The Machine Gun Training Centre identifies the Machine Gunner as being a special type of soldier that has
Unusual strength of body and suppleness of muscles; the keen eye and cunning hand; speed of foot, steel nerves, a stout heart – these are the physical requirements. The machine gunner must be possessed, also, of intelligence above the average: his mind must be swift as a bullet in flight: he must be resourceful, audacious, possessed of initiative, capable of endurance to the uttermost.
The training of the Machine Gunner was very extensive and initially covered the elementary subjects of machine gunnery but there were also specialisms in Fire Control and Range-Taking.
In the British Army, the training for individual machine gunners was carried out within the battalions or regiments that they were part of. This would often be with only the other men within their sections and then platoon and company level training as part of bigger exercises, sometimes culminating in brigade or divisional machine gun concentrations. They would be taught by officers and non-commissioned officers who were trained as instructors at the School of Musketry or, latterly, the Machine Gun School.
During the Great War, when the Machine Gun Corps was formed, all machine gunners went through the Machine Gun Training Centre in Lincolnshire. When the Machine Gun Corps was disbanded, individual machine gunner training became part of the function of the battalions and regiments again, with instructors trained at the Machine Gun School. This remained the case until the Divisional (Machine Gun) Battalions were formed prior to the Second World War. The depots of those regiments became Machine Gun Training Centres. Instructors continued to go to the Machine Gun School.
Training the Machine Gunner
For elementary training, the machine gunner would undergo an extended period of training. By 1951, this had developed into the course shown here.
Training the Fire Controller
Any member of the MG Platoon that had to control a number of guns was considered a Fire Controller. They had to do additional training, described here for the 1951 course.
Training the Range-taker
A key member of the MG Platoon was the range-taker. He used the range-finder equipment and had to be trained to do so. The syllabus is here.
The School of Musketry and the Machine Gun School
Initially, machine gun courses were taught at the School of Musketry in Hythe. During the Great War, specific Machine Gun Schools were established in Great Britain and France. The School in the UK continued after the War ended and until it was renamed in the Second World War.
Machine Gun Training Centres
For large-scale training, Machine Gun Training Centres were formed to provide machine gunners with elementary training.
Officer Cadet Training Units
Officers for Machine Gun units in the Second World War we’re trained at these Units.
Whilst medium machine gun training wasn’t something taught at battle schools, they were often involved in the demonstration platoons or other troops.