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BORDEN'S MOTOR MACHINE GUN BATTERY

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david murdoch
20 hours ago, MikeMeech said:

 

Elaborating on the previous comments. The Motor Machine Gun Service had planned to form 40 MMG batteries, but this was cancelled when the MGC took them over. Over the summer of 1915 the MMGS had recruited heavily for these planned batteries, but most of the personnel from August onwards started forming armoured vehicle units (the earliest  predating the MGC). Once the army inherited the RNAS cars they began forming L.A.B units (four cars)  - these were mostly later combined or upsized to 8 car L.A.M.B units due to having a more effective fighting strength and more economical (in terms of officers and mechanical support). From December 1915 on MMGS recruits in the main ended up going direct to Heavy Branch. Certainly from a strategy point of view the resources shifted into tanks as these were seen as a "war winner". In the first two weeks of November 1916  five MMG batteries were disbanded and research shows most of the personnel transferred directly to Heavy Branch - in what was obviously a planned move - and likely as a result of the tank action at Flers. By spring 1917 there were only three L.A.B units left in France and all of those moved to Mesopotamia. It's interesting to read the war diaries which show what these units were actually doing. For sure the MMG units were still playing an active roll  (bearing in mind the motorcycles were primarily intended as a means of transport to move the guns where they were needed - and the guns dismounted from the bikes for use) the two main activities were extreme range suppressing fire with pre planned fire plans (using the road network behind the allied lines) and as mobile anti aircraft batteries. The small armoured car units were obviously struggling with the conditions - again the war diaries reveal constant mechanical issues (cars out of action for service and repair), issues with road conditions ect . Also shows up constant modifications and increased armouring required due to conditions armoured piercing bullets - these all increased weight to the point the cars were at their limit (mechanically) and even more prone to bogging down. So there were sound reasons for pulling them out and sending them to the middle east where they made much more contribution. It's interesting to see photos of the same cars later in Mesopotamia they removed a lot of the modifications to get the weight back down. Another interesting comparison - looking at the relative battery strengths (MMG battery, L.A.B and L.A.M.B units) shows up the manpower and technical support (and cost) required to put each gun in the field. The motorcycle batteries were more or less self sufficient in mechanical/technical support, and though the armoured car units also had their own mobile workshops they were much more dependent on central "depot" workshops for repairs/overhauls. 

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2ndCMR
Posted (edited)

I recall now the source of the quotation about the Vickers orders: the taped recollections of Brig. Gen. Raymond Brutinel, which can be read here

 

Quote

The power of inertia displayed by the Higher Command regarding machine guns, grenades, munitions and so on, paralysed the British Army for some time.  Here is a first anecdote which illustrates this senseless attitude: on the 4th of February 1915 the King inspected the 1st Canadian Division mustered on Salisbury Plains.  The Machine Gun Motor Brigade had been formed on three lines. The Armoured trucks and officers' cars - the ammunition trucks, the repair shops - and other auxiliary cars.  In front of each armoured truck stood the Officer in Command, the driver and the two No.1 machine gunners.  In the truck crouching behind the raised armoured panels were the men completing the crews.

The King was interested by this unusual outfit and dismounting his charger, walked to the first armoured truck; he looked at it and fingered the front armour, then the armour of the side panels, and jumped lightly on a wheel to have a look inside the truck. He was suddenly confronted with the men completing the crews, who rose hastily to attention.  The surprise was great on both sides but His Majesty seemed delighted with the incident and asked questions regarding the number of rounds carried, and so on.  While awaiting his charger, the King said to Lord Kitchener : "This unit should be very useful I think." Much to my dismay, Lord Kitchener replied: "I don't think so, Sir, it would unbalance the fire power of a division."  Lieut. General Alderson, then commanding the Canadian Expeditionary Forces, was near me and he heard the brief dialogue. After the inspection he told me gravely: "I am afraid Lord Kitchener is right."

And that was that.

