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Remembered Today:

Extra pay for loading MG belts


Ian C
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Hi

I have a copy of a diary written by a man from the MGC during his time on the way to and in Russia during the period May to Sept 1919. Because it is written in pencil it is very difficult to read, the entries for two of the days while he was aboard the Czaritza on the way to Russia look like 'filling belts, got paid £1.10s, does anyone know if men who were in the MGC got extra pay for filling belts, wouldn't that just be part of their duties?

Regards

IanC

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Never heard it before, it sounds more like two seperate events, general duties and then receiving normal pay.

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I am reminded of my all-time favourite listing in an index. In 1940, a French General called Gaston Billotte (who as in his sixties), as Commander First Group of Armies, was appointed chief liaison between the French High Command and all the rest of the Allies. It was a job he neither sought nor wanted; it took him to the verge of a breakdown. He was killed in a car crash returning from Gort's (CinC BEF) HQ. Alistair Horne's masterly 'To Lose a Battle' has under Billotte in his index... 'drinks milk, dies..p.97' (not the actual page). So, at a bibulous academic conference in the small hours we discussed how someone could start a rumour about how German paratroopers/Brandenburgers/SS dressed as nuns/peasants poisoned his milk -and see if anyone bit. In actual fact, his driver, as worn out as he was, lost control of the car and collided with a farm cart. Billotte was in a coma for two days.

I have never seen any notion of 'proficiency pay' for loading belts (or magazines) - it was a baseline skill. (I can remember being tested on a watch in a race for filling 7.62mm SLR magazines for a pint for the winner) Perhaps he noted the pay because a) it was more than he was expecting - 'expeditionary pay' perhaps or B) he was due more and didn't get it.

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Can you post the page so that we can try to help interpret it? Antony

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I think the Army paying MGC men extra for filling MG belts is about as likely as paying ASC cookhouse staff for peeling spuds!

I neither case would the men have had a choice, I suspect.

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Might possibly be "Selling belts". Little evidence of a dot on the first potential "i". Was he a leatherworker to trade or just handy with the canvas and buckles and making extra cash? The entry for the next day shows ditto marks under the activity, whatever it is, but doesn't show pay - so, as posited earlier, the activity and the pay may be unrelated. If he got paid for doing it on the 29th, you'd think he'd get paid again on the 30th (if it was pay for a month, he'd have been paid on the 30th). The amount of pay is inordinately high for a day's work. Thanks for the pic. Antony

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I'm inclined to agree with Andrew that "filling belts" and "Got paid £1 10s" are not connected.

However, men of other arms might have been given "working pay" (not, in this case, the same as proficiency pay) for filling belts for the MGC. The peak expenditure of m/g ammunition by a single company - 16 Vickersw guns - in 24 hours is recorded as 999,750 rounds. That equates to 3,999 belts. Although this volume is exceptional, and presumably would not have been needed in Russia in 1919, it does illustrate that the MGC would often have needed extra help in keeping themselves "stocked up."

Ron

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And it looks like he did it on the following day, too. Aren't they dittos under the first two words? But no mention of payment, so I agree with the consensus that there is a missing full stop.

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(As I said in #8 above, Ken)

Ian: it's possible (just) that a blacksmith could turn his hand to making and selling leather belts for his mates or Russian sailors or somesuch, so "selling" is a possible (just) interpretation given the apparent absence of a dot on the second letter. It seems to be a toss-up with the odds in favour of "filling" and the entries being unrelated, tipped, perhaps, by the absence of a "pay" entry for the second day's work. Antony

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Hi Ken

Actually the missing full stop is probably right, the punctuation is almost non existant.

So filling the belts would normally be a task for the men of the MGC, yes?

Ian C

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So filling the belts would normally be a task for the men of the MGC, yes?

Yes - part of the issue kit was actually a belt filling machine. Basically a hand cranked device with a hopper above you filled with .303 rounds, and a long tray the filled belts came out onto at the other end. Hand-loading was the other way to do it, a long and tortuous process (from experience!) - one job of the machine gunner was even to take filled belts and remove and then reinsert the rounds (to ensure the belt wasn't gripping them too tightly for the MG mechanism to extract). If even this failed a plug shaped like a .303 round on a handle would be used to expand each pocket manually. A never ending job when the guns were in action.

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This may be completely irrelevent, but the British Intervention Force took with them Vickers guns in 7.62x54R Russian calibre (as well as Lewis guns and Mosin Nagant rifles). They do not seem to have had the correct belts so had to make do with .303 inch belts.

This quote from "The Day We Almost Bombed Moscow" describing life on the voyage north;

"Crawford played no part in the stoking. He had other duties. Because several of his Vickers guns had Russian barrels he had to stretch the pockets of the ammunition belts to take Russian ammunition, a tedious job "damned hard on the hands". He also had to set up and man four machine guns in case of submarine attack."

Anyone who has filled Vickers belts by hand will know what he means!

Regards

TonyE

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