Besa mounting question

Discussion in 'Weapons, Technology & Equipment' started by Chris C, Oct 29, 2019.

  1. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    I know there is another thread with this exact title but my question is different from the previous.

    Was the Besa used by the army outside of hull and coaxial machine-guns in tanks?
     
  2. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    Yes, there is a Besa thread going somewhere, can't find it at the moment.

    To your question:yes, the Besa was occasionally used in other roles. There are photos and film of it mounted in carriers. There are also photographs showing Besas on apparently extemporized AA mountings, and according to other photographic evidence it would fit on the standard Vickers tripod and was so mounted at times for training purposes. If memory serves the 9th Australian Div salvaged some Besas from wrecked tanks and added them to their extensive arsenal of non-standard supplementary weapons for the Second Battle of Alamein. I presume 9th Div would have been put them on Vickers tripods for ground use.
     
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  3. Robert-w

    Robert-w Well-Known Member

    It was British tank doctrine in WW1 that it should be possible if the tank got knocked out for surviving crew to dismount the machine gun(s) and support the infantry with it (them). This was carried on into the interwar years and I believer into the early WW2 years
     
  4. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    As an authorised weapon, I can only think of it fitted in tanks and certain armoured cars.

    Gary
     
  5. Orwell1984

    Orwell1984 Senior Member

    Lock, Stock, and History

    Blog post on the Besa with a picture of one mounted on a tripod.

    Also note that on page 131 of Alamein by Jon Latimer he writes the following while talking about the Australian 9th division:
    [emphasis added]
     
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  6. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    Vickers tank machine guns were provided with special mountings for emergency ground use by the crews, consisting of a shoulder pad attachment and a clip-on bipod. There were also adapters to mount Vickers tank MGs on the standard Vickers ground tripod, but these were only supposed to be used for training. My own feeling is that such an arrangement would have been much more effective in combat than the silly little bipod issued to the crews.
     
  7. Robert-w

    Robert-w Well-Known Member

    But probably a s*d to find stowage room for in a tank
     
  8. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

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  9. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    I don't think it would have been much of a problem. If memory serves, US tanks carried tripods for their MGs (M1919A4 and M2HB) as standard. Were British-designed tanks so short of stowage space that they couldn't have fit a Vickers tripod aboard somewhere?
     
  10. Juha

    Juha Junior Member

    Probably British tanks had less stowage space than US tanks but more importantly probably RAC and tank crews thought that they could stow more valuabe equipment in place of tripods. If I have understood correctly British and CW crews of k'out tanks were supposed to disengage and retreat to rear to pick up new tanks. At least commanders, drivers and gunners were specialists, so too valuable to soldier as mere mg crews.
     
  11. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    I haven't read any US armored manuals from the period, but I doubt very much that it was ever intended for US crews to remain dismounted for any greater length of time than they absolutely had to be. I don't think either the British or US armies ever envisaged tank crews as supplemental machine gunners for infantry combat. That said, it could be helpful to remove an MG from the vehicle and emplace it for temporary local defense when broken down, when in laager, or when halted in an insecure area, which is doubtless why tripods were included in US tanks. As noted previously, the British at one time included ground mountings of a sort for Vickers MGs installed in their tanks. I just think that a proper tripod might have been a better answer than the clamp-on bipods and shoulder stocks which were actually provided to British crews early in the war.
     
  12. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    I was going to ask if any British tanks mounted them for AA but... was it only US-made tanks that had AA machine guns on the turret?
     
  13. Listy

    Listy Member

    I remember reading somewhere that the BESA had a very very brief and minor role as an LMG, in one of the South African/Rhodesian bush wars, simply because it was all they had access to.

    Frantic googling has it mentioned in the Biafran Civil war:
    Modern African Wars (5)
     
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  14. Juha

    Juha Junior Member

    British tanks, at least Cromwells and Churchills, carried Bren guns, these could be used as AA weapons. Besas, all I can recall, were Tank, Light, AA Mk I and II, versions of Light Tank Mk VI with a AA turret with 4 Besas and Humber Armoured Car Mark I AA / Quad AA also with an AA turret with 4 Besas.
     
  15. Juha

    Juha Junior Member

    British tanks, at least Cromwells and Churchills, carried Bren guns, IMHO more useful in temporary defensive set-ups. Medium mgs were more cumbersome.
     
  16. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    Right. Was there even a mounting for them on the turret, though, or was the user supposed to just hold it and shoot up?
     
  17. Robert-w

    Robert-w Well-Known Member

    I've seen an AA mount for the Bren shown fitted to a carrier. Looked rather over complicated with a lot of springs - like an anglepoise lamp
     
  18. Juha

    Juha Junior Member

    There was an AA mounting for Bren but IIRC that was rarely installed and cannot remember seeing it on photos of tanks in ETO 1944-45. IIRC what Keith Jones tells in his 64 Days of a Normandy Summer: With a Tank Unit After D-Day he just hold the Bren of his tank when he tried to shoot down a German fighter-bomber.
     
  19. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    The presence of a Bren in at least the Cromwell is noted by the author of "64 days of a Normandy summer". The one opportunity he had to fire it at the mighty Luftwaffe he squeezed the trigger and nothing happened; turned out the crewman responsible for filling the magazines just kept pushing rounds in until they wouldn't take anymore. They were halted at the time and he did just try to fire the Bren freehand. (Cross post with Juha!).

    I'm reasonably sure "By tank into Normandy" also mentions taking the author's crew taking their Bren gun when they were forced to abandon their Sherman and stay put for a night.

    I don't know if there was a mounting provided on the turret for the Bren in either the Cromwell or the Churchill. It doesn't sound familiar.

    Gary
     
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  20. Robert-w

    Robert-w Well-Known Member

    In A Photo History of Tanks in Two World Wars by George Forty on page 108 there is a photo of a Bren AA mount on a Matilda turret taken in 1941
     

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