Naval Automatic Guns: Part 3 Light machine guns

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In part 3 of this topic, we cover the development of light automatic guns from the Nordenfelt 1-inch gun of 1870 as defence against fast torpedo boats to the stop-gap solution of the Second World War multiple 0.5-inch Vickers gun mount that sprayed a stream of steel into the flight path of attacking aircraft.

Catalogue number Notes on Naval Progress 1899

The Nordenfelt 1-inch gun


This image shows a two-barrelled Nordenfelt 1-inch gun on the barbette mounting of H.M.S. Rodney in 1899. Nordenfelt guns were adopted by the Royal Navy from the 1870’s. The development of this and other light automatic guns was in response to the arrival of fast torpedo boats in naval combat. The ammunition holder is raised vertically and the sailor is ready to load the two barrels by a back and forth movement of the lever to his right.

Credit: Notes on Naval Progress 1899, Office of Naval Intelligence, Washington,U.S.A.





 

Catalogue number

Penetration power of the Nordenfelt gun


The Nordenfelt guns were of such a calibre to pierce the steel and iron plate that could be found on the present-day torpedo boats. These images show a two-man gun crew on a four-barrelled 1-inch gun. Ammunition was gravity fed into the barrels and volley-firing was the standard method.

Credit: The Naval Annual, Lord Brassey, 1886, Griffin and Co.



 

Catalogue number

Tests of a Nordenfelt gun


The 1-inch Nordenfelt “Anti-torpedo boat machine gun” was subject to trials in 1880 when shots from H.M.S. Medway running at 9 knots were fired into a model torpedo boat. The penetration by 1-inch shells from the Nordenfelt gun was compared with shells fired from the Hotchkiss 37mm gun and were found to have greater penetrating power.

Credit: The Naval Annual, Lord Brassey, 1886, Griffin and Co.







 

Catalogue number 27037

The Maxim gun


The rapid-firing Maxim gun replaced the slower Nordenfelt gun and the two companies merged in 1888 to form the Maxim Nordenfelt Guns and Ammunition Co. The gun shown here was manufactured by the Royal Small Arms Factory, Enfield between 1891-1917 as can be seen on brass plate just in front of the trigger grip. The gun is on its mount out on the starboard wing of the bridge of H.M.S. Goliath and has a light metal splinter screen. What isn’t visible in the photograph is the tank for cooling water. Note the corrugated, rather than the more common smooth, cooling sleeve. Is this a difference between the various constructors? We can see the semaphore signaling post behind sailors.

Recto: “Blue jackets at Maxim practice, H.M.S. Goliath, Yokohama Harbor, Japan, 1902

Credit: C.H. Graves

15.2cmx 8.2cm Gelatin silver print stereo-photograph

 

Catalogue number 113021

Quadruple Vickers machine guns, 1940, detail


This photograph shows 0.5-inch Vickers machine guns in a vertical quadruple mk III mounting on a destroyer in 1940. After the fast torpedo boat, the new menace was fast-flying aircraft and rapid-firing machine guns in multiple mounts was a stop-gap solution prior to the adoption of the more powerful Oerlikon and Bofors anti-aircraft guns. Ammunition was belt-fed from drums, two to either side of the mount which was trained and elevated by hand wheel.

Verso: “B.E.F. arrives home. A general view on board the transport ships

Credit: War Office Photograph. Crown Copyright

15.4cm x 20.4cm Gelatin silver print

 

Catalogue number 23013

Single Bofors gun mount


Another good view of the 0.5-inch Vickers machine gun in a quadruple mark III mounting on board a Royal Navy ship. With the aim of throwing up as much metal as possible into the flight path of an attacking aircraft, the rate of fire was 650 to 700 rounds per minute, the ammunition drums held 200-round link belts and a bullet weighed 37.6 grams. A sustained rate of fire was possible due to the water cooling system as opposed to the air-cooled Mauser MG34 gun which required changing barrels, although it be quick, after about 200 rounds.

Verso: “Air attack from the sea. Gunners in steel helmets stand by a battery of anti-aircraft machine-guns aboard a British Minerwerfer(sic) in the North Sea. This card can be sent from the war zone.” In French and in English.

13cm x 8.3cm Gelatin silver print

 

Catalogue number 96060

French Navy Hotchkiss gun, 1914 model


The 13.2mm Hotchkiss 1914 model light machine gun equipped many French warships in the late 1920s and early 1930s. It had ammunition strips with 24 or 30 rounds. Without a raising system on the pedestal, the gunner had to crouch down when firing at even modest angles of elevation.

