Serial Numbers

The serial number of a gun was allocated by the manufacturer to individually identify the gun so that a record could be kept of it throughout its life and service. Generally the number is stamped or inscribed on the top of the water jacket (or cooling jacket in the case of aircraft guns). Other places noticed on some examples are on the base of the cross-piece, the bottom slide, the top cover (front and back) and the mounting blocks.

 

The two serial numbers which are marked as being on feedblocks, were in fact on the same feedblock which indicates that the feedblock was first part of the ‘K’ series guns but when mass refurbishment of guns took place, it was reallocated to a gun with serial number ‘8304’ which would indicate it was an Australian-manufactured gun.

Tracing serial numbers

In order to identify the approximate period of the manufacture of a gun, it is possible to use the serial number prefix (i.e. the letter). This may also give an indication of the location of manufacture – although some other information is needed to provide certainty. The following table will be of use.

Serial Number prefixes
Prefix Type Period Location Built
A Mk. I 1916 – 1918 Vickers Armstrongs Erith, Kent, UK
Mk. II 1918 – 1919 Vickers Armstrongs Crayford, Kent, UK
Mk. V RH

Mk. V LH

1935 – 1941 Small Arms Factory, Lithgow, Australia
M1918 1917 – 1918 Colt PFA Mfg Co, Hartford, Conneticut, USA
M/939 1939 Fabrico de Braco de Prata, Portugal
Commercial 1932 – 1933 Vickers Armstrongs Crayford, Kent, UK
B Mk. I 1917 – 1918 Vickers Armstrongs Erith, Kent, UK
Mk. I 1944 – 1945 Small Arms Factory, Lithgow, Australia
Commercial 1933 – 1934 Vickers Armstrongs Crayford, Kent, UK
C Mk. I 1916 – 1918 Vickers Armstrongs Crayford, Kent, UK
Commercial 1935 – 1936 Vickers Armstrongs Crayford, Kent, UK
D Mk. I 1918 Vickers Armstrongs Crayford, Kent, UK
Commercial 1936 – 1937 Vickers Armstrongs Crayford, Kent, UK
E Commercial 1937 – 1938 Vickers Armstrongs Crayford, Kent, UK
ET Mk. I c.1942 Vickers Armstrongs Crayford, Kent, UK
F Mk. I 1918 Vickers Armstrongs Crayford, Kent, UK
Commercial 1939 – Vickers Armstrongs Crayford, Kent, UK
G Mk. I 1918 Vickers Armstrongs Crayford, Kent, UK
.5-inch Mk. I

.5-inch Mk. II

.5-inch Mk. IV

.5-inch Mk. V

1932 – 1940 Vickers Armstrongs Crayford, Kent, UK
H Mk. I 1918 – 1919 Vickers Armstrongs Erith, Kent, UK
IK Mk. I c.1942 Vickers Armstrongs Crayford, Kent, UK
K Mk. I 1918 – 1919 Vickers Armstrongs Erith, Kent, UK
L Mk. I 1911 – 1916 Vickers Armstrongs Erith, Kent, UK
N M/930 1930 Fabrico de Braco de Prata, Portugal
Nepalese Special 1936 Colt PFA Mfg Co, Hartford, Conneticut, USA
S .5-inch Mk. III 1932 – 1945 Vickers Armstrongs Crayford, Kent, UK
T Mk. XXI 1941 – 1944 Small Arms Factory, Lithgow, Australia
V Mk. I 1939 – 1944 Vickers Armstrongs Crayford, Kent, UK
W Mk. I 1939 – 1944 Vickers Armstrongs Crayford, Kent, UK
M1915 1915 – 1918 Colt PFA Mfg Co, Hartford, Conneticut, USA
Mk. I 1933 – 1945 Small Arms Factory, Lithgow, Australia
Commercial 1920 – 1931 Vickers Armstrongs Erith, Kent, UK

Production dates

  • No prefix
    • Mk. I
      • Small Arms Factory, Lithgow, Australia
        • 1 to 697: 3 May 1929 to 2 September 1939
        • 697 to 1432: 3 September 1939 to 30 June 1940
        • 1433 to 3223: 1 July 1940 to 30 June 1941
        • 3223 to 5971: 1 July 1941 to 30 June 1942
        • 5972 to 8650: 1 July 1942 to 30 June 1943
        • 8651 to 9999: 1 July 1943 to 30 June 1944
  • B prefix
    • Mk I
      • Small Arms Factory, Lithgow, Australia
        • B1 to B783: 1 July 1943 to 30 June 1944
        • B784 to B2299: 1 July 1944 to 30 June 1945
        • Note: Skennerton cites the last serial number as B2344 (and total production as 12,344) which may be because a number of Mk XXI guns were reconfigured as Mk. I guns and assigned ‘B’ prefix serial numbers.

It is very rare to be able to trace the service history of a specific gun. The serial numbers were rarely recorded at all, yet some may come up in war diaries or unit records – this is by far the exception rather than the rule.


Sources