Prior to the start of the Great War, Captain BB Dickson of the 1st Bn 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.
The Great War
During the Great War, the dispositions of Battalions were distributed as follows:
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.Becke, 1934
As a unit of the 1st Infantry Division, it will have taken part in the following battles and engagements.
|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|
|9 May||BATTLE OF AUBERS RIDGE [I Corps, First Army]|
|Attack at Rue du Bois|
|25 September to 1 October||Battle of Loos [IV Corps, First Army]|
|5 to 8 October|
|13 October||Hohenzollern Redoubt [IV Corps, First Army]|
The 2nd Battalion started the Great War as a member of the 24th Brigade, 8th Infantry Division.
The division had no existence before the outbreak of War. The first units to arrive (from Malta) assembled on Baddesley Common (near Southampton), and on 2nd October, 1914, Divisional H.Q. and available units moved to Hursley Park (near Winchester), where concentration was effected. The arrival of the 2/E. Lanc. R. on the 30th October completed the division. The 12 infantry battalions had all been brought back from various overseas stations, viz: – India (3), S. Africa (1), Aden (1), Egypt (3), Malta (3), and Bermuda (1). The mounted troops included an existing yeomanry regiment and a cyclist company, which was formed on mobilization. The Field Artillery was made up by one Horse Artillery Bde. (3 batteries), and the two Field Artillery Bdes., which still remained at home. The two Heavy Batteries were new units formed at Woolwich after the outbreak of War, and the Field Companies came from Cairo and Gibraltar. The three Field Ambulances of the Wessex Division (T.F.) were used; and of the four A.S.C. Companies, one (41) came from Cairo and the other three were new formations.The division embarked at Southampton on the 4th and 5th November, and disembarked at Havre on the 6th and 7th; it began entraining for the Front on the 8th November, and completed its assembly around Merville by the 12th.
Throughout the remainder of the War the 8th Division served on the Western Front in France and Belgium, and was engaged in the following operations:-Becke, 1934
|18 December||Neuve Chapelle (Moated Grange Attack) [IV. Corps].|
|10 to 13 March||Battle of Neuve Chapelle [IV. Corps, First Army].|
|09 May||BATTLE OF AUBERS RIDGE|
|Attack at Fromelles [IV. Corps, First Army].|
|25 September||Bois Grenier [III. Corps, First Army].|
The 24th Brigade transferred to the 23rd Division on 18 October 1915.
As a reserve battalion of the 1st Division, it was one of 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.
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.
The 6th Battalion was part of the 54th Brigade, attached to the 18th (Eastern) Division.
This New Army Division had no existence before the outbreak of the Great War. Army Order No. 382 of the 11th September 1914 authorized the further addition of six divisions (15th to 20th) and Army Troops to the Regular Army (see Appendix I). This augmentation formed the Second New Army, and during September 1914 the 18th (Eastern) Division began to assemble around Colchester.
In the earliest days of the formation, trains brought large bodies of recruits who knew no words of command and were accompanied by no officers or non-commissioned-officers. In consequence the detrainment of a party was apt to resemble the arrival of a football excursion crowd. The officer who met one of these trains could only tell the mob to follow him, and then lead the men to the particular encampment which was to accommodate them. The food was sufficient, but coarse; there were no canteens, the tents were crowded, the nights were chilly, there were never enough blankets to go round. Nevertheless in those tedious early days all ranks made the best of everything. At first the men had to march and drill in the civilian suits and boots which they wore on joining; any men whose boots became soleless had to do slow marching on grass. After some time blue uniforms and forage caps arrived, and later on sufficient khaki uniforms were received to allow at least one suit to be issued to each platoon. But the training was progressive and never slackened; and in April 1915 the Division, in full marching order, covering 62 miles in 48 hours.
It was weeks after the infantry had received their rifles before any guns were issued to the divisional artillery. At first the only armament was limited to one improvised wooden gun per battery, and up to November 1914 no battery had more than a score of horses. Nevertheless the difficulties and deficiencies were overcome.
Between the 4th-12th May the Division moved to Salisbury Plain and divisional headquarters opened at Codford. On the 24th June the 18th Division was inspected by H.M. the King; and in July the Division was informed that it was to be prepared to embark for the Western Front. On the 24th July the move to France began, headquarters started on the 25th, and on the 30th July the Division completed its concentration near Flesselles (south of Doullens) in the Third Army area. The Division was placed under X Corps. For the remainder of the Great War the 18th Division served on the Western Front in France and Belgium.Becke, 1934
It’s MG Section will have been disbanded on the attachment of 54th MG Company, which took place on 13 February 1916, machine gunners may have been absorbed by the 54th MG Company, or trained on the Lewis Gun, which now equipped the Infantry Battalion.
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
Upon the disbandment of Divisional Machine Gun Battalions in the post-WW2 restructure of the British Army, the Vickers Machine Gun assets reverted to individual Battalions as part of the Support Company as a Machine Gun Platoon.
- 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.