One of our European correspondents, Bart, sent over a couple photos of a rifle excavated recently at the Ypres battlefield, looking to confirm an identification. Since we know some of the history behind it by […]
Upon closer examination, that mount is a lot sturdier than first appearances might warrant. The legs, including those supporting the gunner’s seat, are splayed wide apart to prevent tipping. Judging from the uniforms and equipment, I wonder if these troops were serving in one of the far-flung colonial conflicts of the time ( the Boer War, Khyber Pass, North-West Frontier, etc. ), where some degree of field improvisation and experimentation would have been fairly commonplace.
The Chiteral ( often spelt “Chitral” ) Campaign took place in 1895 in northernmost Pakistan, so our initial guess that the troops in the photograph were involved somewhere in the area of the Khyber Pass and North-Western Frontier wasn’t too far off.
There are a couple of very good posts dated 100909 by an author named A1Kaid at a website called PakistanTalkForum that cover the details of the Chitral Campaign in great depth, complete with interesting photographs and site maps that help one to more easily visualize the battles as they developed ( incidentally, the photograph in this article of Forgotten Weapons is one of them ).
I would strongly recommend that anyone with an interest in the history and battlefield tactics of the period read these posts.
Sorry, I forgot to include the link to the PakistanTalkForum website. You can view the articles at http://www.pakistantalk.com., which covers defence, geostrategy and military history topics, or type in “Chitral Campaign” in the google search box to access them.
I found this picture on Royal Green Jackets site, identified as: Maxim Gun detachment, 1st Bn. King’s Royal Rifle Corps, Chitral Campaign 1895 (National Army Museum). Sorry the label I earlier quoted had errors.
The mount dates back to the adoption of the .577-.450 Maxim and is described by Hogg in his book “Machine Guns: 14th Century to Present” as a “fortress style tripod”. There is a color picture in the middle of the book and the mount appears to be made of bronze. So it is not some ad-hock contrivance just thrown together. It also appears to be missing a shield judging by the two unoccupied tabs at the front of the cradle.
The rifles are 8 shot Lee-Metfords, Mk 1 or Mk 1*. The stock finger grooves and double swivels on the nosecap are unique to these models. Unusual is the removal of the ‘clearing rods and the appearance of butt swivels. These models initially had the rear sling swivel in front of the magazine. “Long Lee” is a collector term. The rifles are Magazine Lee-Metfords. In 1895 a switch to Enfield rifling began (to better resist Cordite bore erosion). All Magazine Lee-Metford and Magazine Lee-Enfield infantry rifles can be called “Long Lees”, compared to the Short Magazine Lee-Enfield (SMLE that was adopted around 1902.
The peculiar sling arrangement on these Lee-Metfords (sling attached to a muzzle swivel and a butt swivel) may be due to these troops being in the “Rifle Brigade”. The “Green Jackets” were allowed a similar sling arrangement on the Martini-Henry, if I recall correctly. It had to do with drill manuvers that were unique to the “Green Jacket” regiments. The introduction of the Magazine Lee-Metford, Mk II in 1892, would see the change of the sling swivels to the middle barrel-band and the butt, retaining just the stacking swivel at the nosecap.
I found a very good photograph of this Maxim tripod on Page 38 of Ian Hogg’s “Machine Guns”. An early-model 0.303″ Maxim, complete with polished phosphor-bronze water jacket and polished brass handles, is mounted on it. The huge, flat turn table is actually triangular in shape, and the gunner’s bicycle-type seat is mounted on a swiveling wishbone assembly or swingarm ( made of welded tubing ) attached to the sides of the turn table. This swingarm would have been folded out of the way to facilitate transporation in the field by troops.
In the background is a newer 0.303″ Maxim with the conventional, painted steel water jacket and simplified late-model tripod for comparison. The swingarm has been eliminated and the gunner’s seat is attached directly to the trailing leg of the tripod. The tripod legs are longer and have larger, more rounded anti-skid feet. This mount also appears to have a much smaller turn table and lower pintle height.