The No. 1 was responsible for the gun and was the senior ‘operator’ of the section. He was responsible for the carriage of the tripod and the placement of it within the gun position. When it became available, he also carried the Dial Sight.
The No. 1 sighted and fired the gun.
With the mechanisation of the MG Battalion from 1943, the No. 1 also performed the role of sub-section commander.
1912 – 1938
No. 1, is the firer. He will personally clean and look after his gun and ensure that the mechanism is working smoothly. On going into action he will carry the tripod and place it in a suitable position and assist No. 2 in mounting the gun. He repeats all orders received, observes his own fire, and makes necessary alterations of elevation and direction.
The normal equipment for a No. 1 during the Great War period. His personal equipment consists of his Service Dress uniform, puttees, boots and helmet, with 1914 Pattern Leather Equipment (the main type used by Machine Gunners) and his Small Box Respirator and gas hoods. As a No. 1, he is equipped with a .455 Webley Mk. VI revolver. He would normally be carrying the tripod into action, possibly with an ammunition box or two.
The following portrayal is a No. 1 equipped based on operations during the Somme in Summer, 1916. One of the main issues during this period was ensuring dry ammunition belts would be available for refilling once in position. Therefore, spare belts were slung ‘bandolier-style’ across the body.
In this particular scenario, based on Instructor’s Notes from the Machine Gun School, the Gun is being carried wrapped in a groundsheet to protect it from mud and water and is being carried between the No. 1 and No. 2. Already attached to the gun is the Auxilliary Mounting for emergency use. The spare parts case is being carried attached to the gun, by the strap looping through the crosspiece handles. A 25-round length of ammunition belt was also carried ready to be fired. The Cleaning Rod and spare barrel are also part of this bundle, which ensured that the gun and immediate equipment could be available straight away.
A minor variation to this set up included the No. 1 carrying a 1914 pattern ammunition pouch, with an additional 25-round ammunition belt. It is also mentioned that the gun could be carried using two rifle slings, over the shoulders and down the back, but this wasn’t preferred due to the risk of mud.
In January 1916, the War Office issued an Army Council Instruction withdrawing the use of rifles by the Nos. 1 and 2 of the Vickers and Maxim Machine Gun detachments: A.C.I. 1916/Jan/224.
It has been decided to withdraw the rifles and ammunition from Nos. 1 and 2 of all Vickers and Maxim Machine Gun detachments and to reduce the number of rounds carried by Nos. 3 and 4 to 50 rounds per man. This reduction will be carried out forthwith.
It was followed in June 1916 with a similar instruction for Hotchkiss Machine Gun detachments and, in the same Instruction, the Nos. 1 and 2 of Machine Gun detachments of Machine Gun Squadrons and Cavalry Regiments were permitted to be armed with revolvers (Army Council Instruction 1916/1265). It was followed in July by Army Council Instruction 1916/1382:
1939 – 1942
This Airlanding Bn No. 1 has his 1937 Pattern equipment, Airborne (Denison) Smock and Airborne Mk. II Helmet. As he is in the midst of training, he is wearing denim trousers without gaiters. The photographs show two different ways of carrying the tripod, as well the dial sight. He is not carrying his personal weapon at this time but would have been armed with a Lee-Enfield No. 4 Mk. I (or Mk. I*) Rifle, Mk. 5 Sten Machine Carbine, Colt .45-inch Automatic pistol or Mk. IV .38-inch Revolver.
1943 – 1968
In the 1951 Manual, the No. 1 is identified as carrying the following equipment on a ‘long carry’: