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5 Motor Machine Gun Battery research

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Since 2006 I have been researching the military Royal Enfield motorcycles. This is obviously mainly a Second World War research, but Royal Enfield also delivered some motorcycles to the Army during the Great War. Triumph and Douglas were of course the motorcycles that were bought in great numbers for the despatch riders, but the Motor Machine Gun Batteries used side car outfits for transporting their machine guns. The first Motor Machine Gun Batteries were equipped with Scott and Royal Enfield combinations, but quite soon the Clyno outfit became the standard side car for the MMGB. For as far as I could find out, only the 5 MMGB has been using Royal Enfields, so I started doing more research on that Battery, in the hope to find more information on the Enfields.


Some time ago a very interesting thread on the 22nd Battery was started on this forum. This thread has inspired me to do a similar thread on the 5 MMGB. So here we go… I have decided to do this thread as a timeline, to avoid utter chaos… But if somebody can add further information or pictures (preferably with Royal Enfield outfits, LOL) please don’t hesitate!


Somewhere around late 1913 – early 1914 the Royal Enfield publicity department had made a “mobile publicity stunt” in the shape of a converted old Maxim gun. This gun was to be shown at exhibitions, to represent the Royal Enfield slogan “made like a gun”. But when Enfield wanted to take this contraption to a Motor Show in Ireland in early 1914, the Irish customs refused to let it pass… It looked too dangerous…




A small article about the Royal Enfield advertisement gun in one of the motorcycle weeklies:




In the Royal Enfield factory ledgers I have found a 6 h.p. model that was sent to “Army & Navy, London” on May 28th 1914. The story goes that Enfield had mounted their old Maxim gun (see previous illustration) on the strengthened side car chassis of a 6 h.p. motorcycle, and sent the outfit to the Ministry of Munitions for evaluation. But there was no immediate response…



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The idea of setting up Motorcycle Machine Gun Batteries dates from late 1914. According to an article in the Coventry Evening Telegraph of November 11th 1914, Major J.E. Alkin first mentioned the idea of recruiting a Coventry Battery. 




The Coventry Evening Telegraph of November 13th 1914:




The Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser of November 13th 1914:




Geoffry Smith, the editor of The MotorCycle (a Coventry based motorcycle weekly) also supported the idea, and published this article in the November 19th 1914 issue of The MotorCycle:




In the Coventry Evening Telegraph of November 20th 1914 it was announced that the 5MMGB would be equipped with Royal Enfield outfits.




The Birmingham Gazette, November 20th 1914:





Recruiting for 5MMGB starts at the end of November 1914. Coventry Evening Telegraph, November 26th 1914:




On November 30th, the Coventry Evening Telegraph published a first small list with soldiers who had joined the 5MMGB (RFA, Motor Machine Gun Service):





This gives us a first name list:

F. Bakewell

W. Tebbutt

W. Lee

E. Truslove

N. Rycroft

L. Dickson

D. Pyott

H. Falvey

F. King

F. Buckingham

S. Hathaway

C.B. Hall

H. Sutton

A.W. Fennel

A. Moore

D.C. Douglas

H. Hegan

E. Clarcke

A. Gale

S. Stebbing

A. Verry

S. Hooper

S. Everall

H.M. Tebbutt

H. Dovey


And two names are listed under Army Service Corps, but will soon reappear, see further:

J.H. Pountney

W.G. Tuck

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An article in the Coventry Evening Telegraph of December 3rd 1914 announces that the 5MMGB left Coventry and are now in a training camp:




On December 3rd 1914, The MotorCycle published an editorial about “The Sidecar and the Army”:





And in the same issue, there’s also an article about the MMGB, and another small list of soldiers who had joined the 5MMGB. The article also confirms that the 5MMGB had left Coventry and had started training in Bisley (a machine gun training camp):




New names to add to the list:

J. Cocker

W.A. Davenport

C. Allison

J.H. Pountney

(in the previous list J.H. Pountney was assigned to the Army Service Corps)


Jack Cocker was a motorcycle racer, here’s a picture showing the same man in Brooklands, on 18th October 1913:





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And in this article, some information about the Royal Enfield combinations is published (for the first time).




During my Royal Enfield research, I had found this photograph of a Royal Enfield outfit prototype, with Vickers machine gun:




But the article in The MotorCycle (December 3rd 1914) shows an outfit with the improved ammunition support, which was a Royal Enfield patent:







I also found pictures of the same outfit, with a higher armoured protection plate:





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The Coventry Standard, December 4th 1914:




The MotorCycle announces that there are still 10 vacancies in the 5MMGB on December 10th 1914. Around that time the 18 Royal Enfield outfits were being delivered (confirmed by the old factory ledgers, of which I have a copy):




On December 15th Palmer Cord tyres makes publicity with the Royal Enfield outfits. Note that the outfit in this publicity has the higher armoured protection plate:





On December 17th The Motorcycle starts recruiting for more Motor Machine Gun Batteries. All vacancies in the 5MMGB seem to have been filled in:



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And the Coventry Evening Telegraph published a long article on the 5MMGB in their December 17th 1914 issue:








On December 31st 1914, The MotorCycle publishes a photograph of the Royal Enfield combinations in front of the Royal Enfield offices, probably on the day that they were delivered to the Army. There are 18 outfits, 12 of these can carry a machine gun (one of these is effectively fitted with a machine gun, with the high armoured plate), 6 are ammunition carrier sidecars.



Training with the outfits in Bisley can now start…



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It looks as if there has been an official photo shoot during this training camp. I have found three photographs, clearly taken in the same setting, with different crew members:






It would be great if the other photographs of this photoshoot would also turn up! And if we could put names on these faces!


On January 7th 1915, TheMotorCycle announces that the 5MMGB will “proceed to the Front in a fortnight’s time”:




According to the January 14th issue of The MotorCycle, there still appear to be vacancies for the 5MMGB, as “riders conversant with the Scott and Enfield machines” are still sought:




And still in the same magazine (The MotorCycle, January 14th 1915), in his Editorial the editor writes that “Manufacturers have discussed whether it is better to have the gun pointed forwards or backwards. The ideal, of course, is one which can be swung round to fire in either direction, for, when an attack has been delivered, it may often be most essential that the sidecar should return to its own lines as quickly as possible; therefore if the machine be facing the opposite direction to the gun, it will be in a position to lose no time in getting away, and, moreover, the gun operator could keep up the hail of bullets during his retreat.”




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A couple of weeks later (February 11th 1915), the readers of The MotorCycle get some more information on the training camp in Bisley:




But more important: they are also being informed about “The Latest Machine Gun Sidecar”, the re-designed Enfield adapted to fire in three directions. Pictures were published of a works registered (registration number AB 1450) outfit, and the editor wrote that “… This week we are enabled to illustrate the latest mounting of a Vickers machine gun as adopted on the Enfield sidecar chassis. It will be noticed that two separate positions are provided for the gun, and, in addition to the horizontal firing both forwards and rearwards, the gun can now be utilised as a weapon against aircraft. In the horizontal positions, the gun may be used to good effect whilst the sidecar is travelling at full speed. Duplicate cushions and backrests are provided on the sidecar chassis, so that the gun operator may adopt a low reclining position. …”




This news was also covered in the  February 16th 1915 issue of MotorCycling. Captain J.E. Alkin, commanding N°5 Battery is operating the gun, and Sergt. J. Cocker – formerly known as a successful Brooklands rider – is driving.



This improved sidecar was developed and patented by Royal Enfield, with the help of the Royal Artillery Regiment.





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On 8th March 1915, The Daily News reports that eighteen “improved” outfits left the Enfield works on Saturday afternoon (March 6th 1915):




But the factory ledgers don’t show any “War Office” deliveries around that period. This can only mean that in late February 1915 the 5th Battery outfits were sent back to the factory to be upgraded to the new “improved” specification. At the same time, the motorcycles were overpainted in Service Green. I have found some other pictures of these modified Royal Enfield outfits at the Redditch factory, while they were delivered to the 5MMGB:







The last two pictures show the ammunition carrier. Sergeant J. Cocker is sitting on the sidecar of the last photograph. No idea who the other people are...



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During their last days in the UK, the 5MMGB are visited by the editor of The MotorCycle. He publishes a 4 page article in the March 11th 1915 issue.







The article clearly shows that this Battery (which had already received the earlier specification Royal Enfield machine gun outfits in December 1914) was using the “improved type” Royal Enfield outfits in early March 1915.



In the article in The MotorCycle (March 11th 1915), some of the names (plus ranks) are revealed:

Officers of the 5MMGB:

Captain J.E. Alkin

Lieut. R. Selwyn-Payne

Second-Lieut. C.W. Clarke

Second-Lieut. H.G. Meertins


Sergeant J. Cocker

Sergeant J.H. Pountney

Sergeant Davenport

Sergeant W.G. Tuck


Gunner H.H. Cocker

Gunner Ivor Chance


Battery Sergeant-major A. Palmer






A photograph from the same series is published in the Coventry Herald, on March 12th:




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On 16th March 1915, the Irish Cyclist tells that the 5MMGB is now in France:




According to their War Diaries (that I copied in the National Archives in Kew), the Battery left Bisley on March 6th 1915:








5MMGB arrived in France (Le Havre) on March 9th. On March 24th they arrived (not without any trouble) in Lestrem, their final destination. They were attached to the Indian Corps. 


Some interesting quotes from the 5MMGB War Diaries:

- March 17th: Side cars commenced to break owing to tough roads, + it was decided to have them cut + rebrazed a liner being fitted. This was done by a French firm.  

- March 19th: Side cars were finished + were refitted to machines.

On March 24th 5MMGB arrived in Lestrem, their final destination (approximately 5 km from the front). They were attached to the Indian Corps in Merville.

- March 24th: Left GHQ 10 am. Arrived HQ Indian Corps at 1.30 pm. Owing to the rough state of the road + the fact that the liners were not properly fitted to the side car frames in GHQ seven of these frames broke. This matter was reported to BISLEY + a request for 12 new side cars, manufactured to certain specifications was made.

- April 24th: New frames (6) to replace broken ones received from Enfield Coy. Work on these immediately put in hand.



Despite all this trouble, The MotorCycle reported on 25th March 1915 that they had broken a record!




The last days of March are used for parades and training in Lestrem…


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On 15th April, The MotorCycle reports that the MMGB badge was designed by Corporal F. Beauvais of 5MMGB, so that’s another name to add to the list…



On April 3rd 1915, the Coventry Evening Telegraph publishes a letter from Sergeant Major Palmer:




On April 16th 1915, the Coventry Standard publishes an article about a letter from William Barr, another name for the 5MMGB list:




There were some promotions on April 17th 1915:




W. Robinson is another name for the 5MMGB list…


Gunner R.S. Chambers (another "new" name for the 5MMGB list) was KIA on April 18th 1915.







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According to the War Diaries, the three sections had to go to the trenches in a role system.


During the 2nd Battle of Ypres (22 April – 25 May 1915) the 5MMGB were sent to Ouderdom (near Ypres) for a week, where they were "Divisional Reserve".


The War Diaries don’t mention any casualties or wounded during this period, but I did find the grave of S.P. Stebbing, who died on May 4th 1915:




But I was very surprised that the War Diaries did not talk at all about the success that the 5MMGB would have obtained at Hill 60 (on April 15th 1915)... The story was told by the late Bob Curry in the August - September 1982 issue of The Classic MotorCycle:


By any normal standards it was not a hill at all, just the double, 50ft-high spoilheaps from the making of a railway cutting three miles south-east of the Belgian town of Ypres.

Locals called it Lovers' Knoll, but to the red-tab generals commanding the Ypres Salient in World War One it was Hill60.

In the flat Flanders landscape Hill60 was a thorn in the British side, for from its (relative) heights the German gunners were able to pin down the troops of the British 18th (subsequently relieved by the 5th) Division, in their trenches a few hundred yards away. Something, obviously, had to be done about Hill60.

Steadily, creeping out from the British lines under cover of darkness, men of 171 Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers, worked away for three months in the early part of 1915, burrowing deep into the German-held hill and planting no less than 9.900 tons of explosives.

Zero-hour was to be 7.05 pm on April 15 and as the day faded so an unnatural stillness settled over the scarred countryside. The expected big bang didn't happen and, instead, there was a muffled "whoomph" as part of the hill caved in, taking with it 150 Prussian Guards and two unwary Royal Engineers.

Then the night erupted as every gun on the British sector directed its fire on Hill 60. In the  early hours there was a lull in the artillery barrage, broken by the unexpected note of a posse of two-stroke twins, as the 532cc Scott outfits of No.4 Battery, Motor Machine Gun Service, arrived at the rear of the lines.

Their crews unshipped the Vickers-Maxim guns and, under the command of Capt. H. Gardons-Bird, passed through the infantry trenches.

At 7 am came another signal and the sidecar men opened up, lending their considerable fire-power in support of the assault on the German positions mounted by the West Kents, East Surreys, and Queen Victoria's Rifles.

It was the first time the MMGS had been thrown into action and they acquitted themselves nobly, with Gunner J. Rafferty, of No.4 Battery, being recommended for the Distinguished Conduct Medal. Later in the day the Germans counter-attacked and now No. 5 Battery, commanded by Capt. J. E. Alkin, brought up their big vee-twin Royal Enfield outfits, unshipped guns and joined the battle.

Yet though British troops did gain the hill, their hold was tenuous, and by May 5, following a poison-gas barrage, the Germans were back in charge. And as a PS to the present story, they were to stay on Hill 60 until June, 1917, when more undermining - resulting in the biggest man-made crater of all time - dislodged them for good.


Obviously, the idea of a highly-mobile machine-gun force, which could be rushed from one section of the front to another to strengthen a local attack or help to repel a counter-attack,  was a useful one. But it wasn't the original conception of the Motor Machine Gun Service.

A static war by troops in opposing trenches had not been envisaged and the first plan was that the sidecar gunners would shoot on the move, the outfits foraging ahead of the advancing army to nose out enemy positions.

It didn't work out that way, but in the new role of a go-anywhere strike force the Motor  Machine Gun Service proved so effective that more and more batteries were recruited.

Where possible, batteries were raised in specific localities and so No. 5 Battery, already mentioned, was largely made up of Coventry clubmen and ex-employees of the motor cycle factories. No. 10 Battery was raised in Scotland.


Although Scott and Royal Enfield outfits were the first to be used with the BEF, the War Office meantime had been evaluating what was generally reckoned to be the best sidecar model of its time. This was the 744cc Clyno twin, designed by William Comery. The three wheels were quickly detachable and interchangeable and a complete spare wheel was carried at the offside rear of the bike.

In February, 1915, the War Office adopted the Clyno as the standard outfit of the MMGS and from then on it gradually replaced the earlier types. At first the front fork was a side-spring Druid, but this was soon superseded by the Brampton Biflex which offered springing in both the vertical and lateral planes.



As a separate regiment, the Motor Machine Gun Service ceased to exist in May, 1917, when (by that time entirely Clyno-equipped) it was absorbed into the Machine Gun Corps. However, the make-up of the motor cycle batteries remained unchanged and by the time the Armistice was signed in November, 1918, there were 33 fully-equipped batteries on active service in France, Italy, East Africa and elsewhere, with still more men undergoing training at home. In all, the Clyno factory had supplied the War Office with no fewer than 2,300 outfits.



According to the 5MMGB War Diaries, on that day (April 15th 1915), N°2 section was “in trenches”, N° 3 section “in reserve”, and N° 1 section “in resting”, so everybody was in Lestrem, not in Ypres… It is a well-known fact that Bob Currie (the editor of The Classic MotorCycle, and the author of the article above) had access to the old motorcycle magazines, which he often used for his articles in The Classic MotorCycle. And when reading these old magazines, it becomes clear that the 5MMGB was featured more than any other Battery. After all, it was the “Coventry Battery”, with people who had been recruited from that city, center of the British motorcycle industry! In April 1915 (only a few weeks after the “A Day with a Machine Gun Battery” article, that clearly showed the 5MMGB with their Enfield outfits, just before their departure for the Western Front), the motorcycle weekly “The MotorCycle” also published the Hill 60 story (being the first MMGB success at the Western Front), but they didn’t specify which MMGB was involved. And Motor Cycling (the other motorcycle weekly) even published an illustration showing the “old” Royal Enfield outfits in their topic about the Hill 60 success. 


So Bob Currie made the wrong conclusion and thought that the 4MMGB (with Scott outfits) got help from the 5MMGB (with Enfields)…


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More news from the trenches on 8th May 1915 (Coventry Evening Telegraph), and 13th May 1915 (The Motorycle). Both letters come from Harold Hegan:




And a letter in The MotorCycle (20th May 1915) from Nelson Rycroft:



And an anonymous letter from the front, 3rd June 1915, The MotorCycle:



And a letter from the Mayor of Coventry (4th June 1915, Coventry Standard):



On June 4th 1915, the Birmingham Daily Post announces some transfers in the Motor Machine Gun Service:



And on June 20th, the War Diary confirms that Major J.E. Alkin was replaced by Captain Philip Hamond:



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On 17th June 1915, The MotorCycle publishes a small article about a new War Office order for Royal Enfield combinations. The article doesn’t mention how many outfits, or for which Battery they will be…




A second batch of Royal Enfield motorcycle combinations left the factory in June - July 1915. According to the factory ledgers, 4 outfits were delivered to the “War Office” on June 6th, and 10 outfits were despatched on July 5th. (Another motorcycle was delivered to the “Army + Navy depot” in Westminster on July 13nd of 1915. I’m not sure if this one has something to do with the other 14.).  This makes a total of only 14 (or 15?) combinations, not the “usual” 18. Although the 5th Motor Machine Gun Battery’s War Diaries don’t mention the delivery of these motorcycles, I have a feeling that they may have been replacements for that Battery’s outfits that had been lost during several months at the Western Front.


This photograph shows the 10 outfits that were despatched from the Redditch factory on July 5th 1915:



I’m still hoping to find confirmation for the theory that these combinations were also used by 5MMGB…





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On July 1st 1915, The MotorCycle publishes a letter from Sergeant J. Cocker, and also Sergeant Davenport is mentioned:



And on July 29th 1915, there’s an article on Sergeant Pountney:



And a few “new” names for the 5MMGB list, from the July 1915 War Diaries:


Driver Barr

Driver Bayliss


Gunner E. Clark (could be E. Clarcke?)

Gunner S. Leigh





And another “new” name for the list: QMS W. Thompson, from the August 1915 War Diaries:



Coventry Evening Telegraph – 26 August 1915:

“Through Fire and Water.”


Work of Motor Machine-Gun Section.

