 are cancelled, except as regards Establishments.

Army Order 357, of November 1916.

Further orders for the administration of officers were issued in September 1917.

Published on the 14th September, 1917

II.- Officers for Machine-Gun Corps.- With reference to Army Orders 253 and 357 of 1916.

1. After 1st November, 1917, officers for the Machine-Gun Corps will be obtained by the seconding or transfer of selected officers of the Regular Army, Special Reserve, Territorial Force, and Service Battalions.

2. Officers will not be eligible for seconding or transfer to the branches of the Machine-Gun Corps unless they have completed at least three months’ commissioned service in the cavalry or infantry.

3. Warrant officers and non-commissioned officers of the Machine-Gun Corps who have been recommended and selected for commissions, will be posted to an Officer Cadet Squadron or Battalion for training as cavalry or infantry officers, and on the termination of their course, if recommended for a commission, will be gazetted as officers of a cavalry or infantry regiment. Their names will, however, be noted for service with the Machine-Gun Corps, and, if recommended after three months’ commissioned service, they will be seconded or transferred to the Machine-Gun Corps (Cavalry) or Machine-Gun Corps (Infantry) according to the arm to which they may belong.

4. All officers selected for the Machine-Gun Corps will undergo a course of instruction at a Machine-Gun Training Centre.

5. All applications for seconding or transfer to the Machine-Gun Corps will be forwarded through the usual channel to the War Office.

Army Order 297 of September 1917.

There were also additional changes to the promotion of warrant officers and non-commissioned officers in Army Order 365 of 1917.

Promotion of Warrant Officers and Non-commissioned Officers in Machine-Gun Corps.- Army Order 357 of 1916. The third, fourth and fifth sub-paragraphs of paragraph 6 are cancelled and the following substituted

Promotion up to an included the rank of corporal may be made by unit commanders.

The promotion to the rank of serjeant and upwards is regulated by the Officer i/c Machine-Gun Corps Records, and is governed and carried out in accordance with –

(a.) Army Council Instructions dealing with the promotion of warrant officers and non-commissioned officers.

(b.) An approved establishment on a general list of the branch of the Machine-Gun Corps to which the non-commissioned officers concerned belong.

Promotion to acting rank above the rank of corporal may be made provisionally by officers commanding units.

Army Order 365 of December 1917.

There were more changes to the administration and promotion of officers in March 1918.

Officers for Machine-Gun Corps.- Army Order 297 of 1917 will be amended as follows:-

I. For paragraph 2 substitute

2. (a) An officer will not be eligible for seconding or transfer to any branch of the Machine-Gun Corps unless he has completed at least three months’ commissioned service in the field and is recommended by the Battalion (or Regimental) and Brigade Commanders in the Expeditionary Force in which he is serving.

Applications by subaltern officers serving at home, who have completed at least three months’ commissioned service in the field, may be submitted for consideration on their merits.

(b) The Commander-in-Chief of an Expeditionary Force is empowered to authorize the temporary appointment of any officer of suitable rank to such command in the Machine-Gun Corps as he may deem him to be fitted to hold. The Secretary, War Office (M.S. 1 (K)), will be at once notified of any such appointment, and a duplicate copy of this report will be forwarded at the same time addressed to the Secretary, War Office (A.G.9).

II. Paragraph 3, lines 9 and 10, for “after three months’ commissioned service” substitute “as specified in paragraph 2(a).”

Army Order 80 of March 1918.

A full revision of the administration of the Machine Gun Corps took place in June 1918 with Army Order 175.

Machine Gun Corps.- 1. The Machine Gun Corps is divided into three branches:-

Machine Gun Corps (Infantry).

Machine Gun Corps (Cavalry).

Machine Gun Corps (Motors).

The Infantry Branch is organized into battalions, the Cavalry Branch in squadrons, and the Motor Branch in batteries.

2. The rates of pay for officers, warrant officers, non-commissioned officers and men of the Machine Gun Corps are laid down in the Pay Warrant, viz., for Infantry Branch as for Infantry of the Line, Cavalry Branch as for Cavalry of the Line, Motor Branch as for Royal Field Artillery (see also Army Orders 150 and 219 of 1916).

3. (a) Officers are obtained in accordance with Army Order 297 of 1917, as amended by Army Order 80 of 1918.

(b) On transfer or seconding to the Machine Gun Corps officers will be placed on the general list of the branch of the Corps which they join, their precedence being determined by the date of their substantive rank in the Army.

On transfer or seconding to the Machine Gun Corps the date of an officer’s substantive rank only will be shown in the Army List, and when given temporary promotion in the Corps the date of such promotion only will be shown.

4. An establishment of officers by ranks has been approved, which is increased proportionately when new units of the Machine Gun Corps are formed.

