For military history buffs, there’s nothing better than a good book. For those interested in firearms history and specifically the use of machine guns during the First World War, there’s some good news. The Vickers MG Collection & Research Association, a not for profit research collection in the UK, has announced the reprinting of a long-lost book about the British Army’s use of the Vickers machine gun during the Great War.
Originally published in 1919, the ‘History of the 33rd Battalion, Machine Gun Corps’ documents the experiences and actions of a dedicated machine gun battalion during the war. Written by members of the battalion, with the lead author believed to be the Battalion’s commander – Lt Col Hutchison. Hutchinson later went on to write ‘Machine Guns’ published in 1938, an autobiography and became known for some of his fiction novels.
Check out a video from the Vickers MG Collection & Research Association introducing the project:
The ‘History of the 33rd Battalion, Machine Gun Corps’ was actually one of the first Great War-era unit histories to be published. The reprint, like the original, is filled with watercolours, photos and numerous maps. Only 1,600 copies were originally printed but these, like most good gun books, have become almost impossible to find and extortionately expensive when a copy does surface.
We spoke to the director of the Vickers MG Collection & Research Association, Richard Fisher, and asked him about the project.
TFB: Why’s it important to reprint the book now?
Fisher: Really, it’s to make the Machine Gun Corps’ (MGC) history more accessible and raise interest ahead of the centenary of its disbandment that’s coming up in 2022. We are publishing a full history of the Corps in the next couple of years, which will be the fruition of a project that began way back in 1999. The Corps are a largely undervalued but really important unit and it’s important we remember their role.
TFB: So why would somebody be interested in buying a copy?
Fisher: Well given this is the only unit history of the MGC, it covers the development and formation of machine gun companies in 1916, their actions and then the eventual formation of machine gun battalions in 1918. It gives a unique perspective on the Western Front and how machine guns were used, with much description of overhead fire, barrages and the expected use in the direct fire role in the defence, even sometimes in the attack!
TFB: The book isn’t just a straight copy of the original either is it, you’ve added historical notes and context too.
Fisher: So we’ve not only reprinted the book, we’ve fully transcribed it, added explanatory footnotes, appendices and an index, as well as included research completed on the famous story of one million rounds being fired by Vickers during one battle! The quality of the reprint is high, as shown in the artist’s impression image, and may well be a collectable in itself, just like the original, which now has copies available for between £100 and £400 depending on the condition and quality.
TFB: Do you have a favourite part of the book?
Fisher: One of the most rip-roaring sections always springs to mind, about a company from the MGC doggedly rallying retreating men and holding off a German attack in 1918. I read an extract in a video recently. Amazing stuff.
You can check out the video of Richard reading that extract below:
You can find out more and pre-order a copy of the book from the Vickers MG Collection & Research Association’s website here!