Author Topic: A Machine gunbattalion  (Read 5545 times)

Offline PhilipG

  • Global Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 2,433
A Machine gunbattalion
« on: September 12, 2013, 03:44:26 PM »
During WW2 and seeing the world at the expense of King George Vl, I can remember seeing men whose battle dress blouses sleeves bore, in white letters on a red background, the word "Manchester".   I seem to recall that "Machine gun battalion" was their reason for being formed.  What battalion would that be and would they be kitted out with Vickers or Lewis guns or even Brens?   Sorry to be ignorant in this matter but I was just a "matelot" at that time. PhilipG.

Offline Robert Bonner

  • Administrator
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,388
Re: A Machine gunbattalion
« Reply #1 on: September 12, 2013, 04:34:18 PM »
WWII.
1st Bn MG Support Bn of 53rd Welsh Division
2nd Bn      ditto              2nd Infantry Division
7th Bn       ditto              52nd Lowland Division
9th Bn       ditto              Iceland 'C' Force, then 4th Indian Division, then 46th Divison.

All equipped with Vickers machine guns.  The 1st Bn also had 4.2" mortars.
Always plenty of LMGs
Robert

Offline PhilipG

  • Global Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 2,433
Re: A Machine gunbattalion
« Reply #2 on: September 12, 2013, 05:53:45 PM »
Robert

Many thanks for that. So the 2nd Mcrs was also a Machine Gun Battalion. What fire power. What would Owen have thought, he on the Heidenkopf in 1917 with just 5 Lewis guns on his charge?  On the principle that young Naval Airmen should never be idle, in WW2 I was sent to the Royal Marines Camp at Browndown, Gosport.  It was an interesting experience.  Firstly, as sailors do not have either mess tins or knives & forks, the consumption of food whilst on the ranges was difficult.  Secondly, this nuisance was compensated by the fact that we were allowed to fire the following weapons: Lewis gun (akin to that carried by a Swordfish aircraft T.A.G), Bren Gun, Sten Gun (watch your thumb), Lanchester (a Sten with a wooden butt?), 2 inch mortar, Thompson Sub Machine Gun Mark 1 (the Chicago gangster type with a drum magazine- issued to Air Mechanics for airfield protection against paratroops!!!).  I later fired the anti-tank gun called the PIAT. I still have the shoulder. Thanks again.PhilipG.

Offline harribobs

  • Site Monkey
  • Global Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 5,179
Re: A Machine gunbattalion
« Reply #3 on: September 14, 2013, 10:55:04 PM »
Philip

I heard from a veteran that the drum loaded thompsons had a very nasty tendency for the magazine to drop out if loaded fully just when you fired!

I've fired one with a stick magazine (45cal) and it was very impressive!
“It may be that your sole purpose in life is simply
  to serve as a warning to others."

Offline Pete Th

  • Administrator
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,565
Re: A Machine gunbattalion
« Reply #4 on: September 15, 2013, 10:06:44 AM »
The 2nd Manchesters fought at Kohima. The following is an extract from our forthcoming book 'Two Towns Go To War' (I've removed the soldier's name to avoid any copyright issues):

The Battle of Kohima (north east India) commenced on 4th April when the Japanese attempted to capture the Kohima Ridge, the high ground which commanded the road used to supply the besieged British and Indian garrison of Imphal. The small British force at Kohima held the Japanese off until they were relieved in mid-April by the 2nd British Division and the 5th and 7th Indian Divisions, who had broken through the Japanese roadblock on the Dimapur-Kohima road. In early May the Allies counter-attacked and by 13th May the Japanese had been forced from the positions they had captured in April. Much of the Battle of Kohima was fought in appalling conditions brought on by the torrential rains of the Monsoon. The British and Indian troops pursued the fleeing Japanese, reopening the supply route and ending the siege of Imphal on 22nd June.