5. The promotion of all officers serving with the corps will take the form of temportary promotion, and will be carried out on general lists. There will be one general list for each of the three branches of the corps.

Promotion to temporary rank in the various branches of the crops will be by seniority, provided that those next for promotion are recommended as being in every way fitted for promotion to the next higher rank, but promotion to the rank of temporary lieutenant-colonel in the corps, and the appointment to second-in-command of a battalion, will be by selection, having due regard to the claims of the senior majors in the corps.

Promotion to the rank of temporary lieutenant-colonel will be carried out by the War Office, due consideration being given to reports on individual officers which are from time to time received from General Officers Commanding-in-Chief of the Expeditionary Forces and General Officers Commanding at home.

The names of officers selected for accelerated promotion may be forwarded in special cases where an officer, owing to special qualifications, or long and distinguished service with the Machine Gun Corps, &c., is specially recommended for purposes of command.

General Officers Commanding-in-Chief of the Expeditionary Forces will be asked from time to time if they recommend for promotion to the next higher rank such officers as are next on the lists for promotion.

In the case of officers serving at home the General Officer Commanding Machine Gun (Infantry) Training Centre and the Officer Commanding Machine Gun (Cavalry) Training Centre will be asked for their recommendations.

Should an officer of the Machine Gun Corps not be recommended for promotion on the account of inexperience in the branch of the Corps in which he is serving, the reason for his supersession will be explained to him, and he will be considered for promotion as soon as he can be recommended.

When an officer is considered unfit for promotion to the next higher rank the full reasons for his supersession must be given, and the adverse report must be communicated to him and be initialled by the officer concerned. If this is not possible a copy of the report will be sent to the officer, and a certificate that this has been done will be attached to the correspondence.

Acting rank may be given to officers of the Machine Gun Corps as follows:-

(i) When commanding a group, battalion, or wing at the Machine Gun (Infantry) Training Centre and when commanding a squadron at the Machine Gun (Cavalry) Training Centre.

(ii) When commanding a company or squadron in the field.

(iii) When holding an appointment, within the Machine Gun Corps, which carries higher rank than the temporary rank which he holds in the Machine Gun Corps, and which is not covered by (i) and (ii) above.

Temporary promotion granted to officers as above will only hold good as long as they are serving with the Machine Gun Corps.

6. (a.) The other ranks of the Machine Gun Corps are composed of warrant officers, non-commissioned officers and men transferred from other units to the Machine Gun Corps, and also men appointed to the corps on being called up from Army Reserve, Class “B.”

Non-commissioned officers and men are on probation until passed by a standing board at the Machine Gun Training Centre.

(b.) The promotion and lance appointments of other ranks will be as for the infantry and the cavalry.

(c.) Machine Gun Corps (Cavalry) and (Motors) will each be treated as one battalion for purposes of promotion.

7. Army Orders 357 of 1916, and 365 of 1917, are hereby cancelled.

Army Order 175 of June 1918.

Officers for Machine-Gun Corps.– Army Order 297 of 1917 will be amended as follows:-

In paragraph 2 (a), as published in Army Order 80 of 1918, after “serving” in line 6 add

“, except in the case of non-commissioned officers and privates belonging to the various branches of the Machine-Gun Corps who are selected for admission to an Officer Cadet Battalion. These cadets, if recommended by the officer commanding their Cadet Battalion, as in every way suitable, will be given temporary commissions direct into the Machine-Gun Corps.”

Army Order 272 of September 1918.

Strength

The strength of the Machine Gun Corps was recorded from January, 1915, until March, 1920, on a month-by-month basis.

At its peak, in December, 1918, it consisted of 9,707 officers and 149,089 other ranks – a total of 158,796 all ranks. A more detailed analysis is available on the MGC strength page.


Legacy

After it was disbanded in 1922, the veterans of the MGC were largely transferred to other units as machine gunners or infantry replacements.

The Machine Gun Corps Old Comrades’ Association was formed and published its first copy of the Emma Gee magazine in 1936.  A copy of the first draft of the magazine, marked up by Lt Col G S Hutchison is available to download.

There has never been a full history of the MGC written; however, the VMGCRA incorporates the MGC History Project that aims to complete this task.

Boy David
The Boy David memorial to the Machine Gun Corps on Hyde Park Corner, London.

Further reading

For more information on the Machine Gun Corps, you may wish to visit the VMGCRA Archive and Library.

Individual soldier research can be sought through a friend of the VMGCRA, Graham Sacker.


Sources

  • Becke, 1934
  • The National Archives, WO 123/57, Army Orders 1915.
  • The National Archives, WO 123/58, Army Orders 1916.
  • The National Archives, WO 123/59, Army Orders 1917.
  • The National Archives, WO 123/60, Army Orders 1918.
  • War Office, 1922