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248
MACHINE-GUN


wheeled carriages are often used for the ordinary transport of the gun and its equipment, especially with the heavier models. The simplest machine-gun has a number of accessories-tools, spare parts, &c.-that must be conveyed with it, and at the least a pack-animal is indispensable.

Reducing these conditions to a phrase-the fire effect that can be reasonably expected of machine-guns is that of fifty or sixty rifies, the space it takes up in the line can be made to equal that occupied by two men, and it possesses by turns the speed of a mounted man and the freedom of movement of an infantryman.

The use of the machine-gun (apart from savage warfare) that first commended itself in Europe was its use as a mobile reserve Machine, of jire. Now, the greatest difficulty attending the Guns as a employment of a reserve of any sort is the selection § '";°"'° °f of the right moment for its intervention in the struggle, and experience of manoeuvres of all arms in Germany, where “ machine-gun detachments ” began to be formed in 1902, appears to have been that the machine-guns always came into action too late. On the other hand, the conditions of the cavalry versus cavalry combat were more favourable. Here there was every inducement to augment firepower without dismounting whole regiments for the purpose. Moreover, vulnerability was not a fatal defect as against a battery or two of the enemy's horse artillery, whose main task is to ire with effect into the closed squadrons of mounted men on the verge of their charge, and above all to avoid a meaningless duel of projectiles. The use of wheeled carriages was therefore quite admissible (although in fact the equipment was detachable from the carriage) and, given the rapidity and sudden changes of cavalry fighting, both desirable and necessary. Thus, thanks /n, ¢|, ;, ,¢. to the machine-gun, the eternal problem of increasing GUM Wiih the fire-power of mounted troops is at last partially C""9I"-V' solved, and the solution has appealed strongly both to armies exceptionally strong in cavalry, as for example the German, and to those exceptionally weak in that arm-Denmark, for instance, having two or three light machine-guns per squadron. The object of the weaker cavalry may be to cause the onset of the stronger to dwindle away into a dismounted skirmish, and this is most effectually brought about by a fire concentrated enough and heavy enough to discourage mounted manoeuvres; on the other hand, the stronger party desires to avoid dismounting a single squadron that can be kept mounted; and this too may be effected by the machine-guns. What the result of such a policy on both sides may be, it would be hard to prophesy, but it is clear at any rate that, whether on the otiensive or on the defensive, skilfully handled machine-guns may enable a cavalry commander to achieve the difficult and longed-for result-to give the law to his opponent. The principal difference between the tactics of the stronger and those of the weaker cavalry in this matter is, that it is generally advantageous for the former to act by batteries and for the latter to disperse his machine guns irregularly in pairs.

It is not merely in cavalry tactics that the question of “ section or battery ” arises. It deeply affects the machine-gun tactics in the battle of all arms, and it is therefore decided in each service by the use to which the guns are intended to be put. One of opinion is in favour of employing them as of fire. This opinion was responsible for the German machine-gun batteries or “detach the

drill regulations issued in 1902 for their

stated that the proper use of machine-guns

powerful current

a mobile reserve

creation of the

ments ”; and in

guidance it was

required a comprehensive and accurate knowledge of the general situation, and that therefore only the superior leaders could employ them to advantage. Mancxeuvre experience, as mentioned above, has caused considerable modification in this matter, and while the large machine-gun “ detachments ” are now definitely told ofi to the cavalry, new and smaller units have been formed, with the title “companies” to indicate their attachment to the infantry arm. A recent official pronouncement as to the role of the “ companies ” (Amendments to Exerzierreglement fur die Infanterie, IQOQ) is to the effect that the companies are an integral part of the infantry, that their mission is to augment directly the fire of the infantry, and that their employment is in the hands of the infantry regimental commander, who keeps the guns at his own disposition or distributes them to the battalions as he sees lit. It must be remembered that the regiment is a large unit, 3000 strong, and the idea of a “ mobile reserve of fire ” is tacitly maintained, although it has been found necessary to depart from the extreme measure of massing the guns and holding them at the disposal of a general oihcer. The Japanese regulations state that in principle the machine-gun battery lights as a unit; that although it may be advantageously employed with the ad- M ., ,,1, ;, , e. vanced guard to assure the possession of support- Guns In ing points, its true 'function is to intervene with full C°"”"""d effect in the decisive attack, its use in the delaying Tactics action being “ a serious error.” In France, on the other hand, the system of independent sections is most rigidly maintained; when in barracks, the three sections belonging to an infantry regiment are combined for drill, but in the field they seem to be used exclusively as sections. They are not, however, restricted to the positions of their own battalions; taught probably by the experiences of the British in South Africa, they c0~operate with instead of following the infantry. In Great Britain, Field Service Regulations, part i., 1909, lay down that “ machine guns are best used in pairsl in support of the particular body of troops to which they belong” (i.e. battalions). “The guns of two or more units may, if required be placed under a specially selected officer and employed as a special reserve of fire in the hands of a brigade commander” (corresponding to German regimental commander), but “ if an overwhelming ire on a particular point is required, it can be obtained by concentrating the fire of dispersed pairs of guns.” More explicitly still, “ the movements and fire action of these weapons should be regulated so as to enable them to open jire immediately a favourable opportunity arises.”

Contrasting the German system with the French and English, we may observe that it is German tactics as a whole that impose a. method of using machine-guns which the Germans themselves recognize as being in many respects disadvantageous. A German force in action possesses little depth, i.e. reserves, except on the flanks where the enveloping attack is intended to be made. Consequently, a German commander needs a reserve of fire in a mechanical, concentrated form more than a British or a French commander, and, further, as regards the decisive attack on the flanks, it is intended not merely to be sudden but even more to be powerful and overwhelming. These considerations tend to impose both the massing and the holding in reserve of machine-guns. The French and British doctrine (see TACTICS) is fundamentally different. Here, whether the guns be massed or not, there is rarely any question of using the machine-guns as a special reserve. In the decisive attack, and especially at the culmination of the decisive attack, when concealment has ceased and power is everything, the machine-guns can render the greatest services when grouped and boldly handled. Above all, they must reach the captured crest in a few minutes, so as to crush the inevitable offensive return of the enemy's reserves. The decisive attack, moreover, is not a prearranged affair, as in Germany, but the culmination, “ at a selected point, of gradually increasing pressure relentlessly applied to the enemy at all points ” (F. S. Regulations). The holding attack, as this “ pressure ” is called, is not a mere feint. It is launched and developed as a decisive attack, though not completed as such, as it lacks the necessary reserve strength. Here, then, the machine-


1 The use of single guns facilitates concealment, but this is outweighed by the objection that when a jam or other breakdown occurs the fire ceases altogether. The use of guns in pairs not only obviates this, but admits of each gun in turn ceasing fire to economize ammunition, to cool down, &c. This is the old artillery principle“one gun is no gun."

2 In the instructions issued in August 1909 one of the principal advantages of grouped sections is stated to be the neutralization of ranging errors at ranges over 1000 yards. At a less range, it is laid down, grouped guns form too visible a target, un ess the ground is very favourable.