The horse had always been a major part of the Armed Forces in any country and Cavalry was often the dicciding factor in winning or losing a battle before 1916. Horses were therefore readily available to soldiers and were an obvious solution to the problems that faced the men of Machine Gun units when it came to transporting Vickers (or Maxim) guns.

The opening paragraph of the Packsaddlery section in the April, 1918 manual for the Vickers states:

It is desirable that animals for machine gun packsaddlery purposes should be carefully selected. Those with abnormally broad hips, or with the points of the hips very prominent, should not be chosen.

This was because ther length of the gun and the tripod made it highly likely that any brisk movement would mean, if the horse had those features mentioned above, that the gun or tripod would rub on the hips of the horse or jab into them thus making it very uncomfortable and maybe causing injury.
There were two methods of carrying the Vickers gun. They were:

  • 1. When used with Cavalry Machine Gun Squadrons
  • 2. When used with Infantry Machine Gun Companies.

The equipment used in making up the packsaddlery for both types consisted of some General Service items, some items special to Machine Gun Units and some items that were special to that type of MG unit only.

In the 1918 manual, there are load tables for both the Cavalry and Infantry types of packsaddlery. Below are the Load Tables for the Infantry arm.

Gun Horse

Near SidelbsOff Sidelbs
1 rack, boxes, ammunition in belt, Infantry pattern6Vickers’ M.G. (with water chamber filled)44
containing — Auxiliary Light Tripod8

3 belt boxes (filled, 750 round ammunition)

63Hanger, Gun, Sling9
Shovel (in cap)5Condenser bag and tube3
Case, Horseshoe (filled)Spare barrel and cleaning rod7
  Nosebag (with feed)8
            Total77½            Total79
Grand Total      156½ lbs

Tripod Horse

Near SidelbsOff Sidelbs
Tripod, Mark IV, with dial plate531 rack, boxes, ammunition in belt, Infantry pattern6
Hanger, Tripod, Sling8containing — 
Bottle, water (filled)213 belt boxes (filled, 750 round ammunition)63
Pick and Helve8Shovel (in cap)5
  Nosebag (filled)8
  Case, horseshoe (filled)
          Total90          Total85½
Top Load
Frame, Wood, Mark II, with box, spare parts and tools implements. Weight about 5lbs.
Grand Total     180½ lbs
InfantryAmmunitionHorse

Ammunition Horse

Near SidelbsOff Sidelbs
1 rack, belt boxes, ammunition in belt, Infantry pattern61 rack, belt boxes, ammunition in belt, Infantry pattern6
containing — containing — 
3 belt boxes (filled, 750 rounds ammunition)633 belt boxes (filled, 750 rounds ammunition)63
          Total69          Total69
Top Load
Nosebag, with feed               8 lbs
Case, Horseshoe (filled)          3½ lbs
Total          11½ lbs
Grand Total     149½ lbs

Although the transportation of the Vickers gun is mainly thought to of happened in the First World War, it was still an appendix to the Small Arms Training, Volume I, Pamphlet No. 7 Machine Gun manual of 1939. In this manual it only mentions the Infantry method of carrying the gunand it is quite different to the First War method. Rather than using three horses, the WW2 method only has two, a gun horse and an ammunition horse.

In the VMGCRA, we have a set of artillery pack-saddlery that has been repurposed for use with the Vickers machine gun.


Sources