The Great War

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During the Great War, the Australian Army used the Vickers Mk. I built in Britain and supplied to the Australian forces.

In the same format as the British Army, the Machine Guns were originally part of the Infantry Battalions. They were subsequently formed into Machine Gun Companies (around 1916) and then Machine Gun Battalions (in 1918).

Both Infantry and Cavalry used the Vickers MG; although the Cavalry will have also used the lighter Hotckiss as well.

The Australian Infantry MG Units in the Great War were as follows:

Australian MG CompanyAustralian MG BattalionDivision assigned
1st Aust MG Coy1st Aust MG Bn1st Aust Inf Div
2nd Aust MG Coy
3rd Aust MG Coy
4th Aust MG Coy4th Aust MG Bn4th Aust Inf Div
5th Aust MG Coy2nd Aust MG Bn1st Aust Inf Div
6th Aust MG Coy
7th Aust MG Coy
8th Aust MG Coy5th Aust MG Bn5th Aust Inf Div
9th Aust MG Coy3rd Aust MG Bn3rd Aust Inf Div
10th Aust MG Coy
11th Aust MG Coy
12th Aust MG Coy4th Aust MG Bn4th Aust Inf Div
13th Aust MG Coy
14th Aust MG Coy5th Aust MG Bn5th Aust Inf Div
15th Aust MG Coy
21st Aust MG Coy1st Aust MG Bn1st Aust Inf Div
22nd Aust MG Coy2nd Aust MG Bn2nd Aust Inf Div
23rd Aust MG Coy3rd Aust MG Bn3rd Aust Inf Div
24th Aust MG Coy4th Aust MG Bn4th Aust Inf Div
25th Aust MG Coy5th Aust MG Bn5th Aust Inf Div

The Australian Cavalry MG Units in the Great War were as follows:

Australian MG SquadronDivision assigned
16th MG SqdnImperial Mounted Div
17th MG SqdnYeomanry Mounted Div
18th MG SqdnANZAC Mounted Div
19th MG SqdnAustralian Mounted Div
1st Australian MG Sqdn1st Light Horse Brigade
2nd Australian MG Sqdn2nd Light Horse Brigade
3rd Australian MG Sqdn3rd Light Horse Brigade
4th Australian MG Sqdn4th Light Horse Brigade

Other MG units included:

  • 1st Australian Armoured Car Section
  • Australian Machine Gun Training Depot

Inter-war period

As with the British Army, MG units were disbanded after with Great War and the MMG assets were returned to Infantry Battalions and Cavalry Regiments.

During the inter-war period, Australia began to manufacture her own Vickers MGs at the Lithgow Small Arms Factor. These included the Mk. I and these were used alongside the existing British-supplied guns. They also produced the Mk. XXI, which was a local version of the Mk. VII for Armoured Vehicle use.

The Second World War

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During the Second World War, machine guns were again brigaded into single formations to provide better flexibility and improved performance. However, unlike the British Army, some Infantry Battalions retained their MG Companies and the Divisional MG Battalions provided additional support. This meant that the maximum possible number of Vickers MMGs within an Australian Infantry Division was much greater than that of the equivalent British formation.

The Australian MG Units in the Second World War were as follows:

Unitto which assigned
2/1 Machine Gun Battalion6th Division
2/2 Machine Gun Battalion7th Division
2/3 Machine Gun Battalion9th Division
2/4 Machine Gun Battalion8th Division
5 Machine Gun Battalion 
6 Machine Gun Battalion 
7 New Guinea Force Machine Gun Battalion 
15 Machine Gun Battalion 
16 Machine Gun Regiment 
17 Machine Gun Regiment 
18 Light Horse Machine Gun Regiment 
19 Machine Gun Regiment 
25 Light Horse Machine Gun Regiment 
26 Machine Gun Regiment 

.303-inch Gas-Operated

It is currently unclear whether the Australian Army used the Vickers G.O. However, assuming they did, it would have been used as a light machine gun on armoured reconnaissance vehicles. Australian members of the Long Range Desert Group would have also had exposure to vehicles equipped with the Vickers G.O.

.5-inch Gun

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The Australian Army used the .5-inch Mk. V on their Light Tanks. They would have been used by the Divisional Cavalry Regiments and the Reconnaissance Battalions drawn from Light Horse Regiments.

As with the Vickers G.O., Australian members of the Long Range Desert Group would have had exposure to these weapons.

Post-Second World War

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As a key component of the Commonwealth Forces in Korea, the Australians used considerable numbers of MMGs within their Infantry Battalions. The guns were ideal for domonating the difficult terrain over which the fighting took place.

The Vickers was gradually replaced in the Australian Forces during the 1950s and 1960s. With the Australian involvement in South Vietnam, they used American-supplied M60 7.62mm General Purpose Machine Guns.

MMGs were formed into Platoons of the Support Company of an Infantry Battalion after the Second World War. This was commanded by a Captain and there were three sections of two guns each. Each section, and the platoon headquarters, was transported in a jeep and trailer. The guns were served by three gun numbers, rather than the five per gun in the Second World War.

The last operational use of the Vickers MMG by Australian Forces was near Kuala Kangsar, Malaya, by the MMG Platoon of the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment between 1958 and 1959. The Officer Commanding the MMG Platoon was Captain T.C. Bannister. It is likely that this was part of Operation GINGER which were anti-terrorist operations against Communist terrorists in Malaya.


Sources