“From a Coventry member of the Motor Machine-Gun Section comes an account of the work that is undertaken by men of this service, and the following letter, descriptive of the work of a single day, is both interesting and amusing. The correspondent says:-

“We had about the warmest day of the lot on Wednesday, or, to be correct, on Tuesday night. We had orders to pack off with one gun to the advanced trenches at 5 o’clock at night. One of the cars took us as far as possible, then from there we had to carry all the tackle to the fire trenches. To cut a long story short, we got into the communication trench and got on our way. In addition to full kit, blanket, etc., I had to carry two boxes of ammunition. There was about ten inches of mud in the first part of the trench, then it got to war quite a foot deep, in places much deeper. In the trenches there are footboards to make walking easier; of course, some of these boards get broken, and some get tilted over, so that they make it dangerous to get on. Some of the boards were afloat, and every now and then you would drop on one which had been broken and then over you go. We had about a mile and a half of that.


Arrived at our ‘home’ for the night, a farm which had been blown to atoms, we got settled down. We could not light a fire as it was too dangerous, the German lines were only 100 yards away, and we had to warm ourselves by the candle. We had the cowshed for a bedroom and slept on the floor, though the place was alive with rats, toads, mice and fleas. Our puttees and boots were wringing wet, but we could not take anything off, as we had to keep the guns supplied. German bullets hit the walls on all sides, so we had to put our candle out. We fired over 2,000 rounds of ammunition on to a road which the Germans used for their transport, and did a decent night’s work. The Germans tried to spot us, but we all got out safely. While we were firing, or rather between the bursts of fire, the Germans shouted over to us, ‘Too high, British.’ The shots were going over their trench but they thought we were trying to fire into them. We stopped their transports anyway. A lot of the Germans, especially Saxons, who are in the trenches in front of us, can speak English as well as any of us. The Saxons won’t fire if we won’t and on August Monday, put up a sign:- ‘No firing to-day. Bank Holiday Monday.’ Just after breakfast our artillery open fire, and the Germans replied with ‘whizz bangs,’ the things infantrymen dread so much. The nickname is very appropriate, for it is just ‘whizz’ and then ‘bang,’ but they are very effective. The ‘whizz bangs’ sent over us dropped very close to the old farm, but did not kill anyone, though if they drop in the trench it is generally a funeral. The rest of the day was spent in general messing about; the Germans were quiet, and but for the snipers there was nothing doing. We had orders to leave the trench at four o’clock, and the Germans sent some more ‘whizz bangs’ over into the communication trench, and also shelled the road we had to walk along. Some of the Royal Fusiliers got hit, and the road was knocked about a lot. One shell had knocked the front of a shop right out; all the front walls had dropped off as if someone had chopped the front with a huge axe.


It was a sight to see nearly every house and shop falling down. Another sight was a spire on a high building broken in half and hanging by the lead on one side. You cannot really imagine what the sights are out here. The most pathetic sight, however, was the last. We should have had our cars to meet us near the trenches, but they had been stopped by the shelling, so we had to walk through a large town. In a good number of streets houses were burning, and poor devils were trying to save the furniture. One street we had to go through was a blazing mass, both sides were alight, and there were huge shell holes in the road large enough to hold a horse. While we were watching the fire I was most struck by the way our chaps were saving the furniture for the people, which the inhabitants stood gesticulating on the street corner. It was good to see a couple of ‘Tommies’ struggling to push a big wardrobe out of the bedroom window while the houses on each side were falling in, and in one case where the room was all ablaze. They seemed to enjoy the business. In the midst of all this an old chap about seventy struggled up with the ‘fire engine’ – an old-fashioned hand pump made in the years B.C. He was got up for the job, too! A big poked cap, a tunic of a sort, and round his waist a very broad sash, all the colours of the rainbow. One man with a pump like that to put that fire out. Talk about ‘Karno’s Fire Brigade!’ Every soldier roared with laughter, although it was a tragic and pitiful sight. Well, we got into our cars a few streets further on, and so ended a day in which I feel quite justified in saying I had been through fire and water.”

The account, sadly anonymous, may have been written by a member of 5th (Coventry) Battery of the Motor Machine Gun Service



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4 minutes ago, rewdco said:

On 17th June 1915, The MotorCycle publishes a small article about a new War Office order for Royal Enfield combinations. The article doesn’t mention how many outfits, or for which Battery they will be…




A second batch of Royal Enfield motorcycle combinations left the factory in June - July 1915. According to the factory ledgers, 4 outfits were delivered to the “War Office” on June 6th, and 10 outfits were despatched on July 5th. (Another motorcycle was delivered to the “Army + Navy depot” in Westminster on July 13nd of 1915. I’m not sure if this one has something to do with the other 14.).  This makes a total of only 14 (or 15?) combinations, not the “usual” 18. Although the 5th Motor Machine Gun Battery’s War Diaries don’t mention the delivery of these motorcycles, I have a feeling that they may have been replacements for that Battery’s outfits that had been lost during several months at the Western Front.


This photograph shows the 10 outfits that were despatched from the Redditch factory on July 5th 1915:



I’m still hoping to find confirmation for the theory that these combinations were also used by 5MMGB…





There are photos in The Motorcycle  noting machines as being destined for No.5 Battery. Would need to check my files to see which issue.

