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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Bandoliers


Rockdoc
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What would an Artilleryman have kept in the pouches of his bandolier? Presumably not small-arms ammunition so what was it for?

HMEGaskinc1918.jpg

These are my maternal Grandparents in late 1916/early 1917, before he was sent to Salonika.

Keith

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Keith.. the bandoliers were for holding nothing more than SMLE ammunition. Each man, regardless of his arm, was issued with the SMLE and the ammunition for it. If, in the event of an enemy infantry assault on the gun position, the gun team had a means of protecting themselves until such time as they could extracate themselves and the gun from harm.

Woe betide any man who kept anything other than the intended items in the pockets of his bandoliers! Think how silly one would feel, and extremely foolish, at being told to go hold a certain position, when one is fully aware that all one has are a few peaces of cloth, or a couple of screwdrivers and spanners in ones ammo bandolier! :wacko:

Seph

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I've read that every man in the Army in an infantryman first and a specialist second but the question then arises where did they keep the SMLEs while they were moving? You never see a Gunner-driver travelling with a rifle across his back and you don't see any sign of a rifle when you see film of guns firing. Presumably they were somewhere close by but was there a recommended spot? They'd need to be somewhere safe and dry yet close enough for the Gunners to reach them if needed.

As always, an answer ro one question opens up a realm of other queries. :)

Keith

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I would consider that as you say, the SMLE's were kept at a handy distance.... but where and how far? I'll admit.. you've caught me there! The only way that I can see we are going to get to the bottom of this little mystery, is if a forum pal who has served his time in the 'Long range snipers' can shed a little light on the subject for us! Or am I preaching to the converted?

Seph B)

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I'm sure that someone on here will know. The Forum Pals are an incredible source of knowledge, each member's bit fitting into the larger jigsaw until the whole is massive.

Keith

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I've no doubt what-so-ever that the forum pals will come up trumps.

Searching my files, I've come up with two pics where the crews SMLE's are evident, and I've ringed them in red. One is just behind a gun crew member in Gallipoli, the crew being Australian. The second is a British gun crew in 1917 somewhere on the Some battlefield. The SMLE in this case seems to be attached to the outside top front of the ammunition limber.

Has any forum pal got a period contempary 'User Manual' for one of the RHA or RFA quick firing field peaces? If the SMLE's were actually carried upon the limbers, then the positions for their carraige will be shown in the manual.

Seph

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Nice one, Seph! Strapping the rifles to the top of the limber does make a lot of sense as they then have to be close at hand but wouldn't get jostled about during movements. When you see film of guns being moved at high-speed over rough ground - with everything bouncing around everywhere - they'd need to be carefully placed to avoid damage. The same would apply, I guess, to the men of the Ammunition Column as they'd be using similar limbers.

Having said that, your photos present another question! When under rapid fire and pouring with sweat or operating in high temperatures the men did not wear full SD. I wonder where they kept their bandoliers? With the rifles, you'd think, wouldn't you?

Keith

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Seph is quite correct the SMLE's were kept strapped to the limbers, but there wasn't one per man, certainly not at the start of WW1, I can't remember the actual figure, but I seem to recall about two per limber (detachment). Yes, all men would carry ammo in their bandoliers, but not all of them would have rifles. Indeed, I seem to recall that a simnilar situation existed at the start of WW2, with only a small proportion of the detachment actiually having individual weapons.

Returning to WW1, a couple of Lewis guns were added to the establishment later in the war in order to bolster battery defence.

I am sure Ron or Nigel will be able to expand further on this subject.

Phil

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Thanks, Phil. Logically, the sub-Section wouldn't need more than a couple of rifles because the rest of the crew would either be better used in continuing to fire into the advancing enemy troops or packing the gun up ready to withdraw. Given that all the numbers knew each other's jobs, I suppose the best two shots would use the SMLEs in an emergency while the remainder worked with the gun?

Keith

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... t there wasn't one per man, certainly not at the start of WW1, I can't remember the actual figure, but I seem to recall about two per limber (detachment).

Hello all

Equipment Regulations in 1914 stipulated 36 rifles per battery (of six guns), with five for brigade HQ. Rifles for ASC were often carried in clips on the footboards of wagons, so the same presumably applied to gun and ammo wagon limbers.

In action, I think gunners did not actually wear their bandoliers. It may be that the drivers were the first men expected to snatch up a rifle if the batttery was under close attack, and they could have worn bandoliers at all times.

While under training, the New Armies were issued with lumps of metal to simulate the weight of ammo, to be carried on exercises and manoeuvres. They were nicknamed "Kitchener's chocolate." They still turn up occasionally on Salisbury Plain and around other training camps, as the men usually "fired" them early on.

I'm still open to corrections or further suggestions!

Ron

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I posted a photo in another thread of my Grandfather's sub-Section in Lahore in 1913 that shows 27 men but they include the Battery Sergeant-Major and a Farrier Bombardier. I wouldn't think there would be as many in the front line but it certainly shows that six rifles per sub-Section was nothing remotely close to one rifle per man - more like one between three.

Keith

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I assume that when not in action the gunners would post sentries and these would draw arms from somewhere (otherwise 'alt who goes there?' and 'stand or I'll shoot' could be a bit silly).