Here is a second anecdote, in confirmation as it were, of the earlier indictment.  I was very anxious to secure Vickers machine guns for the Motor Brigade and if possible, for the Canadian Contingent, but I feared that the Vickers Works might be swamped by all kinds of orders.  To ascertain the facts, I asked one of my associates in civil life, Mr. Fred Melling, Mechanical Engineer, to arrange a private visit of the Vickers Works.

During this visit, I asked if I could see the machine gun assembly shops. The engineer in charge of our visit said, "I am sorry but there is nothing to see there. We are polishing up a lot of 80 machine guns ordered by Italy before the declaration of war. We don't quite know if we must deliver them. In any case, they seem to have developed in high quarters some sort of prejudice against machine guns. We have no orders on hand and we feel it is a great pity."

We were then at the end of November 1914.

 

Edited by 2ndCMR

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MikeMeech
34 minutes ago, 2ndCMR said:

I recall now the source of the quotation about the Vickers orders: the taped recollections of Brig. Gen. Raymond Brutinel, which can be read here

 

 

Hi

 

I can only suggest that Brutinel may have 'miss-remembered' or the engineer in charge was not telling the truth as at November 1914 Vickers had yet to supply the orders that the British Army had requested in the four contracts made during August and September 1914!  If the assembly shops were idle why weren't they producing the Vickers guns already ordered that year?  The company were noted for 'failing to keep its promises on delivery' well into 1915.

 

Mike

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Moonraker
35 minutes ago, MikeMeech said:

Hi

 

I can only suggest that Brutinel may have 'miss-remembered' ...

Mike

As he appears to have done when it came to the date of the incident  - see my post 20. Quite understandable: Brutinel was 80 years old when he recorded his recollections, and he did so some 38 years after the Royal inspections.

 

The Royal occasion of November 4 comprised a series of visits to different camps, including Pond Farm where Brutinel's  unit was camped. That of February 4 appears to have been more one of meeting senior officers and then taking the salute at a march-past of the Contingent.

 

My attempts to access the Brigade's war diaries for this period result in the message "Warning: Descriptive record is in process. These materials may not yet be available for consultation".

 

 

Moonraker

 

 

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2ndCMR
Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, MikeMeech said:

Hi

 

I can only suggest that Brutinel may have 'miss-remembered' or the engineer in charge was not telling the truth as at November 1914 Vickers had yet to supply the orders that the British Army had requested in the four contracts made during August and September 1914!  If the assembly shops were idle why weren't they producing the Vickers guns already ordered that year?  The company were noted for 'failing to keep its promises on delivery' well into 1915.

 

Mike

 

Perhaps the orders were wending their weary way through the hands of War Office "ink-slingers" and arrived at Vickers some time after Brutinel's visit?  Anyone who reads Fuller's memoirs will remember the amusing and pathetic saga of the CIGS' dividers and the bureaucratic round-game that prefaced their issue.  R.V.K. Applin, who I was just reading the other day, recounts similar nonsense as do the memoirs of innumerable other officers. 

 

If questions were raised within the War Office over late deliveries the ink-slingers would be sure to blame the contractor, not their own delay in processing the orders.  Indeed, knowing how other contracts were at times "back-dated", I would be sceptical of dates claimed on them particularly on so tendentious a subject as machine guns.  Vickers has an extensive archive I believe; perhaps someone should dig into it?  The company records are more likely to show what was actually ordered when.

 

 

Edited by 2ndCMR

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MikeMeech
1 hour ago, 2ndCMR said:

 

Perhaps the orders were wending their weary way through the hands of War Office "ink-slingers" and arrived at Vickers some time after Brutinel's visit?  Anyone who reads Fuller's memoirs will remember the amusing and pathetic saga of the CIGS' dividers and the bureaucratic round-game that prefaced their issue.  R.V.K. Applin, who I was just reading the other day, recounts similar nonsense as do the memoirs of innumerable other officers. 