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Lieut. J. Rowan (another name for the 5MMGB list) joins the Battery in September 1915:



And on August 3rd, Battery Sergeant Major Palmer had returned to England. On September 30th 1915 he’s mentioned in The MotorCycle:




I also found this letter from Gunner H. Falvey, written in September 1915:



October 5th 1915: another new name for the list: gunner J.G. Campbell…



October 10th: three new names: gunners Wilson, Wardle and Willis:



October 23rd: Lieut. A.W. Lane Joynce, another new name:



October 30th: Sergeant Dukes, another new name:



November 3rd: 2nd Lieut. Gordon Phillips Voss joined the Battery.


On November 7th 1915 we have another casualty: gunner Stanley Hooper was killed in action. This was also mentioned in the 26th November issue of the Coventry Standard.






Back to the trenches in 1916, but the Diaries don't show a lot of detailed information anymore (not that they ever did, but it's even worse now...). A new training period starts in June 1916, fewer and fewer details...

Three new names though:

Lieut. Gilman

Lieut. Jeffries

Lieut. S. Doward






The 5MMGB is disbanded in November 1916. "All motor cycles with side cars and Vickers machine guns returned to Rouen.” For more than one year at the front, I could only find three casualties for the 5MMGB. I had expected a lot more…


Any comments on this research are more than welcome! (Especially photographs with Royal Enfield outfits… )  ;)







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13 hours ago, rewdco said:

And on June 20th, the War Diary confirms that Major J.E. Alkin was replaced by Captain Philip Hamond:


@delta. I assume this is the same Philip Hammond (Norfolks and DSO from the Boer War IIRC) who was commanding a Company (No 18 Coy) of F Bn Tank Corps at Cambrai?


Regards, Paul

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I don't know of another Philip Hammond with a DSO, so almost certainly.

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Noting the comment about relatively few casualties. That was my original presumption when looking at the MMGS as a whole.  As this battery and several others were disbanded at the same time. I presume there was a decision made on priorities - all the Batteries (by their war diaries) were still quite active in various roles, but I presume building up Heavy Service was given priority  and the need was for men with prior active service to combine with those who had only been in training in the UK. From my research to date it's obvious a large number of MMGS men transferred to Heavy Branch either from disbanded batteries or "cherry picked" from other batteries. In some cases possibly at their own request. The number of identified casualties amongst the original MMGS contingent is growing rapidly, as many /invalided out later in Heavy Branch or Tank Corps service and listed under their Tank Corps service numbers. Also there are a large number of commissions amongst the earlier volunteers  - obviously capable men with combat experience.  A number of these are  outwith the MGC/Tank Corps, and this is also adding to list of casualties. You can see by the annual army lists with the officers the Heavy Branch and Tank Corps rapidly taking overtaking the MGC(M) in size.

5th Battery has always been the most documented battery due to it being "Coventry Battery" and the first when Geoffrey Church really got involved in the MMGS recruitment process. Hence they got a lot more press (in The Motorcycle), and the local newspapers.

Also long running thread here.


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On 04/02/2018 at 20:33, rewdco said:


Some time ago a very interesting thread on the 22nd Battery was started on this forum


I assume you are referring to the 22 Motor Machine Gun Battery thread I started at link: 

. Any help on tracking down further descendants, or photos of the battery would be gratefully appreciated.


I have checked the names listed in this thread and 22 Battery names - I cannot see any links, but David Murdoch will be able to comment in fuller detail.  Probably not surprising as 22 Bty shipped to India in Feb 16, and 5 MMG Bty didn't disband until Nov 16.  Accepted wisdom is that the majority of 5 MMG transferred to Heavy Section, MGC, particularly D Coy/Bn, and from there into the Tank Corps.

Regards, Paul

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10 hours ago, pjwmacro said:


I assume you are referring to the 22 Motor Machine Gun Battery thread I started at link: 

. Any help on tracking down further descendants, or photos of the battery would be gratefully appreciated.


I have checked the names listed in this thread and 22 Battery names - I cannot see any links, but David Murdoch will be able to comment in fuller detail.  Probably not surprising as 22 Bty shipped to India in Feb 16, and 5 MMG Bty didn't disband until Nov 16.  Accepted wisdom is that the majority of 5 MMG transferred to Heavy Section, MGC, particularly D Coy/Bn, and from there into the Tank Corps.

Regards, Paul

I've been working on roster for 24th MMG but getting side tracked by interesting individuals! I have a lot of information in my 5th Battery file, lists of names, cuttings from The Motorcycle and the casualties who I already had on my main spreadsheet. I'll cross check the names here with my own list and populate the unit roster spreadsheet. Once listed by order of service number it's easier to see who was original and who were replacements. Quite a few disappear off the MGC rolls, but can be found under their later Tank Corps numbers, and cross referenced off the Tank Corps 14-15 Star roll as this states MMGC/MGC(M) number and also often notes battery number. With the original members the date of entry is a pointer even if the battery number is not  stated. The war diary follows similar pattern to 24th's but not quite so detailed - change of officers shortly before being disbanded - probably in planning several months prior to November 1916. The original battery members are in a tighter service number block than most so likely to be able to pick out "possibles" among the consecutive numbering.

