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"British Lewis gun use inter-wars?" Topic

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Comments or corrections?

Darrell B D Day08 Jul 2024 5:15 a.m. PST

it's become accepted in VBCW rules and games that a section (regular, militias, irregular) has a Lewis gun fulfilling the rôle later taken up by the Bren. But was the Lewis gun actually used in this way as a section support weapon?


Martin Rapier08 Jul 2024 6:08 a.m. PST

The short answer is yes, the British Army had moved away from dedicated LMG sections. The longer answer is that doctrine in the late 1930s was that none of these weapons were actually issued to sections but were issued to the platoon (and carried in the platoon transport) to be distributed as required, this was still in field manuals at the start of the war.

In practice, each section had their own LMG unless there were exceptional circumstances (patrols etc).

John Armatys08 Jul 2024 6:28 a.m. PST

From the end of WW1 to the 1936 re-organisation (which I think was implemented as Bren guns were issued) a British infantry platoon had two Lewis gun sections and two rifle sections.

Infantry Training 1937 says that the section is the fire unit. The earliest reference I've found to a section being split is in Small Arms Training, Volume I, Pamphlet No. 4, Light Machine Gun, 1937.

Darrell B D Day08 Jul 2024 7:48 a.m. PST

Thank you both for your informative replies.

John – the LEWIS gun sections – did they, in theory, consist of 8 men with one Lewis? Sorry to be dense but are you saying that each rifle section operated with a Lewis gun section but they were independent of each other?



John Armatys08 Jul 2024 9:11 a.m. PST

From Platoon Training 1919 – The section is the unit from which infantry organisation is built. It consists of a leader and six men, and is the fire unit. It will not go into action more than seven strong or with less than three men. The platoon is the "fighting" or "tactical unit" of the infantry" consists of a platoon HQ (one officer, one sergeant, one runner and a batman trained as a runner), and two rifle sections and two Lewis gun sections. If a platoon falls below an effective strength of two sections (each of three other ranks) it may be attached temporarily to another platoon in the same company.

Unlike other armies the British didn't split platoons into two sections, each with a rifle squad and an lmg squad. The sections were "independent" in the sense that they were not permanently paired… (I hope that this makes sense).

Darrell B D Day08 Jul 2024 11:20 a.m. PST

@John Armatys – yes, very clear – many thanks.


Martin Rapier08 Jul 2024 11:13 p.m. PST

The main job of the soldiers in the Lewis sections was to carry ammunition for it. The drums were bulky and heavy.

0ldYeller09 Jul 2024 11:32 a.m. PST

In the movie March Or Die – the Legionnaires use a Lewis Gun in the final battle scene. Movie takes place in inter-war years. Does that help LOL.

Darrell B D Day09 Jul 2024 3:53 p.m. PST

The main job of the soldiers in the Lewis sections was to carry ammunition for it. The drums were bulky and heavy.

I read somewhere that they were also intended to replace casualties to the gunner or loader. Also, apparently the strength of 8 men was rarely realised.


Darrell B D Day09 Jul 2024 3:55 p.m. PST

In the movie March Or Die – the Legionnaires use a Lewis Gun in the final battle scene. Movie takes place in inter-war years. Does that help LOL.

Interesting but I was trying to pin down whether they were used as a section support weapon which I think has been answered above.


John Armatys09 Jul 2024 4:14 p.m. PST

"apparently the strength of 8 men was rarely realised." – particularly as the establishment was seven….

Martin Rapier09 Jul 2024 11:26 p.m. PST

Yes, gunner, loader and five ammo carriers.

Darrell B D Day10 Jul 2024 2:15 a.m. PST

A Lewis team normally consisted of eight men and two guns, though they were frequently under strength. The core of the team were two gunners and their assistants – the No.1s operated the weapon, the No.2s changed magazines and carried the parts bag and spare barrel. The remainder were ostensibly riflemen who could step in or provide covering fire, but their main job was passing ammunition forward

That quote is from here:

It would imply that the team per gun was only 4.

As you two agree, it looks like the internet has let me down😀


John Armatys10 Jul 2024 3:13 a.m. PST

The link is to a site that needs a subscription.

Section Leading 1928 and Infantry Section Leading 1934 both say that rifle and Lewis gun sections had seven men.

The rifle section all had rifles, three with grenade dischargers (the only difference in the tables is that in 1928 they had 120 rounds per man which could be supplemented by a 50 round bandolier, in 1934 they had 50 rounds per man).

The Lewis gun section (1928)/light automatic section (1934) had:
Section Commander – rifle with 50 rounds and one magazine for the Lewis gun (47 rounds)
No. 1 – revolver, Lewis gun, one magazine (47 rounds)
No. 2 – revolver, two magazines (94 rounds)
Nos. 3 to 7 – rifle with 50 rounds, four magazines (188 rounds).

After the table on page 6 of the 1934 edition there is a note: "The light automatic, with its equipment and ammunition, is carried on the march in the company limber and issued before the section goes into action. The other weapons are carried on the man.
It will be seen that 5 rifles and bayonets are carried in each LA section. Without its light automatic the section can, therefore, fight as a rifle section".

Darrell B D Day10 Jul 2024 3:30 a.m. PST

John- interesting info again – thanks. Incidentally, I don't have a sub to that site – I got it from a Google search so I don't know why you can't access it.

Actually, the Lewis gun section you detail above does have 8 men if you count the section commander.


John Armatys10 Jul 2024 3:54 a.m. PST

My fault – it should read "Nos. 3 to 6…".


Darrell B D Day10 Jul 2024 8:02 a.m. PST

My fault – it should read "Nos. 3 to 6…"<\q>



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