When the Vickers Mk I machine gun was first introduced into British Service, it was carried in the Wagon, Limbered, General Service. This carried two guns and, therefore, the entire complement of the Machine Gun Section of the Infantry Battalion and Cavalry Regiment at the outbreak of the Great War.
With the replacement of the Maxim machine gun, the Limbered Wagon replaced the Mk III machine gun carriage. The main difference between the two was the Mk III carriage could actually be fired from and mounted the gun in a ready position. It wasn’t until some units were deploying to France with the Expeditionary Force that they had their Mk III carriages exchanged for limbered wagons.
[Copy of letter sent to G.Os.C.-in.C.]
9/C.F./21 (S.D.2) 4th Dec., 1914
Forwards for information and necessary action the attached W.E. (see Appendix XI), which has been approved, for the machine gun sections of all T.F. infantry battalions.
On receipt of the wagons, limbered, G.S., the carriages, machine gun infantry, maxim .303-inch, and harness, should be returned to [Army Ordnance Depot].
The supply of limbered wagons and harness cannot be made at once and, pending issue, units will continue to use existing equipment.
The horses required should be included in the weekly statement of deficiencies rendered to the Director of Remounts at the [War Office].Army Council Instruction 179 of 19th December 1914.
Use of the Wagon, Limbered, G.S., in 1914
The wagons were loaded differently depending on whether the guns were part of the Infantry Battalion or Cavalry Regiment. Initially, one gun and all of its equipment was carried in each portion of the limber. The section also had a limbered wagon for small arms ammunition, which carried the reserve ammunition for the section.
FORE, MARK I. and HIND, MARK II.
The wagon consists of fore and hind portions, connected by a perch, mounted on wheels, 2nd class C, No. 198 A. A certain number of wagons have been issued with 2nd class C, No. 43, and some with No. 198 wheels.
The fore portion consists of a framework, fitted with side and front boards and a hinged tail board, a limber hook, No. 27, a 2nd class C axletree, No. 141, and the following draught fittings:-
- Pole, draught, No. 17, Mark III.
- Bar supporting draught pole, No. 3, Mark II.
- Swingletrees, No. 13, Mark I. The inside is divided transversely by a removable partition, and a locker – fitted to carry spare parts, &c., as shown in the table below – is attached outside the near side board. Two clips for the carriage of a rifle in canvas case are fitted to the front board and two on the off side board.The hind portion is generally similar to the fore, but it has no locker, or clips for rifles, is fitted with a removable perch (in place of fittings for draught), a folding seat at the back and a brake which is applied from the rear and acts on the front of the wheels.Both portions are provided with a canvas cover.
The wagon is fitted to carry the following spare and wagon equipment stores.
Grease, lubricating (in grease box) lb. 3 3 Off side Spanner, No. 184 (Note 1) 1 Blocks, brake, field and transport (spare) 2 Locker, near side Board, inventory, wood 1 Collar, adjusting, 2nd class C, capped wheels (spare) 1 Screwdriver, G.S., 6-inch 1 Hammer, claw, 16 or 14-oz. 1 Pincers, carpenters’ (pair) 1 Pins, linch, 2nd class C, capped wheels (spare) 1 Spanner, adjustable 11-inch 1 Washer, drag, 2nd class C, capped wheels (spare) 1 Brush, water carriage 1 Near side. Buckets, water, G.S. leather 2 Under. Cordage, spun yarn, hemp, tarred, 3 thread (lb.) 5 Near side. Ropes, drag, light, G.S. (pair) 1 Off side. Valise, horse shoes (1) As convenient.
Note 1 – Component of wagon.- Wagons provided with No. 43 wheels carry a No. 93 spanner.
The following are the dimensions, weights, &c.:-
Fore and hind portions limbered up.- ft. ins. Length over all – with pole 22 10 Length over all – without pole 13 9 Height 4 8 Width 6 4 Track 5 2 Distance between axletrees 7 10½ Diameter of turning circle 25 8½ Angle of lock 85.75 degrees Floor space, each portion 4ft. by 3ft. 4ins. Fore portion- ft. ins. Length – with pole 13 11 Length – without pole 4 10 Hind portion- Length – with perch 9 1 Length – without perch 5 4 Wheel, 2nd class C, No. 198 A., Mark I.- Diameter 4 8 Weights without cover and spare parts cwts. qrs. lbs. Fore portion 5 2 0 Hind portion 5 0 3 Tonnage for shipment Tons. Fore and hind portions without wheels, pole and perch 4.201 Wheels, No. 198 A. (4) 1.458 Pole .032 Perch .017 Boat transport- Dimensions 13ft. 5in. by 6ft. 4in. by 4ft. 8in. Tonnage 9.913
The covers, both “Fore” and “Hind,” are of waterproof canvas, 77½ inches by 69½ inches; they are secured to the wagon by 2 lines on each side and straps at the corners.
