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Sherpamick

Moving a machine gun (Lewis)

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Sherpamick

I am researching an ambush that took place in the Irish Civil war, outside Clonmel Co. Tipperary. The Ambush part had 2no Lewis machine gun crews. However there ambush position was compromised and they were forced to retreat very fast. Question, 1. How many in a machine gun crew?

2. what would the logistic problems be with having to move a machine gun if your position was surprised and in danger of being surrounded?

Note the two machine gun crews escaped with there equipment and their lives.

Sherpamick

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kenf48

Strictly speaking off topic (Great War forum) a wartime crew consisted of four to six men, although the minimum required to operate the weapon effectively was two ( it could be fired by a single [strong] man but only for a short burst). No 1 positioned and fired the gun No 2 fed the ammunition additional men carried the ammunition and provided protection. I'd imagine in the situation you describe they would not require as much ammunition as on the Western Front, although they might need protection.

The Lewis Gun was air cooled and designed as a portable battlefield weapon or light machine gun so no real problem in moving quickly, unlike a heavy (water cooled) machine gun like the Vickers.

Ken

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Sherpamick

Thanks Ken, you answered one misconception I had, I thought the Lewis was water cooled, also I never thought about the amount of ammo they would have had. On the Forum relevance, the leader of the machine gun crew learned his "trade" on the Western Front as he was in the machine gun corp and was involved in the spring offensive, where his brother was killed. Was it not for his knowledge they would have lost the gun.

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centurion

Given that the Lewis gun had a drum magazine how did the number 2 feed the ammunition - are you not confusing with the Vickers gun?

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kenf48

Given that the Lewis gun had a drum magazine how did the number 2 feed the ammunition - are you not confusing with the Vickers gun?

No simply late in the evening and, I accept feed implies a belt, so to be absolutely accurate the No.2 would 'change the drum' or 'change the magazine'.

As I said there are accounts of it being fired from by one man but it was a more effective weapon used from a static position in short bursts with a second man changing the magazines to enable a rapid rate of fire.

Two men operating the gun shown in this image with the No2 holding the magazine ready to change it (perhaps in AA mode? - no don't go there! I think it's just posed)

http://en.wikipedia....world_war_I.jpg

and here demonstrating it's portability, weighing in at around 27 lbs alongside the rifle and showing the wooden butt

http://en.wikipedia....St_Thomas_6.JPG

Ken

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Sherpamick

I am working off eyewitness accounts, none of whom were part of the machine gun crew. There is only one or two mentions of a "Lewis gun" but numerous mentions of machine gun crews and in one case it is implied there were 4 in the crew. I imagine there problem was having to physically carry ammo on long marches. The reason I posted to this forum, the contributors supply facts and knowledge no political rants. Thank you for the info.

Sherpamick

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TonyE

We are digressing a bit here, and I don't know if they were still issued in Ireland post-war, but there was a hand drawn Lewis Gun Cart which carried gun, drums, ammunition and spares on the march.

regards

TonyE

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NigelS

I don't know if there were improved version later, but the earlier carts don't seem to have been too popular when used in the conditions on the WF Click (Post #41)

NigelS

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bantamforgot

How's this?

post-25203-0-03395900-1299836641.jpg

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NigelS

You can certainly see why the carts would have been a problem in certain WF conditions - fine for the dry, fairly even track shown though.

NigelS

Edit: thinking about it & going slightly of topic, similar trolley for stretcher bearers ('gurneys') - which would obviously have suffered the same problems as the Lewis gun version - if the conditions were right, could have been useful, were such ever used on the GW battlefields?

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centurion

The Lewis could certainly be carried forward by one man - see the Canadian soldiers waiting to move up behind a tank in this photo. The Lewis gunner has his over his shoulder.

post-9885-0-04104100-1299840169.jpg

Another photo of the same scene taken slightly earlier shows him carrying it towards the tank with it slung low from the shoulder. Lewis guns could be, and were, fired by one man on the move. A special sling was provided. It needed a burly man to do it but there are a number of actions where the success of the attack has been attributed to the ability to do this with the Lewis. I've mentioned some of this in an earlier thread somewhere. Its portability was noted "One man could carry the Lewis gun all ready for firing with its magazine fixed. He could even fire whilst on the move, if provided with a sling to carry the gun. If not he could at once drop down and open fire. Now compare the mobility of the Lewis gun with that of the Vickers. It took three men to carry a Vickers gun into action - one for the gun, another for the tripod and a third for the a=munition belt in boxes, not to mention the condenser and a supply of water (of which the Lewis was independent). Unless provided with sufficient cover at a gun position, the Vickers gun made a conspicuous target for the enemy's guns. The Vickers was helpless whilst on the move. The Lewis was neither helpless on the move, nor conspicuous when fired from the ground"

A Lewis gun team was two men " The Lewis gun when fired from the ground, occupies a frontage of about three feet, and in depth from front to rear of about nine feet - allowing space for a second gunner who assists number 1." Lewis gun parties could have men told off to assist by carrying extra ammunition etc. usually for a specific attack etc. If trained in the gun at all this would be done 'in house' so that in emergency one could take over from a member of the team There were special courses and schools for Lewis gun teams.

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clive_hughes

From a DCM citation:

“For devotion to duty and courage displayed during active operations against the enemy on the 23-25 November 1917. He crawled forward and enfiladed the enemy position and on one occasion stood up under a heavy fire to enable a Lewis gun to be rested on and fired from his hip.”

LST_164

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Sherpamick

The gun was shoulder carried (in my accounts) as a captured gunner was given away by the hole worn in his uniform on his right hand shoulder. I believe my crews were made up of four as they had to lug the ammunition with them for days on end.

Thank you for all the comments I now better understand what happened in the ambush.

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