British Experimental Infantry Brigade 1934-1936

Discussion in 'Prewar' started by Vintage Wargaming, Jan 3, 2020.

  1. Vintage Wargaming

    Vintage Wargaming Well-Known Member

    I've just posted an article on the role of 1st Battalion DLI as the Machine Gun Battalion in the 6th Brigade of the 2nd Division between 1934 and 1936. Much less heralded than the Experimental Mechanised and Armoured Forces it did however exert considerable influence on the infantry formations with which the British entered WW11.

    It is posted on my Interwar Tank Development blog (I know but it is the most relevant one) here.

    Organisational tables for the battalion for 1935 and 1936 are attached.

    With grateful thanks to Peter Nelson of the DLI Collection and of this Forum for his help with identifying research sources.

    Attached Files:

  2. idler

    idler GeneralList

    Interesting write-up - thanks for the link.

    Somewhere in the pile I have a KRRC journal from the early 30s where they undertook a mechanisation trial. It might even have been in the motor battalion role - which would be right up your street - but I may be misremembering.
  3. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    As it happens I was talking with Aixman (Wolfgang) on the same topic a few weeks ago. He found a description in the ACIs for late 1934 of an experimental reorganisation of 6th Inf Bde, with three Rifle Bns and one Support Bn. As outlined in the above doc, three MG Coys and one Atk Coy in the Support Bn, and each Rifle Bn with four 3-in mortars and four AA LMGs in HQ Coy, and four Rifle Coys, each of three Pls of four Secs, with an LMG per Sec. Each Rifle Coy was also to be provided with four tripod mounts for its LMGs. We were discussing whether this was too early for the ZB to be in use, even if only in a trial role, as that was the first thing that occurred to me with mention of LMGs on tripod mounts. The overall organisation described for the experimental Brigade was largely replicated in the WEs issued for Rifle and MG Bns in late 1936, which likewise anticipated three Rifle and one MG Bn per Bde.

    Aixman likes this.
  4. Vintage Wargaming

    Vintage Wargaming Well-Known Member

    The Dundee Courier for example, one of the papers reporting on the new style of infantry brigade on 17 August 1935, has the same reference to the headquarters Company of each of the three Rifle Battalions including a mortar platoon with four 3-inch mortars,and a light machine gun platoon of four guns equipped with tripod mountings for anti-aircraft or ground duties (all the Brigade's MMGs of course being concentrated in the MG Battalion). There were four rifle companies, each of four platoons, each of which had three sections, with an LMG in each section. The first line transport of the Brigade Headquarters was mechanised.

    Regarding the ZB coming into use - the Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail of Tuesday 13 August 1935, reporting on the opening stages of the 1935 Army Exercises and the role of 6th Brigade in it, said " The famous Lewis Gun, deadly weapon of the Great War, is being replaced by the new lightweight Bren, dummies of which are now being carried" As the intention was the rifle battalions of the 6th Brigade were to be the first to be equipped with it, they only had dummies during the exercise - whether Bren and ZB were interchangeable terms by this point I don't know,
  5. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    The Lewis gun can be mounted on a Vickers Mk IV tripod.
  6. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

  7. Vintage Wargaming

    Vintage Wargaming Well-Known Member

    I only realised that yesterday when this clip popped up on TouTube - it shows both the Vickers tripod in a ground role and the high tripod for AA use. The rifle battalions of the Brigade would only have LMGs and all MMGs were with the MG Battalion. As noted above the ZB certainly wasn't issued by 1935 so it is likely they were lewises for at least part of the time.
  8. Vintage Wargaming

    Vintage Wargaming Well-Known Member


    iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>

    Interesting use of Pachlabel's canon (to go with Lewis's Machine Gun, I supporse)
  9. idler

    idler GeneralList

    From Cunliffe's History of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment:


    The other two are pretty woeful...

    1 R Warwicks had some form, too:

    Last edited: Jan 5, 2020
  10. Vintage Wargaming

    Vintage Wargaming Well-Known Member

    Thanks. I know I didn’t do anything on the experiences of the three rifle battalions in the Brigade
  11. idler

    idler GeneralList

    At least you can stop off at Lichfield and Warwick to break the journeys to and from Cornwall ;-)
  12. Richard Fisher

    Richard Fisher Machine Gunner

    Thank you so much for sharing. It's great to see more early material on mechanized machine gun battalions. I was aware of the Somerset Light Infantry being used in such a way as it's mentioned in the History of the Royal Tank Regiment but wasn't aware of these other units. It's fascinating to see how the Army transitioned to its mechanised state. I'm gradually populating the development of machine gun battalions on our website: Divisional (Machine Gun) Battalions I've got all of the WEs copied and ready to type up but it's finding the time amongst all of the other archives to work through.

    A couple of points to pick up on:

    The ZB was readily available to experimental units across the Army at this point in time, having been through a number of serviceability trials at the Small Arms School (Hythe) by 1935. They had already selected it by this point I believe and were in the process of merely negotiating the commercial arrangements for having them manufactured in the UK.

    The adaptor for this went out of service either during or shortly after the Great War. It is discussed in a few Army Council Instructions as ensuring the Lewis could replace the Vickers in the infantry battalions once the Vickers was withdrawn to the Machine Gun Corps. When the Vickers returned to those battalions in 1922, the Lewis very much took its place as the light machine gun at that point, with bipod and then there was a tripod for anti-aircraft fire with the Lewis but nothing more.

    I hope that helps.

  13. Vintage Wargaming

    Vintage Wargaming Well-Known Member


    coincidentally I have just been reading the Service Records of James Francis Benoy who was a Major in the 1st Battalion South Staffs from 1934 to 1936, while they were one of the rifle battalions in the Experimental Infantry Brigade.

    His Army Form B199A shows him completing a Special Course at the Small Arms School in 1935 on the ZBG Light Machine Gun. It might be a bit of a stretch but if he was a Major he would either be Battalion 2ic or a Company Commander? And if he was on the Short Course on the Z.G.B presumably that was before they were issued - presumably also in 1935. Speculative but interesting.
  14. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    The Press were reporting on the issue of the weapon as early as 14 February 1935

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