Local man, Private XXX XXXX, 5 Platoon, B Company, 2nd Battalion, The Manchester Regiment, took part in the battle. The 2nd Manchester Regiment was the machine-gun battalion of the 2nd Division and B Company was attached to the 5th Infantry Brigade within the 2nd Division. XXX, a machine-gunner, gave the following account of his time in India and the call to Burma to relieve Kohima: From there they sent us to the Bengal jungle, after we’d been there a while for training for Burma, it’s near Goa, Goa was actually only a few mile away. We had no transport then, you all just lived in the jungle. It was alive with bloody baboons and everything. Had some experiences like but nothing like that. I sat with the T2s we were being the scouts this day, we sat down under this tree in front of the others. I looks up and saw this bloody snake, curled round this bough, we was off. And it was the same with the baboons, when we saw the baboons at first, it was just, the tree was like that, Billy Booth it was, he said ‘they’re bloody gorillas them.’ We gets back, they said ‘there’s no gorillas in India, they’re baboons.’ Anyway we got a call then, we had to go into Burma, so of the whole of the 2nd Division, we move up like, and we drove all the way from Bengal and I had a bloody truck with no windscreen, and every day I used to be caked with sand and with sweat, it must have been about 2,000 miles or more.

We couldn’t cross the Brahmaputra, the ferry didn’t take vehicles over, we were carrying on to Calcutta, then we got on flat-tops on the railway and they took us north again, that’s like to southern Himalayas. They put us off and then we finished up crossing this railway bridge with the vehicles over the sleepers, and I remember going along this road, Himalayas again, thousands of different people, lovely metal road, just gulleys like that every so far, and then we drove down to Dimapur, where all the supplies come through. That’s where the Japs was heading for, Dimapur railhead. Able to supply anything. So I was put on this gun with my mate, Fred, and we were together all the time, you know you’d eat and sleep together, on the gun together, he was No 1, I was No 2, I fed the gun.


During the battle his gun team was located on the hills opposite the Japanese positions at Kohima and directly above them was the British Artillery. When the British guns fired, the noise was tremendous. At the end of the bombardment the Japanese would emerge from their dug-outs to shake out their blankets to remove the dust and earth thrown up by the explosions. This was the machine-gunners’ signal to open fire. He had no idea whether he hit anyone. He described the situation at Kohima: We fought through Kohima and it took, I think it took about six weeks to take that place, anyway they were fighting there before we got there, we went on the other side, out of the tracks. But that was a bad fight that was, lost a lot of men there, the division. That was terrible that was. I forget what mob was holding that when we got there, repelling bloody attacks all the time, if they hadn’t have done they’d have took bloody India. A lot of them was killed. They were doing all sounds, the Japanese were speaking English, you know, ‘come on Tommy, it’s all out now.’ Shouting for help like a wounded soldier, you daren’t go out, you daren’t reply, that’s what they said, ‘come on Tommy.’
« Last Edit: September 15, 2013, 10:21:51 AM by Pete Th »
Remembering

Pte Sidney Lee (36719), 2nd Battalion, Worcestershire Regt - dow 18.02.17
Sgt Charles Roberts (13668), 11th Bn, Manchester Regiment - kia 18.05.18
Bombardier John Hesford (70065), 147th Heavy Battery, RGA dow - 04.09.18
Pte Sidney Lee (4131324), 8th Bn, Cheshire Regiment -  kia 12.03.41

Offline Robert Bonner

  • Administrator
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,388
Re: A Machine gunbattalion
« Reply #5 on: September 15, 2013, 11:00:26 AM »
Pete.
Really interesting.  That's the first account of Kohima by a Manchester soldier which I've come across, apart from that written by the CO - Rex King-Clark. Very good to have it published.
Robert

Offline PhilipG

  • Global Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 2,433
Re: A Machine gunbattalion
« Reply #6 on: September 15, 2013, 08:05:47 PM »
harribobs- nice to hear from you.