Weight, each 9lb. 11ozs.
Wheels, 2nd class “C,” No. 198A
The wheel is 4ft. 8ins. in diameter, has a manganese bronze nave with a removable pipe box and a 2½-inch steel tire. The nave consists of two flanges which are connected by 12 bolts; the pipe box passes through the flanges and is secured by a small bolt; a dust cap is screwed to the outer flange. The outer end of each spoke fits into a steel socket secured to the felloe.
Weight 1cwt. 14lb.
The Nos. 198 and 206 wheels are generally similar to the above. The No. 200 wheel has plain steel flanges and no dust cap. The No. 43 wheel differs principally from the above in being of double spoke construction and has a 3-inch tyre.
Any of these wheels may be used with the wagon, limbered, G.S.
STORES CARRIED IN G.S. LIMBERED WAGONS FOR CAVALRY MACHINE GUN SECTION.
FORE PORTION Bar, carrying Maxim gun on tripod 1 1 10 Along top of ammunition belt boxes Bags, sand, common 15 8 14 Belts, ammunition, Maxim .303-inch, 250 rounds (in belt boxes (filled)) 14 271 0 As shown Belts, ammunition, Maxim .303-inch, 250 rounds (spare (empty)) 2 4 2 Box, dubbing, 1 lb. (filled) 1 1 8 Box, spare parts and implements, Vickers, .303-inch (filled) (a) 1 20 0 As shown Cans (filled), lubricating No. 9 (b) 2 1 10 In case as shown. Cans (filled), half-pint (c) 2 0 14 Cases, can, .303-inch tripod mountings 1 2 3 As shown. Condensers, steam 1 2 4 Flannelette (yds.) 3 0 2 Rolled in “Linen old” as shown. Guns, Maxim and Vickers, protectors, muzzle 1 0 3 In case with gun. Guns, Vickers, .303-inch, in leather case, with cleaning road and spare gun barrel 1 70 As shown (casing filled with water). Guns, Vickers, plugs, cork complete 1 0 1 In case with gun. Linen, old (lb.) ½ 0 8 See above. Mallets, heel peg 1 2 8 Mounting, tripod .303-inch Maxim gun, Mark IV, complete, with hoods, protecting 1 59 0 In leather case as shown. Muzzle attachment for ball firing 1 1 7 In case with gun. Pins, joint, spare, crosshead 1 0 10 With Mounting as above. Pins, joint, spare, elevating gear 1 0 5 Plugs, belt, Maxim, .303-inch (set) 1 0 4 In case with gun. Reflectors, mirror, machine gun, .303-inch 1 0 1 Rolled in “Linen old” as above. Rifles of drivers 2 17 5 HIND PORTION Axes, picks, head, 4½ lbs. 1 4 8 In bottom of rear of wagon loose. Axes, picks, helves, 36-inch, ferruled 1 3 4 Blankets, saddle (d) 2 10 8 Rolled with saddle luggage. Cartridges, small arm, ball, 303-inch, cordite (boxes) (e)(+) 4 299 0 In 4 boxes in front bed of wagon. Hook, bill 1 2 0 Loose under harness. Luggage, saddle, with appurtenances, &c., shown in Cavalry F.S. Manual 1 43 4 Rolled in blanket under pack-saddlery. Machine, belt-filling, in chest (f) 1 42 0 Right front under pack-saddlery. Packsaddlery, machine gun, .303-inch (sets)(g)(*) 1 214 0 Stripped as shown. Shovel, G.S. 1 3 8 With pick in bottom of wagon (rear part). Surcingle, leather (h) 1 0 15 Strapped round luggage saddle. Valise, horseshoe, with 3 sets of shoes (and nails) 1 20 0 In bottom of wagon. Load 1,110 6 G.S. limbered wagon equipped with spare parts and wagon equipment stores 1,280 5 Total loaded G.S. limbered wagon 2,390 11 = 22 cwt. (about).
