Temporary fortifications

These include entrenchments, sangers and other ad-hoc emplacements.

The Vickers was used in a variety of roles and by many different units. As such, it was often used in temporary emplacements and as part of temporary defences, including trenches from isolated slit trenches to forming part of a larger, sophisticated trench systems.

The type of emplacement used depended on the type of ground in which it was being formed, the length of time it was intended to stay for and the size of team that would be occupying it. From the Machine Gun Training Centre, 1918, manual.


The choice of position and method of construction of a machine gun emplacement will be influenced by the following three main considerations:-

  • (i.) The position must be sited and built as to give the necessary field of fire, according to the tactical requirements.
  • (ii.) The position and work must be concealed from observation from ground or air, so as to secure surprise fire effect, and to avoid destruction by enemy fire directed against it.
  • (iii.) Protection to gun and personnel is necessary as well as concealment, to prevent their destruction by fire no specifically directed against the position, such as area bombardments and creeping barrages.These three considerations are hard to reconcile, and the choice of position will in most cases be based on a compromise. It is not possible, therefore, to lay down anydefinite rule as to the siting and construction of positions. The following remarks are made as a guide only:-(a) Forward positions.- Owing to the difficulty of constructing or concealing strong works in the forward area, positions will generally have to be chosen and constructed with a view to concealment, and no great elaboration of construction will be possible. Moreover, owing to the likelihood of such positions being surrounded in case of a determined enemy attack, an all-round traverse should be allowed for. A suitable position, therefore, will be an open concealed emplacement … with a shelter slit or tunnel. Such a position should generally be sited away from the trenches, for instance, in a shell hole, to avoid the fire directed on the trenches. It should if possible be approached by tunnels leading from a trench, to avoid overland tracks, which are very conspicuous from the air. If, however, it is impossible to avoid making tracks, these should be led beyond the position occupied to a dummy position, to deceive enemy observation as to their destination.

    By reason of the greater depth and intensity of recent bombardments, covering whole areas and not entrenched lines only, the advantages of siting guns away from organized trenches have been to some extent discounted, while the difficulties in communication and concealment of positions so sited remain.

    (b) Rear defensive positions.- The same remarks as to siting apply to these also. In rear positions, however, it will generally be possible to bring more materials, and construct strong emplacements. There will also in most cases be more cover, such as woods, hedges and ruined buildings in which the work can be concealed.

    It will, therefore, be possible to construct emplacements with splinter or light shell-proof roofs … or with the assistance of the [Royal Engineers] and pioneers to provide a shell-proof concrete emplacement, or an elaborate nest connected by underground passages.

    (c) Positions for fire covering an attack, harassing fire, etc.– Such position are generally prepared for one operation only, and so not need be of such strength as is necessary for defensive positions. They may consist of slits with open platforms for firing, or emplacements with light splinter-proof cover and wide loophole, and in the case of harassing fire the guns may be fired in the open, or under view cover only.

Open emplacement

A pit for the Vickers MG requires enough space for the gun team to operate and to store sufficient ammunition boxes for the team to operate as required by the task.

A very simple emplacement could be dug very quickly to avoid shell fire and aid concealment.

More elaborate pits allowed full 360 degree traverse and access all around the gun while in the pit.

Pits could be indepedent of other trench systems and the below is an example of that. The steps are located so to intefere as little as possible with the gun when it’s operating. It does not have any overhead cover.


When part of a longer trench system, the open emplacement could be a simple construction into the side of an existing trench.

It wasn’t just the gun position that required construction though. There were a number of supporting pits.


For both concealment and speed of construction, converting shell holes into machine gun emplacements became a specific design concept.


It was also possible to use existing cover, such as a hedgerows, for concealment of the communication trench to the gun position, with the gun position itself forward of the cover.


Sangers and above ground positions

If it was not possible to dig into the ground, above-ground emplacements could be built out of local materials or sandbags.

Overhead cover

With the increase in artillery action, the use of shrapnel shell and aeroplane and balloon observation, there was a requirement to develop emplacements with overhead cover.

This started with simple light metal roofs and construction.

And developed into more structured locations. Note the ‘T’ position ready as a stable position for overhead fire.


It was possible to convert open emplacements with simple struts and support.


Whilst most emplacement design was for the direct fire role, specific designs were made for overhead fire.


Tunneled emplacements

With extensive digging and tunnelling, it’s possible to established a position with covered access as part of a tunnelled system. The ‘Champagne Type’ emplacement is one of those originated from the Champagne region of France in the Great War.


A simpler emplacement with a ‘gallery’ access was also established.


Converting existing structures

Buildings could be converted for use as positions.


Multiple gun positions

Following the doctrine that guns should not be used singly, emplacements were designed that encompassed two guns.


With detailed dimension drawings.


These considered the mutual fire multiple positions could provide.

Standard MMG Emplacement from 1931

From 1931, through to the end of the Vickers use, the standard emplacement used as a ‘V’ slit trench with a platform as a square in the arms of the ‘V’. This allowed for the gun to be sunk slightly into the ground and then slits for the Nos. 1 and 2, with the No. 2 alongside the gun and the No. 1 behind it.


For a section position, two of these would be accompanied by trenches for the Section Commander’s Group and the Nos. 3. The Section Commander’s trench is a reversed ‘V’.


If expected to hold a fixed position for some time, these would be connect with crawl trenches, dugouts and alternative gun positions prepared.


These would be accompanied by numerous other two-man or three-man weapons slits for other members of the MG Platoon.

These slits, and the MMG emplacements above, could be constructed in stages depending upon the length of time in the position and the relative protection required.