I must have been lucky re the Thompson sub machine gun.  The background was  that after Dunkirk there was an urgent need for weapons of all kinds and all sorts came from overseas, including the Thompson sub machine gun. (Presumably the Chicago gangsters had moved on to something else!).  Another weapon sent over was the Canadian Ross rifle, alleged to be not too good. So it seems to me that eventually the RN was given these sub machine guns as being suitable for airfield defence by Air Fitters and Air Mechanics. The mind boggles! It was a good job a RM officer was detailed to give them concentrated tuition before they went on duty. Thereafter, they were handed over to me as Officer of the Watch if I had "fallen for that job" that day. For obvious reasons the only gun I truly knew about  was the Browning as fitted in aircraft.
I went to the Falklands on holiday in 1985. The R.E.Officer in Port Stanley told me that during the Conflict 2 inch mortars and Brens were used. Now there are real weapons!  Regards. PhilipG.
As regards the Lewis gun. The FAA barracks in Gosport (training barracks for FAA pilots, observers & Telegraphist Air Gunners), had on a roof of one of the barracks a gun position with a Lewis gun in position.  In 1940 during a daylight raid on Portsmouth, Chief Petty Officer Gunners Mate Wilmot shot down an enemy fighters using this Lewwis gun, a brave action for which he was awarded the B.E.M.

Offline Pete Th

  • Administrator
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,565
Re: A Machine gunbattalion
« Reply #7 on: September 15, 2013, 08:46:39 PM »
Pete.
Really interesting.  That's the first account of Kohima by a Manchester soldier which I've come across, apart from that written by the CO - Rex King-Clark. Very good to have it published.

Thanks Robert, it was a great privilege to meet Tom. Unfortunately at 93 years old he's not in the best of health. It was Tom who I tried to set up a visit to the museum last year but sadly he wasn't fit enough to travel.

Over the last three years it has been my great privilege  to meet 28 local veterans of the war, sadly none of them thought that people appreciated what they had done. We can correct this for these few wonderful people who are left but it breaks my heart to think of those that are no longer here and went to their graves believing this.
Remembering

Pte Sidney Lee (36719), 2nd Battalion, Worcestershire Regt - dow 18.02.17
Sgt Charles Roberts (13668), 11th Bn, Manchester Regiment - kia 18.05.18
Bombardier John Hesford (70065), 147th Heavy Battery, RGA dow - 04.09.18
Pte Sidney Lee (4131324), 8th Bn, Cheshire Regiment -  kia 12.03.41

Offline PhilipG

  • Global Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 2,433
Re: A Machine gunbattalion
« Reply #8 on: September 15, 2013, 11:24:29 PM »
Pete

Known as the "Forgotten Army" of course. (14th Army). I can remenber them eventually coming home on leave  on "Python", with the other variations of this leave name and facility, with their Bush hats and a yellow skin through, if I remember correctly,  attributable to mepacrin.  Great men really forgotten by the Press and public.

Another "forgotten" formation was the 8th Army,  known as the "D Day Dodgers", flogging their way up Italy.  There were several verses to the song they composed, which was rendered to the tune of Lilli Marlene.  "We are the D Day dodgers, way out in Italy".

They rank in my book with the Far East Prisoners of War, brought home, sometimes in the decks of aircraft carriers from the British Pacific Fleet. Regards. PhilipG.

Offline mack

  • Global Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 7,918
Re: A Machine gunbattalion
« Reply #9 on: September 16, 2013, 11:39:24 AM »
my dad served with the 8th army in north africa,then he went to burma,he was in the signals,he was in a convoy one day,most of which were supplies for the battle of kohima,he was instructed to disable his vehicle during overnight stops,they did this be removing something on the engine[cant remember what he said it was]possibly the distributor cap,him and his pals were having something to eat,when a couple of MPs with a officer,pointed at his truck and asked whos vehicle it was,he told em he was the driver,the goons were going to arrest him for not immobilising it,so my dad asked the officer to try a drive it away,but he couldnt because dad had unscrewed the gear column stick and hid it in his tunic,the officer laughed and told him to go,he later bought him a bottle of beer,said hed never seen a vehicle nobbled like that before,but the two goons were not pleased,and later in the evening,they confronted him in a quiet part of the base,intent on givin him a bit of an hiding,dad persuaded them from doing this by knockin them both out with the gear stick

