The Vicker’s Gun was marvellous if you were mechanically minded.
It was based on an original design by the American Harim Maxim who supplied guns to all the warring sides. He became a naturalised Briton and lived in Kent. His Maxim gun was used by the Germans, the Vickers MK1-IV by the British.
There were generally four stoppages:
- a bullish cartridge,
- a broken firing pin,
- a faulty cartridge
- or a damp belt.
You could tell from the position of the crank shaft what was wrong. A good gunner could correct it more or less straight away. The belt came out of this bean hopper with the ammo; it jammed if it got wet. With a faulty cartridge you could adjust the spring two or three notches.
I got a few day’s leave from Grantham before we left for France and then I didn’t get any leave whatsoever while I was out there through the Somme and Paschendale – about two and a half years of it. It was only when I came back to join the R.F.C. that I got any leave.
Everyone was issued with these red plastic identity discs with your name and number on them.
I went and found a Jeweller’s and had one made up in silver to hang around my wrist.
‘J A Wilson 13203
C of E
We set off for France at midnight in March 1916.