 

If questions were raised within the War Office over late deliveries the ink-slingers would be sure to blame the contractor, not their own delay in processing the orders.  Indeed, knowing how other contracts were at times "back-dated", I would be sceptical of dates claimed on them particularly on so tendentious a subject as machine guns.  Vickers has an extensive archive I believe; perhaps someone should dig into it?  The company records are more likely to show what was actually ordered when.

 

 

Hi

 

I think the official records are quite clear and extensive on the subject as they were paying out a lot of money for these orders, the History of the Ministry of Munitions has some detail on this:

 

"The first comparatively small orders placed with Messrs. Vickers in August and September, 1914, were at prices ranging from £167 to £162 per gun (inclusive of spares).  On the larger orders of September, 1914, the firm refused to make any reduction on the ground that the consequent reductions in manufacturing costs were balanced by the need for providing capital for the extensions."  All this was before November 1914, it continues: "The price subsequently fixed for the large orders placed by the Ministry in July, 1915, was £125 per gun, a rebate of £25 per gun being made towards the £300,000 advanced by the State towards the new factories."

 

The pre-war stock of machine guns in the British forces was 1,955, Maxims and Vickers.  The total number of machine-guns ordered between August, 1914, and May,1915, (inclusive) was 3,344 made up of 1,792 Vickers, 1,052 Lewis and 500 Madsen guns.  Promises had been made for the delivery of 2,482 guns, these were 1,592 Vickers and 890 Lewis guns by 29 May 1915.  The actual acceptance by this date were 775 Vickers and 264 Lewis, total of 1,039.  The OHMoM states:

 

"The immediate shortage was mainly due to the failure of either Messrs. Vickers or the Armes Automatiques Lewis to redeem their promises as to immediate delivery."

 

The number of machine guns ordered was based on the manufacturers stated production capacity.  They had the orders they could not deliver on them.

 

Mike

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2ndCMR
Posted (edited)

According to the Official History of the Ministry of Munitions that is?

 

Written when exactly and by who?

 

Would Vickers or anyone else be likely to promise "immediate delivery" do you think? 

 

That hardly seems probable does it as "immediate delivery" could only be made if stock was on hand rather than manufactured to order?

 

Smells more like something else to me.

 

 

 

 

Edited by 2ndCMR

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MikeMeech
Posted (edited)
12 hours ago, 2ndCMR said:

According to the Official History of the Ministry of Munitions that is?

 

Written when exactly and by who?

 

Would Vickers or anyone else be likely to promise "immediate delivery" do you think? 

 

That hardly seems probable does it as "immediate delivery" could only be made if stock was on hand rather than manufactured to order?

 

Smells more like something else to me.

 

 

 

 

Hi

The Official History of the Ministry of Munitions is a twelve volume detailed history of wartime supply of war materials, problems associated with it covering many aspects.  It is a core published resource on the matter.  As it is so large and covers a wide variety of things it has multiple authors and published mainly between the wars.  It is full of data tables, costs and deliveries of items throughout the war.

 

Volumes:

I - Industrial Mobilization 1914-1915.

II - General Organization for Munitions Supply.

III - Finance and Contracts.

IV - The Supply and Control of Labour 1915-1916.

V - Wages and Welfare.

VI - Manpower and Dilution.

VII - The Control of Materials.

VIII - Control of Industrial Capacity and Equipment.

IX -  Review of Munitions Supply.

X - The Supply of Munitions.

XI - The Supply of Munitions.

XII - The Supply of Munitions.

 

I only have copies of the last three volumes, Volume XI has Part V on Machine Guns.

 

You seem to be implying that the information contained in these volumes must be 'suspect', presumably due to it not matching  Brutinel's memory of someone else's alleged comment.  Do you have any other evidence of "Smells more like something else to me" ?

 

Mike

Edited by MikeMeech

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2ndCMR
Posted (edited)

Smells like some retro-active self-justification: having failed to appreciate the value of machine guns before the war, or indeed for some time after, one can well imagine that a few dates might be changed to make things look better.

