Machine Gun Section of the British Expeditionary Force (Great War)

The Vickers MG was introduced into the British Army by virtue of List of Changes 16217 in November 1912. At this time, it accompanied the Maxim MG as the only other firearm in the Infantry Battalion’s arsenal alongside the .303-inch Lee-Enfield Rifle, and a few revolvers for Officers. However, until the adoption of the 4-company Infantry Battalion in October 1913, the Machine Guns were held with the Battalion Headquarters while the Machine Gun Officer, Sergeant and Gun Numbers were distributed throughout the Battalion. For more details on the roles of the machine gun section, then visit the manhandling pages on this site.

With the adoption of the 4-company Infantry Battalion, the MGs were allocated to a Machine Gun Section as part of the Battalion which consisted of two subsections containing one gun each.


Transport of the guns was in a limbered wagon and a cart was used for the Small Arms Ammunition for the Section. Each was drawn by two draught horses and the subaltern was provided with a horse for riding.

An increase in the war establishment of the mounted machine gun sections of the Special Reserve and the Territorial Force in October 1914. This resulted in a fully mounted machine gun section.

326. [War Establishment] of Machine Gun Sections, [Special Reserve] and [Territorial Force].

With a view to increasing the mobility of machine gun sections of mounted units of the [Special Reserve] and [Territorial Force], the [War Establishment] of the machine gun sections of these units will be raised to that shown in attached table. (See Appendix XXV.)

(L. 79/6038, S.D. 2.)

Army Council Instruction 326, 30th October 1914.

Other changes introduced in December 1914 saw the machine gun sections of the infantry battalions of the Territorial Force having their Mark III machine gun carriages replaced with limbered wagons.

[Copy of letter sent to G.Os.C.-in.C.]

9/C.F./21 (S.D.2) 4th Dec., 1914

Forwards for information and necessary action the attached W.E. (see Appendix XI), which has been approved, for the machine gun sections of all T.F. infantry battalions.

On receipt of the wagons, limbered, G.S., the carriages, machine gun infantry, maxim .303-inch, and harness, should be returned to [Army Ordnance Depot].

The supply of limbered wagons and harness cannot be made at once and, pending issue, units will continue to use existing equipment.

The horses required should be included in the weekly statement of deficiencies rendered to the Director of Remounts at the [War Office].

Army Council Instruction 179 of 19th December 1914.

With the introduction of the ‘New Armies’ in February 1915, the number of guns within the section was increased from two to four and the numbers of men and equipment were increased accordingly.


When men were transferred to the machine gun section, they were kept on the roll for mess and pay of one of the companies in the battalion. It is not clear whether this was their original company or whether the whole section was allocated to a particular company for administration. It may have varied on a battalion-by-battalion basis. This point was clarified by Army Council Instruction in 1915.

116. Pay and Mess Book of Soldiers serving with the H.Q. and Machine Gun Section of an Infantry Battalion.

Attention having been drawn to a case in which it was proposed that a separate pay and mess book should be kept for soldiers serving with the H.Q. and machine gun section of an infantry battalion; it is notified that soldiers so serving should continue to be attached for pay purposes to one of the companies of the battalion and their names shown in the pay and mess book of that company.

(L. 30/Inf./2110, Accts. 1B)

Army Council Instruction 116, 11th February 1915.