On 3 July, the ranges at Bisley, the UK’s historic home of shooting, hosted a very special shoot. Vickers Machine Guns fired 16,000 rounds of ammunition with a crowd of nearly 1,000 people gathered to watch. It had been 20 years since the last time this many Vickers Guns had fired together. The event was held to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the disbandment of the Machine Gun Corps – the British Army’s corps of expert machine gunners formed in 1916 which disbanded in July 1922.
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The Machine Gun Corps has an important legacy of shaping British machine gun doctrine for the next fifty years with the lessons they learned used again during World War Two and the Korean War by British and Commonwealth machine gunners.
The civilian organised and run event was organised by the non-profit Vickers Machine Gun Collection and Research Association. As a member of the organisation, I was lucky enough to help with preparations for the event and also take part as one of the members of a crew manning one of the guns. Each of the crews underwent a training program to ensure they were able to operate the gun safely and many of us were in period correct uniform.
Many of the 16 crews represented units which operated the Vickers during its long service life between 1912 and 1968. Machine Gunners of the British Army from both the First and Second World Wars, from the numerous theatres of operations, were represented, as were the factory girls who manufactured and tested the guns and post-war use of the guns through to the 1960s was also represented.
During the shoot, Richard Fisher, the director of the Vickers Machine Gun Collection and Research Association, talked the crowd through the various methods the Vickers Guns were deployed and used, the numerous units represented and the importance of the Machine Gun Corps legacy.
Here’s the full live stream of the event showing all the courses of fire and explaining the history of each of the historic units and periods represented by the gun teams:
The National Rifle Association of the UK, who enabled the shoot, also got some great footage of the event with cameras along the firing line, capturing some great shots. Check out their short video below:
Perhaps the best look at the event, however, is the documentary put together about the event by Adam Blackmore-Heal, which is now up on the Vickers MG Collection and Research Association’s youtube channel, check it out below to get a feel for the day and the history behind it:
For me personally, it was a privilege to take part in the event and not only did the day illustrate the impressive volume of fire that the guns were capable of but it also put their lethality into perspective. The shoot illustrated the devastation the weapons could bring and the important legacy of the men who manned them.
For more photos and to find out more about the events held by the VMGCRA to commemorate the centennial of the disbandment of the Machine Gun Corps, click here.