 

We know what Gen. Edmonds who edited the Official History had to say about its veracity don't we?  Would the Ministry of Munitions have been more reliable?  That would be stretching the bounds of credulity!

 

I suppose it is possible that Brutinel suffered an aural hallucination, or that he invented the whole thing, but that doesn't seem likely, nor does he seem to have struggled to recall events in the tapes. 

 

Worth remembering too that he was "going on the record" in the most definite way by recording a tape; would he have done so if he stood to be flatly contradicted by other records?

 

Could it have been an elaborate deception by the engineer at Vickers?  Even less likely isn't it when he's speaking to a senior serving officer no doubt in uniform and better yet, a prospective major customer?

 

No, probably the contracts were just back-dated, or Vickers simply didn't receive them until after Brutinel's visit.

 

So what about the "immediate delivery" conundrum?

 


 

Edited by 2ndCMR

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MikeMeech
1 hour ago, 2ndCMR said:

Smells like some retro-active self-justification: having failed to appreciate the value of machine guns before the war, or indeed for some time after, one can well imagine that a few dates might be changed to make things look better.

 

We know what Gen. Edmonds who edited the Official History had to say about its veracity don't we?  Would the Ministry of Munitions have been more reliable?  That would be stretching the bounds of credulity!

 

I suppose it is possible that Brutinel suffered an aural hallucination, or that he invented the whole thing, but that doesn't seem likely, nor does he seem to have struggled to recall events in the tapes. 

 

Worth remembering too that he was "going on the record" in the most definite way by recording a tape; would he have done so if he stood to be flatly contradicted by other records?

 

Could it have been an elaborate deception by the engineer at Vickers?  Even less likely isn't it when he's speaking to a senior serving officer no doubt in uniform and better yet, a prospective major customer?

 

No, probably the contracts were just back-dated, or Vickers simply didn't receive them until after Brutinel's visit.

 

So what about the "immediate delivery" conundrum?

 


 

Hi

 

The Official History of the Ministry of Munitions would have been very poor at being 'retro-active justification' as only about 250 copies of each were originally produced for in-house use (lessons learned for a future war) and were only disposed of to the public in the early 1950s.  It is more available now because Naval & Military Press have re-printed it.  Also as the formation of  the Ministry of Munitions was considered a revolutionary step when undertaken during 1915 they would probably not be concerned at 'covering up' any problems with the earlier War Office orders for machine guns or anything else.  I don't think your criticism stacks up.

 

Also Brutinel could not have placed any orders with Vickers in November 1914 as Vickers would have to get permission from the British Government, hence my previous reference to the French order and the government caveat on that.

 

'Immediate delivery' would be as the guns were produced so batches would leave the factory on a weekly or even daily basis, delivery would not wait until the full order to be produced if that is what you are implying?  Vickers was not producing the MGs at the rate they said they would when accepting the orders, many other companies producing other 'munitions' also failed to deliver (eg. shell shortage etc), and as I have looked through MUN documents in the UK National Archives reference other supplies, such as flares, you can see a failure to deliver enough of the orders by the dates required well into 1916 and even later.

 

British Industry had only a relatively small 'military industry' component due to having a 'small' army in continental terms, hence problems with expanding to supply a larger army with increasing numbers of weapons and increased scales.  The shortage of materials, skilled labour, problems about dilution of labour with unions and companies as well as increasing the factory space to produce more were all things that had to be overcome, machine guns were just one part of that supply problem.  Throughout the war the MG output was as follows:

1914 Aug-Dec. - Maxim 13, Vickers 266, Lewis 8.

1915 - Maxim 38, Vickers 2,405, Lewis 3,650, Hotchkiss 9.

1916 - 307, 7,429, 21,615, 4,156.

1917 - 308, 21,782, 45,528, 12,128.

1918 - Nil, 39,473, 62,303, 19,088.

Totals - 666, 71,355, 133,104, 35,381.

 

Vickers made up 29.7% of total output.

 

Mike

 

 

 

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