(a) 10 yards of spare cord for mekometers are carried in addition to the usual stores, in this box (in one of the 2 wagons).
(b) For mineral oil 1 Per gun, packing in one case, can, .303-inch For lubricating G.S. oil 1 (c) For lubricating G.S. oil 1 For turpentine 1
Method of carrying. Remove dividing board and place diagonally across rear part of rear portion of wagon. Place gun in centre of fore portion, from front to rear. Eleven belt boxes on one side (end on to gun case), with tripod in hood (legs flat on floor) and spare part box as a wedge between it and and the gun case on the other side, prevent all lateral motion without detriment to speed in handling the gun. Remainder of boxes (3) at end of tripod legs. Heavier end of gun and tripod to rear of wagon.
(d) For off horses.
(e) Fore part.
(f) Only carried by one of the two wagons. The box is carried loose in the rear portion, and is clamped to the perch for use.
(g) Gun packsaddle in fore part, 2 ammunition pack saddles in rear part. See footnote.
(h) For the off lead horse.
(*) A set of machine gun packsaddlery consists of 1 gun packsaddle and 2 ammunition packsaddles. Each ammunition packsaddle has two racks, and each rack will accommodate three belt boxes.
The M.G. packsaddlery is normally carried in the limbered wagons. when required for use it will be carried by such of the draught horses of the vehicle, alloted to the machine gun section as may be found most convenient.
(+) One of the two wagons will carry and extra box of S.A.A.
STORES CARRIED IN G.S. LIMBERED WAGONS FOR INFANTRY MACHINE GUN SECTION.
FORE PORTION Axes, pick, head 1 4 8 Across rear of wagons on top of belt boxes Axes, pick, helve, 36-inch, ferruled 1 3 4 Bags, sand, common 15 8 14 Off hind portion in bundle as shown. Bar, carrying Maxim gun on tripod 1 1 10 On top of gun case. Belts, ammunition, Maxim, .303-inch (in boxes) (a) 14 271 0 As shown. Box, spare parts and implements, Vickers (filled) (b) 1 20 0 Off fore portion under belt boxes. Cans, lubricating, No. 9 (c) 2 1 10 Off hind corner. Cans, half-pint (d) 2 – 14 Case, cans, .303-inch, tripod mountings 1 2 3 Clinometer, field (in case) 1 2 8 Under sandbags, off hind corner. Condenser, steam 1 2 4 Drum, oil, 3 galls, with bung (containing spare supply of water) 1 37 8 As shown. Flannelette 6 – 4 With clinometer. Guns, Maxim and Vickers, protectors, muzzle 1 – 3 In case with gun. Guns, Vickers, .303-inch, complete (in leather case, with cleaning rod and spare gun barrel) 1 70 – In case as shown (casing filled with water) Guns, Vickers, plug, cork complete 1 – 1 Hooks, bill 1 2 0 Between gun case and near side of wagon. Lamps, siege, candle with stand (in box) 2 12 10 In box as shown. Linen, old (for cleaning) (lbs.) 1 1 0 With flannelette round clinometer. Mallet, heel peg 1 2 8 Mountings, tripod, .303-inch Maxim gun, Mark IV, complete (with hood, protecting) 1 59 0 As shown. Mountings, tripod, pins, joint, crosshead 1 – 10 Mountings, tripod, pins, joint, elevating gear 1 – 5 Muzzle attachment, for ball firing 1 1 7 In case with gun. Plug, belt, Maxim, .303-inch 1 – 4 In case with gun. Reflector, mirror, M.G., .303-inch 1 – 1 Rolled in with clinometer. Rifle of driver 1 8 15¾ Shovel, G.S. 1 3 8 As shown. HIND PORTION Axes, pick, head 1 4 8 Loose in bottom of wagon. Axes, pick, helve 1 3 4 Bags, sand, common 15 8 14 In near fore portion under lamps siege. Bar, carrying Maxim gun on Tripod 1 1 10 In bed of wagon. Belts, ammunition, Maxim, .303-inch (in boxes) (a) 14 271 0 10 along off side bed, 4 on top off fore corner. Blanket, saddle (b) 1 5 4 Round saddle. Box, spare parts and implements, Vickers (filled) 1 20 0 In middle of bed of wagon as shown. Box, dubbing, 1 lb. (filled) 1 1 8 Cans, lubricating, No. 9 (c) 2 1 10 In cases under seat. Cans, half-pint (d) 2 – 14 Cases, cans, .303-inch, tripod mountings 1 2 3 As above. Clinometer, field (in case) 1 2 8 In corner next siege lamp, as shown. Condenser, steam 1 2 4 Drum, oil, 3-galls., with