Fire to the pepperpot!

A Vickers MMG section in depth

 

By 1944 each British infantry division had a heavy support battalion at their disposal which included three platoons of (Vickers) medium machine guns, three platoons of LAA and two platoons of (4.2") heavy mortars. Each MMG platoon consisted of two MMG sections, with two guns each. Such a section did not only include their two Vickers machine guns but also the necessary means for using them with great precision. Indirect- or overhead-fire for example.

February 1945. Divisional machine gunners of the Middlesex regiment are about to support their division in attack. Before the infantry advances a pepperpot will be applied. This means all spare divisional guns, from heavy mortars to light anti aircraft artillery are about to lay a blanket of fire in order to weaken the enemies' defenses. No2 section of the first platoon has been given the order to take position at the edge of a small woodland. From this position they will provide indirect fire to support the frontline troops.The carriers are unloaded and the gunners have just about finished digging their positions.

Once the digging of slit trenches (a standard precaution against unexpected barrages, etc) is done, the machine guns are mounted on the sides. The weather is damp and cold. It has just stopped raining, but the men keep their groundsheets in close range.

A section of Vickers machine gunners consisted of more than just the guns alone. They had three universal carriers that transported all the necessary equipment:

Carrier, universal
sergeant
fire controller, rangetaker,
carries ammunition and equipment

Carrier, MMG
corporal MMG No1, No2, No3, driver mechanic
carries a .303"MMG
carries 20 boxes of ammunition

Carrier, MMG
corporal MMG No1, No2, No3, driver mechanic
carries a .303"MMG
carries 20 boxes of ammunition

Now the laying of the guns can begin. To make sure the two guns fire with precision on their appointed targets it is necessary to align the guns with the target line and each other. Therefore a firecontroller is in charge of the section. His job, being an educated sergeant, is aligning the guns and control their fire as ordered by platoon HQ. But before the firecontroller can do his part, the range to the appointed targets needs to be measured exactly by the rangetaker.

The rangetaker has to calculate the range to several targets. The sergeant uses a staff pointer to indicate the targets to him. Probably the most simple piece of equipment, but vital for the correct determination of targets. Both soldiers look through a simple aiming mark at the same time.


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