Vintage Saturday: Anti-Aircraft Lewis

Lewis LMG used in an anti-aircraft role
Lewis LMG used in an anti-aircraft role

The wheel is for fast and easy traverse. The Lewis gun adapter allows it to be mounted on a Vickers tripod, and it’s mounted backwards to allow flexible elevation (you could do that with the Vickers too). The rear handle in place of the buttstock allows the gun to swing faster than the gunner can move behind it.


  1. The same sort of rear spade grip was also used extensively in flexible-mount Lewis aircraft MG applications during the First World War. The ubiquitous cooling sleeve was removed and a large muzzle brake fitted for this specific purpose.

  2. “Get him, Tommy! That Hun must fall from the sky at once! And if he takes to the silk, cut his bloody carcass in half!” The British officers hated parachutes because of the possibility of “cowardice due to seeking self-preservation before a fight has even begun.” Did I mess up?

  3. The single spade grip on the Lewis MG shown above was also used extensively in flexible gun applications in many aircraft during World War One to facilitate greater control and shorten reaction times. The guns themselves had no cooling shrouds ( not needed ) and were typically equipped with a large muzzle brake.

    • The large muzzle brake was needed since aircraft-mounted Lewis guns were less massive than their infantry counterparts. Less mass means less recoil buffering for the mount and gunner! Had the muzzle brake not been installed, the machinegun would run wild and perhaps shake the mounting to pieces. I could be wrong, but that’s how it appears to me.

      • Quite so — the ability to exert maximum control over the weapon was paramount, especially in the flexible open mounts then in use, where weapon, gunner and all else were constantly exposed to hurricane-force slipstreams and, worse yet, constant directional changes in that slipstream as the gunner swiveled the weapon through different sectors while tracking and firing at enemy aircraft. Certainly no easy task while trying to maintain proper lead in a three-dimensional arena as well, and all the time there was the constant, ever-present and sometimes almost debilitating fear in the back of one’s mind of enemy return fire and the harm it could inflict.

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