mack ;D

Offline PhilipG

  • Global Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 2,433
Re: A Machine gunbattalion
« Reply #10 on: September 16, 2013, 12:23:16 PM »
Mack,
What a lovely piece.  To have to go to Burma after fighting in the Western Desert is terrible to consider.  It is men like your father who won the war.

 On the basis that I had my Driving Licence in 1941, I prevailed upon the airfield Transport Officer in 1944, to let me have a try with a Canadian Chev. which we had on the squadron.  The gear lever was located between the seats, but very awkwardly placed towards the rear of the cab. Coupled with the need to double de-clutch, I made a mess of the exercise and wisely, it was decided that it would be better for the Leading Hand in the transport section to drive me to the Pay Office some miles away, otherwise the "hands" would not get their pay. Always nice to hear from you. PhilipG.

Offline mack

  • Global Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 7,918
Re: A Machine gunbattalion
« Reply #11 on: September 16, 2013, 09:34:48 PM »
after burma,my dad went to india,one of the jobs that he did for over six months,was to take a heavy truck to the docks and pick up female military personel and take them to their units,me old man according to me mam,was a letch,when she first met him,he had eleven girlfriends,so giving him a job like that,was like locking a kid in a toffee shop

one of his favourite parts of the day was at meal time,he and his mates would sit eating their dinner,and wait for the new arrivals to emerge from the cook house with their dinner and cross over to the dining area,but these poor buggers had never heard of the bombay shitehawk,and quick as a flash,the bleeders had cleared every rookies uncovered plate in one foul swoop.

mack ;D

Offline PhilipG

  • Global Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 2,433
Re: A Machine gunbattalion
« Reply #12 on: September 16, 2013, 10:10:06 PM »
Mack
From your story there would seem to be a benefit in joining the Royal Corps of Signals!
I bet he knew the song of those times- "They say there's a troopship just leaving Bombay, bound for old Blighty's shores......".    Ending-"You'll get no promotion this side of the ocean, so cheer up my lads bless 'em all".  Or words to effect!    PhilipG.

Offline mack

  • Global Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 7,918
Re: A Machine gunbattalion
« Reply #13 on: September 17, 2013, 12:47:57 AM »
hiya philip,
me dad wasnt to fond of the troopship going to north africa,he spent the first few days locked in the brig with no guard posted,when the ships captain found out,he confronted the officer responsible and told him to release him immediately,stating that if they were attacked by subs,he would have no chance to escape because there was nobody on guard to release him from his cell,he was released immediately

one amusing thing that did happen,his mates used to lower fags+beer down the side of the ship for him,one day there was a cell inspection,so he lowered the beer out through the porthole,when the inspection was over,he pulled the beer back up,but there was only the necks of the bottles left,they had smashed against the ships side

mack ;D

Offline PhilipG

  • Global Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 2,433
Re: A Machine gunbattalion
« Reply #14 on: September 17, 2013, 11:08:21 AM »
Mack
A brief word picture is emerging of your father's army service and his brush with authority.  Form No. 252 must have been in frequent use.  As regards the location of his cell during his cruise to the Mediterranean, at least from what you say, he was above the waterline.  This was not the case in respect of German POW's being transported to the US (to save on rations in the UK) on my troopship, where they were accommodated in "cages" well below the waterline.  This was not a good position in which to be if an unfriendly U-boat was around. (I was on Main Deck!). In connection with this I am still trying to remember if the guards were from the Military Provost Staff Corps or the Pioneer Corps.  Perhaps that is a topic for elsewhere. Again best regards. PhilipG.