bung (containing spare supply of water) 1 37 8 Under seat. Guns, Maxim and Vickers, protector, muzzle 1 – 3 In case with gun. Fore and aft along bed of wagon in middle. Guns, Vickers, .303-inch, complete (in leather case, with cleaning rod and spare gun barrel) 1 70 0 Guns, Vickers, plug, cork, complete 1 – 0 Hook, bill 1 2 0 In bed of wagon. Lamps, siege, candle with stand (in box) 2 12 10 In near fore corner as shown. Luggage, saddle, with appurtenances, &c., as shown in Infantry F.S. Manual 1 43 4 In blanket, saddle, as shown. Machine, filling belts, Maxim, .303-inch, Mark II (in chest) (f) 1 42 0 In off hind corner. Mountings, tripod, .303-inch, Maxim Gun, Mark IV, complete (with hood, protecting) 1 59 0 Athwart floor at rear of wagon. Mountings, tripod, pins, joint, crosshead 1 – 10 Mountings, tripod, pins, joint, elevating gear 1 – 5 Muzzle attachment for ball firing 1 1 7 Reflector, Mirror, M.G., .303-inch 1 – 1 In case with gun. Shovel, G.S. 1 3 8 Load 1,114 12 (Kits as shown.) G.S. Limbered wagon equipped with spare parts and wagon equipment stores 1,272 15 Total loaded G.S. limbered wagon. 2,387 11 = 22-cwt. (about).
N.B.- In addition to above, the packs of Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4 of Infantry machine gun detachments will be carried in the hind portion of the limbered wagon.
(a) Each belt contains 250 rounds, S.A.A.
(b) Fore Contains in addition to usual stores, 20 yards of spare cord for mekometers.
(b) Hind For the off-horse.
(c) One for mineral oil, one for oil, lubricating, G.S., packed in the case, can .303-inch.
(d) One for oil lubricating, G.S.; one for turpentine, packed in the case, can, .303-inch.
(f) The chest is carried loose in the vehicle, and the machine is clamped to the perch for use. 4 spare springs, action lever amd 2 spare springs, pawl, are also in the chest.
Use of the Wagon, Limbered, G.S., in 1917
In the Infantry Machine Gun Companies at least (it’s not clear what happened in the machine gun squadrons) they carried two guns in the fore portion by 1917 (the ‘fighting’ portion) and all of the reserve stores and equipment in the rear portion.
The diagrams above reference ‘unfitted limbers only’. Suggested as early as 3rd December 1915, by Lieutenant General Maxwell, the Adjutant General on behalf of the Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force, there was a variant of the limbered wagon that was specifically fitted to carry the Vickers machine gun. It was fitted with partitions and brackets to suit the gun and equipment. It meant that the transit chests and cases were unnecessary. With design issues and manufacturing difficulties, they didn’t become available until after August 1916.
Layouts from 1921 use of the G.S. Limbered Wagon
Layouts from 1925 use of the G.S. Limbered Wagon
It continued in use until it was replaced by mechanised transport, such as the Truck 15-cwt and other lorries. This was the mid-1930s in the British Army, yet the Australian Army continued to use it until the start of the Second World War for their home service troops.
Layouts from 1939 use of the G.S Limbered Wagon by Australian Military Forces
This is the example held in the VMGCRA collection. It is only the hind portion but is believed to be the only hind portion in existence in the United Kingdom and possibly worldwide. It is an ambition of the VMGCRA to reproduce the fore portion.
- Australian Military Forces (1939). Small Arms Training, Volume I, Pamphlet No. 7 .303-inch Machine Gun, Part IIA – Training. Melbourne: Australian Military Forces.
- AWM, 1918a
- General Staff, War Office (1917). Infantry Machine Gun Company. Limber Drill. Grantham: Machine Gun Training Centre.
- The National Archive, WO 293/1, Army Council Instructions 1914.
- War Office (1914). Handbook for the .303-in. Vickers Machine Gun (Magazine Rifle Chamber) Mounted on Tripod Mounting, Mark IV. London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office.
- War Office, 1921a
- War Office, 1925a