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Shades of Milligoon: Halt or I shall point my finger at you and shout "BANG!"

Keith

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"Arf a mo Kaiser me old puddin, be back in a sec.. just going to get a bundook!"

Seph :D

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But, incidentally, the artillery were not issued with bayonets.

Ammunition columns were equipped with rifles on a scale of one for each gunner or driver, i.e. none for WOs or NCOs.

Ron

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Hello.

I can't resist airing a thought that has often come to mind when looking at photos of soldiers (I have one of my father) looking smart and determined in a photographers studio i.e. that the photographer had a polished bandolier that was offered to gunners and troopers.

Old Tom

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It's quite possible, I'm sure. In another thread, a chap from the KRRC in a photo I posted was wearing a Slade-Wallace belt and it was said of that they were often used as a prop. It may well depend on whether soldiers on leave were required/allowed to take their bandolier with them.

In the particular case of my Grandparents, the chances are my Grandfather was on embarkation leave at the time, about February 1917. He had been in England since the previous July, when he was wounded, and been at Shoeburyness for a while, probably while passing his sergeants' exam. On a UK base and as a new sergeant you'd have to expect his kit to be bulled to perfection.

Keith

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I've looked at all the photos I have of 4th Highland Mountain Brigade in action, in training and at leisure. In action and in training - when on the guns, no bandoliers and no rifles seen (see photo). Out of action, not a man is to be seen without his bandolier.

In modern day times, and we do remarkably follow procedures in place for generations (if it ain't broke, don't fix it!), we carried rifles (one per man except those assigned pistols) to the field but they were stowed in brackets installed in our vehicles for them. When you left your gun or the gunline, the rifle had better be with you. So it's not surprising to hear that there were places on the limbers specifically for the stowage of small arms. There is just too much to do on a gun team to provide the vital fires needed by the tactical plan to mess with weapons that are only there to protect you in emergencies and would get in the way of expeditious, accurate cannon fire.

I've looked through the manuals I have on the 10 pounder and the 2.75 in. mountain guns and, although there is meticulous detail regarding loads on the mules or ponies (down to washers and screws), there is not a mention of small arms or small arms ammunition.

It doesn't provide the answer, but I hope this helps.

Mike Morrison

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It certainly adds to the general picture, Mike, especially as you've answered my question about whether bandoliers were worn on leave. The general point about rifles for emergency use only does make you wonder how well looked-after the rifles were, seeing that they were only used once in a blue moon. In another thread someone quoted !"a wirer's rifle" as being one that was likely to be in a woeful condition when the time came to use it. I suppose it all depended on the keenness of the NCOs.

Keith

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Rockdoc,

The official answer to what was carried in the bandolier is 50rds SAA. This is IAW the Field Service Manual for an RFA Bde. This document series lists everything a man (mounted, Dismounted and Cyclist) should carry. Most men had bandoliers and they were SUPPOSED to carry 50rds SAA.

Ron's numbers on the SMLE carried is correct but I would 110 were alkso carried in the ammunition column.

Now what was done in the field could be different and the none presence of bandliers for gunners in action is not surprising--as the common lack of SD jackets (which doesn't mean they weren't issued them and worn) etc. However, in photos that I can see of RFA units on the move the bandoliers tend to be present and worn quite a bit of time.

Joe Sweeney

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From the King's Troop RHA in response to a number of WW1 queries in 1978:

"Only four rifles were carried by the gun detachment, these were stowed on the tail board of the limber".

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An entry in the 281st Brigades War Diary may throw a little light on the issue. On 15th August 1918 the brigade were relieved in the line (at Arras) and moved to Simoncourt for a very short rest. On the 17th the diary records "Musketry training commenced" as if this were abnormal.

Until the breakout it may be the case that the artillery did not consider it to be necessary to practise use of a rifle and therefore would not have been rigorous re the carriage of SMLE ammunition (the same rounds could have been carried for several years!).

Bob

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A scene from training (pre-Gallipoli)

Phil, Artillerymen needed their hands for many tasks related to getting their guns in action quickly. It is a big job for many hands to get a piece into action and firing accurately. The actual reason may bear more on tradition, but artillerymen can't carry rifles or ammunition in their hands, nor do they need them at hand for their assigned task. Somebody else may know the history of it's application to artillery, but the wear of bandoliers by yeomen and cavalry suggests more that it is a better way for people not grounded to a position in an infantry line to carry and get at their ammunition. Bottom line for artillery is that rifles are for personal protection and are not a part of their main job.

Mike Morrison

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Just a quick fourth penny. Here's an entry from 5 Siege Battery RGA war diary for 12th September 1917 when it's howitzers were located at Krupp Farm during the 3rd Ypres:

20 rounds fired on hostile batteries. 12 noon: The battery came out of action and proceeded to rest at MILLAM; 2nd Lieutenant F.J. Lennard and a guard remaining with the guns at KRUPP FARM.

The Battery was in rest at Millam until the evening of the 17th September.

Would it be fair to assume that in such instances the 'guard' would be equipped with SMLEs?

cheers

Steve

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