Verso: "With the French Navy. On board a merchant ship, an unidentified aircraft has been spotted; the crew of the Armed Merchant Cruiser are at action stations. 27-03-40

Credit: Official photograph
12.2cm x 17.2cm Gelatin silver print

 

Catalogue number 104079

The 13.2mm 76 calibre Hotchkiss gun, 1929 model


The 13.2mm 76-calibre Hotchkiss gun was commonly installed as a twin Type R4 mounting as shown here. Training (left hand wheel) and elevation (right hand wheel) was manually controlled by the layer sat in an almost horizontal position with his feet on the footplates seen to the left of the pedestal. The trapeze sight is just in front of this sailor. Ammunition was in 30-round magazines, not shown here.



12.8cm x 9cm Gelatin silver print

 

Catalogue number 35163

Twin 13.2mm Hotchkiss, detail


The twin 13.2mm Hotchkiss on the type R4 mounting was present on most French warships in the 1930s. A parallelogram sighting system enabled the gunner to remain sitting, in an almost horizontal position, at all angles of elevation and with his feet resting on footplates in front of the mounting. Hand wheels were used for manual training (left hand, horizontal wheel) and elevation (right hand, vertical wheel) and the gun crew was three or four. The gun was air-cooled and the magazines held 30 rounds. With a 50gm solid bullet and a range of 4,200m, this gun was no match for the fast attacking aircraft and high level bombers that appeared during the Second World War.

Verso: “10 August 1940” in French and in black ink

6.3cm x 10.4cm Gelatin silver print

 

Catalogue number 35224

A German light machine gun, the Mauser MG-34


Although the Mauser MG-34 was a powerful and technically advanced machine gun with a high rate of fire when it came into service in 1935-6, the precise engineering tolerances and the use of high-quality metal alloys made it too complex for mass production. In this photograph, the round sight is folded down, 50-round belt ammunition was in the boxes to the left of each gun. The effective range was up to 2,000m with a 7.92mm rifle bullet.

Verso: “Norway 44 Mauser f…. sergeant Fernelsen” in German

9.2cm x 6.3cm Gelatin silver print

 

Catalogue number 113045

The Lewis gun


A single Lewis gun is being fitted to a trawler, the pedestal seems rather flimsy! The crew member to the right is holding a pan magazine with the canvas holder on his left arm.

Verso; “Scots trawlers now armed against Nazi planes. Scots trawlers are now being supplied with defensive measures to help protect them against enemy aircraft, which has already taken a toll of peaceful fishing vessels. Lewis guns are now being mounted on the trawlers and their crews trained in the use of them. Several trawlers have already given a good account of themselves when threatened by hostile aircraft. The Lewis gun being placed in position on its stand before a trawler leaves port. Members of the crew look on.” 19-3-40.

21.6cm x 16.7cm Gelatin silver print

 

Catalogue number 113046

A twin Lewis gun mount, 1940


This is a more solid twin Lewis gun installation with a metal-lined gun pit probably with concrete between the inner steel casing and the outer wooden case. The guns have the tangent leaf front sight.

Verso: “English trawlers are now armed. A Lewis machine gun in action in the turret on the deck of a trawler.” 26-3-40.

20cm x 14.5cm Gelatin silver print.

 

Catalogue number 44048

Quadruple Lewis guns on a MTB, 1940


Here is a fine array of quadruple Lewis guns in tubs on board a motor torpedo boat. Given the cramped space on the boat’s bridge and in the tubs, it must have been quite a job to keep up the flow of ammunition drums.

Verso: "These pictures show the Navy motor torpedo boats on duty off the East Coast. These craft are used for patrol work and are capable of fast speeds and have a wide cruising radius. Photo shows gunners at action stations on board one of the motor torpedo boats during duty off the East Coast. Judging by this picture enemy aircraft would certainly get a warm welcome" with "2 MAART 1940" (translated from Dutch as 2nd March 1940) stamped in blue.

14.2cm x 19.6cm Gelatin silver print

 

Catalogue number 114001

Russian Navy 12.7mm twin gun


This twin DShKM-2 mounting has the guns one above the other and has a light metal shield. The trapeze system for the gyro sight enables the gunner to remain standing at all angles of elevation and at low angles of elevation, the curve of the gunner’s handle bar goes into the recesses in the shield. This 12.7mm gun was for the Russian Navy what the M2 Browning was for the United States Navy, designed in 1938 it is still in use today. We can see the left magazine support rack for the lower gun but there is no magazine in place. Note the trigger on the right handle bar.

24cm x 18.2cm Gelatin silver print



 
Catalogue number 114002

The Degtjarev M38 machine gun, 1973


This postcard shows a twin 12.7mm Russian made Degtjarev DSHK M38/46 automatic gun on an Albanian fast motor launch. To the left and right of the guns are the magazines each containing a 50-round belt. Note the depth charges by the guard rail and the “spider” sight.

Verso: "1943–1973 30 year of the People’s Popular Army. Guarding our maritime borders.” In Albanian.

14.2cm x 10.1cm printed image