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 Side lbs Off Side lbs
1 rack, boxes, ammunition in belt, Infantry pattern 6 Vickers’ M.G. (with water chamber filled) 44
containing — Auxiliary Light Tripod 8

3 belt boxes (filled, 750 round ammunition)

63 Hanger, Gun, Sling 9
Shovel (in cap) 5 Condenser bag and tube 3
Case, Horseshoe (filled) Spare barrel and cleaning rod 7
Nosebag (with feed) 8
            Total 77½             Total 79
Grand Total      156½ lbs

Tripod Horse

Near Side lbs Off Side lbs
Tripod, Mark IV, with dial plate 53 1 rack, boxes, ammunition in belt, Infantry pattern 6
Hanger, Tripod, Sling 8 containing —
Bottle, water (filled) 21 3 belt boxes (filled, 750 round ammunition) 63
Pick and Helve 8 Shovel (in cap) 5
Nosebag (filled) 8
Case, horseshoe (filled)
          Total 90           Total 85½
Top Load
Frame, Wood, Mark II, with box, spare parts and tools implements. Weight about 5lbs.
Grand Total     180½ lbs

InfantryAmmunitionHorse

Ammunition Horse

Near Side lbs Off Side lbs
1 rack, belt boxes, ammunition in belt, Infantry pattern 6 1 rack, belt boxes, ammunition in belt, Infantry pattern 6
containing — containing —
3 belt boxes (filled, 750 rounds ammunition) 63 3 belt boxes (filled, 750 rounds ammunition) 63
          Total 69           Total 69
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.


Sources