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Thanks to the people who have already replied to this thread! I realise that there are other threads on this forum with some 5MMGB information, there are at least two lists with 5MMGB crew members, I was hoping to add all the information into one single list. Wouldn't it be nice to find some direct descendants, just as in the 22 Battery thread!




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I have this on Palmer


Major AJ Palmer OBE
Royal Navy (HMS Woodlark)
Motor Machine Gun Service (No 5 Battery)
Heavy Section Machine Gun Corps (D Company) & Tank Corps (E Battalion)
The Upper Thames Patrol (Home Guard)

Order of the British Empire, Military, Officer 1st Type; China 1900 Medal (176168 AJ Palmer AB HMS Woodlark)
1914/15 Star (191 BSM AJ Palmer MMGS), BWM & Victory MID (Major AJ Palmer); 1939/45 Defence Medal


Mentioned in Despatches - France (LG 7th August 1917) (From Officers Service Papers, but not located)

Mentioned in Despatches - France (LG 13th August 1918) (From Officers Service Papers but not located)

OBE (Mily) - Birthday Honours(LG 3rd June 1919) (From Officers Service Papers but in 5th June EG Supplement)

Archibald James Palmer. Born 3rd November 1877 St Johns Coventry, Warwickshire. Father Joseph Aldis Palmer & Mother Matilda Palmer. Christened 22 December 1877 (St Michael, Coventry). Living 111 Humber Avenue, Coventry

Enlisted Royal Navy September 1893 to November 1907. Royal Fleet Reserve, Mine Sweepers November 1908 to November 1913. Overseas Service on China Station. China Medal awarded to AJ Palmer 176168 AB HMS Woodlark (HMS Woodlark - River Gun Boat 150 tons 2x6pdr guns 1897-1928). 37 No bar medals presented by the King 8th March 1902. (Medal Roll - 176168 AJ Palmer AB, China Medal sent to HMS Pembroke 18thJune 1902). Completion of Service with RN 1913


Enlisted in the Army 7th December 1914 (Aged 37 Years 1 Month) as 191 Gnr Motor Machine Gun Batteries. Immediately Promoted Sergeant 7th December 1914 and posted to No 5 Battery MMGS.

The list below is believed to be the original complement of No.5 Motor Machine Gun Battery, 'Coventry's Own' which went to France on 9 March 1915. Many transferred to D Battalion, Heavy Branch, on disbandment of the Battery around 8 November 1916 though none would have served in the first Tank action. A few numbers are not represented though the total roster including untraced men is close to the '34 vacancies' that Geoff Smith noted as available in The Motor Cycle of 3 December 1914.

160 BUCKINGHAM, Fred; enl. Coventry 28 November 14
161 CLARKE, Ernest, later 205652 Tank Corps
162 COCKER, Henry H., later 206109 Tank Corps; KIA 10 April 1917; from Coventry
163 DICKSON, Lionel; enl. Coventry 28 November 1914; ABDR. 2 December 1914; MM
164 DOUGLAS, Donald Cameron; enl. Coventry 28 November 1914; later 205579 Tank Corps
165 DOVEY, Harry; enl. Coventry 28 November 1914; later 200669 Tank Corps
166 EVERALL, Stephen; enl. Coventry 28 November 1914
167 FALVEY, Henry; enl. Coventry 28 November 1914; later 201658 Tank Corps
169 HAMMOND, Arthur; enl. 3 December 1914
170 HALL, Charles Boswell; from Leamington
171 HEGAN, Harold; commissioned MGC 16 December 1915; from Coventry
172 HATHAWAY, Sydney Cornelius; commissioned RFC; KIA 12 January 1916
173 HOOPER, Stanley; enl. Coventry 28 November 1914; KIA 7 November 1915
174 KING, Frank; enl. Coventry 28 November 1914; later 157755 RGA
175 LEE, William; enl. Coventry 28 November 1914; later 200701 Tank Corps
176 MASON, Tom; enl; Coventry 1 December 1914; later 200702 Tank Corps
177 MOAKES, John Curtis; commissioned RE; KIA 5 September 16;
178 MOORE, Alfred;
179 PYOTT, David; from Coventry; later 200703 Tank Corps and RE
180 RYCROFT, Nelson Wynne; commissioned Bedfordshire Regiment; KIA 25 September 17
181 STEBBING, Sidney Reginald; KIA 3 May 15; from Coventry
183 TEBBUTT, Horace Mark; enl. Coventry 28 November 1914; later 200704 Tank Corps
184 TEBUTT, Walter; enl. Coventry 28 November 1914; later 201747 Tank Corps
186 VERRY, Albert; enl. 28 November 1914; SWB; from Coventry
187 WILKINS, W enl. 27 November 1914
189 PENNY, Thomas
191 PALMER, Archibald James; BSM; commissioned MGC/Tank Corps; OBE; from Coventry
193 ALMOND, Edward Ronald; enl. Coventry 3 December 1914


