Prior to the start of the Great War, Lieutenant GD Melville of the 2nd 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 Captain AG Lyttelton of the 2nd 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 Great War
During the Great War, the dispositions of Battalions were distributed as follows:
The 1st Battalion was part of the 84th Brigade, attached to the 28th Division.
The Division had no existence before the outbreak of the Great war.The Division assembled and mobilized at Hursley, Pitt Hill, and Magdalen Hill Camps (around Winchester) during December, 1914, and January, 1915. The 12 infantry battalions, of which it was composed, came from India (10 from nine different stations), Singapore (1), and Egypt (1); the brigades were formed at Winchester. The mounted troops included a cavalry squadron from an existing yeomanry unit, and a cyclist company, which was formed at Winchester. Of the field artillery brigades: in August, 1914, III. was in India and XXXI. was at Sheffield, whilst CXLVI. was only formed at Winchester. The field companies, signal company, field ambulances, and train, were territorial force units.
The 28th Division embarked at Southampton on the 15th-18th January, 1915, disembarked at Le Havre between the 16th-19th January, and concentrated between Bailleul and Hazebrouck by the 22nd January.
The 28th Division served on the Western Front in France and Belgium until the middle of October, 1915. It embarked for Egypt in October and November, and, on arrival, it encamped in the neighbourhood of Alexandria. On the 17th November, order were received for the division to embark for Salonika as soon as possible. Embarkation began on the 20th November, but it was not until the 4th January, 1916, that all the units had completed disembarkation at Salonika. (The XXXI. and CXLVI. Brigades, R.F.A., proceeded direct from Marseille to Salonika, sailing on the 17th November; these two brigades arrived: XXXI. on 27th November, and CXLVI. on the 2nd December.)Becke, 1934
As a unit of the 28th Infantry Division, it will have taken part in the following battles and engagements.
|BATTLES OF YPRES|
|22 and 23 April||Battle of Gravenstafel Ridge [V. Corps, Second Army].|
|24 April to 04 May||Battle of St. Julien [V. Corps, Second Army, until 28/4; then Plumer’s Force].|
|08 to 13 May||Battle of Frezenberg Ridge [V. Corps, Second Army].|
|24 and 25 May||Battle of Bellewaarde Ridge [V. Corps, Second Army].|
|27 to 05 October||Battle of Loos [I. Corps, First Army].|
|At noon on the 19th October, the division was ordered to be ready to entrain in 48 hours for an unknown destination. On 21st October, the division began to entrain for Marseille, and on 24th October the first units sailed from that port. Units began to reach Alexandria on 29th October, and the division (less XXXI. and CXLVI. Bdes., R.F.A.) reached Egypt by 22nd November. The 28th Division was then sent from Alexandria at Salonika on the 4th January, 1916.|
The 2nd Battalion was part of the 3rd Brigade, attached to the 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.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]|
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 9th Battalion was part of the 58th Brigade, attached to the 19th (Western) Division.
This New Army Division has no existence before the outbreak of the Great War. Army Order No. 285 of the 11th September 1914 authorized the further addition of six divisions (15th to 20th) and Army Troops to the Regular Army. This augmentation formed the Second New Army, and during September 1914 the 19th (Western) Division began to assemble near Bulford.
At first the infantry brigades were camped at Tidworth, Ludgershall, and Grately. In December, the brigades went into comfortable billets at Andover and Whitchurch, Basingstoke, and Weston-Super-Mare. The early discomforts and difficulties were similar to those which were experienced by all the divisions of the New Armies, consequently a few D.P. rifles were received with enthusiasm.
By March 1915 the Division was clothed in khaki and a great advance had been made in training. During March the Division concentrated around Tidworth to begin its final preparation for the field, and regimental training was completed by mid-May. On the 7th June the 19th Division first operated together as a complete division, and between the 12th and 18th June the 19th Division Artillery carried out its first gun-practice. On Wednesday, the 23rd June, the 19th Division was inspected by H.M. The King; and, at the end of the parade, His Majesty said to the General-Officer-Commanding: “Your Division is as good as anything I have seen in the New Army.”
On the 11th July the advanced party of the 19th Division left for France, on the 16th the Division began to move, and by the 21st July it had crossed to France and completed its concentration near St. Omer. For the remainder of the Great War the 19th Division served on the Western Front in France and Belgium and was engaged in the following operations:-Becke, 1934
As a unit of the 19th (Western) Infantry Division, it will have taken part in the following battles and engagements.
|25 September to 02 October||Battle of Loos [Indian Corps, First Army].|
|25 September||Action of Pietre|
It’s MG Section was likely to have been sent to Grantham for retraining and subsequently transferred into the 58th Bde. MG Coy. which disembarked at le Havre on 09 February 1816 and joined the Division on 14 February 1916.
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.