Palmer joined the BEF with No 5 Battery on 9th March 1915 being confirmed as Battery Sergeant Major on 12th March 1915. Posted back to the MMG Training Centre at Bisley on 7th August 1915 (Embarked Queen Alexandria) he was discharged from MMGB to Commission 05th November 1915.

Appointed Temp 2nd Lieutenant Motor Machine Gun Service on 6th November 1915 he was promoted Temp Lieutenant on 6th January 1916 (Stated as 10/01/1916 in LG 19/02/1916) and then Temp Captain on 6th March 1916.


Appointed Adjutant of “E” Company HS MGC 01/06/16 to 20/11/16 (LG 22/06/1916)
Instructor MG School, Tank Corps 30/01/17 to 30/11/18 (LG 20/08/17)
Promoted Acting Major 30th January 1917 (LG 20/08/1917)
Promoted Temp Major 19th October 1918
Appointed Chief Instructor 30th November 1918 (LG 7th April 1919)
Discharged 8th November 1919


One of his sons, Pilot Sergeant Richard Palmer, was KIA 17/07/1941 Aged 26 RAFVR 115 Sqdn (Jonkerbos War Cemetery, Netherlands). Son of Archibald James Palmer and Amy Palmer, from Datchet, Buckinghamshire. The following 5 airmen from Richard Palmer’s plane who also died and are buried in this cemetery are Sergeant (W.Op / Air Gnr) Campbell, Flight Sergeant (Pilot) Cook, Fullard Sergeant (Air Gnr) Sergeant (Sgt. Air Obs) Hartry, Sergeant (W.Op / Air Gnr) McDonald

The Upper Thames Patrol was a somewhat obscure World War II unit which was, in effect, a sort of floating Home Guard, its members being responsible for the defence and security of the River Thames between London and Lechlade in the counties of Surrey, Middlesex, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire. The Upper Thames Patrol had been the idea of Sir Ralph Glyn, the Member of Parliament for Abingdon, who had approached the War Office and was granted permission to form a waterborne unit to patrol the River Thames between Teddington and Lechlade. The unit was incorporated into the Local Defence Volunteers, and, as such, it became part of the Home Guard when that force was created.


"The Upper Thames Patrol - The Waterborne Home Guard of the Thames from Maidenhead to Lechlade during World War" By Bill King

“The Upper Thames Patrol was formed in March 1939 before the outbreak of the Second World War, as it was realised that the Thames was vitally important strategically in the event of invasion, since it and its tributaries crossed the country from east to west, forming a natural barrier in the defence of the nation. Protecting 30 bridges and locks from sabotage by the enemy and also preventing deliberate flooding in order to damage land and infrastructure was a priority in stopping the advance of a foreign army. If this barrier was breached London could be encircled and would fall. It was known that Hitler was planning to put a puppet government in Oxford on his victory over the British and which was the reason why this city was never bombed.

The Upper Thames Patrol, known as the UTP (or Up The Pub, as local headquarters were usually in Pubs!) initially consisted of volunteers and Thames Conservancy employees. The Upper Thames defended was from Teddington Lock to Inglesham lock and an area one and a half miles either side, a total of 135 miles with 42 locks and 35 bridges. This was divided operationally into stretches, each of which was patrolled from the bank by relays of men in pairs every 2 hours for 24 hours a day until the UTP was disbanded. Boats were pressed into service or volunteered by their owners and included pleasure cruisers, fast Thames slipper boats and smaller craft, and patrolled during daylight hours. Eventually they were all painted battleship grey. At the end of the war they were handed back to their owners in a less than pristine state!

The UTP was absorbed into the Home Guard in August 1940 and was then involved in the construction of the pill boxes on the north bank of the Thames, some of which are still seen today and are protected by Grade II listing. By 1944 the Bridges on the Upper Thames were being used in an attacking instead of defensive role, to transport military equipment and men in convoys from the North of England to the South coast for the invasion of France. Once the threat of invasion had passed the UTP was disbanded.”

Palmer AJ Medals (1).jpg

Palmer AJ Photo No5 Battery MMGS Bisley 1915.jpeg

Palmer AJ R HMS Woodlark 2.jpg

Palmer AJ R Motorcycle (1).JPG

Palmer AJ Web Photo No5 Battery MMGS Bisley 1915 B.jpeg

Palmer AJ Photo First Tank Men.jpg

Edited by ghchurcher
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